DawningLife Midwifery

Experienced homebirth midwives serving Metro-Atlanta and North Georgia families for over 35 years!

Seth Edward

This is not a birth story that I thought would be mine. When I became pregnant with our second child, I assumed I would have a hospital birth, as I did with our first. It was not a good experience, but I had not allowed myself to consider other options. After a previous early miscarriage, I was on pins and needles for the first trimester and wanted to see if this would be a go. The blessed second trimester mark passed, and I began to research birth on the internet.

This is not a birth story that I thought would be mine. When I became pregnant with our second child, I assumed I would have a hospital birth, as I did with our first. It was not a good experience, but I had not allowed myself to consider other options. After a previous early miscarriage, I was on pins and needles for the first trimester and wanted to see if this would be a go. The blessed second trimester mark passed, and I began to research birth on the internet.

In the meantime, as we were new to the area, I struggled to find an obstetrician with whom I was comfortable. I did not want to go the route of producing some enormous birth plan to the doctor— I knew it would not be well received and probably not followed. My only hard and fast request was that I did not want to do all the tests that are suggested for pregnant women over 35. This simple request proved to be a significant problem for the doctors that I consulted. I had to decline the same tests repeatedly, and was told that I was making the doctors’ job very difficult. This is when I got angry and actively began searching for alternatives. I quickly found Claudia and Debbie and began preparing myself for a homebirth—a decision that I made with a fair amount of the fear that comes with choosing a path that is unfamiliar and unusual. However the more I read, the more it made sense, and seemed to be not only a viable option, but an optimum choice.

I found the pregnancy took on many new dimensions as I actively prepared my mind and body for the experience I was not able to have with my first child—a natural birth. I had wanted it before, but did not have the confidence to surround myself with birth attendants who believed it was a valuable goal or even a possible one. I talked with my husband about our past experience and this choice to deliver at home extensively, knowing that it would be very difficult to do if he was not supportive. Thankfully, Joe believed in me and understood that I was feeling safer and safer in the hands of Claudia and Debbie than I had felt at the doctor’s office. Every fiber of my being told me that a second hospital birth would end in a cesarean section. My first birth had many interventions, and a cesarean section only seemed to be halted by my insistence that it not be done. For me, one of the hardest parts of deciding to have a homebirth was going through the enormous responsibility I was assuming, only to ultimately realize that I had no control over what was to come. I could do all of this preparation and still have a cesarean birth. In the end, though, I felt this was the best course because if my worst fears were realized, it would have been the way it needed to go, and not because I had checked out and let someone else decide what was best, or most convenient. All of my research, investigation and study only reinforced my initial reactions and decisions. This was truly an exciting time.

The remaining six months of my pregnancy was a truly blessed period of learning, growing, and anticipating the new life we were bringing into the world.
Fast forward to the beginning of labor...

I was awake with my first contraction at 1:30 am on January 18th. I had been having contractions for weeks, a couple times with enough regularity to make me wonder if it was the Big Day, but nothing had progressed past one hour. My due date was January 19th, and I had mentally prepared myself for the birth not happening for another two weeks. This time, contractions kept coming sporadically, and felt more like menstrual cramps than the previous ones had. By 3:00 am I got up and read my phone list about what to do when in labor. Since the contractions had come overnight and were irregular, I took Claudia’s written advice and went back to bed. My husband, Joe, was sleeping peacefully, and my eight year old son, Noah, and Mom were asleep in the other room. I lay in bed for awhile thinking about what was ahead. One contraction soon after that made me jump and that woke Joe. I told him it was happening. He was excited and we talked about when to call. I lay there for the next three hours, dozing/sleeping between increasingly stronger contractions. By 6:00 am I got up and cleaned the bathroom. I figured I had a lot of time and this seemed like a good thing to do. I had thrown up during the labor of my first child, and I didn’t want to look at a dirty bathroom if it happened again during this labor. I brushed my teeth and pulled back my hair. I felt excited and nervous, and wanted to do what I could to keep busy for as long as possible. I expected labor to be long, that we might not see our new baby until 6:00 pm or so. 

While making coffee, a contraction stopped me in my tracks, and I thought things might be ramping up a bit, but waited to call Claudia. With my first child, Noah, I went through hours of what seemed like legitimate contractions, only to be 2 cm dilated when I finally did go to the hospital. I was determined to not have that happen this time. I got out my birthing ball and sat on it for only a short time before it felt too uncomfortable. I moved to all fours to get through the contractions. These were intense! I started wondering if I had prepared myself enough for what was ahead. 

