I gave a great deal of thought as to whether or not I wanted a homebirth with Anna. I had previously had two good hospital birth experiences. I had felt the absolute relief of an epidural wash over me and knew full well that labor with my third baby was bound to be just as painful as the first two. In the end I decided on a homebirth with Anna for all the same reasons that I had wanted one with Thomas and Theodore: as a low-risk mother it was as safe as or safer than giving birth in a hospital and I didn’t want to have to constantly advocate for myself and my baby as I would have to in a hospital.
I got all of that with Anna’s birth, but I got something I never expected to as well. The greatest gift of giving birth to Anna at home has been the patience it has given me as her parent.
I had planned a home birth with Thomas but for reasons unknown my labor was so long and exhausting that after 26 hours of unending pain I simply didn’t feel that I could go on at home. My midwife concurred and I transferred to the hospital where after an epidural – and 18 more hours – I had an uncomplicated, relatively easy birth. I was proud of myself after Thomas’ birth; proud of all those hours laboring at home, proud of myself for speaking up at the hospital for what I knew was safest for myself and my baby, proud of myself for pushing through a difficult labor.
With Theodore I had planned a homebirth, but when my water broke at 37 weeks along with concerns of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) it was off to the hospital for an induction. Even with the dreaded Pitocin Theodore’s birth was relatively quick, and with an epidural, easy. I was proud of myself after Theodore’s birth too; proud of those hours I labored without Pitocin, proud of myself for asking for the epidural when I knew I really needed it, proud of myself for advocating for my baby and myself.
Proud of myself as I was; those births didn’t feel entirely of my own labors, so to speak. Thomas and Theodore’s births felt more like a team effort, granted I was doing most of the work, but the epidural was on my team, the OB was on my team, the nurses tried to be on my team (I wasn’t that fond of the nurses help). I didn’t like team sports as a kid and it turns out I don’t like them as an adult. With Anna labor was much more of an individual event. I had a fantastic cheering section to be sure; all the support a woman could want in the form of my husband, my doula, and a midwife. And should I have needed the assistance of a team my midwife and a transfer to the hospital with my wonderful OB would have been there to help carry me through. But I didn’t need it. All I needed was myself. I remember the feeling of those dark moments when I didn’t know how I would go on any longer. A couple of hours from Anna’s birth I had no idea her arrival was so close and broke down calling out that I wanted to go to the hospital, that I wanted a damned epidural. But as soon as I said it, the urge to leave home passed and I took a deep breath and just carried on. I wasn’t the picture of the calm, serene mother you see in homebirth videos. I yelled, I got mad, and I am pretty sure I even threw something at my very patient doula. The contractions kept coming but I just hunkered down and kept going too. What choice did I have? I did what millions of women do every year; in that respect nothing special. But when it was all over I was beyond proud of myself. After Anna was born I just kept saying over and over “We did it.” She and I, we did it together.
Today was Anna’s first birthday. The past year hasn’t been easy. Anna has been a challenging baby. Nursing was a challenge for months. She had colic. She is a craptastic sleeper – for both naps and nighttime. Last night she celebrated her birthday by waking up – no exaggeration – every 40 minutes from 7:45 pm to 8:15 am. When Thomas was up all night long there would be tears on both my and Thomas’ part. When Theodore would refuse to nap I would call Jeff and vent about how frustrated I was. When Anna refuses to sleep I just sigh and hold her. To be sure, much of the time I am holding her I enjoy it; downright love it, in fact. I’ve got my limits though and there are many times I am so tired, have a million things to do, have two other children that need me that I really wish I could put her down. But it’s ok. When the going gets tough with Anna I think, I made it though labor with you and I can make it through this.
I’ve missed the past two nights of blogging because Anna simply would not sleep. It’s taken me almost as long to write this piece as I was in labor with Anna. She’s woken up five times since I started this post. But it isn’t as hard as labor – not by a long shot. And I got through that. Anna and I -we – got through that together.
I expected a lot out of homebirth. I didn’t expect how confident it would make me feel. I think I will forever be on a high from Anna’s birth. Perhaps a decade from now, thinking back how we made it through labor together, my confidence at navigating though the toughest of times will help us navigate though the teen years. Homebirth: the gift that keeps on giving.