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From the moment I saw 2 pink lines on my pregnancy test, I knew I wanted to have a homebirth this time around.
My first birth did not go as planned, it left me feeling as if my body had failed me and destroyed any confidence I had in the care providers that attended me. I was young and there was a cascade of interventions and I didn’t know any better.
I knew nothing of birth or what my body was capable of. I put the decisions of my birth in the hands of physicians who I thought would always have our best interest at hand. It turns out they didn’t, and I ended up with a c-section.
For years before I conceived I dreamed of giving birth again, making different choices and being as much in control of my body and my birth as I could be. Looking back, I felt like I had something to prove. To whom, or what I’m not sure.
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I quickly contacted every birthing center and midwife in my region, which as it turns out were not very many. There were birthing centers in all of the cities that surrounded mine but none in my community. The area I live in is has a heavy medical influence but not many holistic treatment centers.
I had to fight to find someone who was willing to support my desire to have a VBAC. I finally found a birth center who would take me! It was a dream come true EXCEPT they were almost 3 hours away from where I live.
I was determined to have a successful VBAC.
My pregnancy with Finn was very low risk. My previous c-section was 9 years before I got pregnant with him., my previous incision was low transverse, not classical and I was healthy and willing to do what it takes to support a healthy pregnancy. I stayed very active through this pregnancy.
I walked almost daily, did prenatal yoga, lunges and squats… anything to prepare my body for what is what going through and the tremendous marathon of labor. I maintained a healthy diet and gained about 30ish lbs.
I read every natural birth book I could get my hands (I LOVE Ina May Gaskin’s books!) on and my husband and I took the Bradley Method childbirth course. I practiced the pain relief techniques with him that we were taught and watched tons of natural childbirth youtube videos! I wanted to prepare physically and mentally as much as I could.
Change of Plans.
Around my 25th week of pregnancy my husband and I started to get really nervous about the drive to the birth center and if we would make it.
We ultimately decided we were not comfortable risking it. We ended up interviewing a local midwife who attends homebirths and switching care over to her.
I finished out the rest of my pregnancy with her and a local OB that would support me if I need to transfer to the hospital during my homebirth.
I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I tried everything under the sun to go into labor those last few weeks. Pineapple, dates. walking, squats, spicy food, pedicures, pressure points, sex. . .nothing I tell you. If someone told me to go outside on a rainy night and do handstands and howl at the moon to go into labor I would have.
I gave up. He would come when he was good and ready. I had NO signs of labor prior to it starting. My cervix had been 1 cm for weeks and no changes.
Ironically the night before I went into labor I wrote my baby a note for his baby book telling him how excited I was to meet him. Turns out a few hours later I would!
Around 1 am I woke up from contraction. I had been having Braxton Hicks for weeks but I immediately knew this was different. ( I hated when i asked people how I would know it was a real contraction and they said…YOU’LL KNOW… They were right!)
I decided to time them for a while before waking my hubby up to make sure it was the real thing. I breathed through them with ease for a while although they continued to get more intense as time went on.
I always thought contractions would follow a pattern and get closer together but mine were sporadic the entire time! I would have one then 3 minutes later have another then the next one would be 8 minutes apart and the next would be 5 minutes apart.
We thought it would be a great time to get caught up on Grey’s anatomy, we only had 2 episodes before the end of the season. Turns out the season finale was the one where April gives birth in Meredith’s house and Bailey’s husband has to perform and emergency c-section unmedicated . . . Yeah . . . . not great when you go into labor and planning a homebirth!
Things started to get real.
I finally woke my husband up after a few hours of contractions, about 5 am when I went to the bathroom and saw bloody show. I knew that this was real and baby was on the way.
I labored another hour or so and it was time to get our older kids up (I have a step-daughter as well) to go to school about 7:30 am. I had a hard time breathing and talking through my contractions by this point so I decided to call the midwife’s apprentice who happened to live in my neighborhood to see if she could come over and check on me.
I handled the contractions pretty well, I was able to breath with them and ride each wave until it was over. Movement helped a TON! Being able to get on my hands and knees and sway through each contraction made them so much better! Another thing that was super helpful was to make low moaning sounds and keep my mouth open when a contraction hit to be able to keep my jaw loose so I wouldn’t tense up too much.
Surprise, surprise . . .
What was surprising to me about laboring was that in between contractions I was fine! I had NO pain until the next one hit. It was definitely not what I had been taught to believe labor was like, unending pain during every second of it.
I also didn’t want to be talked to or touched during the process. All the pain relief techniques I practiced with my hubby went out the window. When a contraction hit I went into my zone. I prepared labor playlists and bought aromatherapy candles to create an environment I thought would be comfortable birthing in and I didn’t want ANY of it.
I had a fear when the midwife showed up that I wouldn’t be very far along and all that laboring was for nothing. I was shocked when she said I was already 5 cm and she wasn’t going anywhere!!
My husband prepared the birth pool for me that my midwife had loaned me for our homebirth, I was super excited to try to use that for pain relief during labor. Turns out, I HATED it! By the time I got in about 9 am or so the water couldn’t get warm enough to take the pain of the contractions away. I started shaking and was over being cold and wet. (Disclaimer: my bath water basically has to be scalding for me to like it, so it really wasn’t the birth pools fault!) Looking back I was probably in transition at this point.
