It all started in the fall of 2011. My husband and I decided to start a family. Little did we know the problems we would encounter along the way, and the struggles that we would have. But God is good. Just over a year later, we found ourselves pregnant with our first child.
My pregnancy went very well. I craved cereal, not for the cereal, but for the milk that accompanied it...and lots of it too! every week we would purchase about 2 4-litre bags of milk, so 8 litres of milk, Fritz would drink about 1 litre of it and the rest I would consume within the week. I also craved fruit. I hated pizza, and to this day I still do. I loved it pre-pregnancy. I got connected with an amazing midwife whom at this moment I am still seeing. That's the amazing thing about having a midwife...they keep you in their are for a whole 6 weeks after, and at each meeting, you spend at least a good half hour just hatting with them about anything...sometimes it's not even baby related, in fact I think I spent a large portion of one of my earliest meetings talking about vegetable gardens!
I spent a large part of my pregnancy making diaper covers, designing the nursery, and figuring out how to do everything as frugal as possible but still have it looking good. I researched the best strollers, what things are necessary and what things are not, fretting about whether certain things are worth spending the money on or not.
At the beginning of June I noticed that the baby had dropped low. I was not the only one who was convinced that he would make an early arrival...probably mid July just as I would hit the 37 week milestone. Well week 37 came and went, as did week 40...but this is where things got interesting. At week 40 I had a stretch and sweep done. This is where the midwife or OB has rummage through the money box, as another blogger had put it, and literally stretches the cervix while separating the membrane sack from the cervix. My midwife was surprised to find that I was already 5 cm dilated. Normally this would kick start labour within 24-48 hours. I left that appointment feeling very hopeful and anxious that labour would indeed start. We sent our dog off with the in-laws expecting her return in about three days. One day went by, and eventually another and then a week.
I went to yet another appointment to see my midwife, and once again we decided to try another stretch and sweep and was suggested to try castor oil. Now if anyone has ever had to use castor oil, you know the side effects of just a teaspoon of that stuff. well I had to consume one and a half bottles of it. The point of it is to get your intestines empty and then in turn, from your guts cramping up, it should make your uterus start contracting. Now keep in mind I just had a stretch and sweep, and I'm already 6 cm dilated and now I'm about to consume twice as much castor oil that is normally recommended to induce labour. The results: I had a really shitty day. Pun intended. Once again, the hours passed and turned into days. So after 2 stretch and sweeps, multiple ultrasounds and a heavy dose of castor oil (plus every old wive's tale known to(wo)man), my midwife suggests a consultation with a doctor to discuss induction options. Now if you know me, drugs are not the way. My lone Tylenol bottle is collecting dust as I type. However, I also know that at some point I need to give in, and do what is safer for the baby, and although no drugs is safer, cooking too long could also be harmful and I need to weigh the odds.
We get to the hospital at 9:30-ish, I get monitored for about 20 minutes or so to see what the babies movements, heart rate etc. are like and at 11:00 I meet the doc. Little did I know (not against my will of course) that I would actually be getting a gel induction before we leave. As we leave the hospital, I'm feeling crampish...like when you have a period...but a bit worse. We get home, have lunch, and eventually start watching a movie. I believe it was Despicable Me...the second one. Half way through the movie, I start to feel uncomfortable and as a precaution, I call up my midwife. She decides that she will drop by to check on me. Not too sure if I'm actually in labour, she decides to stay for an hour to see how things might progress. I'm feeling rather uncomfortable at this point and thus I am told to go on all fours in hopes of shifting the baby's head. Well I can tell you that certainly did the trick and contractions set in. It is about 4:15 and active labour finally sets in and my midwife gets her bags.
At this point I get into my birthing pool. I just purchased a nice sturdy kiddy pool rather than renting an actual birthing pool because it's about a tenth of the price. Between contractions, my husband would boil water and pour it into the tub to keep the water quite warm. However, at a certain point contractions were just mere seconds apart and there was no way I was letting him go anywhere.
I was surprised the most at how the body just takes over. I always though that labour was something that you could control, that when the [doctor] tells you to push, you are doing all the work. However that's not the case. Your body does the pushing, and you just help it along a bit by bearing down. And oddly enough, bearing down, was actually relieving some of the pain, rather than adding to it. I was quite vocal during contractions, making low sounds really helped, my husband told me I sounded like a cow, and I felt like it too. I have been told that labour will turn you into an animal...I just didn't realize the animal it would turn me into was a cow.
One of the hardest things to do was change positions. I was facing the edge of the pool and hanging over it, at one point even gripping my husbands toes. I was told it would be easier to crouch and so I had to not only turn myself around but then get off my knees and onto my feet. I ended up getting shifted and turned by my husband because I felt no ability to move myself like that. within minutes the head was visible and all I could think was that it would be quite a while still until this child was out. I was able to feel the head emerge with my hand, and what I felt seemed so small that I thought it would require hours of pushing to get the rest out but the midwives kept saying " almost there, almost there" and " push through the burn, don't stop" Let me tell you, there is a burning sensation and that sensation is probably the worst part of labour...and it only lasts a couple of seconds and then suddenly the head just popped out and a couple seconds later and one push the shoulders and the rest of the baby. It was a mere 3 hours later, 7:28 to be exact.
That moment when your child is out and placed in your arms is incredible. The sense of relief, and shock and joy is overwhelming.
I am very happy and relieved that I was able to do a home birth. Many people have asked me how the home-water birth was, I can tell you I wouldn't have it any other way. I cannot compare it to any other birth since I have only experienced this one type, but I know that the water birth was for me. I loved being at home, knowing my surroundings, having the option to still consume food and drinks while in labour, not having medical staff push pain meds on me.
Speaking of pain, I did this completely drug free (with the exception of an antibiotic due to testing positive for GBS) Although it was the worst pain I have ever experienced, it was tolerable. I ended up with about 5-7 stitches, and they were all surface tears, so having a water birth does not prevent tearing, but perhaps it might prevent serious tearing.
I think being Dutch has a large part to do with why I chose a home birth. We, as in Dutch folk, seem to think that since home birth worked well for my mother and her mother before her, it will work for me. We don't need to medicalise birth and should keep out of a hospital, what needs to be kept out. Or we are just stubborn. But here is a good article that basically explains why the Dutch cherish their home births
If you are thinking of doing a home birth don't let anyone discourage you. I've had a couple odd responses when I said I was doing a home birth, the most common one being "ew" and "she shouldn't do that for her first one" . These are the types of comments you need to ignore. There is nothing "ew" about birth whether at home or in a hospital, and you should do your first birth in whatever setting makes you most comfortable, for me that was a home birth. Remember that as long as your pregnancy is normal, then a home birth, attended by a midwife is completely safe. So if you want to do a home birth, at least know you've got me on your side, and probably a large chunk of The Netherlands.