A different kind of birthing story
Before I had K, I knew that I did not want to have her at the hospital if possible. I read a book in university called "Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood" by Naomi Wolf and it fundamentally changed the way I thought about labour and delivery. 10 years later, that book still resonated with me and I knew I did not want to have a baby in a hospital unless it was absolutely necessary. This is a personal choice for everyone, obviously based on everyone's own comfort level.
I was all prepared to deliver at the Toronto Birthing Centre, but we actually ended up having a home birth! *GASP* I know I know, a lot of people seem to be uncomfortable or slightly horrified at the idea of a home birth. But to be honest, I feel the same way thinking about delivering in a hospital!
To simplify why I ended up going the home birth route, here is a list of the things I knew I wanted versus the things I knew I didn't want.
Things I wanted:
Feeling comfortable - with the people around me and the setting around me as well. Hospitals don't make me feel comfortable, period. I've spent more time in hospitals than I would like and none of those experiences have ever made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. I also wanted to be in a big giant bed and not a small dinky sized one.
Feeling present + empowered. I wanted to be informed about what was happening around me and the autonomy to make decisions that were best for me.
To deliver on my body's own time + schedule
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC. While other people were spending time reading books about labour and delivery, I was spending most of my time preparing a kick ass play list because from the time you start getting some contractions until the time you're actually ready to pop a babe out, this could be DAYS. I needed good music to relax to.
Laughter! I wanted an environment that was calm and easy going so that I could try to have a good sense of humour about the situation instead of feeling alarmed and stressed.
Frankly - I wanted here to freely be able to come and go as she pleased to see me.
Centered - not only in the way I felt about the situation but I also wanted to BE the centre of attention. I wanted to be like Mariah Carey where all eyes were on me and everyone catered to every ridiculous whim or need I had, and I could demand anything I wanted unapologetically. I want ice cream! I want my fuzzy monkey robe! Rub my feet! Take out the garbage! Get out of my room! I knew there would RARELY be an opportunity in my life that I could be so demanding and everyone around me had to gladly comply.
Lots of physical space. I wanted Dan to lay in bed beside me before and after the baby came. I didn't want to feel confined like some sort of caged animal. I'm a human being dammit!
FOOD. I wanted my mom to be there cooking lots of food for myself and anyone there at the time so that it felt like a party instead of this big traumatic scary experience.
Conversely, here were things I didn't want:
Feeling rushed - that I was following someone else's schedule besides my own. Also feeling rushed or pressured about making decisions on things that aren't fully explained to me that affected my body and the baby.
Feeling cramped and restricted. I wanted lots and lots of room, to move around and also for Dan to sit or lay beside me if he wanted to on the bed. I didn't want to feel squished on a twin sized bed.
Feeling like I was not a priority. I didn't want to feel like I was taking a number to give birth, like I was one of a dozen people and I was on an assembly line waiting my turn for someone to come see me.
Feeling like an alien that was constantly being probed. I didn't want people rummaging around down there unless it was absolutely necessary. I heard horror stories of people always being "checked" on like 20-30 times before they were determined to be dilated enough to start pushing.
Cleanliness. I am a huge germophobe, I don't even like staying at hotels (no matter how swanky they are) because I hate the idea of places that turn over and accommodate a high volume of people because inevitably there will be more opportunity for unhygienic practices.
So based on reviewing the things I wanted versus did NOT want to happen, I came to the conclusion that having a home birth worked best for us. Granted originally I was going to actually deliver at the Toronto Birthing Centre, which would have accommodated all my needs on the 'want' list (except for Frankly) but because we ended up moving out of our condo to a larger space, I realized our home afforded more flexibility than TBC. Also by then, getting to the TBC would have taken longer and been more inconvenient for us.
Don't get me wrong, I was MORE than open to going to the hospital if I needed medical intervention. I had never at any point ruled out that possibility and was open to it if that's what needed to happen. I had lengthy conversations with my midwife team on what the plan was if things transpired and I needed to be quickly transferred over to a hospital. But overall my pregnancy had always been 'low risk' so I assumed that my labour + delivery had a high chance of staying a similar course, and when you're low risk having a home birth can actually be pleasantly positive! I also trusted my midwife team immensely. Between my midwife and the student midwife, they had collectively witnessed and delivered over a THOUSAND babies. NO JOKE!
I know home births can be quite unconventional and people may be scared of it, but if I had to do it all over again I would make the same decision.
In a nutshell here's what happened:
Wed Jan 18th: around 9pm
Ugh was feeling crappy and uncomfortable. I was thinking "God am I having contractions? I can't tell! I feel like I'm getting my period, I just feel crampy and uncomfortable."
I felt like that all night long and at some point I realized holy shit, these are contractions. Before it was more an ongoing uncomfortable discomfort but throughout the night I could discern a beginning and end sensation to the discomfort and that's how I knew they were contractions.
I was also texting my doula throughout the evening keeping her updated on how I was feeling. She told me it sounded like my body was preparing for the baby's imminent arrival.
I barely got ANY sleep that night and we started timing the contractions and by the next morning at 10am, we had calculated that I was experiencing the golden "5-1-1" rule.
