We welcomed our fourth child into our family at home on Nov 21, 2014 at 7:16 pm. Anna was 8lbs, 6oz and 19.5 inches.
If you want the synopsis…
Anna was 8 days past her due date, yes we did a homebirth, yes it was planned, no we are not crazy, yes Jared opted for pants (see reference below), yes it was a fantastic experience and yes clean up was fast (first question out of everyone’s mouth about homebirth). A big thanks to our Nurse-Midwife, Katie, at Eastern Iowa Midwifery for a wonderful experience and helping us welcome a beautiful healthy baby girl.
If you want the novel…..
If you know our family you're well aware that there is a 5 ½ year gap between our third and fourth child. As we announced once again we were expecting we received many comments, most which contained the word “surprise”. While Anna was indeed a surprise, it was a long-awaited and welcomed one. I knew inevitably the day Ike was born that there would be a fourth. Years passed and due to health issues in my early twenties the consensus was that time had most likely ran out. Personally it was a tough reality, but with time the transition came. Ike started preschool, I started working more and looked at Masters programs. The kids were growing and for the first time in years everyone was sleeping through the night. By last winter we decided to relieve ourselves of all baby gear. For me that was the last big step to close one door and move forward.
Mid Spring I noticed a shortness of breath out running. The weeks progressed and one Sunday morning I woke up nauseous. I sat on the cold tile with my back against the bathroom wall, face buried in my hands trying to regain composure, listening to Ike cry because Eliza was once again dictating what bow tie he would wear to church. The thought crept into my mind, was it possible? It couldn’t be, I had closed this door emotionally, life had moved on and so had I. Like any pregnancy I wasn't sure if I should cheer or panic. I got the kids ready, drove to church. I looked at my watch, service was starting in four minutes. Jared was just walking up to sit on the stand (I have the privilege to be married to an Mormon Bishop), I grabbed him by the suit coat and said “You, your office,NOW!” His weak petition of starting on time was no match as I dragged him out of the chapel. Before he could even close his office door I blurted it out. In typical Jared fashion, a smile spread across his face with a calm “All right, we can do this.” We walked into the chapel together like it was just another Sunday (but I’m pretty sure I spent the hour with my head between my knees hyperventilating in pew #8, everyone oblivious except the woman sitting behind me with a ½ dozen kids).
Why a homebirth? I have my crunchy facets in life. And Jared, well we all know Jared married a landscape architect and that accounts for ALL of his crunchiness. So it wasn’t entirely that. I wasn’t crazy about my OB office in town, no one had a glowing recommendation. The nearest hospital-based midwifery practice was in Iowa City and history proved that a 30-mile drive was not a bright idea considering child #2 was born in a wheelchair at the wrong hospital and child #3 I delivered by myself in the hospital bathroom (links provided if you need to waste yet more time at work). With Eliza I learned to birth solo. With Ike I learned to enjoy birthing solo. While it was in chaos the morning he was born, it was an unmatched experience to catch that little guy and I had longed for it again. Laying in bed one night Jared turned to me and said “I can’t do the drive.” “What?? What do you mean?” “I mean I can’t handle driving you while in labor again, it freaks me out.” And with that confession the homebirth search commenced.
We had so many questions, was it safe? Would my body labor the same way being five years older? What if we had another heart baby? The reality is we've had a child who was not born perfect, at least medically defined sense of perfection. The weeks sitting in the CVICU wondering if we would ever have the privilege bringing her home hangs fresh in our minds with every pregnancy. There were so many scenarios, so many outcomes. We began to read, to digest, to look. Unassisted, Entry Level, Certified Nurse Midwife? CNM it was. After interviewing a few CNM’s we found Katie at Eastern Iowa Midwifery. We emailed her thirty times and grilled her on every possible scenario as I met with her in person. I imagine she was hoping we wouldn’t sign on, but to be fair I think we were pretty easy clients after all fifty irrational fears were put to rest. She answered our questions, put us at ease and gave us more information to digest. What I really liked about her was the balance of technology with natural birth.
If you know us you know it takes us a year to pick out paint, transitioning from the status quo hospital birth to a homebirth was a big step. While it sounded like a perfect fit, we still were hesitant. One night someone sent us the Jim Gaffigan skit on homebirth. We about died laughing and with the idea that pants were optional and the realization that we had done our research and found a competent practitioner we signed on the next morning.
Months passed and I got to know Katie, had my eyes opened to new ideas and alternatives to think about as we proceeded to delivery to integrate with what we were comfortable with. Plans were made, ultrasounds done, meeting with our cardiologist to make sure we had our bases covered to look for heart conditions. My pre-natal care was so much more thorough than with any OB. Anna was due Nov 13th and I still felt pretty good (pregnancy is a lot easier in Iowa fall than Houston summer). Sunday Nov. 16th back labor started to set in. I early labor slowly for days with all pregnancies and I was hoping the end was in sight. Tuesday things started to pick up, if like previous experiences, we would have a child within a few hours. I called Katie, Jared came home from work…and then nothing. Jared was so flustered that he would miss the birth he stayed home Wednesday from work. By Thursday I kicked Jared back to work, I was a week over my due and patience was waning.
Finally Friday came, I didn’t feel great. I went to Aldis mid-morning and part way through the store found myself forehead pressed against a cooler door, (the guy behind thinking I was way too focused on what kind of ice cream to buy) when the thought occurred shopping probably wasn’t the best idea. I went home and called our Midwife still not convinced I was in labor (I now see I have a history of labor denial until it brings me to my knees). It was to be an icy night so she said that she would swing by around 3:30 and check on me and if needed stay the night. At 3pm I texted her that maybe she should grab her equipment and she was knocking on my door a few minutes later, with Jared running in behind her. Dara was there shortly thereafter, coffee in hand, which signaled I wasn’t the only thinking this labor would be longer than I had originally anticipated.
I had tested positive for Strep B and opted for the IV antibiotics (thinking that the last two labors were so fast they didn’t have time to administer them in the hospital so most likely this time would be the same). Ironically I ended up with an IV with the homebirth but it was a painless process. With the last two labors being so fast we planned on just sticking the kids in the basement with a movie (don't worry we had many discussions including the one if Mom sounds like she is being trampled by a herd of moose, it's perfectly normal). They came running in the door from school at 4pm and I knew they had to go. Jared loaded them up and took them to Hodsons and I promised him I would wait for him to get back (like I had any control but it made him feel better). The room was prepped, we chatted, Jared made it back in time and administered a blessing. Everything was in place, it was time to get this little chica here. Like Ike my labor was all in the hips and back and so it was really difficult to time contractions. We talked to for a while longer as they filled up the birth tub. At that point I was all about laboring in the tub but still unsure about doing a full water birth.
I got in the water and my contractions picked up in intensity (the secret they don’t tell you) and yet the water seemed to mellow the sting. Lights were turned down, music was on, Katie monitored and there was silence. This was by far my hardest birth since my first and yet it was the best. As the contraction piled on, I was able to focus, to think, to process and for the first birth to stay in the moment.
Jared and I had the conversation many times about how helpless he feels during labor, to know there is little relief he can provide. He had asked me repeatedly what I needed during labor since he didn’t have to drive (or recover from driving). Due to circumstances I had learned to do this completely on my own. With my two previous labors support had a different definition as in “I’ll never mention the line of profanities that came from you if you don’t have this kid in the car, deal?” (romantic no, but it’s what we had to work with). So I wasn't sure how to use him, I’m not an overly touchy-feely person in normal circumstance and in labor I’m really hands off (lets just say the Bradley method was not written for us :). But Jared sat there and held my hand in silence and after eleven years of married we both knew that was the perfect support for both of us.
There comes a time during labor when the clock becomes faceless and time is measured in breath and wave. When you find yourself in your own Gethsemane, with unanswered pleading. In that moment, so remote from the room around, you collapse in fear or find unwavering strength. Personally, it is in that time of helplessness that biology and Divinity meld to create the beauty of Motherhood. It is empowering and in each labor becomes sacred ground, an experience that buoys me through the sleepless nights, sickness and the uncertainties of life that is bound to come with raising children.
And for the first labor I didn’t lose focus. At one point I was asked to get out and use the bathroom, my water broke. I decided at the moment that water birth it was, there was no way anyone was dragging me out of that tub. I got back in, it was time to push. It was a hands off approach, they were there if needed, I knew the drill. For being a slow labor, the push was fast, about two minutes. Poor kid had some serious road rash from the quick delivery. I picked this sweet little girl out of the water at 7:16 and all was well.
As always there was the joy of afterbirth, the part you forget and wished for the drugs coursing through your veins. It always amazes that I can gracefully make it through labor and birth and yet become a completely pansy afterwards. Katie and Dara were fast and efficient and before I knew it Anna and I were tucked into bed, laundry was in the washer and the room was back to normal, pretty sure they moonlight as a hazmat team. They stayed around for a few hours to make sure everyone was stable and left us to welcome in Anna (who was actually nameless for two days) into our family.It was a beautiful experience, my only regret was not having the courage to do a homebirth before the fourth. A big thanks to our wonderful Midwife Katie that ensured we had the best and safest experience possible. Anna has gracefully transitioned into our family and after a month we couldn’t imagine life without her. She has such a sweet calm spirit and will always be a reminder that the blessing we seek don’t always come on our timeline.