I’m sharing Hannah’s birth story on the blog today. If you’re not into pregnancy, birthshi or postpartum, feel free to come back later this week for a yummy tailgating recipe. And if this is triggering to you, or you’re TTC, or waiting on a baby, I see you and thoughts and prayers go out to you <3
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Hannah’s birth is a day I will forever remember, and was perhaps the coolest thing I’ve ever done just because of the circumstances of her birth. I never thought I’d do a homebirth, but here we are in a pandemic with no family nearby to watch our toddler, and that seemed best for our family.
Background Information: Birth Plan
It’s worth noting that at 36 weeks pregnant, I switched care providers. Yes – very late in the game! Ed and I had taken a Bradley Birth Class virtually and resonated with so many of the principles and beliefs of the Bradley Method. I’ve also heard great things about this natural childbirth course if you want something online.
We truly wanted this birth to be as “natural” as possible. And while it is completely possible to have a natural birth in a hospital setting, I knew it would raise the stakes and make things more difficult for me.
I did not want to have another C section this go around, if possible. That was a strong motivator for me.
I know that interventions are more easily accessible in the hospital setting, and of course, if medically necessary for myself or the baby, I would gladly take one. But, if possible, and if everything was healthy and looking good, I wanted to do birth on my own terms.
Why We Switched Care Providers
There were also other conditions that led us to switch from our midwives’ care at the OB GYN office/hospital setting to a home birth (I hoped to have a VBAC home birth). Firstly, with COVID going on, that made us both more anxious to be in a hospital setting.
We also don’t have immediate family close by to us and I was stressed about who would watch Camryn if we had to spend 2-4 days in the hospital. With COVID restrictions, it would be difficult for my parents or any family to just fly here on a whim, and honestly, I wanted them to get tested first.
Ultimately, we decided that a homebirth was best for our family. It took me a while to trust myself to come to this decision, honestly.
Was it safe to abandon the tried and true “hospital care system?” Aka what most of us know as “normal?”
My first birth ended in a C Section and I really wanted to have a natural vaginal birth. But, I had some fears that what if I couldn’t push again?
What if I needed interventions/care in the hospital? What if I ended up having to transfer?
What helped me rationalize and get through these fears was to write them out and journal about them. Talk about these fears and thoughts with Ed and the midwife care providers. Research statistics about home births and VBACs (Vaginal Births after C Section).
I have a resources section at the end of this post with everything I used to prepare for this birth.
The midwife group I used had a very high success rate with VBACs. In fact, they are well known in our area and have a very good reputation. After meeting with them, I Had a very good feeling about them, and they were confident that I was a “good candidate” for a VBAC and that they could help support me.
Lastly, we hired a doula on a whim, actually the day before labor started. I interviewed several doulas and had one nailed down, but then something in my intuition told me she wasn’t right for me. So, we started the search again, interviewed Lindsey on Thursday and hired her on Friday. Labor began on Saturday!
It’s crazy to me how everything happened and lined up like it was supposed to, and I’m so glad I listened to my intuition throughout all of it.
Saturday, August 8th
I keep replaying the whole day and birth experience over and over in my head. It was such a normal day before everything happened. I was 2 days shy of 38 weeks pregnant, so was not expecting anything to happen.
I had not experienced any Braxton Hicks contractions or prodromal labor during this pregnancy. The baby was constantly moving but nothing that felt like a contraction. As I recall, it was similar for Camryn’s pregnancy too.
I think my body just works to prepare for go time, and when it’s ready, it’s ready.
It was an ordinary Saturday morning. We went for a family walk on the C&O canal to get some fresh air – this family photo is the last photo I have of me and Camryn.
After the walk, we came home and ate lunch and then I headed out for a massage I had scheduled as a birthday present for myself. I got home around 2pm and felt like laying down for a bit so I did.
After that, I spent some time organizing all the stuff we needed for the midwives and home birth – they had given us a list of supplies to have and we pretty much had everything but I wanted to go through the checklist and have everything together and organized (#nesting).
I also finished packing my hospital bag (just in case) and typed up emergency contact lists and Camryn’s routine just in case someone needed it. The midwives had suggested this and it was a great idea. Looking back, I’m so glad I did this because otherwise, the night ahead would have been a little more stressful.