For anyone wondering, this is when you would either call the midwife or go to the hospital: Contractions that are 1 minute in length and are 5 minutes apart for an entire hour.
Thursday, Jan 19th
Around 10am: Dan called our midwife and told them how I was feeling over night. Then they asked to speak to me on the phone and I repeated everything Dan said. Through the phone call though, my midwife could somehow tell I wasn't ready yet, so told me to go back to bed and try to get some rest because it wasn't time for them to come. I was like UMMMM WTF. But I listened to them, I took some gravol and tried to pass out for an hour or so.
12pm: started to blast my playlist throughout the entire house to keep calm and carry on. Also watched some episodes of Friends because any episode with Ross being Ross always makes me laugh (i.e. PIVOTTTTT!!!!)
2pm: my doula Danielle came. By then my contractions were becoming more powerful and I was practicing the shizzle out of my hypnobirthing exercises. Both Danielle and Dan were doing everything they could to keep me calm and comfortable.
My mom was cooking up a storm while I was chilling upstairs listening to music and breathing like it was my job
4pm: Danielle finally told me to call the midwives back and asked them to come. I was reluctant at first because I didn't want them to show up to my house and see that I was only 1cm dilated and would leave! But Danielle said this was their job and SO WHAT if that happened. So we did and they showed up an hour later.
5pm: Midwives came and that was when they checked how dilated I was. At that point I closed my eyes and prayed that I was even in labour because up until that point I was worried I wasn't even dilated! MOMENT OF TRUTH: Turns out I was already 8cm DILATED AT THAT POINT! (FYI: you need to be 10cm for the baby to come out!)
I WAS BLOWN AWAY. I couldn't believe I was dilated 8cm. I mean sure I knew I was having contractions but I honestly thought they were Tony Braxton Hicks contractions (i.e. the fake kind) and so part of me hadn't accepted that I was going to push a human out relatively soon.
The next 5 hours were kind of a blur. I was walking around, doing my hypnobreathing, and being impatient and asking everyone around me whether this was real life and whether this was actually happening. Part of me was seriously in disbelief.
The team around me included: Dan, my doula Danielle, my midwife Grace and her senior midwife student Marion (who essentially was leading the whole show). Eventually we also had the baby's midwife Erin join us as well. Lets just say my bedroom was a full house (esp if you include Frankly meandering in and out). Throughout the evening, people were taking turns being with me and taking breaks downstairs eating food my mom was cooking and jamming out to music. I was told everyone was in pretty high spirits during their breaks downstairs.
I think around 9pm my contractions were not progressing and my midwife asked whether I wanted to have my water broken (which was still intact throughout the whole entire time). So I agreed to have them break my water and that's when shizzle got REAL!
They broke my water (hadn't felt like I peed myself in a REALLY long time and thought, oh so THATS how it feels like lol). They made me sit on a birthing stool to bring on more powerful contractions, and that's when I thought 'OMG THIS IS REALLY PAINFUL!!!'
This is the thing, you WANT powerful contractions because they help move the baby along but you DON'T want powerful contractions because hello - it hurts like hell!!
By then my doula Danielle pointed out, "Katy, this is the first time I've heard you say throughout this entire point that this is really painful! That is amazing!" I wasn't really in the right of mind to comprehend what she was saying, all I knew was that I really hated the birthing stool. Trust me - the birthing stool SUCKS but is quite effective.
Finally around 10pm or so they said I was ready to push! By then I don't really remember anything but after Dan told me that he saw veins popping out of my body and that I looked like I was transforming into The Hulk!
By 11:30pm - Kensi made her arrival! I was in disbelief she came out of my body. I kept asking if this was real life because I still couldn't believe what was happening. They cleaned up Kensi, and then put her on me and we snuggled in bed. The midwife team cleaned up everything around me and seriously within 15 minutes, our bed was nice and clean, and Dan, Kensi and I were all snuggled in together in bed being in awe of what happened. Frankly and my mom came in a few minutes after to see the newest member of the house!
I wanted to share this story because I think it's really important to put more positive labour and delivery stories out in the universe. Some people are really weirded out by the decision to have a homebirth (which is cool) but I'm also equally as weirded out about having my birth in a hospital. To each their own!
I wanted to share the story of how K was born though to dispel the notion that giving birth is this big, giant, traumatizing negative experience. It can be for some people, but it can't possibly be like that for every single person in the universe (which is what the media portrays it to be). Yes - it can hurt like hell, but that's because you're effectively trying to squeeze a watermelon out of your nose. What it can also be though is comfortable, calming, music and laughter filled, focused, attentive, etc.
For anyone who gives birth in the future, it's your body and your choice in terms of the preference or intention of how you want it to go down. Hospital, Birthing Centre, Home Birth - whatever happens will happen. But instead of listening to all the stories of absolute terror and pain, just remind yourself of this:
Your body was designed to do this.
A lot of people forget this and are scared or frightened by the level of pain they think they'll endure. But seriously - we all got here in the same way, and the body knows what to do because it's the power and complexity of mother nature. Once I came to that realization, I just worked on my breathing and the rest was history!