In the birthing pool my midwife checked me about 1030 am . . . I was 10cm! This was the greatest news of my life! I was afraid my labor would be horrendously long or it would stall and I would have to transfer. I felt so accomplished having gotten that far without any pain medication!
There was intermittent bleeding while in the birth pool that the midwives were monitoring, because during my pregnancy I had been diagnosed with a low lying placenta. That means the placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus too close to the cervix and can cause dangerous bleeding during birth.
I had multiple ultrasounds during the pregnancy to watch the location of my placenta. It stayed pretty low the entire pregnancy until 39 weeks it finally moved enough that my OB and midwife were not concerned it was a risk anymore.
I started bleeding when I was laboring in the birth pool. My midwives started to become concerned about that and monitoring me pretty close. All throughout labor they had been checking the baby’s heart rate intermittently with a hand held doppler. He had been doing fine the entire time and showed no signs of distress.
10cm and starting to push.
I got the green light to start pushing! I felt SO MUCH relief because I knew I was SO close to meeting my baby, or so I thought.
When preparing for my homebirth, people told me if I could get through the contractions I would be fine. Pushing was the easy part they said, because it was a pain you could do something about. They comparing it to having to poop really bad but not being able to, but when you finally start to GO, even though it is uncomfortable it actually feels good because there is relief right behind it. Well they were wrong!
I never actually felt the “urge” to push that so many women had described. I felt the contractions so I knew to push with them and that’s what I did. I tried pushing in every position possible to try and make progress. Squatting, on all fours, on the birth stool, on the toilet, squatting while pulling on my husbands hands and arms…I never felt him coming down or making progress. I should also note here that my water had not broken yet either.
Starting to lose it.
I felt in complete control until this point. Then I started to get frantic inside. The contractions started to become really unmanageable. They were completely in my back. It felt like my hips were ripped apart with each contraction and pushing.
This went on for FOUR HOURS. That’s right, from the time I started pushing to the time he was born was 4 hours.
Around hour 3 I started to get weak and actually fall asleep in between pushes. My husband and midwife made me drink Gatorade and eat toast and fruit in between contractions to keep my energy up.
I was terrified we were going to have to transfer to a hospital, maybe I was “too small” to deliver my baby. I was determined. In my mind there was no turning back, no transfer… I was going to have my baby at home.
Ring of fire.
I started to push with what little energy was left. His head was visible at this point and kept slipping back with between the contractions. It took everything I had to push his head out. And man, the “ring of fire” is REAL YALL!
His head was finally out! I asked then if I could rest for just a second, my midwife said of course. Just a moment later, she said “Heather, I need you to push with everything you’ve got.” I had no idea why she was saying this but I did exactly as she asked. The coloring of his face wasn’t good so she wanted him out now!
With one or two more pushes his slippery little body came flying out at 2:43 pm! I was so relieved, happy and overwhelmed all at once! He was immediately put on my chest. He weighed 8 lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long! He was a BIG BOY! He was alert, healthy and tolerated labor beautifully! His head was quite misshapen ( I guess it would be after 4 hours in the birth canal!!)
I had some extra bleeding after delivery so my midwife administered a shot of Pitocin to slow the bleeding down. I had NO tearing!! I got to see my placenta and had arranged for it to be encapsulated after delivery with one of midwife’s apprentices. It’s amazing the see the one thing that has nourished and maintained your baby’s life!
Finnley did the breast crawl right after birth and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed because breastfeeding with my first was quite challenging and I gave up after 6 weeks. Finnley latched right away and without difficulty while he had his vital signs checked, all right on my chest!
After I nursed Finn my hubby and the midwives ( There was 1 main midwife and she had 2 apprentices) they helped get me in the shower and get cleaned up and dressed. While I was getting cleaned up, Finn was weighed and measured and got the Vitamin K shot. We opted to wait until his first pediatricians appointment for the Hepatitis B shot.
After the birth.
I got back into bed and given my beautiful brand new baby. We snuggled and spent time together as a family while the older kids came in to meet their new brother. It was so nice to be at home and in our own bed surrounded by all the ones we loved the most.
The midwives cleaned everything up for us and stayed a while to make sure we were both stable. After a few hours they left and promised to be back tomorrow to check on us. They also came 3 days after birth, 1 week after birth and then I had a traditional 6 week postpartum check up.
After the midwives left, we got to enjoy the first precious moments as a family of 5. My mom had been at our house while I was laboring cooking a home made meal for us to enjoy after the baby arrived. We ate, visited and marveled at the beautiful soul that just joined our family.
My VBAC homebirth experience.
There were a lot of things that surprised me about my homebirth. Many of the things I thought would be helpful in handling the contractions were not. I thought I would want certain people at my birth for support. I didn’t want anyone. I wanted to birth alone.
I had a huge fear I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain of the contractions but I did. I feared my baby wouldn’t be able to breastfeed well but he did.
I learned many things through my birth with Finn. Homebirth is not scary or dangerous. Homebirth is also not for everyone. Education is power and freedom. I can do SO much more than I consider myself capable of. My body is powerful and not broken. I was made to birth my baby.
Related post: Best Tips to Prepare for a Natural Labor.