This is the story of how our sweet Abe came to us. It was everything I had prayed it would be and one of the best experiences of my life. I had Noah under the care of the Vanderbilt midwives and it was a wonderful first birth. When we moved to Chattanooga and I was looking for a new midwife, I came across several home birth midwives and began strongly considering having our Abe at home.
I prayed and we talked and I prayed some more and then went to my first interview. The midwife, Carolyn, and I clicked and I knew that day that I wanted her to be at the birth of our boy. My appointments were at her home/birth center, fifteen minutes from us. She partners with an OB in town in case of hospital transfer and I was able to get Abe's anatomy ultrasound and some just-in-case prescriptions there.
The process of getting our home ready for his birth kept me focused and busy in the last few months. Carolyn gave me a list of supplies to get and we gathered little by little. I wanted a water birth but birth pools are expensive to buy and there were none available in the area to rent. I talked to a lot of other women who also had home births and they all suggested a kids pool. As crazy as that sounds, it worked perfectly. We paid $30 for a big, blow-up pool from Amazon and had it ready to go by 37 weeks.
|Labor affirmations & scripture for encouragement|
The last month of pregnancy wasn't easy with a toddler at home. Most days I just wanted to lay on the couch and rest and all he wanted to do was play. I found the best way to stay sane was to leave the house and go do something, even if it was just walking around Target or going to the park. Simple chores were difficult, like bending over to transfer laundry or taking heavy things upstairs. Michael was an amazing help and took on a lot of my day-to-day tasks.
At 38 weeks I began having strong Braxton-Hicks and thought it was labor several times. Part of me wanted him to come early so looking back I think it was mostly a mental thing and I was stressing that he was staying put. Carolyn encouraged me to relax, stop trying to walk him out, and told me to have a small glass of wine before bed. I could take that prescription! 40 weeks came and passed, just like with Noah. After that I decided to surrender and let my body do its thing. I was having Braxton-Hicks every day at this point and I didn't go far from the house in case I went into labor. My mom and sister were on call from Virginia and waiting on "the call" to leave and make the five hour trip. As much as I wanted them here, I knew in my heart they probably wouldn't make it in time and had accepted that.
On Thursday afternoon, November 6th, I had what felt like real contractions, but they weren't consistent at all. We stayed home and I laid on the couch most of the day to see if they would go away. Michael was texting every once in awhile to check on me and decided to come home a little early. I told him I wanted to relax and take a nap so he took Noah out to dinner around 5.
I laid in bed and about 20 minutes later, at 5:30, I had a contraction so intense that I couldn't get up. I laid on my side and breathed through it, then called Michael once it had subsided. He and Noah came home right away and I got on the birthing ball. After about an hour of contractions getting more consistent and intense, I got my phone out and started timing them. I timed three at 12, 11, and 10 minute intervals and decided I should call my midwife and my photographer. Because my labor with Noah was quick, we all agreed they shouldn't wait to come. I also called my mom and sister and they met up and left as soon as they could.
As I sat on the ball and breathed through contractions, Noah played some around me and Michael moved back and forth from me to Noah, helping me breathe some and helping Noah settle down. By this time it was almost 7, Carolyn was on her way, and Michael and I had decided that we would forgo taking Noah to the neighbors and he would try to put him to bed. I consider that a huge blessing because Noah didn't nap that day and was out by 7:30, just in time for Carolyn to arrive and Michael to be present to support me as things got more intense.
I had been praying for a very specific birth - I wanted to go into labor in the evening. I wanted our room to be dimly lit and as weird as it sounds, I wanted to know that everyone else around me was probably sleeping and the world around me was quiet. I wanted Noah to be sleeping in his room down the hall. I wanted to reach down in the water and pull my baby to my chest.
I didn't undergo any cervical checks for dilation in the last few weeks, however, when she got there Carolyn asked if I wanted her to check me. I said yes, mostly because I wanted to see where I was and I knew he was on his way so the risk was minimal. I was a six and it surprised me. In the beginning I was comforted by the break from gravity sitting on the ball provided. But, by the time my contractions were about four minutes apart, things were so intense down there that I couldn't take the pressure of sitting and needed to be on my knees hanging over the ball. It was the only position that got me through the contractions.
Labor this time was so different from my labor with Noah. I had piggyback contractions from the time we left our house for the hospital and I never got a break. With Abe, I wasn't sure I was in labor at first because I wasn't used to feeling completely normal between contractions, much less being able to talk. Those breaks were lifesavers.
Around 8:15 (I think!) our photographer arrived. Contractions were about three to four minutes apart at that point and I wanted to get into the tub. We didn't start filling it up until later in the evening so the water wasn't quite at the level it needed to be. I got in around 8:45. It was still so comforting, but contractions started to let up so we decided I would get out and labor a bit longer outside of the water. The water also wasn't quite warm enough so Michael ran downstairs and turned the water heater temperature up. Meanwhile, I got back down on my knees and leaned over the ball. Carolyn checked Abe's heart beat intermittently and it was strong.
