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Home Birth

Wednesday by Leah | Giving Birth Thoughts

Atlanta Birth Photographer | Natural Birth | Newborn | Maternity | LeahAndMark.com

– Posted by Leah

First, go read +Jo’s blog post about the birth she photographed last week. And grab some tissues. Then come back here!

Back?  Ok. How awesome was that?  I am a birth story junkie… and Jo is a great writer and photographer. Woohoo!

Now I’m going to talk more about my own birth. I’ve had 6 weeks to reflect on it, to fall in love again and again with my beautiful son, to adjust to my role as a mother… and in that time it has dawned on me that giving birth at home has impacted me in a few ways that I didn’t realize initially.

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com

The biggest and most noticeable impact is the trust I have in my own body. I don’t doubt my body’s ability to do anything anymore. I’ve even agreed to let my crazy running friend take me out running…heck, maybe I’ll even run a marathon one of these days. Who knows. Laboring at home allowed me to go much deeper within myself than I think I could have in a hospital setting. I entered this strange plane of feeling both completely primal and transcendentally spiritual at the same time. I was more inside of my body and more all-encompassing than I even thought it was possible to be. It was quite the amazing experience. And because I was in my own home, without anyone trying to hurry things along or stop me from doing what came most naturally, I was able to stay in this state for hours and let my body do what it needed to in order to bring Jonah safely into the world.

Atlanta Birth Photographer | Natural Birth | Newborn | Maternity | LeahAndMark.comIn addition to trusting my body – and being immensely thankful for it – birthing at home also allowed me to relinquish any fear I had surrounding birth. I was taking a shower yesterday and thought, “Oh, hey, a few weeks ago I was in labor in the shower!” It makes labor seem like a very normal and do-able thing. Which it totally was. Just because something is intense and even painful, it doesn’t mean it’s not manageable or doable. And giving birth in my home normalized labor to such a great extent for me that I truly no longer fear labor or childbirth. Just the act of going to the hospital is, for me (again, I’m only speaking for myself and not anyone else!), an abnormal act… if I have to go to the hospital, it means something is wrong. And once I’m at the hospital, I don’t know how my body will react to that stress. I don’t know the nurses or doctors. I’m not in a familiar, comfortable place. And for me, that would have put a lot more fear into the process.

Of course there are people with the exact opposite perspective – people who feel safer in a hospital, people who would be super stressed and scared to birth at home…and that’s why it’s SO important to have options. To be able to choose where and how to give birth. And that’s the third biggest impact my homebirth has had on me – my choice was not a common one, and because of that I’ve had to overcome some hurdles – paying out-of-pocket, getting a bunch of forms notarized in order to file for the birth certificate, etc. But I still had an option. I still had access to a skilled midwife, to a supportive doula. I was able to make the choice that was best for me. And it’s not like that everywhere, not by a long shot. So I’m even more committed than before to advocating on behalf of reproductive rights – and I include birthing options in the umbrella of reproductive rights. Every woman should be able to choose safe, comfortable options for prenatal care, labor and birth. We need more midwives, we need more birth centers, we need ongoing education for OBs and L&D nurses, we need easy transfers between homes/birth centers and hospitals….we need a lot of things to change. And I plan to be a part of that change.

But first I need to go change a diaper!

Wednesday by Leah: Pregnancy Reading List

I am a total information junkie.  Plus I think it’s important to be informed about huge life-altering events and to know one’s options… and I think it’s equally important to limit my intake of negative, fear-based information and up my intake of positive, empowering information.  So here’s a list of the books I’ve read that I recommend for pregnant women and those who love them:

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth - if you only read one book about birth, pick this one. It’s a mixture of information about what happens during labor and how to have a good childbirth experience, coupled with positive birth stories and some info about the history of childbirth.

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife - interesting autobiography of a California midwife with lots of awesome birth stories woven in!

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer - LeahAndMark.com Wednesday by Leah

Diary of a Midwife - similar to Baby Catcher. This one is the autobiography of a Virginia-based midwife, also with lots of great birth stories.

YOU: Having a Baby - by the famous Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen.  Good basic info about pregnancy and birth, although a bit cheesy.  The doctors present balanced information and cover multiple sides of issues such as testing in pregnancy, vaccinations, etc. I liked how this book incorporated both the mainstream medical approach, the more natural approach, and listed the doctors’ own decisions which were somewhere in the middle.

The Birth Partner - Great book for all birth partners, but also a good read for the pregnant woman herself!  Goes through the stages of labor in-depth and the different paths that labor can take, as well as ways to cope with contractions, support the laboring woman, and questions to ask if labor takes an unexpected turn and you are faced with making some quick decisions.

Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta - also by Ina May Gaskin, this book is a comprehensive overview of the history of childbirth, how birth experiences impact women and their loved ones, ways the current health care system is failing women (and the available alternatives that women might not know about), and well thought-out suggestions for improving maternity care both in the U.S. and around the world. The book also has empowering birth stories that I like to re-read as my own labor approaches!

I’ve read a number of other books, too, but these are the top ones I’d recommend.  I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!

Wednesday by Leah: Jonah’s Birthday!

– Posted by Leah
(Read Mark’s Version of BabyRoX’s birth, Here.)
So last Wednesday, as some astute readers have surmised…there was no Wednesday by Leah post because Leah was in LaborLand! But I hope today’s post will make up for that missing one…

Wow, I’m not sure I can come up with the words to fully describe Jonah’s birth. Awesome. Intense. Empowering. Exhausting. The most incredible, amazing thing I’ve ever done.

