Yesterday, we shared the fourth part of Rose Homme’s HBA2C story. In this five-part series, she shares her journey to home birth: the emotional ups and downs, the pain of her first births, and how believing in herself and her body guided her through. Here, you can read (and watch) the HBA2C birth story of her daughter, Penelope!
“I woke and made Kyle Breakfast. Sylvia had a specific plan for his meal: two pancakes, one to represent Oliver’s head and one for hers. A dress made out of cheese and a cracker for Oliver’s shirt, and carrots for their arms and legs. After breakfast I proceeded to make our Father’s Day feast – we were hosting 16 people! I was done cooking by noon, and we spent the rest of the day in the pool with the kids.
That evening I was exhausted and sore from standing all morning. I went to bed super early (for me) at 9pm. I woke up the next morning with an, “Oh shit, I over did it yesterday, now I’m sore and can barely walk, I’m going to need a massage or something feeling!” But after I walked around a bit, my muscles loosened up. Around 8:30am I was getting intermittent tingly feeling on my cervix. I was unsure if this was early labor so was cautious to even acknowledge it. But when it was making me walk on my toes, I decided to give my midwife a heads-up. I called her and when I hung up, I actually had a little cry and told Kyle I thought it might be labor but felt so unsure and didn’t know my body. (looking back, this was clearly a sign it was actual labor.)
Since my plan was to ignore labor until I couldn’t ignore it any more, I still intended to take the kids to swimming lessons by myself. Right before we left, around noon, I changed my mind and had Kyle drive. It was a little uncomfortable driving there but not unbearable. I was still questioning if this was real labor or my mind playing tricks on me. Sue called to check in and I told her I was fine and had a contraction on the phone. She didn’t seem too concerned, and I was trying to downplay the pain, I didn’t want to over-exaggerate if it was early labor and could be going on for days. Through the kids’ lesson, I had to go to the front yard so I could moan and talk to myself. The instructor actually commented, “Are you having a baby today?” which made me feel good and think, hey maybe this is actually labor!
By the time the kids finished I was in the front yard on my hands and knees. I got in the car to go home and things got intense. We were listening to Jimmy Eat World, and I told Kyle to turn on a fast song and turn it up LOUD! I was hanging on the door trying to pull myself off the seat and singing/moaning through contractions. It was HOT, and I was tired. It was kind of perfect, looking back: Kyle was playing that same Jimmy Eat World album in his car constantly when we began dating when I was 17 (see picture!). Full circle, man.
We got home around 2pm. I turned on the air and tried to lay down. I couldn’t lay down, so I walked straight to the backyard, took off my dress and got in the pool. It was a little cold, so I stayed in the sun, resting my head on the railing, trying to sleep until the next contraction. Kyle came out to check on me. I was working really hard to be conscious and alert between contractions and acknowledge Kyle when he checked on me. I drank a glass of water and took a few bites of food – all things I didn’t do during Oliver’s labor.
It was painful, but manageable. I took one contraction at a time and rested in between. Every time I looked down and saw my bright pink toes poking out from my round belly, I couldn’t help but smile. As I continued to work through contractions, something beautiful and alive would catch my eye, and I would ask it for energy – the sunlight, clouds, or an abundant tree. I would also ask for the strength and power of all the women who’ve done this before me, and think of them by name, the women I know who have had natural births. I’d remind myself of the billions of women who have done this for centuries. But perhaps the most powerful thing was talking to the baby through the contraction, thanking her and acknowledging that she knows how to be born and reassuring her that I would listen to what she needs. I also talked to my body and reminded myself that my body knows how to have a baby.
I threw up. Kyle called Sue and she was on her way! When she arrived a few minutes later the first thing she said was, “It sounds like you’re pushing.” I didn’t even realize I was pushing – it just felt right and relieved pressure during contractions. I looked at her and said, “Only because I have to poop!” She put on her bathing suit to get in the pool. I love my Sue, she was ready to jump in and catch the baby! But when she put one foot in, she jumped out and said, “That’s too cold. We need to move you to the birthing tub in between the next contractions.”
To ensure we didn’t have a repeat of Oliver’s attempted VBAC, I had been telling myself the baby was ready to be born when we moved to the tub. My water broke before labor started with Oliver, so again to ensure I didn’t have the same experience, both Sue and I kept saying throughout this pregnancy that my water was not going to break – so in my head that meant baby would be born in the caul.