Around this time, Joe got up and woke Noah for school. He told him what was happening, and Noah was tremendously excited. I was leaning over our low-lying bed in a modified hands and knees position when he came running in to say, “Mommy, Seth is going to come today! I am so excited!!” His enthusiasm and sheer joy renewed my strength and reminded me that the pain was just a part of a really joyous event. He really helped me feel stronger. 

We called Claudia at 7:00 am. After talking with me and timing a contraction, she said that she would come over, but that it sounded like there was some time before things started really happening. Things already were getting twilight zone-like, as the contractions were taking all of my focus, and Noah and Joe would pop in and out of my vision as they rubbed my feet, my back, brought cold wash cloths, etc. What a blessing it was to be cared for by my husband and son! My mom also came in and told me she was proud and gave me words of encouragement. Even in the midst of the contractions, I felt waves of gratitude for being surrounded by so much love during such a vulnerable time. I focused on the baby and mentally talked with him, and prayed for a safe and swift birth.

Claudia and Nicole arrived around 8:30. I remember coming out to the living room to greet them, only to be stopped in my tracks by another contraction. When it passed, I told Claudia, “I am feeling like a bit of a wimp right now. This really hurts.” I don’t remember ever feeling like I wanted to go to the hospital, just an overwhelming sense that the rest of labor would be really tough, if it felt like this at what seemed like an early stage. Her words were very comforting and helpful. She said that this was very normal to be feeling this way, that many women expressed the same feelings at this stage in labor. She said that, in ways, this stage of labor was harder than the later stages in that I was still able to analyze what was happening and that it did, indeed, really hurt. She said that soon the labor would sweep me away and there would be no more analyzing it, which does make it easier. She was right.

I remember feeling trapped in the living room. Every step seemed to bring about another contraction and I felt like I was ready to open the floodgates in the middle of our carpet. “I need to get out of the living room,” I stated, and everyone quickly helped me back to the bathroom. I started bleeding as I approached the bathroom, and knew I was really in labor when I didn’t care about Joe fetching any stain repellent for the carpet— I just wanted him to stay with me. I think I sat on the commode for the next few contractions, and then Claudia checked my progress at 9:00 am. I was 4-5 cm dilated— woohoo!— farther along than I had feared! I told Claudia I was feeling the urge to push, that it was overtaking me, actually, and she said to go with it. I remember having to hold onto Joe’s hands really tight to get through the contractions, as well as becoming more vocal than I imagined I would be. Nicole released me from any inhibitions by saying, “Good labor sounds!” Even with the small inhibitions in the back of my head, I could not have stopped the sounds. Something bigger than my ego was in charge at this point.

The contractions were coming one on top of the other, and they told me the pool was ready when I wanted to get in. I was reluctant to get in because a) it involved moving again and b) I was afraid it would slow down my progress. I debated it for a short time, then slowly made my way over to the pool. Things were very “twilight zone-esque” at this point and I felt very much in an altered state. I stopped being able to talk much at all, let alone articulate what I wanted. I just wanted Joe to stay right with me and not leave at all. I leaned over the side of the pool  facing Joe and held his hand tightly during each contraction. The urge to push was overwhelming and came with every contraction. Joe was truly my rock and managed to come up with a visual that made the contractions bearable. He tapped in my long distance running days and equated each contraction to running up a hill. If I could just make it to the top, it would get easier going back down. This I could relate to, and it helped me to tackle one contraction at a time. The pool actually slowed down things enough that I could rest between contractions. I would go limp and rest my head on the side of the pool. I lost track of who was where and who was in the room at any given time, but remember Noah and my mom popping in at various times to give me encouragement.