That still doesn’t really describe it.  But it’s a start.
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
I have to give a huge shout out to my most wonderful partner and husband. Mark was with me every step of the way…at least every step that I needed him.  (There were chunks of time when I wanted to labor alone.) And our phenomenal doula Becca gets another huge shout out, because she was also with me every step of the way – and with Mark, helping him support me in the best ways. She had a magic carpet bag or something full of soothing little comforts, like fuzzy socks and lavender oil. Becca somehow intuitively knew just what I needed at different points.  I don’t think I talked for much of my labor…at least the last half of the 13 hours. I was somewhere else entirely.  Deep within myself, working with Jonah, floating/drifting/pulsing/melting/surrendering…and, finally, pushing through each contraction. 
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
I wasn’t really aware of time…it felt more realistically like 4 hours to me, but somehow 13 passed from the onset of regular contractions to Jonah’s arrival. I went from having 2 hours of am-I-in-labor, mild, irregular contractions to much more intense ones that came 2 minutes apart and lasted a minute long. Bam! No slow build-up to the more frequent contractions for me. I dilated progressively – not as quickly as one might think given the frequency of my contractions from the start – but my body did just what it needed to do. My wonderful midwife and her assistants would check me periodically and listen to Jonah’s healthy and strong heart rate. But they mostly just let me labor and stayed out of sight. They filled the birth tub with 140 gallons of hot water. They gave me Vitamin B drops and Becca kept me hydrated and fed me honey sticks. And I just kept on relaxing into the contractions one after another. I didn’t get much of a break between them so I didn’t really break out of my relaxed state until near the end, when I felt the enormous pressure of Jonah descending and the fatigue of laboring for 10 or 11 hours and I was ready to switch into active mode and get him out. Squatting, walking, and finally getting in the tub and pushing pushing pushing for around 45 minutes.
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
The tub felt amazing when I got in – the intense pressure bearing down on my bum eased up. I was around 8 or 9 cm dilated at that point and after about 15 minutes in the tub, where the contractions mercifully spaced out and gave me a short, blissful break, I was ready to push. But I was also insanely hot. Becca and Mark kept me cool with icy, lavender-scented rags. Mark gripped my hands and steadied me with each forceful pushing contraction. And slowly Jonah descended. This part seemed the longest to me – the previous 12 hours of labor were nothing compared to the pushing stage. Partly because I wasn’t in my relaxed state anymore, but I also think the forcefulness of the contractions and the intensity of the pressure factored in to making this relatively short stage of my labor seem so long.
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Finally I felt Jonah slide out of me. That was just… WOAH. Our midwife told me to reach down and hold my baby, but I was gripping onto Mark’s hands and reeling from the intensity and force of birthing my precious boy, and I said, “No – You get him!” Somehow someone passed him to me and I sat down in the tub in complete shock and relief and joy, holding my son. 7 lbs, 19.5 inches, perfect and beautiful and with a super strong grip. Once the cord stopped pulsing, Mark cut it and I was able to bring Jonah to my chest (short cord! he could only reach my stomach with the cord attached) and start nursing. He latched on right away and nursed for a good hour. What a little champ. I delivered the placenta, then got out of the tub and headed to bed for a check-up and some stitches, with Jonah just nursing away!
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
It was amazing. I was so thankful to be in my own home. To be surrounded by such a skilled, supportive birth team. My midwife Charlotte, her two assistants – Rachel and Chasery, our doula Becca – they each brought something special and important to the birth. To making me feel cared for, strong, and completely capable. Mark somehow managed to tweet, take pictures, drink coffee, boil water, eat Thai food, check on my mom who was waiting in the parking lot because she is a crazy mama who loves me too much…and yet never not be there for a second that I needed him.  I don’t know how he did it and I’m eager to read HIS version of our birth story.
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Not once during my labor did I ask to go to the hospital, or ask for pain medications, or say I thought I was dying.  None of those thoughts even occurred to me. What helped tremendously, aside from the incredible support I received was a.) being in a space where I was most comfortable, which for me was my own home. Being at home really helped normalize labor for me – yes, it was intense, but hey, I’m just chilling at home with Borat on TV, b.) being able to relax, thanks to a combination of a background in meditation, hypnobirthing techniques, and the Reiki I received distantly from my Reiki Master, Cyndie and my aunt Terri, and in-person from Mark and Becca, and c.) understanding and remembering that this was a temporary experience. Becca, Mark, and Charlotte would occasionally say “You’ll meet your baby soon!” or “Jonah is coming!” and it would remind me that the contractions weren’t going to last forever. At one difficult point near the end, when the pressure bearing down on my tailbone really made me think it was going to crack, I saw myself fast-forwarded 12 hours and holding Jonah…and I realized that labor really was almost over, and I just had to put up with a bit more intensity and push past the pain and it really would all be over and I would be holding my son.
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
Labor was not some horrific, pain-worse-than-death experience for me. It was painful, yes. But it was a totally manageable pain. A temporary pain. A pain with a beautiful purpose. A pain that drove me deeper inside myself than I’ve ever been, that made me realize the strength of my mind and spirit…and the strength of my physical body. I don’t want to be in labor every day, that’s for sure. But would I do it again in a heartbeat? Heck yeah. Labor wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be. And again, I have to thank my wonderful birth team for making it such a fantastic experience. For making me feel so loved and so empowered. Charlotte, Becca, Rachel, Chas, and Mark – you. are. AWESOME.
Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia | LeahAndMark.com
The next morning Mark and Jonah and I were snuggled up on our ComfySack. I had some hot cocoa, Mark had a cup of coffee, our kitties were curled up next to us, we were staring at our beautiful son…it was a perfect lazy morning with an impossibly perfect new family member…and I sat up and said, “OMG, if I had given birth in a hospital, we would still be there now!” It seemed so strange and… unnecessary. And just not at all how I would want to spend our first hours as a new family, with nurses bustling about and hospital smells and the like. And then I walked into Jonah’s room to change his diaper, and remembered giving birth there the night before. I can’t wait to tell him that he was born is his room. That his first experience outside the womb was of warm water, gentle hands, dim lights.
That he never had to leave his parents, that he wasn’t jostled by strangers or scrubbed or given shots or had goop put in his eyes. The people at our birth were people I knew. People I had seen for my prenatal care. Not some rotating group of doctors or midwives. My blood pressure was taken by the same woman who took it during my prenatal visits. Jonah was weighed and measured by the same woman who measured him every month of his gestation. Jonah was born surrounded by people who were excited to meet him, who had played a role in his growth and development up until his birthday. People I trusted. People who knew me, who knew my husband, who knew and respected our wishes for the type of birth and care we wanted to receive.
Few things in this world are perfect. Jonah’s birth .. it was. Perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.