Sure enough, we were expecting number 3! Once again, I didn’t know for sure that fertility had returned so I wasn’t entirely sure of the due date. This time, I approached pregnancy and birth from a whole different perspective. I was determined once again to have a wonderful birth experience, but I wondered if I needed a formal hospital setting to do so. With my last birth, I hadn’t even gotten an IV and the only thing the doctors and midwives had even done (or been allowed to do) was literally catch Bambina and hand her to me. It dawned on me that I was spending a lot of money for a doctor of midwife to watch me do what my body knew how to do naturally. Granted, there were advantages to the hospital setting in case of complications or if the baby or I needed help at any point.
I decided this was a topic worth investigating at least, and became rather psychotic about doing so. I checked out 43 books from the library on natural pregnancy and birth and read them within a month. I read about everything from the highly medicated “twilight births” that were popular at the beginning of the century to “unassisted births” which were gaining popularity in the last few years (unassisted birth is basically the mother/father and her chosen team delivering at home without the assistance of a trained professional like a doctor or midwife). I could quickly determine that neither of those options was right for me at this point, and had a lot to think about in what kind of birth I wanted this time.
Another factor I had to consider during this process was the fact that we had switched to a high deductible insurance plan several months before and it did not offer maternity benefits. I knew that it was an option to pre-pay for labor and delivery and get it at a discounted rate, but I questioned if I even wanted to pursue this option. I also started researching midwives in our area.
To my surprise, there were over a dozen home birth midwives within driving distance of us. I poured over their websites reading birth stories and their outlook on birth. I had enjoyed the experience of a midwife with Bambina’s birth, but there were still aspects of the hospital stay that I didn’t like. I didn’t like the food (can anyone blame me for that one?), the bed, having to stay in bed, not being able to walk around carrying Bambina, not being allowed to sleep with Bambina in my bed, etc. Overall, I always felt like I was playing defense in the hospital.
I thought about the idea of a home birth. I wouldn’t have to worry about the stress of traveling to the hospital in labor. I wouldn’t have to leave my other kids. I would get to sleep in my own bed. I could nurse when I wanted, where I wanted, and how I wanted. I could eat my own healthy, homemade food rather than the processed food-look a like I was served in the hospital. Most importantly, I realized that I would be in charge of my birth and that I could decide the atmosphere, how I moved, how I coped, etc.
After much deliberation, I decided a home birth was the right option for me. Then I had another decision to make… which home birth midwife did I want. To preface this part of the story, I should tell you that we were in the process of moving (can’t I ever have a relaxing pregnancy?), selling a house, and a possible career change. I didn’t exactly have time to interview each midwife and see who I connected with, so I made a spreadsheet. You will soon learn (if you keep reading this blog, and please do!) that I make a lot of spreadsheets, and that I hate spreadsheets… a lot! I make spreadsheets for meal plans, budgeting, storing kids clothing by size, my daily routine (I really should post this one!), my water intake, my vitamins, etc. Nothing in the world makes me quite as annoyed as spreadsheets, but I digress.
I made this spreadsheet and sorted by top choices. I eventually decided on one midwife because she was cheapest, and that seemed like an important factor considering the move, selling a house, job change, etc. I called her, left a message and forgot about it until she called back several days later… to tell me that she didn’t take clients during December because of the possibility of missing Christmas with her family.
Back to the spreadsheet…. I did ask that midwife who she recommended when she called me back and she gave me the name of another midwife who she highly recommended. I checked the spreadsheet and this other midwife had been my second choice. I was a little worried at this point that she wouldn’t take clients during December either, but I called her, left a message and forgot about it until she called back.
This midwife, who I shall call Dr. Homebirth, Medicine Woman from now on, called me back on our actual moving day as I was packing the last of our boxes into the truck and letting the buyers into the house for final inspection.
She introduced herself, and it took me several tries of explaining my situation while out of breath from carrying boxes before she could finally understand me.
Dr. Homebirth: Hi, this is Dr. Homebirth returning a call to Wellness Mama (names changed… in case you were curious)
Me: Hi, (out of breath), I was just calling because the other midwife doesn’t take clients during December (deep breath) and we are due in December, (deep breath) I think, but not sure (breath) because I was still nursing our last baby (deep breath) when I got pregnant, but early December is my guess. I was wondering if you take clients in December (finally deep enough breath to get oxygen!)