Claudia checked me again to see if the pushing was causing problems for my cervix. Everything looked fine, so I continued to push. Active labor lasted an hour and a half. I remember Claudia saying the baby would be here very soon, and I looked at the clock to see that it was 10:00 am. I couldn’t believe it! I had prepared myself to be in labor until 6:00 pm or so. Transition felt different in that the contractions no longer felt menstrual, but felt like a tremendous bowel movement. “Like the biggest poop of my life” was how I remember describing it to those in the room. It REALLY began to hurt. Apparently I was half in and half out of the water and since I needed to commit to being in or out of the water, Claudia suggested several different positions to try. Nothing felt right and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I ended up in a semi-reclining position. I pushed with everything I had, knowing that the only way this would be over was for my son to be born. The pain was tremendous when his head crowned. The “ring of fire” was what I felt. I was overcome by how close it was to being over, and how hard it seemed to do what needed to be done. I had an image of walking across a tightrope over a canyon, and that the only way to make it to the other side was to keep going. There was no alternative, no turning back. Claudia told me that I had backed way off in my pushing, and had me reach down to feel the baby’s head. It was amazing and gave me what I needed to give the final, excruciating pushes. 

Our son, Seth Edward, was born at 11:05 am. I remember how fast he came out once Claudia checked for the cord. He had been born with his fist against his cheek, which made the crowning that much more dramatic. When he was put on my chest, I was overwhelmed with emotion—gratitude, relief, joy, awe—so many feelings so powerful, so indescribable, so joyous. He cried a healthy cry and he was just beautiful.

Noah and Joe surrounded me and were so overjoyed at the arrival of Seth. Joe kept saying, “You did it! You did it! You did a great job!” Joe cut the cord as Noah looked on and pretty soon after that, I delivered the placenta. I got in the bed with Seth, and Noah came in with one of his Captain Underpants books and began reading to Seth as nursed for the first time. Noah was so enthralled and so in awe of his little brother— I couldn’t have asked for more.

As I look back on the experience in the weeks that have followed, the positive outcomes from the decision to homebirth reach in so many directions. The most immediate benefits have been the health and quick recovery of both Seth and me. Seth was born alert, aware, calm and ready to nurse. My recovery has been much quicker than I experienced in the hospital, and nursing has gotten off to a much easier start— I think because we were at home, bonding in a peaceful environment without the separations, tests, and scrubbings that hospital births entail. I felt so much more a part of what was happening, and I felt so much more able to enjoy the “fruits of my labor,” as it were, by foregoing the epidural, the anti-anxiety medication and the other drugs that were administered the first time around. It was an incredible time for Joe, Noah, and me to be able to bond with this new life in the privacy of our own home and in the immediate moments after Seth’s birth. 

The homebirth has strengthened our family bonds in so many directions. We all feel closer for having gone through this experience together. Noah is incredibly protective and in love with his little brother, and he has thanked me repeatedly for bringing Seth into the world. I don’t know that his reaction would have been as profound had he not played such a part in helping with the labor and witnessing the delivery. Joe and I feel closer than ever before. I loved having him be such a supporter and such a protector during such a vulnerable time. My Mom and I have grown closer for having shared this journey, as it has given us both new insights into each other’s birth stories. I am all the more thankful for what she endured to bring me into the world, and she is grateful for having an experience through me that she was not able to have during her cesarean delivery.

The homebirth has also renewed some confidence and faith that I have lost over the years. I am thankful that the strength was given to me to follow through on a path that was hard but felt right. It was a tremendous blessing to feel that God is with us when we need Him the most, and that we have strength in our reserves that is revealed only in the most critical challenges of our lives. It was profound to be reminded, in such a personal way, that growth and blessings do not come without pain, sacrifice, and faith in something greater than ourselves. It has been many years since I have experienced this lesson in such an immediate way.

The homebirth has strengthened my sense of community. Only through following the stories of other women who have walked this path have I gained the courage to walk it myself. It has been incredible to see so many birth stories written that reiterate the simple truth that this is dually a universal and individual human experience, and both an earthbound and spiritual experience. We try so hard to control so many aspects of life in modern culture, and birth is a great example of this trend. Having had both hospital and home births, I am thankful to say that both experiences were incredible in that life was brought into the world. That miracle shines bright no matter where it happens. But the process and actual labor seems so diminished, so lost, in our need to control it and put it in a definite timetable with an avoidance of all that is messy and “unpleasant.” To me, the messy and uncontrollable aspects of labor and delivery enable others to be a part of it in a way that is community building. I could never have a clue of this rich and long history of women helping women had I not gone through it myself. I feel that I have received help throughout the pregnancy and delivery by a community of women who share the bond of homebirth, and the women who have built this community— Claudia and Debbie.

To see pictures of Seth’s birth: click here