Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Jane's Home Birth Story

**This is long, but not graphic (at least, I don't think so). It's long because I didn't want to forget any of the amazing details that made up our first home birth, and I wanted to be somewhat detailed for those who are apprehensive about home birth. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments about midwifery and home birth. Enjoy if you like!**
Jane Katherine Easling was born in our kitchen at 11:02 pm on August 28th, 2014. She was my second pregnancy but first planned home birth. Our experience in the hospital with Judah’s birth was a positive one with very little complaint, but with this baby I felt increasingly convinced that a home birth was the best way to go if I was to achieve the goals we had for a completely natural labor and birth free of unnecessary intervention and distraction. Andrew was on the same page with me, and in faith we trusted God for the financial provision and the protection over birthing our baby at home with a certified midwife and team of doulas. We believe without a doubt that God was leading us into this, because our midwife who usually books up far in advance had one opening for me when I called in mild desperation. It’s a long story, but just months before when I had initially called her, she was booked for August, and now she had room for me! That was one form of confirmation that our God was leading us and blessing us in this journey. May I just add that we paid out-of-pocket completely for this birth since our insurance refused coverage, and the Lord provided the funds to pay the entire bill off several months before we anticipated being able to do so! Anyway, on to the story…
      I was 42 weeks & 2 days and exhausted by the up-and-down feelings that I would be pregnant forever. All my friends who had been pregnant at the same time had already had their babies, which didn’t help the fact that I genuinely felt like she was never going to come. One morning just days before her birth, I woke up at 5am from a restless night of sleep and heard my 2 year-old son fussing. I waddled into his room, calmed him back to sleep, waddled back to my room, and plopped myself on the floor next to my bed. My husband, deep in a comfortable slumber (how jealous I was!) and thus completely unaware, did not hear me quietly sobbing and praying out loud to God, begging Him to send my body into labor. At the point when my face was puffy from crying so hard and I felt I had no tears left, I tried to get some rest. I later got up and made my way to the bathroom for what felt like the millionth time that month. Andrew was now getting ready for work, and saw my downcast face. I told him I felt like God was punishing me (absurd, I know!) and holding out on me. I was SO tired of carrying this baby and wanted to hold her on the outside. When I had finished venting, I went back to bed to try and get some sleep, still feeling discouraged. Andrew came up and prayed over me before he went to work. As he spoke the Word of God over me, I felt such a release of my frustration as the Holy Spirit brought peace and comfort. From then on, although I still ached (literally and figuratively) for our baby girl to come, I had finally resigned myself to just keep busy until the time came. It worked!
She came fast!
     I was just beginning another normal day when our midwife Brande Ruskusky called that Thursday morning suggesting we try some natural induction methods at home. I had just had a biophysical profile ultrasound two days prior at 42 weeks and wanted to avoid getting another one.  The other option being waiting until 43 weeks for natural labor to start (HA! Right!) I decided to go the route of an enema and breast pump stimulation. Brande must have been amused at my complete cluelessness as to what an enema entailed. My reaction wasn’t excitement, but hey, if it was going to get this baby out, I was all for it! I putsed around that day and met my parents in town to visit for a while, then got my supplies and went home. My mom came home with me while my Dad kept our son at their house since my husband was at work, just in case things picked up (which I doubted). I followed the instructions and natural labor took over at 5:30 pm, about when I stopped the breast stimulation (which I did on and off for an hour).
     I kept shrugging off the now-regular Braxton-Hicks and told myself not to get my hopes up; I was so sure it would probably stall or quit altogether since I hadn’t had a shred of labor-type activity up until then. Sure enough though, things picked up…and fast! Andrew came home shortly after I had quit using the breast pump and by then my contractions were about 5 minutes apart but were uncomfortable at worst. Having never had a natural contraction other than Braxton-Hicks with my firstborn (I was induced & had an epidural at 41 ½ weeks), I didn’t know what to expect from my body or how to physically gauge if I was in true labor. I had my Bradley Method training in mind and could tell things felt genuine; I was just in denial for fear of disappointment and not having anything to compare it to from experience, I doubted myself. True labor signs started to show: low backache, cramps in my lower abdomen, discomfort/pressure in my bottom area, and going to the bathroom frequently.
     Andrew was busy getting dinner ready and making sure we got things ready for action, all the while I kept telling him it wasn’t go-time yet (he disagreed, and I’m glad!). We ate dinner (fish sticks and salad, yum) and my mom timed contractions and washed dishes while I brought things downstairs for the birth team. Andrew set up the birth pool and we chatted for a while through some mildly uncomfortable contractions when I was reminded by a friend (thank you, Melissa Surber!) to SLEEP while I could. (I had forgotten that part of my Bradley training in my excitement.) I tried to go to bed; it was about 8:30 pm. My contractions were NOT going away and were definitely getting stronger. By the time I had laid down to rest, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sleep through these.
      I came down at 9:00 pm to find my mother had gone home and Andrew had resumed preparations. He started the music playlist I had put together (I highly recommend Fernando Ortega's In The Shadow of Your Wings and Chris rice's The Living Room Sessions for relaxing worship music during labor if that's your thing). I hopped in the bath and ran hot water all over me, which felt absolutely heavenly while trying to find a comfortable position to contract through. What seemed to work best was kneeling on all fours and swaying my hips side to side. Andrew chatted with me for a while, telling me some story I can’t remember, but I knew things were getting more serious because I was less responsive to conversation and was focusing more on getting comfortable through the contractions. By then a heavy thunderstorm had rolled in and I was getting cold in the tub. I got out at about 9:30 pm and asked Andrew to call the doulas because I wanted him by my side from now on. It was getting harder to find a comfortable position and I was focusing much more on staying loose and breathing during contractions.
     We laid down on the pull-out couch bed on the main floor to try the side-lying sleep position. The quiet, calming worship music helped me to relax and reminded me that God was with us in this moment. I had to go to the bathroom again, and while we were in the bathroom, our first doula Samantha Schoenecke entered the house without a peep. Andrew had her take over filling the birth pool and he led me back to the couch bed. I saw Emilee Houchin’s headlights through the big bay window in our family room where we were, and heard her come in quiety. She was our guest doula, there to add births to her training experience and photograph once the baby came.
     While on the bed I hit hard transition, still thinking I was in late first stage! My contractions started double peaking and in no time they were 3 minutes apart.  At 10:00 pm Andrew texted Brande and asked her to come. She was in West Peoria, an hour away. I was sort of slow-motion “swimming” on the bed to keep from tensing my muscles since the “sleep imitation position” wasn’t cutting it for me. I also found relief in vocalizing my exhaling breaths. Andrew was so calmly massaging me, coaching me, and timing contractions on the phone app. He knew exactly what stage I was in, and he was a champ in being right there with me, coaching me and encouraging me, being exactly what I needed. Despite sudden nausea and the feeling that I was either going to vomit or have a bowel movement, I was STILL in denial that this was transition. I thought it was too soon! But as if those signs weren’t enough, at 10:30 I started to bear down uncontrollably, still on the bed. This wasn’t an ordinary contraction. I felt my abdomen tighten intensely and a new, heavy pressure on my bottom. I groaned “I think I’m pushing!” with my contraction. Either someone asked or I mentioned that I wanted to get in the birthing pool.
Soaking in the splendor
     Samantha came in and helped Andrew lift me off the bed. I took one step and then had another strong contraction where I had an uncontrollable urge to bear down. We made it to the kitchen, but the water was too hot for me to get in the pool, so I ended up propped up on my knees facing the pool, leaning on it. Brande was on her way but hadn’t arrived yet and I was definitely pushing. I couldn’t help the loud yelling sounds I was making with each contraction—it seemed to bring relief from the intensity and the whirlwind of my body taking over the process completely with me spinning trying to keep up. Samantha helped me get my breathing under control while Andrew hooked his arms under my shoulders to support my shaking legs.
 Angie Detwiler, Brande’s assistant, arrived and gently notified me of her presence.
     I had another contraction and felt a pop—my water broke. I reached down and felt nothing. Another push, I reached again, and I felt Jane’s head crowning. Angie was just beginning to get set up and I yelled frantically, “She’s coming! Her head is coming!” I could hear Angie talking quietly behind me and with a quick backward glance I saw her shouldering her phone with Brande on the call, describing what was going on. Baby’s head was out but she kept wiggling which was causing extra discomfort. Every time she wriggled, I shouted “OW!” and even yelled at my daughter for the first time (“STOP THAT!”). I could hear Angie talking to Brande, relaying that baby’s head was in the perfect position. It seemed like forever that baby girl was just hanging out in that spot, but soon Angie instructed me to lift my right leg, which I did. In that knelt position, with my left leg down and my right leg up, on the next push our baby slid right out!
Andrew holding Jane while I got refreshed
     Angie was there to gently catch our baby while Andrew continued to hold me up, supporting me weight. I couldn’t see her immediately since I was facing the pool, but I could hear her strong healthy cry within seconds. I was a little shaky at first but soon turned around. Samantha sat behind me so I could lean against her to receive our baby girl, wrapped in a clean bath towel, into my arms with Andrew next to me. Then Andrew and I got into the pool and just soaked in those amazing first moments with her, in awe and wonder of the incredible accomplishment we had achieved together: an unmedicated, hands-off natural childbirth in the comfort of our own home. I couldn’t believe I had just BIRTHED a child, on my own, with no pain meds! 
     Those first 10 minutes in the pool were wonderful. The water relaxed and soothed my body while providing warmth and comfort to our newborn daughter. Andrew and I traded off holding her and stroking her soft skin, taking in every detail about her. She was very pink and healthy. She had a different face than Judah, yet we could tell they looked alike. Her head was small and perfectly round (no cone shape—she came out so fast). She had petite hands and narrow feet with slender long fingers and toes. She was long and narrow, unlike her wide and broad big brother when he was born. She had little hair, but contrary to the two dreams I had had of her birth just days before, it was red instead of black! Bright red, the beautiful strawberry shade of Andrew’s hair. 
