Lifestyle: Homebirth

I’ve been wanting to start posting more bloggish posts here, infuse some lifestyle and such into the site since I don’t use my original blog any more. I had a friend ask this past week if I had any tips for a successful homebirth since that’s what she’s planning on. I don’t have any other kind of birth to compare with Autumn’s homebirth but I know since giving birth on my couch I’d choose to it again.

We were prepared for our birth, and had Autumn delivered by Treesa – Birth with Treesa, who is based in the Bay Area. We found her on Yelp, emailed her and met her at her home the next day, after having spent 2 weeks in complete confusion and denial that we were actually pregnant after 7 years of no signs of being able to achieve such thing. Treesa welcomed us into her home and has become an amazing friend – she talks my language – she doesn’t beat around the bush, she’s blunt, she listens and is happy to explain absolutely anything you have to ask in a way you’ll understand. You can call her any time of day or night, she’ll have you come over when you’re out of your mind with worry and she’ll reassure you everything is fine, and then she’ll offer to let you hear your baby’s heartbeat just to make sure you know everything is ok – she’ll even let you (and encourage you to) Skype with your family so they can heart the heartbeat. She even invited us to her home for Christmas dinner one week after Autumn was born. We were all by ourselves for 2 weeks until my mum surprised me and showed up – Treesa was there for us and visited almost every day for those 2 weeks and then she came to meet my mum and even took us into Oakland to get Autumn’s birth certificate – she went above and beyond. The visits continued for a lot longer than 2 weeks, we still keep in touch and facetime. The bond I feel with Treesa is exactly what I needed but never expected. Autumn is her baby too.

Photos by Photographic Memories by Melinda, in Hayward, California

I wrote out the non-juicy version of her birth story here and kept certain details to myself, although the scary stuff that happened and how it was dealt with only goes to show that midwives really are birth specialists and know exactly what they’re doing.

First of all, a home birth can have whatever vibe you want. Something I don’t think you have much say in is the reverence, but I’m not entirely certain about that. When my friend Melinda arrived to support and take some pictures she said she felt like she was entering (the Temple) Hallowed Ground. Amidst all the labouring and hypnobirthing I did take note of how spiritual it all felt too – the hushed voices, the calm. There wasn’t that clinical, stressful, rushed feeling that you’d expect after being fed that image for years by the media. A reason we chose homebirth is because we don’t feel that birth is an emergency, and therefore shouldn’t be treated like one. Our homebirth was laid back and personal.

Choose a technique and go with it. I picked hypnobirth. I couldn’t even actually tell you the other options because that one was so perfect for me. Choose your technique and go to the class your midwife offers you. We found out that no touching and no talking was going to work best for me. Some people like the counter pressure or comfort from physical touch from their birth partner. Not me. I need positive comments in 3 words or less. “You’re doing it!”, “perfect!”, “you’re amazing!” Pick a technique and make sure you go over it with your partner so they’re in on the plan too. Practice it with them. Treesa, our midwife was amazing and had us test out techniques together, tried using different kinds of music, and explained what was going to happen and how it would feel etc so Stuart could empathise and understand why I’m so awesome. A midwife takes the time to keep you both on the same page, she takes time to have you practice and communicate. You have a role to play in this process and it’s not just pushing the baby out.

Go with the flow. One of my favourite things I remember about Autumn’s birth was right before she was born and the contractions were building. My midwife sat at my feet as I lay on the couch. I was getting uncomfortable and she looked up at me and said, “go ahead and push whenever you want.” Just like, “hey, whatever you want to do, I’m cool with it. Just say when.” The fact is that your body is contracting and will expel the baby on it’s own. You don’t even have to push… I love how relaxed it was and how informed I was. A couple of examples of things I learned about birth – did you know that by not clamping the cord until the blood stops flowing from the placenta your baby gets the last incredibly precious nutrients it otherwise wouldn’t? Treesa taught us this and we embraced it (read more here). Autumn stayed attached to her placenta until there was no need to be attached anymore- what harm does it do to wait a little longer? It’s not like you’re going anywhere.

Also, the benefits of not bathing your baby straight out the womb – that cheesy vernix protects your baby! I attribute Autumn’s amazing complexion to the fact we didn’t bathe her for a week – that wasn’t planned at all but it’s how it happened. Every doctor we’ve ever taken her to has commented on how flawless her skin is and that they’ve never seen anything like it. I honestly swear it’s because we were too tired to clean her any sooner. If she hadn’t pooped out her nappy on Christmas morning she might still not have been bathed… Go ahead and read more about birth cheese here.

Autumn was born at 38 weeks and I hadn’t quite been able to get the bedroom all organised and tidied – I hate the blanket we have on our bed in the first pictures of Autumn. I told Stuart I did not want that blanket on the bed and in the pictures of her but there it is – and that’s pretty much the only thing that went “wrong” with our home birth! I can live with it. Next time though I would like to have our bedroom organised a bit better since that’s where we lived for the next 3 weeks all cosy as a little family. I’d probably try and stock up on home made, frozen meals too.

Our first picture as a family of 3 – my absolute favourite picture of all time, ever.
A brief note about what most people were concerned about when we told them we were having a homebirth: if something goes “wrong” the midwife will take you to the hospital. You make a birthplan just like you would if you were having a hospital birth and part of the plan is what to do and where to go when things aren’t going right ie. if labour is taking way too long and you don’t have the energy to birth, or if something does go wrong etc.

Four things happened to me that were terrifying but were prepared for and handled by the midwife:
1. Autumn’s cord was wrapped around her 3 times (around her neck, torso and one leg), Treesa was able to identify this issue and maneuvered Autumn out with no issue.

2. My contractions stopped before my placenta came out which meant Treesa had to retrieve it herself… with her hand.

3. I bled a lot and needed 3 shots of pitocin to get it under control, which midwives are prepared for and able to administer – homebirth doesn’t mean a midwife shows up empty handed asking for water to be boiled and sheets to be ripped up (neither of those things happened.)

4. Due to the positioning of Autumn’s head because of how tangled she was in her cord (I think) I sustained a pretty nasty (embarrassing) injury. Treesa told me about it and told me she didn’t have a needle thin enough to take care of it. She explained the damage was cosmetic and it would heal ok but if I wanted she would take me to the hospital to have it seen to, at which point I probably tried to roll over and go to sleep 😉

Midwives deliver pretty babies 🙂

Another little note – your midwife will help you stick to any plan you make specifically in regards to feeding your new human. I wanted to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is HARD. It’s hard, frustrating, irritating, painful, stressful – the list goes on. Autumn wouldn’t eat for 4 long days. I wanted to give up. After 4 days of screaming, and feeding her drop by drop by a tiny syringe I asked if I could give her a bottle. Treesa all but said no. I told her I’d keep trying but I wanted her to stop screaming at me. Turns out Autumn didn’t want a bottle either. It took 2 weeks of thrashing, crying, starving, pumping milk before she got the hang of it. And even through the milk blisters, cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis I’d do it all again. Breastfeeding Autumn for 18 months was such a treat and I am so thankful Treesa didn’t let me give up. Midwives stick to the plan! From what I’ve been told hospitals aren’t as invested or supportive of  sticking to plans when they’re going to take more time and energy than they want to put in.

And there you have it, my thoughts and feelings on homebirth and midwives. I also love granola and greek yoghurt, and I hardly ever wear shoes. We love midwives!


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