My Decision To Have An Unassisted Homebirth
by Lisa J. Patton, Livermore Falls, Maine
Click here to see photos of this birth.
During the early months of my third pregnancy, while under the care of my OB, I began questioning traditional medicine and hospital birth. I delivered my first two children in the hospital.
With my first pregnancy I went into labor at 37.5 weeks. My water broke at 2:20 a.m. After laboring at home for four hours I headed to the hospital. I received a prostaglandin suppository and was told to walk. Four hours later, with hardly any progression, I was given another suppository, placed on a Pitocin drip, IV fluids, and was on an external fetal monitor. After laboring for 10 hours, I was not progressing quickly enough, so they performed artificial rupture of the membranes, placed me on a blood pressure monitor, gave me Demerol, and switched me to an internal fetal monitor. Being connected to so many machines, I could no longer walk or change positions. I was on my back, where I remained for the next 9 hours. After 19 hours of labor, I was given an epidural, which only took on one side. I vomited, which helped me reach 9 cm, and was told to push. About 15 minutes later the baby was crowning. The doctor performed an episiotomy and the head emerged. He twisted and pulled, and my daughter slid out. Amber weighed 5 lbs., 11 ozs. CLEARLY there was no need for an episiotomy. I felt drugged for hours afterward. (August 13, 1993)
With my second pregnancy I wanted the birth to go differently. I was three days past my due date when my water broke at 3:30 a.m. I put a towel under me and went back to sleep until 6:30. I got up, took my time showering and dressing, and arrived at the hospital at about 9:00. When they found out when my water had broken they immediately gave me a prostaglandin suppository and told me to walk. Determined to avoid Pitocin, I wanted to walk for as long as I could. At about 11:30 I had reached 5 cm and was given Demerol and continued to walk. I was still trying to walk at 7 cm but the contractions were so close that I resigned to the birthing stool. By the time I asked for another shot of Demerol, I was examined, and found to be 10 cm. I was told to push at 4:05 p.m. and was crowning by 4:19. I turned down the offer for an episiotomy, and ripped when my daughter’s head emerged. She had not turned completely, and therefore developed a large contusion at the top of her head. Her quick descent did not allow time for her lungs to drain, so the nurse whisked her away to the nursery for suction, and placed her in an incubator. Jasmin was 8 lbs. (August 5, 1995)
Surely, I thought, many of the unpleasantries of these two birth experiences could have been avoided. Why was such a natural process met with medical calamity?
In the early months of my third pregnancy, my husband, Aaron and I discussed having a home birth with a midwife. I really wanted an unassisted birth, but I knew he was uneasy with the idea. We spoke with several midwives, but were dismayed with the amount of intervention they each proposed. We wanted no outside intervention unless there was a problem. We finally decided an unassisted birth was the only way to have things the way WE wanted them. I searched the Internet for anything about home birth and unassisted birth. I was thrilled with the amount of information available. I read Laura Shanley’s book, Unassisted Childbirth. I felt empowered. Throughout the remainder of my pregnancy I continued to read anything on homebirth that I laid eyes on.
Aaron is a Certified Hypnotherapist, so we prepared for hypnobirthing with weekly sessions. I found a birthing supply company and ordered the supplies I felt would be needed. I purchased an infant scale at a local thrift store, and gathered some of the items I had in the house, like dark towels, washcloths, and a steel bowl for the placenta. I sterilized a pair of scissors and placed them in a zip lock bag. I was ready. I continued seeing my OB, but did not discuss my plan to have an unassisted birth with him or anyone I thought might dissuade me. My due date was January 23, and I was looking forward to the birth. During the week prior to the birth I had a couple of false alarms (convincing ones). Nevertheless, I went into true labor at 1:20 a.m. on my due date. I had planned to include my two daughters in the birth, but they were both sick with the flu, so I sent them to my mother’s around 7:00. I milled around the house in my robe, eating and drinking as I desired. Around noon things got more intense, so I sat down in the recliner. My husband helped me relax through each contraction as we had practiced. It was approaching 2:30 when I felt nauseous. After my next contraction I made my way to the bathroom and vomited. I knew I was in transition.
Immediately after vomiting, I felt the pressure of the head descending. I told Aaron to turn the video camera on (it was on a tripod). I crawled into the bedroom where I had a disposable sheet spread on the floor. I laid a chux pad on top of that between my knees. Bearing down slightly with each contraction, I felt the baby descend naturally. I stayed on my knees. As she crowned, I relaxed and breathed deeply, allowing my perineum time to stretch. With the next contraction my water broke and her head was out. My perineum remained intact. Aaron looked on but did not interfere. He was very excited to see our baby’s head; he said, “She’s got a head full of hair!” I felt her body turn inside me. I felt her face with my hand. She was moving her mouth in an attempt to cry. She slid out (more like shot out) into my hands, and I placed her beneath me on the sheet. It was 2:47 p.m.
She was calm – Aaron was laughing with excitement and taking photos. I talked gently to our new daughter, massaged her chest and back, and picked her up into my arms. She cried robustly. I gently slid my thumb and finger down the sides of her nose to clear out any fluid. We wrapped her in a towel and awaited the placenta, which arrived about half an hour later. We then clamped and cut the cord. I felt wonderful! I sat on the bed with a clean chux under me and held the baby, while Aaron wrapped up and threw away the soiled sheet and chux. We weighed and measured her at 7 lbs., 20 inches. I took a quick shower to rinse off, then got into bed. I nursed her and admired this new being I had delivered into my own hands. We named her LaVergerray, after his mother. (January 23, 2001)
Our unassisted homebirth was the most peaceful, empowering experience I had ever had. It was the birth I had dreamed it could be.