From Jen: This is the birth story of a lovely homebirth I had the privilege of helping with recently. It is important to this mother that all of her story is told because it just might help someone else. Please be respectful of her and her situation. Now to Tamara's story...
First, some back-story...
Discovering that I was pregnant was a time of tension in my life at first. I was already a single parent of three other children; my 13 year old son, Alex, who lives with his dad, eight year old daughter, Olivia, and four year old son, Nicholas, who both live with me full time, and I was not anticipating having another child. After thinking that rekindling a relationship with my daughter's father might work, I had made the decision not to continue that relationship because we already had Olivia and he did not participate in raising her. I realized it was best not to try to resume a relationship with him because he still seemed to be unsure about the responsibilities attached to the relationship and appeared to only be interested in having a connection with me. I found out I was pregnant a week after breaking the relationship off. I had to call him and tell him I was pregnant which caused additional stress between us. He wouldn't be a parent to this child either. I was hurt, but had already come to terms with this.
Over time, my thoughts about my pregnancy changed from upset to acceptance, and from confusion to love and determination. I was determined to continue pressing forward to build myself up and to grow both as a parent and as the sole person financially willing to take care of my children. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant I applied for a Masters degree program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and although I applied two months after the application deadline, I got accepted. I cried with joy when I received my acceptance letter in email. This meant that there were new and special things ahead for us such as world travel, a salary with benefits and a manageable work schedule. I wouldn't have the same old story to tell.
Over the past couple years, I had began educating myself on alternatives to modern medicine and had become fascinated by ways to manage my health, my nutrition, and the way I see the world to create peace and well being in my life. I decided to have a home birth after not seeing eye to eye with two obgyns. My first obgyn, a female, tried to recommend me for counseling because I did not want vaginal exams while I was not in labor. She wrote in my file that she suspected I had been sexually abused at some point which had never been a factor in my life! I was disgusted by this. I was 32 weeks pregnant when I changed my obgyn, only to face further opposition to not wanting vaginal exams by the male obgyn I was provided. He actually yelled at me when I did not have my clothes off while waiting on him to enter the room, although I had signed a consent form informing my ob/gyn that I did not want a vaginal exam. He told me that he didn't want to adhere to my birth plan because I would have needed to introduce it to him when I first found out I was pregnant. Most birth plans aren't even created until a pregnant woman turns 37 weeks. I had never heard of anything so ludicrous. I decided at that point to find my own independent midwife and fire my ob/gyn.
While watching videos on live home births I was introduced initially to the idea of having a doula. I was concerned about going through my labor and delivery alone, being a single parent and having little family support, and looking into getting a doula seemed to make sense at the time. A doula is a labor and birth coach who knows massage and relaxation techniques and is there to help a pregnant woman (and spouse or partner) go through the birthing and pregnancy process informed about what her body is doing. I was immediately interested in this. When the difficulties with my second ob/gyn intensified, I became sure that I did not want him to deliver my baby, which opened a gateway to not wanting to have my baby in a hospital. I learned that the c-section I had with my four year old was a result of the pitocin used to induce my pregnancy dropping my baby's heart rate. I did not know that likelihood of such risks by medical induction at that time, and simply thought something was wrong with me or my baby that caused the c-section - not that my otherwise normal pregnancy was complicated by the introduction of petocin into my baby's system. I started seriously considering having a home birth at this time, and learned that a doula would not be able to assist me in the labor and delivery of my baby because doulas are not medically trained. I was disappointed by this as I had already started to pay for doula services, and was discouraged from seeking out a midwife because I was 38 weeks pregnant by that time.
Out of curiosity, I decided to search online for whether a pregnant woman at 38 weeks could still find a midwife and deliver her baby at home. I had been discouraged from looking for a midwife at that stage in my pregnancy because it didn't leave a lot of time for prenatal care or to anticipate anything that may go wrong during birth, but my pregnancies had all been normal, I had records of my vitals during all of my prenatal visits and had two normal ultrasounds, and I never had any issues from the births of my other children unless there was medical intervention. I had negative test results for every test they could think to give me, so why couldn't I have a home birth with a perfectly normal pregnancy? Everything I read online said that hiring a midwife was still perfectly fine at 38 weeks, as a midwife has medical training and can transport a pregnant woman to the hospital if there is a problem outside of her control. My fears were calmed and I found that during my births, normal situations were treated like emergencies, such as leaking ambiotic fluid at 40 weeks and not having the confidence of knowing what my body would do during labor and being medically induced as a result. I wanted to give my body a chance to labor naturally and to deliver my baby in a comfortable environment. To give myself a chance to have a vaginal birth and if something went wrong then to seek a hospital for emergency services - what a hospital is intended to exist for when a woman gives birth in the first place. I am glad I made this decision.
