Rachel’s Birth Story

Today’s guest post is from Rachel at The Minimalist Mom. As you likely know from my past posts, Rachel has helped to inspire me to minimalize my possessions and life. Today I am happy to share her wonderful (and minimalist) home birth story.

Rachel and Henry

Rachel’s Birth Story: An Unlikely Home Birther

If you had asked friends of mine, or family, if they ever thought I would have a home birth, the resounding answer would have been no. Before getting pregnant I was a fairly mainstream follower of medicalized health care. I had been an athlete for many years and managed overuse injuries with a slew of medications and some half hearted physiotherapy. Once I retired from sport I had surgery on my elbow and gladly filled, and consumed, the Tyelenol 3 with Codeine pills prescribed for pain.

Before getting pregnant I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born. It was fascinating. And home birth looked quite interesting but I still didn’t think it was for me.

When I got pregnant I chose to visit a midwife, an option available to women in British Columbia, Canada under federally funded health care services. I chose to see midwives over an OBGYN simply because I heard the appointments were longer and more relaxed. Later I also learned that they did home visits for the first two weeks post-partum. Bonus!

I didn’t inititally intend to have a home birth. I did hire a Doula for labor assistance but I registered at a large hospital thinking that that was where my son would be born.

Like most women pregnant for the first time I read about pregnancy and labor voraciously. I read stories in books and online. I started to notice a common theme to the hospital stories, they were full of markers of dilation, shift changes for nurses and a lot of drugs. I knew I wanted to avoid getting an epidural because the thought of a needle going into my back made me nauseous.

I also read some painful descriptions of riding in a car while in labor. My husband and I lived in an urban centre at the time and we walked every where. Getting in a car while in labor sounded terrible. I started to read more home birth stories because most of the hospital stories were scaring me.

Another factor that began to deeply change my thoughts on laboring in a hospital was that we were already spending a lot of time in hospitals. Both of my in-laws had been very ill we had spent a lot of time driving to hospitals and visiting. The thought of going to a hospital to give birth started to seem very wrong. I associated hospitals with serious illness and cancer, not bringing new life into this world.

After a lot of soul searching I brought up having a home brith with my husband. His first reaction was, won’t it be loud and messy? I told him I didn’t think so. He also asked me why I wouldn’t want to be in a hospital setting seeing as I had never had a baby before and didn’t know how hard labor would be. As a former athlete I knew that I had good focus and pain management techniques. Also, my instincts were telling me I would be much more comfortable laboring at home.

After some discussions with my Doula and midwife we decided to plan for a home birth. With our healthcare system you can transfer to a hospital at any time so there are no financial repercussions (or pressures) if you end up having a hospital birth.

We told almost no one about our plan. My sister knew and I had told a few work colleagues. I knew most of my family would have negative opinions about my choice so I decided to keep it to myself.

At 38 weeks and 2 days my water broke. Unexpected for sure. I had been reminded time and time again that first baby’s come late. I was still working at the time and 48 hours before my water broke I had been in another country (Seattle – I am from Vancouver, Canada).

In typical low-key Westcoast fashion I went into work to finish a few things. My coworkers were slightly horrified that I had come in after my water had broken. But I wasn’t having any contractions and knew it might be a while. Also, I wanted to officially put my out-of-office reply on – no more work for me!

We did end up going to the hospital because I had tested positive for Strep B. I got a bag of antibiotics, a few more to take home so the midwives could come and adminster them later, and a small vial of a tincturn to help me go into labour.

On the way home we picked up our home birth kit, got labor snacks and had lunch at Whole Foods and I took my first labor cocktail (tincturn, castor oil, juice, peanut butter). I mixed the cocktail right in the Whole Foods cafe and downed it.

The home birth went off mostly without a hitch. My midwives visited me twice to administer IV antibiotics and see how I was progressing. I labored in the dark in my home doing a lot of swaying and listening to an awesome playlist of Ray La Montagne and the Weepies. My doula arrived and put me through a mini bootcamp of lunges with one leg on a stool. My husband rubbed my back and was generally amazing.

Because of my GBS+ diagnosis and ruptured membranes my care providers had wanted to avoid internal exams to reduce risk of infection. My midwives arrived at my home at 5am to adminster another does of antibiotics and they gave me my first internal exam. 10 cms. I literally pumped my fist in excitment. After my IV I went to labor on the toilet and started to have pushing contractions. My team got me up onto my bed and a few minutes later my son arrived.

It was amazing.

While I was not the most likely person to choose home birth I am now a big proponent of it for women that want the option and are good candidates. It can be safe and it can be a very healthy experience for mother and child.

In the last two years I’ve made some remarkable changes to my lifestyle, reducing possessions and debt and gaining more time and space in my life. It’s been wonderful. When I think about what gave me the confidence to make these changes I think about making that decision to have a home birth. It wasn’t easy to do something I knew family and friends wouldn’t agree with. It wasn’t easy but it was so empowering. Making such a big decision, and having it be successful, has given me more confidence in my body and my instincts.

I know home birth isn’t for every woman not only because medical complications but because many women will feel more comfortable in a hospital than their home. But I wish the option, the choice, was there for every woman.

Rachel Jonat writes about living a rich life with less stuff at The Minimalist Mom.

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