After organizing things, I spent some time with Camryn while Ed went for a run before we started dinner.
How Labor Started
After dinner, Ed started the bedtime routine with Camryn and I was winding down to do a bedtime/stretch yoga video. A minute into the video, I felt a trickle down my leg. Not a big flush of water, but enough to get my attention.
I went to the bathroom to see if it was clear (it was) and changed my underwear but didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t having any contractions or other symptoms. About 10 minutes later, it happened again so I changed my underwear again and decided to put a pad on. At this point, I was still unsure of whether it was my water or just a normal pregnancy thing since incontinence happens during pregnancy!
I texted Lindsey, my doula (who I had hired the day before, remember?) and midwives to let them know that I wasn’t sure if my water had broken but it was a few small trickles. I wasn’t having any contractions or anything. They said to just rest and try to relax and if anything picked up to let them know.
The midwife group had 4-5 midwives who each had different nights on call – both Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). Because I live in the state of Maryland and was trying for a VBAC, I had to have a CNM at the birth. I felt comfortable with Chris, the CNM, who was on call that day (since I had newly switched care over to them, I hadn’t even met many of the other midwives yet)!
I had heard Ed telling Camryn during bedtime that there may be a lot of people here in the morning when she wakes up and her baby brother or sister may be here! That made me happy and very excited.
Minutes later, Ed came downstairs from putting Camryn to bed and I was standing there telling him about what had been happening and then another trickle happened down my leg on the floor. Soon after, I had my first contraction.
I was convinced it was a gas pain at first, but minutes later, I got another one. It took me a minute to realize this is what contractions felt like last time and #thingswerehappening, as Lindsey said.
I was also starting to feel like I had to vomit as more contractions passed.
Ed took that as a cue to start getting everything ready. A reminder that this was all happening two weeks early. Ed started hanging the affirmations I had printed, blowing up the birth pool and getting other stuff together.
Luckily, I had spent some time organizing earlier that day – it was almost as if my body and mind knew what was going to happen that night!
Ed laughs when he tells this story now but I was handling the early contractions by myself, while Ed was trying to do everything and get everything ready. I’d scream to him when I needed him to come to apply counter pressure.
Since contractions got close together pretty quickly, he didn’t have much time between them to set things up. And when he wasn’t near me for them, apparently I screamed, “ED! You’re not doing anything! Where are you?” Meanwhile, he was doing everything for the set up. LOL.
Just like with Camryn’s labor, things escalated quickly. While my water broke at 8:45, by 10:00 (according to when I texted my doula) I was having constant contractions 3-4 minutes apart and had a little bloody show.
Between 10 and 11, they were getting to be 1-3 minutes apart and lasting 30-40 seconds. By 11:00, I asked her to come and she was on her way. At 11:30, I told the midwives I think they should head this way also.
Ed was still working on blowing up the tub (of course we were missing the adapter to the shower; the one we got wasn’t the right size). But he someone magiver-ed it with duck tape and the midwives helped by dumping buckets of warm water into the tub.
Sunday, August 9th
I start to lose track of time at this point, around 11:30-12 when the midwives arrive. I knew I felt safe and confident with this birth team.
At this point, I’m handling contractions with counter-pressure from Ed and Lindsey and I’m on all fours leaning on the birth ball. I really relied on the birth ball ALOT during labor!
I’m pretty sure I was in transition during this time when they arrived. The midwives never checked me until during pushing so there was no guarantee, but I remembered what transition felt like with Cam (it’s when I asked for the epidural).
Had I known I was so close, I would have tried to hold out longer since the epidural had left me too numb to feel any of the pushing for hours.
Everyone also says, transition is that point when you think or say you can’t do this any longer. I reallly focused on breathing during the start of each contraction and I counted to 10 in my head and tried to think of some of the visualizations I read about in Hypnobirthing.
I also recited my affirmations and had Ed reciting them too. Lindsey was great at making sure I was hydrated and kept bringing me snacks. I loved these honey packets and fruit snacks for quick energy.
They advised me to get in the tub and I found that the water really helped tone down some of the contractions. I was starting to feel really tired so the snacking and glucose helped.