I met Kristin Lacy, Wendy Pinter and Jen Henderson as a result of sending out emails to the Michigan Midwives Association and being recommended to speak to Wendy due to the time of the year. It was Christmas week when I turned 38 weeks pregnant, and many midwives had taken some holiday time that week. Wendy was attending a birth and I was able to connect with her intern, Kristin Lacy, by email - it was a match made in heaven! Kristin eased all of my fears and concerns about seeking out a midwife at 38 weeks pregnant, and discussed with me her years of medical training prior to deciding to become a midwife, and was able to meet with me the same day we emailed each other. She did everything possible to make sure that I had access to everything I wanted for an ideal birth experience - including providing access to a private birthing room where I had the option of having a water birth after finding out my mobile home couldn't sustain the pool. She looked over my medical records for my pregnancy thoroughly and explained that I was getting two midwives and a doula, a team of support. She also emphasized the fact that if I didn't want any support at a particular time during labor and birth, no touching or talking or to labor alone, that my wishes would be completely respected. I was awakened to the position of control over my own body and my own birth experience through my conversation with Kristin and I was empowered and encouraged by that. I was also assured that everything possible would be done, if an emergency did arise, to transport me and my baby to a hospital as soon as possible and that they were very well trained and prepared..
I was 41 weeks and 6 days pregnant when my labor finally began. I had my prenatal care appointment with Kristin the day before I gave birth and was still 2 centimeters dilated after about a week. After attempting to induce me for the fourth time over a two week period with natural remedies and with my contractions still being very irregular, few and far between, Kristin reassured me that I was in labor and that my body and my baby were moving at their own pace, at God's pace, and not to worry. I was a bit discouraged and I didn't know what to expect my body to do. Kristin asked me each time that she attempted to induce me what *I* wanted to do, and went with what I felt my body was saying. She was extremely empathetic and sensitive to me, while at the same time giving me responses that were sure and even sometimes stern like an older sister would do for her younger sister who didn't know what to expect. I had my children picked up by their grand mother before being induced that day, and was ready to have my baby. Kristin tried stripping my membranes, I tried listening to relaxation CDs from the hypnobabies CD set, and after several hours and feeling even more discouraged, I was provided herbs to help induce my labor by soaking in a warm bath to try. My contractions never became regular or intense, and I felt discouraged about another possible false alarm or failed attempt at induction. Kristin left my home encouraging me to stay patient, and I went for a walk to ease my mind and my feelings. I picked up some caster oil based upon a friend's suggestion but didn't touch it until I spent 45 minutes soaking in the herbs and had no contractions three hours later. I decided to try the caster oil. Two hours after taking the caster oil and not having any contractions, I decided to call my mom and have my children brought back and to go to bed. My daughter had school the next day and if it was going to be another false alarm, I didn't have time for it. *laugh*
I was woken up by strong contractions at 11:45 pm after having gone to bed at 10 o'clock. I decided to time my contractions after feeling three intense contractions at around four minutes apart. I timed three more contractions which were consistently about three minutes apart and felt my water break while I was laying in bed! It was 12:06 am when my water broke and I scrambled to get up and get to the restroom before I completely soaked my bed, dialing Kristin as I hurried to the toilet. After verifying what I was feeling, Kristin said she was on her way and for me to call Jen, the doula. Jen told me she was on her way, but that she was farther away than Kristin was at about an hour and a half, and told me to leave the restroom because if I stayed there I may have the baby before my team got there, so I relocated to my living room - my children sleeping soundly in my room.
I labored on my love seat with a blue pad under me and was surprised at how manageable the contractions were. By the time I sat on the couch at about 12:15 am, my contractions were two minutes apart and I could reassess my position and how I wanted to breathe to control how I coped with the intensity of the contractions without a problem. I remembered the intensity of my contractions when I was medically induced with petocin, how I couldn't breathe between contractions and the pain caused me to want an epidural right away. This experience was completely different! I had time to think, the contractions intensified gradually and gave me time to prepare myself when my body was naturally laboring on its own! I was calm and delighted - I was doing this myself!
Kristin arrived by 1:30 am and checked my vitals and the baby's heart rate. Everything was fine. She then told me that she wanted to check my cervix to see how far I was dilated and I said that was fine. I was shocked to find out that I was between five and six centimeters dilated already! That was supposed to be the longest part of laboring, between two and five centimeters based on everything I read and more than 50 home birthing videos that I watched! My body changed stages without a problem, and without the "typical signs" of labor that you read about. Everything was moving so fast! I was then told that I could stand up and labor any way I wanted to, but I chose to stay seated for a while. Jen arrived just after 2 am and to honor the fact that I wanted a water birth really bad, despite my mobile home not being able to support the pool without worry, my bathtub was sterilized and prepared for me to give birth there. Jen cleaned out the tub and I was allowed to labor in the water. It felt soooo wonderful! It eased my contractions right away, but soon, I felt like I had to push and wanted badly to go back into my living room. No matter what position I wanted to get in or where I wanted to labor, Kristin and Jen made it happen for me. Kristin told me that this was my birth and I get to be in control of the way I deliver. That the only time she would intervene was when I felt like I had to push because she wanted to make sure that my cervix was dilated enough not to cause me pain in my uterus when I pushed. I was grateful for this because the feeling to push became overwhelming, and I had no way to tell whether my cervix was open enough to allow me to push comfortably or not.
I could feel myself wanting to push so Kristin wanted to check me. The baby felt sooo low in my pelvis! I was only in the tub for about 30 minutes. Jen and Kristin helped me out of the tub and my contractions were so intense that I had to labor on my hands and knees in the hallway through one of the contractions and crawl to the area that Kristin and Jen had set up for me to labor on by the couch *laugh*. I got to choose where I wanted to deliver, where I wanted to labor, I had never felt that much in control during any of my other births. I tried to labor on the couch but it just felt too soft, and the water just didn't feel right. I felt bad about the caster oil because things got a bit messy, but Kristin and Jen didn't flinch about it - it was all part of being a midwife and doula for them. Before I knew it, I was trying to keep myself from pushing in order to give my cervix a little more time to open up - I was at 9 centimeters by 3:30 am, and needed an additional hour to allow my baby to decend into the birth canal and then push him out. I had episiotimies with my other pregnancies without even knowing if I was in danger of tearing or not. My baby crowned without causing any tearing!
My children were sleeping soundly until I gave a yell to push my baby's head out - everything having been manageable up until the point where I had to force my body to relax in order to push with my contractions. My daughter and son came out of the bedroom just in time to hear their little brother's first cry at 4:25 am, a brief little yelp, as he lay on my chest with his eyes wide open and holding onto the fingers of my right hand. He was beautiful and I heard my daughter and son say "Awwww"! Noah was born on January 17th, 2012, at 4:25 am. His 8 year old sister weighed and measured him at 7 lbs 0 ozs, and 18.5" long.
Wendy came from another birth 2 hours away and delivered the placenta, and Jen was constantly supportive and encouraging, involving my children and taking pictures of the baby being weighed by his big sister. I was so entranced by the experience that I forgot to have pictures taken of the baby emerging into the world, but decided that I was glad that I didn't have such intimate pictures, that it all worked out for the best. Every memory I have about my birth experience is incredible and I find myself catching my breath or exhaling because I did something so empowering. I feel as if this was the only birth out of four that I was actually present for - this time I was in control, I was allowed to trust my body, and I was in the comfort of my own home when my baby came into the world.
Kristin Lacy is an incredible midwife and I am truly blessed to have had her and the rest of her team present for my birth. I didn't want more children before this experience, and now I hope to find the right relationship where I can be married and have one more just to have an opportunity to plan it from the very beginning of my pregnancy with Kristin involved.