Dr. Homebirth: I do take clients during December, have you had a homebirth before?
Me: No… I had a bad experience with a hospital birth and a hippie doctor with our first child, which led to a better experience in a hospital with midwives for our second child, which led me to you. Yes, please go right in and excuse the mess, we haven’t had a chance to sweep yet (to the buyers who were there to see the house).
Dr. Homebirth: explained about fees and her practice while I carried more boxes to the truck.
Me: Sounds great.
Dr. Homebirth: Ok, wonderful, well for new clients I offer a free home consult so that we can get to know each other and you can decide if you want me to be your midwife. (Definitely a step up from any other health care professional I had ever met!)
We scheduled the home visit for a couple weeks later once we had gotten moved in. The rest of the night we, and Italian Stallion’s brothers, moved all of our stuff into our new place just in time to get the U-haul back my 7 am.
I was so busy unpacking that I forgot about the home visit until the day before and tried to tidy up the house some from the unpacking so that Dr. Homebirth wouldn’t deem our house unfit for a child to enter!
Dr. Homebirth arrived on time the next day and I felt like we clicked instantly. She noticed a picture I had painted on the wall and asked me if it was Our Lady of Guadalupe, which it was. I was impressed that she knew that, and it cued me in that we shared our Catholic faith, which was another plus. There was just a different connection even than I had with the nurse midwives in the hospital. I had a three-page list of questions prepared for the interview with her, and once we sat down, I started firing away.
After the first couple questions, she stopped me. “You can stop using the term ‘allow,’” she said, “this is your birth and I am there to assist. You won’t have to ask my permission to move around, get a shower, eat or anything else. It is your birth.”
At this moment, I knew she would be our midwife, and I was able to cross off almost every other question from my list. Italian Stallion and I couldn’t think of any other questions for her, and she asked us a few about my medical history, views on birth, etc. She told us that she generally did not ask for an answer at the home visit, but asked clients to think and pray about their decision of her as a midwife for 24 hours before deciding. We agreed and she left.
24-hours later, I called Dr. Homebirth and told her we did indeed want her to attend our homebirth (finally adjusting to the terms “attend” and “our birth” rather than her “deliver” the baby for me!). We scheduled our next appointment and an ultrasound to help narrow down due date.
At the ultrasound appointment, the technician revealed that we were 11 weeks and 4 days, making our due date December 12, which is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (another cool connection).
With two kids running around, I didn’t have much time to revel in the glow of being pregnant, but I did manage to read a lot of books about home birth, usually while watching the kids play outside so we could all get our Vitamin D. Overall, this pregnancy felt like my healthiest one yet. I was careful to get enough protein (70-80 grams per day), which I read was important in preventing complications like preclampsia. I drank veggie smothies every day and never had cravings or felt nauseous much (probably because of all the great nutrition).
My attitude about birth was the best of all my pregnancies also. Each month, I drove to Dr. Homebirth’s house where she held her pre-natal appointments. Such a change from the gynecologists of old. Her appointment room had a double bed with down pillows. Since some women labored at her home, attached was a large bathroom with the biggest whirlpool tub I had ever seen for water births. It was in this bathroom that I peed in a cup and weighed myself each month.
She took blood one time (rather than the normal 5 at a gynecologists office) and confirmed that my blood levels were great. I got to monitor my blood glucose levels at home with a blood sugar monitor rather than drink the disgusting syrupy gestational diabetes screen (which, I am convinced, is probably enough to cause gestational diabetes itself).
A normal appointment with the midwife lasted about an hour. When I got there, I would go straight in (no wait time!) and we would talk, go over nutrition, exercise, etc. She would listen to the baby with a Doppler monitor and give some advice about preparing for birth. She even had a bookshelf full of natural birth books (did I ever mention I love books!) that patients could borrow each month (I had read them all by the end).
At week 30, her manual exam of my stomach (which midwives are excellent at, by the way) and the position of the baby’s heartbeat made her realize that little Tre (Italian for “three”) was breech. My heart sank. While midwives can deliver a breech baby at home, especially when it is not a first pregnancy for the mother, I knew that this complication could make birth more difficult. I had read enough to know that there was a higher risk of complications, that birth can take longer and that emergency intervention can be necessary during the pushing stage. We hadn’t discussed if she would even deliver a breech baby before, and I was worried that she wouldn’t be willing to deliver it…..
Missed previous parts of the saga? Find them here.