Brande, our midwife, letting Andrew weigh Jane
     Our birth team just watched with supportive and joyful grins as we took in those first few moments with our baby, and Emilee snapped some shots of the moment. Brande walked in and we all laughed at how Jane just didn’t want to wait for her. We waited for the cord to stop pulsating, and then Andrew got to cut it. The placenta was birthed within 20-30 minutes of Jane’s birth without a problem and I had minimal postpartum blood loss (my midwife and I both believe it was due to faithfully drinking Shepherd’s Purse tea the last month of pregnancy).  We got cleaned up and headed back to the pullout bed. What an incredible difference it was from Judah’s birth where I couldn’t stand or walk for the first 24 hours due to the epidural, to being able to walk myself around and use the bathroom with minimal to no help!
     I felt sore all over from using muscles I’d forgotten I had, but I felt great. My throat was sore, however, from shouting through the pushing stage, but the girls were wonderful in bringing me refills of apple juice. Emilee put Jane’s first diaper on, Angie took our vitals every few minutes with Brande right there, and Jane passed her APGAR test with flying colors. Andrew got to use Brande’s sling scale to weigh our baby, and Brande announced she was 8 lbs 11 oz. I thought that to be a small baby after having Judah at 9 lbs 14 oz two years ago. She measured at 20 ½ inches long. She soon latched on and nursed with no issues. Brande filled out paperwork, and asked for the first time there what our baby’s name would be. We looked at each other in that final awkward “are-we-still-going-with-what-we-last-talked-about” glance, and then happily announced her name: Jane Katherine. I thought for sure I had torn pretty badly, but Brande checked me and I only had a mild 1st-degree tear and a “skid mark”. I didn't need a single stitch. I was so relieved, and thankfully, that ended up healing quickly with little discomfort.
     Our birth team sat with us in the family room in the warm glow of the lamp, chatting and celebrating with us in those glorious and unforgettable first hours. Part of me didn’t want them to leave. I form a sort of strong emotional attachment to whoever is involved in the birth of my kids, and these ladies had instantly become great friends to me through their professional and invaluable help to Andrew and I. I can’t thank them enough for their sweet, caring, and amazing help and support to us. The storm had now dissipated and it was quiet. Our team left around 1:30 am, and Andrew and I began our babymoon with our sweet girl. Judah got to meet her when my parents returned the next morning, and we had a wonderful reunion and a great beginning to being a family of four.
       I never received any pain meds during labor and had not a single cervical exam the entire pregnancy. There was no heart rate monitoring the entire labor, no ultrasound, no IV. In hindsight, I can see how some might worriedly question, "What if something were wrong? What if you needed intervention?!" Well, first, we did our research before determining home birth was a safe and practical option. We had a low-risk and normal pregnancy, with no complications. It's also obvious to us that God was taking care of us because not a single fear crossed my mind that entire time. There truly was a perfect peace that our baby was to be born at home and everything would go well. I know this was God's peace because I wasn't being naive--like I said, we did our research, talked extensively to midwives and doulas, addressed every safety concern thoroughly, and had a strong sense from the Lord that this was the right thing to do for this pregnancy. 
     I want to note that I'm NOT saying home birth is the only way to go or that every mom should give birth at home. I had an interest in home birth with my firstborn, but nowhere near this level of passion or peace about it. We gave birth in a hospital with Judah, and I don't regret it. I didn't enjoy the pitocin induction, but the epidural gave us both the rest we needed after being up for hours laboring to 5 cm with no pain meds. I pushed 3 hours with him after getting a restful sleep from the relief of the epidural, and he was surprisingly a HUGE baby (9' 14"). The exhaustion I felt in pushing was, to us, a hint that the epidural had served us well because we both believe I may have gone into maternal exhaustion and gotten a C-Section otherwise. God's grace was all over us in both birthing scenarios, which were vastly different from each other. Also, with our home birth, our midwife had all the necessary medical supplies (pitocin, sutures, neonatal resuscitation equipment, etc) should she need it. Our midwife attends about 50 births a year, has never lost a mother or baby, and has only transferred her clients who either gave in and wanted the epidural in a hospital or who had enough bleeding postpartum to cause concern. 

      Jane’s name means, “God is Gracious”, and that was evidenced in the quick and relatively easy labor and birth I experienced with her. I remember praying on the couch while I was in hard labor for God to make transition come quickly and last briefly because I didn’t think I could handle much more pain. I truly believe He was giving me His grace and protection in how quickly and smoothly she came into the world, without a single complication. Katherine means “Pure”, a word we want to be prophetic over her life as a difference-maker in the world for God’s Kingdom and a precious Daughter of the Living God. I know God was there with us surrounding Jane’s entrance into the world, and I am so excited to see Him move in and throughout her life and ours as we steward our precious gift from God.

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