I remember just leaning forward and back over the edge and closing my eyes during the contraction breaks, which never seemed long enough.
I kept thinking ahead to when this would all be over (and wishing it were, obviously). I wasn’t necessarily wishing I had an epidural at this point but I was just wishing everything would be over.
I was also starting to psych myself out about the pushing part. That was where things stalled with Camryn. I kept asking about how would I know when to push? The midwives said to just try it so I did.
Pushing (And a VBAC Home Birth!)
I had no idea what I was doing but just tried pushing when I felt a contraction. They advised me to be vocal with the pushing and I was. I had known from listening to the several hundred birth stories I did that low moans helped open everything up and move baby down.
At some point, the midwives wanted to check if I was at the pushing point but didn’t feel the need to “check me.” Chris said to just try a few contractions of not pushing. I found that really hard to do and realized I was having that natural inclination to push.
Shortly after they did check me. This was the only time they checked me since I was GBS positive. They said I was a 10 and wide open so it definitely was time to push as long as I felt the urge. It was probably 12:30-1:30 am at this point. Lindsey advised me to get out and pee and even though I didn’t want to risk having a contraction while I got out, I listened and found that emptying my bladder helped.
Eventually, we all decided I should get out of the tub and try some pushes on all 4’s or squatting to try to get gravity to work in my favor. I have no idea how long I had been trying to push at this point but it felt so long. I was getting tired and starting to doubt myself that I could actually do this and have a VBAC.
What if I got too tired? What if I couldn’t push any more?
The hardest part was feeling like I wasn’t making any progress. Eventually, though, I started to feel her just sitting in my pelvic bone/vaginal canal. It was the weirdest feeling. Like I had to poop and it was just sitting there.
Throughout all of this, the midwives were checking in on baby and getting her heart rate, which was remaining stable through it all.
The midwives encouraged me constantly, telling me that pushing takes a while sometimes and I WAS making progress which I needed to hear, because I couldn’t necessarily feel her moving down. For the longest time, she just felt stuck there no matter how hard I pushed or what I did.
Pushing just felt endless and I honestly thought I’d never get past the stage (after the fact, my midwife told me I pushed for 1 hour and 37 minutes total. It felt like 3+ hours!). I was every form of exhausted and was in the most discomfort and pain I’ve ever been in.
But I kept telling myself that it would all be worth it and there was no way out except to go through it. I had to get this baby out one way or another.
So, my push grunts got louder and deeper and the midwives encouraged me that they were helping. At some point, they said that rather than coming out and going back in, she stayed out. I think it took 5-10 more pushes from there to get her out.
I was SO ready to be done at this point, and Ed laughs when recalling that I screamed, “GET THIS BABY OUT OF MEEEEEE!”
I remember the feeling of pushing her head out. The cord was wrapped around her neck so it took a few extra pushes to get the rest of the body out. She was in the Right Occiput Anterior position, per my midwives.
Ed quickly announced it was a girl and I remember feeling so stunned! We had both thought it would be a boy.
Shortly after she was out they had to give her some oxygen and inflation breaths to help her breathe on her own and clear the fluid because she didn’t try to breathe on her own. I wasn’t worried at all, though.
They told me this often happens when babies are under some stress (likely from the cord around her neck)!
I was relieved to be done pushing (!!) and knew the midwives had everything under control. They then helped me get in bed so we could do immediate skin to skin. Apparently, she had pooped on me.
After the Birth
Her one minute Apgar score was an 8. At the five minute check, she was a 9.
This experience was so different from my C Section where they took Camryn away right away to the warmer, and to weigh her. With Hannah, she laid on my chest for the golden hour. She was covered in vernix, so much vernix!
The midwives were able to do all of her newborn checks while she lay on my chest.
Hannah Lily was born at 4:07 am and was 7 lbs, 12 ounces and 20 inches long. She was over a pound bigger then Camryn! We all laughed about how during my first labor they told me my pelvic bone was too small, and Camryn was a much smaller baby.
I started shivering non-stop for like 10-15 minutes. It was the weirdest thing because I had no control over it.
I wasn’t cold but I couldn’t stop myself. The midwives said it was all a hormonal response and “normal.” I did some research, and this article from mother.ly does talk about it being normal!
As annoying as it was, I still had our new baby cuddled in my arms.
I was a little nervous about passing the placenta but 40-45 minutes later the midwives guided me to push a little bit and it came out fairly easily. I tore minimally, just a small first degree tear.
The midwives were awesome at holding a warm cloth against my perineum while pushing which helped with the stretching. She did give me two quick stitches after but numbed the area first so it wasn’t all that bad.
We didn’t have a name for “Hannah” for 12 hours. I told Ed we both needed to sleep and rest before deciding on a name. We had a few girl names as contenders but I wanted to get to know her better and see her more clearly before deciding.
The midwives stuck around until 7ish in the morning, doing the cleanup, checks on me and baby, taking notes and getting everything together. We sent Ed off around 5:30 am to go get a little nap in before Camryn woke up.
I got to see the midwives do all of the checks on Hannah and weigh her, which was so neat.
Camryn woke up at 715, just as the midwives were leaving. The coolest moment was having Camryn run into our room and having her meet her new little sister for the first time, just hours after she was born.
And, of course, it was amazing to be in my own bed and not a hospital bed.
Camryn got right under the covers and snuggled in and kept saying “my sister or brother!” She stroked Hannah’s head and gave her a big hug.
I stayed in bed with Hannah most of the day while Ed entertained Camryn. Actually, much of the first week looked this way with Ed bringing me water, snacks and meals. He was so amazing.
I didn’t realize how sore I’d be and how much I’d bleed. The midwives were really adamant about just being in bed for the week and spending time with baby and getting skin to skin. So, that’s what I did to the best of my ability. Thankfully, having Camryn at daycare was a huge help and blessing.
My recovery was a bit different from a C Section recovery. I’m planning a separate post about the prep and research I did for planning for a VBAC and will share more about recovery in that post.
Postpartum Thoughts and Supplements
Postpartum has been different from C section recovery. While with a C section incision, I had to carefully care for a scar and be very careful getting up and doing anything, that’s not the case this time.
However, I’m much sorer than I thought I would be. I know the pushing for so long left me swollen, and the fact that this is my first vaginal birth, I’m sure everything I’m experiencing is normal for a first time mom.
I bled heavily for 7-10 days, and then the bleeding died down. I really relied on the Silhouette Depends so I wasn’t constantly changing pads and underwear.
I did pass one larger clot (passing clots is normal but always check with your providers about the size/frequency) which kind of freaked me out. Everything seemed to fragile down there so I just took everything very carefully.
I remember walking normally being difficult due to the pain and swelling. I was just very hunched over when walking to and from the bathroom. I didn’t do stairs for 4 days, which meant just staying in bed and having meals and snacks brought to me.
It was very nice, don’t get me wrong, but I’m the antsy type, and I felt like I needed to be helping with things around the house and with Camryn.
I slowly started doing the stairs once a day and hanging out downstairs for longer periods of time. Now, at 2+ weeks out, I’m starting to incorporate daily walks and feeling much more like myself. And grateful there’s no scar I have to tend to this time around.
I also wanted to share some of the postpartum things I’m taking to help with recovery and my thoughts on recovery so far.
**Reminder that all of our needs are different so your regimen may look different than mine!
- Prenatal Vitamin
- DHA (This is the one I took throughout pregnancy)
- Vitamin D
- Choline (Most prenatal vitamins don’t have choline and pregnancy/lactation needs are increased).
- Floradix – I lost a little more than the average amount of blood so I took this for the first week.
And here are some of the essential must have’s I used postpartum:
- Silhouette Depends – My midwives suggested these and they were great for not having to go through and stain tons of underwear and pads when the bleeding is heavy at the beginning.
- Tuck’s Pads – These provide a bit of a “cooling” sensation. I also used a Dermoplast spray which numbed and cooled down there and was helpful before bed or before going to the bathroom.
- Perineum ice pack – great for reducing pain and swelling
- Nipple Cream – This helps immensely with bleeding and chapped nipples!
- Haaka – This helps “save” milk that leaks from the other breast when nursing
- Peri bottles – Add warm water to this and spray after using the bathroom
- Sitz Bath – this is great for adding Epsom salts or a soaking tea in warm water for your bottom half. I use this 1-2x/day.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions!