A Transformative Decision and Peaceful Breath of Life: Allie's Home Birth of Gerard Joseph
With our first pregnancy, we began on a typical route with an OB office. We loved our OB but after reading Made for This and because of certain interactions within the hospital we were attending for appointments, we began to second guess that the hospital model was providing the best care for us. After interviewing Mary Haseltine as our doula and the midwives at our local birth center, at 26 weeks, we switched to the midwifery model of care and instead began to prepare for a home birth. Our care went from “Today we’re doing this” at the OB’s office to “At the next appointment is typically the time for this test. Here's some information on it. Read it over and let us know if you have any questions and want to proceed” at our midwife’s office. The care was transformative. We dove into education on birth and have now had two beautiful home births.
Well...Holy Week was here and so was my estimated due date. While due dates are not always accurate, thanks to NFP, ours was more accurate than others. That aside, I was in a whirlwind of impatient thoughts of “Baby, please get out of me!!” and other emotional thoughts of “Stay in there so I can soak up more time with your sister.” Jon, my husband, had mentioned a few times his dream to have our baby on Holy Thursday. We attended Mass that day and then split ways. Jon went to the Tour of Seven Churches with a friend from out of town and our daughter Rae and I went home. As we got ready for bed, Rae did something silly and it hit me hard that she wasn’t going to be my only girl any more. I couldn’t comprehend loving another tiny human as much as her.
We went through Triduum Services each time answering fellow parishioners, “Yes, still pregnant!” On Easter Sunday we were gathered for dinner and half way through our visit, Rae (just under 2 years old), became very snuggly which doesn’t sound odd to anyone else but us. Our Rae was not typically a cuddler and especially not when we were in the presence of family and other kiddos to play with! She climbed up on me, hugged my big belly and just laid there. Within 10 minutes she had dozed off. She felt a little feverish which I wasn’t typically worried about but this scenario was definitely weird. I soaked it up and pegged it as some pre-baby snuggles. Maybe she knew change was coming?
We all woke Monday morning not feeling well. My body is in complete aches and Jon is achy and chilly...great. I wanted to have this baby, like yesterday, and now we’re sick. I was one grumpy mama. I had the thoughts of “Will this impact our home birth? Will folks not want to come to a sick house?” Tuesday morning, I went to my happy place, a chiropractor appointment. I was tired, groggy, quite sore, and looking forward to an appointment. I got a speeding ticket as I was almost to the office and now was beginning to feel a bit like Murphy's Law. I was mortified and irritated with myself and feeling all the feels as I walked into her office. Wednesday came and went. We still weren’t feeling well but starting to see improvements. On Thursday, we were feeling so much better! I was so relieved. “Okay baby, come now!” We tried to situate as much around the house as we could. We went on a post-sickness cleaning binge, washed bedding, and aired out the house.
On Friday I woke up from a fairly decent night of sleep (for a full pregnant lady anyway!). I went about my morning routine, went to the bathroom, and saw my mucus plug! Yes! Rae was born three days after I lost my mucus plug so maybe this means our baby may be coming within the next few days! To finally see the end in sight...whew!! I texted our doula, Mary, to give her a heads up, not thinking anything of a baby coming that day. I then contacted our midwife, Maura, and our photographer, Lisa. She lives a bit of a hike away from us so she finished farm chores and packed her family up and drove to nearby town to be on standby!
9:40 a.m. I texted Mary that I had some mild cramping anywhere from 4-10 minutes apart. Nothing intense but it was enough to where I wanted to just sit and relax. Mary had updated me that Maura was attending a birth at the birth center and to try to keep things slow in order to still have our home birth. If things took a fast turn, we’d have to load up and go to there for our birth instead. Although I definitely wanted to stay home, I wasn’t super stressed about that. I decided to pack a few clothing items and other necessities just in case.
I then retreated into our “office” that was going to be my recovery room. Since we live in a tri-level home, I wanted to be close to the bathroom. I started getting in the zone. Mary had given me some “trial tracks” to test out of Made for This Birth meditations from right before they released the app. I tried to just stay relaxed and listen to the tracks which really helped me ride into each contraction that came.
11:45 a.m. Contractions were about 7 minutes apart but still not super intense. I was still in denial I was having a baby that day. By 1 p.m. I was about 2-3 minutes apart but they were still light and I was still in denial. I told Mary, Maura, and Lisa that I would update in an hour. Jon got Rae down for her nap and I stayed in the zone in our office. Jon wrapped up some dishes and went to take a power nap as well “in case we were having a baby later tonight."
2:45 p.m. Things were definitely picking up. I had gotten the alert on my contraction timer app to "go to the hospital" multiple times. I was still in denial. Mary couldn’t quite read me from the texts I was sending but decided it was time for her to come over and check in. I told Maura as well. She had finished the birth at the Coit House and said she was going to clean up, eat lunch, and then head over as well! So I went to the bottom of our staircase and whispered up the stairs, “Jon, everyone is coming." He flew up and said, “Huh!?” I said, “Yea, I guess this is happening faster?" Jon got up and kept busy while I sunk into labor land again.
3:15 p.m. Mary arrived. Then and at 3:35 Maura arrived. Lisa arrived somewhere in between and just blended beautifully in the background of everything, capturing our birth with the camera.
(All images taken by Lisa at Lisa Lesniak Photo and Films.)
Jon was setting up the pool. I labored in the office with Mary doing her magical “doula thing”. I had one headphone in with a Made for This Birth relaxation track on repeat. It helped me stay in the zone and kept me in labor land. I could still hear what was going on around me but the relaxation track kept me grounded and focused. By 4:20 I was able to get in the pool!
4:30 p.m. Rae woke up from her nap, my water had broken in the pool, and I was punching down on the pool during surges. About 4:45, Mary went to get Rae and Jon stayed by me. The next thing I know, I had sweet Rae in front of me soaking in everything. She was a little caught off guard but perked right up when she saw the pool we had previously played in on our trial blow up session! She was the sweetest little assistant helping to bring me sips of water and brushing my face every so often.
4:54 p.m. Maura had checked baby’s heartbeat and she was slightly concerned saying, “baby doesn’t love where they’re at right now so we need to try another position and really push when your next contraction comes.” I flipped onto my bottom in the birth pool with Jon and Rae behind me. I did a push or two like that and then Mary suggested her magical rebozo. She wrapped it around her waist, handed me the ends of the fabric and with the next surge, we played tug of war. I used this technique with Rae’s birth as well. A contraction came and Mary would brace herself while I pulled and Jon supported my back, pushing on it firmly. It gave me power in my pushes! Maura kept checking baby’s heartbeat.
5:04 p.m. Baby was BORN! WHAT A RELIEF!
Maura checked baby’s heart. That sounded good but he had some wet lungs and a raspy breath. Maura gave him a few assisted breaths with the bag and suctioned him.
I heard Jon whisper to Rae and then someone asked about checking the gender. A little boy!! I sat here, still in the warm pool, soaking in this new baby still not believing how incredibly fast that was!
His breath was still kind of raspy but I wasn't worried. I had thankfully listened to some stories of “emergencies at home” and was confident and prepared for our midwife to be able to handle them and no one was panicked. Our team helped my little guy and I out of the birth pool and I just stood, snuggling him up!
We went upstairs to the office to get in bed. Maura put the pulse oximeter on our little guy right on a heating pad on my lap. I was so grateful to have him right on me for this. He was still raspy and a bit purple. I didn’t get nervous until Maura said “I’ve never heard this sound before.”
She had noticed he was giving some intense feeding cues so she suggested seeing if he would nurse. He latched right on and within minutes he pinked up beautifully and the raspy breathing immediately went away!
(Mary's note: I'm 1000% certain this situation would have been handled VERY differently in our local hospitals. He would have had his cord/oxygen cut immediately at birth, been taken away from mom right away, and there likely would have been a lot of panic with him being taken to the NICU for hours or days. The way this was confidently and peacefully managed clearly illustrated the difference in models of care.)