Around 9:30, my contractions were close enough, and the water high and hot enough, that I wanted to try the pool again. I got in and it felt amazing. Thankfully, contractions didn't stop. Michael was on my right giving me sips of water, putting a cool rag on my head, and holding my hand as my contractions got closer and more intense. Carolyn was on my left, her assistant Rachel was doing occasional heart checks and prepping for baby, and my photographer was capturing it all.
I remember, even as my body began to bear down, feeling peaceful. The whole house was quiet except for my sounds. The room was dim, my baby was sleeping down the hall, nobody was rushing around, no bright lights, and I felt relaxed, even though the pain was at it's highest peak. It was clear to everyone in the room when my body transitioned to pushing. My sounds changed, from moaning to more of a long grunt. Agggghhhh instead of Mmmmms and Ooohhhs.
I dreamed of reaching down and pulling my baby out on my own, but because I was holding myself up in the water and breathing so fast, my arm muscles were pretty much useless. I quickly got out that someone else needed to catch him. Carolyn came to my side and felt for his head. I could feel it all. His head engaging, crowning, the burning, the pressure. It was the most intense feeling, but my body was doing it's work. My water had not broken by this point, but with the next contraction I felt and heard a loud "pop" and saw my fluids and some blood shoot out into the water. That was one of the most painful parts of his entire birth.
After my water broke, burning and pressure was at it's height. His head was crowning and Carolyn had her hands in the water helping guide his head out. Michael was right by my side doing whatever he could to help, to support, both physically and emotionally. It's amazing how much clarity I had even in the middle of the pain. No foggyness, I was completely present, feeling it all, feeling my sweet boy make his way into the open world. I remember looking down between my legs as much as I could because I wanted to see him coming. It was such an overwhelming kind of joy knowing we were about to meet him. With a few last contractions his head was born and with one more push his entire body followed! 10:15pm. He was here! Carolyn helped him out and by that point I was able to reach into the water and pull him up, out, and onto my chest. My hands and arms were shaking. I couldn't believe he was here and how amazingly he entered our world!
They immediately put some blankets over him. I couldn't stop staring at him. I looked up at Michael, we kissed, and I kept saying "He's here, he's here". I stayed in the water for about fifteen minutes, holding our baby, eating an energy bar, taking sips of water, and waiting for the cord to stop pulsing. Michael cut the cord and held Abe while Carolyn and Rachel helped me out of the pool. I delivered the placenta, cleaned up, and got into bed. They brought him to me and I drew him in close to nurse. He latched right away and all the sudden I remembered just how precious this breastfeeding journey is to me and how much I love it.
In perfect timing, Noah woke up and cried out for me. Michael went to him and we decided to just bring him in to meet his brother instead of waiting until morning. Noah was shy at first, but I think it clicked with him after a few seconds who this little thing was in mommy's arms. It took him awhile to warm up to him. Noah and I had gotten Abe a special brother gift, and Abe had gotten one for Noah, too. We made a big deal about the gifts and our hearts melted when Noah was so excited to jump off the bed and go get his brother his gift. He placed it gently on Abe's body. I then brought out Abe's gift to Noah and his face was the most precious excitement I'd ever seen.
Our exhausted birth team took a break downstairs while the four of us had some sweet family time. Around 11:15 my mom and sister arrived. Only an hour short of being here for his birth! They each held Abe, helped get some things together for me, and sat with me in our room. Carolyn weighed and measured Abe and took his vitals. Such a big boy, 21.5 inches and 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Bigger than his brother at birth! Carolyn made sure we were settled before she left, making plans for follow-up visits before leaving us in the wonderful hands of Rachel. Rachel stayed until 2am, went over some details with us and did some final checks, then left us all to get some rest.
In the early, early morning, after everyone had gone to bed, I laid in bed with Abe on my chest and cried tears of thankfulness to God for his grace, our safety, for health, for family, for our sweet boy. His birth was peaceful. quick. beautiful. and amazing. I couldnt belive what had just happened and that I was now laying in our own bed, holding him, finally on the outside. I'll never forget our experience of having him at home and I can't wait to see him grow.
>>Thank you so much for taking the time to read Abe's story. This was an extremely personal experience but I feel that it is important to be transparent about home birth and how wonderful birth *can* be. Please be kind and respectful. I welcome any questions about home birth, my pregnancy, or anything else relating to my experience, so feel free to ask!
Thank you to Ashley Hodges Photography for beautifully capturing our story! She bravely took on photographing her first birth at my request and I couldn't be more grateful that she was willing! Thank you to Carolyn, my midwife, whose spirit and confidence inspired the same in me. And finally, thank you Michael. You're amazing and I'm incredibly thankful that we get to do this life together.