After having two kids in the hospital the way most Americans are led to believe is the “right” way, my wife announced that she would like to have our next baby at home with a midwife. She had just taken a pregnancy test two weeks before. I will have to admit I was not at all settled with this idea. I told her I would go with her to interview several midwives if she promised she would not quit seeing her doctor until we both made a decision to switch. I just figured I would never make the decision and she would have the baby in the hospital.
The first midwife we met had to look for her paperwork for about thirty minutes while we waited. I envisioned her scrambling to look for equipment when delivering our baby. Even though her credentials were good and she had a fairly good bedside manner, I was less than impressed.
The second midwife was better. She had all her paperwork ready and wanted us to fill out a whole stack of paperwork before she would even talk with us. She attempted to do lab work on Sharon, but we insisted we were truly just there for a consultation and would come back for lab work if we chose to use her. The consultation went well but it was quite obvious she was practicing defensively due to some complaints filed against her. We later found out it was because of a death of a newborn because of lack of experience.
Third time is a charm, right? When we got there she welcomed us in and had toys and books for our children to play with. The consultation with the other two midwives we had left our children with their grandparents. This time we had to bring them along. Her office was very cozy. I could see two new mothers breast feeding in another room where they could feed and change their babies before they headed home. Once in her office we were given a ‘new patient folder’ as she called it. To Sharon it was golden. It had all the forms and paperwork for us to take home, read carefully, and fill out to bring back with us if we decided to use her services. The folder also had a copy of everything for us to keep. There was so much information from pregnancy, to breastfeeding to bathing a baby and diapering.
Throughout the consultation I could tell Sharon was feeling very comfortable with this midwife. I still wasn’t comfortable with the whole homebirth-midwife thingy so I decided to ask some questions to try to trip her up. To my surprise she not only answered every one of my questions she thanked me for being there and supporting my wife and asking questions. I’ll have to admit I asked questions that I would have never asked a doctor. In fact I don’t even remember even asking the doctor any questions about his practice or him personally before Sharon began using him to deliver our first two kids.
After spending about two hours with her we had pretty much made up our mind that Darlene was going to be delivering our next baby.
Sharon talked non-stop all the way home, she even followed me into the bathroom to show me what all was in the folder.
It was after the third prenatal visit with our doctor and second prenatal visit with Darlene that we made the decision not to go back to the doctor and make the switch completely. We had not even told Darlene that Sharon was still seeing the doctor. When Sharon’s lab work came back she had been prepared to sit with the doctor and discuss it with him. He brushed her off and said there was nothing on there she needed to worry about. When Darlene sat and discussed the lab work results and dietary changes with us for over twenty minutes we knew we it was time to make the decision. The lab work was all the same, we just paid out of pocket for the labs with Darlene so our insurance wouldn’t questions double lab work.
I didn’t go to all the prenatal visits due to work, but when Darlene realized that I wanted to be at every visit she began seeing Sharon on Saturdays so I could be there. We couldn’t have found this with a doctor. Sharon had an easy pregnancy and we learned so much more than we ever expected. Darlene taught her exercises, they talked diet at almost every visit. The most eye opening was making a birth plan. We never knew we even had choices in so many areas concerning the care of our baby.
Late one night Sharon thought she may be in labor. Contractions were painful but weren’t lasting very long. We called Darlene to come check her. In our excitement we got out everything we needed for the birth. She got there checked over Sharon and said she would wait for a while to see if there was any progress since the contractions were only lasting about 30-45 seconds. After two hours she let us know this was not real labor and Sharon needed a warm bath, a foot massage and tucked into bed. I don’t remember her doctor ever prescribing TLC. She said she could write Sharon a note not to do dishes for two weeks if she’d like. But of course my loving wife declined with a wink. I think women have an unspoken language. Here’s the kicker, I later learned (from a friend) that Darlene had just taken her husband, Ronnie, to the hospital to be admitted for cancer spreading to his brain right before she came over. Not once did she complain about being there for false labor. I had no idea that her husband was even battling cancer or that she was also caring for his infant grandson along with all of her own children.
When Sharon finally did go into labor we had no doubt it was the real deal. As soon as we had called Darlene to let her know Sharon was in active labor, things really picked up and we had to call her back right away. She was already on her way.
Darlene got there right after we sent our two kids to be with their grandparents. Her assistant arrived about thirty minutes later. I could not believe the loving care they gave my wife through labor. They walked outside with her, massaged her back and feet, and helped her into the bath to relax. They even taught me some things to do to help her so we could just be alone for a while. Darlene would quietly come in to check over Sharon and the baby from time to time but let us labor by ourselves as much as we wanted.
When contractions got stronger I’ll have to admit I got a little scared. Sharon was having a hard time staying focused and was sobbing during the peak of each contraction. Darlene was putting strong pressure on Sharon’s lower back while her assistant was breathing through each contraction with her. This was all new to both of us since Sharon had an epidural with both of our other kids.
At one weak moment Sharon said she didn’t think she could do this at home any longer. Darlene asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. Sharon said yes. Darlene said she wanted to check her over one more time so she would know what to say to the hospital staff once we got there. She also wanted to let us know what to expect once we got there.