I got in the tub and as I pushed through the first contraction, my water broke. It was like a pop, and I was kind of shocked that it wasn’t the baby coming out. Then Sue checked me (for the first time this pregnancy) and I was sure the head would be right there. Again I was shocked when I could feel how far she could go before feeling baby’s head, another “Oh Shit!” moment. Then she said she could feel a lip, and I was like Oh. No. Not. A. Lip. What the hell!
My mind immediately went back to Oliver’s birth. I started to lose focus for a second and wasn’t sure what to do. Sue told me to just keep doing what I was doing. So I sat through one contraction, then I thought, Fuck it, I’m moving this baby down! Sue held back the lip and I pushed like crazy. I got a bit loud and unruly and was not being the most effective. Sue gently reminded me to focus my energy down below and try not to scare the baby with my screaming. That was what I needed to hear to get back to lower, more effective vocalization through my pushes.
I could hear in Sue’s voice that baby had moved down a bit, and this assured me that things were going to be different this time and we were making progress. My right leg started cramping so I was feeling the pain of that more than anything and really focusing to push through to the right place. I had to move around a lot to push through the leg cramps, so much that Kyle had to move out of the tub. I knew our baby was crowning when Sue commented on her long hair. It took another ten minutes get her completely out. This surprised me again, since I figured it would be like other stories I had heard where the baby just shoots out with two simple pushes.
Sue said, “She’s out to her eyebrows!” and I was thinking, Seriously! Her eyebrows?! Come on, Sue, just pull her out! I felt her move out more on the next push. Then I accepted we’d be sitting here forever, and all of a sudden she just flew out! Sue’s voice was so kind, encouraging, and gentle, and I was squealing with excitement. Kyle was able to get back in the tub and support me just before baby was born. It was incredible to be the first ones to hold our baby, and to have done it all together in our bedroom. Every part of the experience was unexpected and incredible! I’ve never felt so amazing in my life! I felt like I was in heaven. I couldn’t believe it was over and she was here… and it was still daylight!
I had meant to put a bottle of champagne in the fridge when labor started. But since I never acknowledged labor starting, that didn’t happen. Sue came prepared with two bottles and everyone was ready to celebrate! My brothers and sisters slowly showed up and we all toasted our ever-growing family. Penelope Rose was peacefully born at home in water at 5:25pm June 18, 2012. Our largest baby at 8lbs.
This birth experience healed old wounds and allowed me to put my past births into a new, healthier perspective. It was probably the most amazing experience of my life. It bonded our family on a different level, healed old wounds, and brought Kyle and I together stronger than we have ever been in our nearly 14 years together. I love my husband so deeply, but birthing a child together and sharing that moment is remarkable on a level that words can not explain. All of my children have taught me so much. My past birth experiences gave me the strength and courage to fight for this outcome, so with all my love I thank Kyle, Sylvia, Oliver and Penelope!
Something I learned during Penelope’s birth was that I could have had a very similar birth experience at a hospital. I could have labored at home almost as long and headed to the hospital when I threw up in our swimming pool. I didn’t need to be monitored or managed through that point and could have arrived at the hospital ready to push. That’s another great thing about an experienced doula: they should be able to judge transition and help you decide when when it’s time to go.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Birthing From Within are both great books and every woman should read at least one of them whether you are pregnant or not. We no longer have a society where we see our peers birth, so we don’t know what to expect or what a normal process is. These books can help familiarize you with what normal birth looks like – it’s not what is seen on TV or what is done to us in the hospital. Normal birth does not need to be managed. If you’re not getting what you need from your care provider, switch or get to a place where you can take what they say with a grain of salt. You’re paying them and quite frankly, you don’t need the bullshit. Limit your stress. I would say my OB was my leading cause of stress during my first pregnancy. If I had trusted myself and my body then the way I do now, I would have left or not let her comments effect me.”
The techno-medical model of maternity care, unlike the midwifery model, is comparatively new on the world scene, having existed for barely two centuries. This male-derived framework for care is a product of the industrial revolution. As anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd has described in detail, underlying the technocratic mode of care of our own time is an assumption that the human body is a machine and that the female body in particular is a machine full of shortcomings and defects. Pregnancy and labor are seen as illnesses, which, in order not to be harmful to mother or baby, must be treated with drugs and medical equipment. Within the techno-medical model of birth, some medical intervention is considered necessary for every birth, and birth is safe only in retrospect.
― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth