Home Birth: Some Natural, Everyday Miracles (Part 1)

In August, I birthed our third son under the low lamp light of our home’s living room.  By my side was my strong and amazing birth partner — my husband Kyle — who was brave and caring enough to take me seriously when I told him I wanted to give birth at home.  And looking on were my sister Rachel — my inspiring superwoman doula — and Brenda Frankenfeld — my wise and attentive midwife.

Before the big event, I knew home birthing for me meant preparing my body, mind, and soul to function in the amazing ways God created it to function.  It meant trusting that my body knew what it was doing.  It meant preparing — from doing yoga stretches and eating nutritionally dense food, to delving into some spiritual depths in my relationships with God and others and becoming close and completely comfortable with the few people who would attend me at the birth.

The more I absorbed information before and during my pregnancy, the more confident I grew.  I understand that I am not invincible as a human, but having had no serious complications in my previous pregnancy, I knew I had no need to fear.  I trusted my birth attendants as educated and experienced enough to know what was going on.  And as my sister said to me in the midst of a huge, pushing contraction: “Your body was made for this.”

So creation got to work.  I was witness, and it was amazing.  I call this list “Natural, Everyday Miracles” because this is how natural birth can happen when it’s not interrupted.  Quite frankly, if we let our eyes, ears, and… uh, cervixes open, we can experience phenomena that are nothing short of miracles.

1. The primal, instinctual woman

In my pregnancy and birth, I grew to trust my body.  But what’s more, my midwife and doula trusted my body, too.  From the moment Rachel and Brenda entered the house, they became silent servants.  After a brief check of the baby’s heart beat with a stethoscope, Brenda lay down in the next bedroom to give me privacy.

A laboring woman thrives on privacy.  For me, this may have played out by slowing down my labor during the daytime.  I had had painful contractions the night before Ray was born, only to have them taper off by morning.  Brenda said this is common of moms with additional kids in the home.  It’s almost as if the body says, I have something else to do today.  Labor can wait until nighttime.  Hmmm… is it coincidental that at the older boys’ bedtime I was finally certain that labor was in full swing again?  For some women, a hospital itself brings fear.  The environment or simply the lack of being on her own comfortable turf will keep her from relaxing into her contractions so that her cervix can open.  It’s a vulnerable thing — giving birth!  I was so thankful to be in my own bedroom, laboring with the wonderful guy with whom the pregnancy started.

Instinct for me kept me in the bedroom as long as possible.  It also allowed me to vocalize my pain throughout contractions without worrying about anyone’s reaction to my noise.  I inhaled deeply and then moaned lowly on the slow exhalations, imagining my cervix opening like a flower.  I stayed on my knees, kneeling over a chair during the contractions.  When the intensity subsided, I would relax back on my feet to massage my perineum on the soft blanket I was sitting on.

Low moaning began to slowly give way to more gutteral, throaty noises.  I didn’t feel like pushing yet, but I did feel an urge to relax more fully, so I decided to head to the birthing tub in the living room.  As it turns out, Rachel and Brenda have heard many laboring women, and the changes in my vocalizations were cluing them in that birth was drawing nearer.  Brenda once again monitored the baby’s heartbeat as I got into the tub.  Again, as long as I was doing fine, Brenda and Rachel just sat in the darkness of the living room, letting my body’s rhythms guide the night.

Intensity did increase.  The main word I had tried to focus on in labor was “release” so that I could give way to what my body wanted to do.  But it is hard to completely shut my brain off, and at one point, I asked Brenda, “When does the water break?  Before or after transition?”  “It can happen anytime,” she replied from the calm dark.  With that, she reaffirmed that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, schedules be damned.

After a period of more restful, even meditative breaks between contractions, the urge to push overcame me.  I was on my knees, arms draped over the side of the tub and Kyle at my face.  Rachel joined him there.  With one huge pushing roar, I felt a pop in the tub and I knew my water had broken.  There it was, right when it was supposed to be.  The baby’s head descended through the birth canal quickly.  I had my hand at my vagina, suddenly realizing that was a slick, downy baby head I was feeling.  Roaring and pushing, resting, roaring and pushing, resting.  No instruction needed; my body knew.  Encouragement from Rachel were the only words I heard.  Head in the water, my hand caressing it.  Shoulders would be next.  And so with another great push and roar, they followed the head, and I pulled my baby up out of the water.  The midwife noted the nuchal cord (cord around the baby’s neck), but I already had him halfway out of it and then, in my arms.

2. The healing of a wounded placenta

When I pushed Ray’s head out, some blood began flowing into the birthing tub.  Brenda was shining her flashlight into the water behind me, keeping tabs on it.  She wanted to assess the source of the blood loss (My blood? Cord blood? It was not yet obvious.) and the amount of blood loss.

After Ray was born but before the placenta had been birthed, I continued to relax in the water with him, all my happy hormones flowing right on through me.  Brenda was watching the blood in the tub and got to the point where she needed me to get out and birth the placenta so she could more accurately assess blood loss.  This was  the only time she really told me what to do, and I was still thinking, Meh… what’s the rush?  I’m happy, baby’s happy.  Who wants to push out a placenta?  But I understood Brenda was trying to figure out the whole blood loss thing, so dutiful patient that I am, I got out (much stronger on my feet than expected), leaned against Kyle beside the pool, and birthed the placenta.  And then Brenda inspected the placenta, put it in my big stainless steel kitchen bowl, and I zoned back into the Baby Ray channel.

Here’s what we know now: Ray’s cord wasn’t super-long, so when his head emerged with a nuchal cord, it tugged against the placenta where the umbilical cord attaches to the placenta.  There was a slight tear in the cord right at that juncture, causing some bleeding.   Brenda couldn’t tell if the blood loss in the tub was increasing, but upon inspecting the placenta, she had her answer: it wasn’t.  Here’s why — the really amazing thing: by the time I had birthed the placenta, that tear on the placenta had already clotted over, healed itself.  And (cool thing #2) the tear was on the placenta-ward blood vessel; the two Ray-ward blood vessels were still pumping him full of his oxygen-rich blood the whole time.

3. A baby, calm and alert

When I pulled Ray up out of the water, he didn’t cry.  There was no need to.  There were no bright lights or loud voices.  He was warm, and no one was rushing to cut his umbilical cord or get his measurements.  There was time.  Or maybe I should say there was no time.  Time didn’t exist.  We had all thrown our watches in the garbage.

And my sweet baby was pink.  He had been from the time his head had emerged into the water (Brenda had been watching that with her flashlight, too.)  His eyes were wide open as he looked at the world around him, so the whole quiet baby thing had nothing to do with his lack of responsiveness.  I blabbed to him about everything, and he only started whimpering a little while later when he started getting cold.  Kyle tied off and snipped the cord (now white and emptied of its blood) with Ray snug in my arms, and our baby didn’t mind a bit.

It was the most gentle transition for a baby coming into the world that I could ever dream of.  As I tell you these things, I am realizing there is nothing stunning to describe.  That’s the whole thing:  nothing stunning (lights, sounds, prodding, jolting) = very peaceful baby and mommy.

*                    *                   *                   *

Next week, I’ll unveil the second half of my Natural, Everyday Miracles list as I continue my blog series on our home birthing experience.

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  1. You know, I think the blood vessel that was torn would have been an artery — A=away from Ray’s heart. The other two would have been veins, coming toward Ray. I think.

  2. What an amazingly beautiful birth. Thank you for bringing it all back to me in written words.
    The vessel that broke was one artery and the vessels that remained intact were 1 artery and 1 vein. In the umbilical cord, 2 arteries take blood away from baby and one vein carries oxygenated blood to the baby. The vein was intact. I believe only one artery broke and clotted.

    I have posted your comment on my blog. Is there any way I can create a post on my blog directly linking folks to this wonderful post? It is in the comments already, I just thought I’d post it in the main body as well.
    Love to you all.

    • clbeyer
    • September 9th, 2011

    Sure, Brenda! I’d be honored to have you share our story!

    Thanks for clarifying the placenta/blood vessel issue.

  1. September 27th, 2011
  2. October 6th, 2011

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