Sharon was dilated to 9 centimeters, she only needed to get to ten to begin pushing. She sat down on the floor in front of Sharon to explain what would happen once we arrive at the hospital. She explained that she would have to go into a room for an initial exam by herself. I, myself, Darlene and the assistant all would have to remain in the waiting room until she was put into a regular labor room. She would have to be on her back in the bed on monitors so they could report to the doctor on call. Darlene told Sharon, “I would like you to lie on your back for three contractions, if you can handle just this, then let’s go in to the hospital if you still want to go. If not we will continue to support you through these next thirty minutes to an hour so you can have your baby. It won’t be long before you feel like pushing.”
I had already taken the suitcase out of the closet and put it by the front door. Sharon laid on her back through one single contraction and came right up off of that bed. She looked straight at me and said, “That is how they sell all those medications to laboring women in the hospital, they put them in a bed!” I could see she had a ‘light bulb’ moment and she was furious that she had been duped into taking so much medication with the other two. She got up off that bed and stood swaying back and forth right beside the bed. Darlene nodded to the assistant and they began moving all the birth supplies closer to Sharon.
After about five minutes Sharon announced, “I can feel my baby coming out!!”
Darlene continually listened to the baby with the doppler. The assistant brought the birth stool close in case Sharon wanted to use it. Sharon’s excitement made us both forget all about even mentioning going to the hospital. She felt herself pushing during her next contraction. “I can feel the baby, I can actually feel my baby!! This is amazing!!” She noticed the birth stool and asked if it was too late to use it. Darlene and the assistant quickly got it in place with a chair right behind it. Who knew women can get into a completely different position in the middle of pushing their baby out? Darlene asked Sharon if she wanted me behind her for support or the assistant. Sharon wanted the assistant to put counter pressure on her back. As soon as Sharon sat on the birth stool her water broke and I could actually see the top of the baby’s head. We all got quiet so we didn’t disturb Sharon’s concentration. Darlene spoke very softly and told Sharon that her contractions were going to be slowing down to five minutes apart because she was fully dilated. This was God’s way of giving mothers a rest to catch their breath between pushes. She also put her hand in Sharon letting her gently know which muscles she would be using to push with. Sharon later said this was very helpful after having the first two with an epidural, she had no idea what those muscles felt like.
The baby’s heart beat sounded so good through the entire labor. As the head emerged, I think Darlene grew two extra arms. She felt around the neck to make sure there wasn’t a cord, then she took both of my hands and brought them up to feel the baby. She also got Sharon’s hands to feel the baby. Then all of a sudden my son slipped into my hands. Darlene and I helped my son into Sharon’s arms. She was sobbing uncontrollably saying over and over, “We did it, Honey, we did it!!” All in one minute, Darlene had put a hat on the baby, because no one remembered to turn off the a/c or the ceiling fan. She suctioned his mouth and listened to his chest. He was now screaming. The assistant wrapped some blankets that had been warming, around my son. I couldn’t take my eyes off Sharon or my son. She gave us a few moments to see if we had a boy or girl. Discovering this ourselves was better than any Christmas present we ever received. It was a boy!
Darlene was checking everything over, allowing us as much peace as possible, I completely lost all sense of time. After the cord quit pulsing, I got to cut it and got to hold my son while Darlene and the assistant helped Sharon with the placenta. I couldn’t watch this part so I sat in the rocker for a moment so I didn’t pass out.
Once Sharon was washed up and tucked into bed, we were left alone for some bonding time. Darlene said he isn’t going to grow or lose weight in the next hour so and our time together was much more important. This hour could never be replaced.
We laid there endlessly looking over our still naked son thinking of what name we wanted to give him. He nursed right away way like he really knew what he was doing. I was so proud of Sharon and felt our love was renewed all over again that day. Women think they look horrible right after they have given birth with their hair everywhere, and no makeup, but she looked more beautiful than she did on our wedding day.
I don’t know how much time had passed before Darlene and the assistant came back in for another check and the newborn check-up. Sharon did not tear, and did not bleed to heavy. Our son weighed 8 pounds and 12 ounces and was 21 inches long. I was so amazed how much bigger he was than our other two and how alert he was.
It took us three days to decide on a name but we finally settled on Samuel Wayne. Something else I learned is to not call everyone you know and tell them the baby is here unless you are ready for unannounced guests popping in just to see if Sharon and the baby “survived” a birth at home. People coming over just to see if they are alive or whether the baby has three ears or five arms because he was born at home is not the way to get breastfeeding off to a good start.
Some of the things I learned from Sharon’s homebirth is the immense amount of personalized care you get with a midwife, the education you get never realizing how little you knew even after having two kids, and the tremendous amount of hands on support during labor and birth were amazing. I had no idea how much midwives really know, they are well educated to handle emergency situations yet relaxed enough to just allow birth to happen. My favorite is they have great wisdom in knowing just how to allow a mom to have the homebirth she truly wanted even when she didn’t believe in herself. Sharon would have never forgiven herself if she had actually made that trip to the hospital and delivered in the car or emergency room. Now, anytime I want to make her laugh I simply ask, “Do you want to go to the hospital for that?” She can’t contain her laughter or the fond memories of her home birth.
Husband, Father, Homebirth Dad