Home Birth of Olivia Groves Smith ~ Attended Home Birth

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Olivia Groves Smith was born at 2:35 a.m. on her due date, October 21. She was born at home, on Orcas Island, WA, in our living room, after 3 1/2 hours of labor, while her brother Braeden, age 19 months, slept in the next room, our bedroom. It was as if she had listened to everything I said about her birth, all my fears & hopes, while she was in utero, and then did exactly what I had wished for.

I’d hoped her birth would be at night, and it was, and fast, so tat her brother would sleep through it, and he did. (My stepson Kenan was at Braeden’s birth when he was 8, and was thrilled by the experience. But I didn’t expect my 1 1/2 year old to want to hang out for his new sibling’s arrival.) I had hoped I would go into labor on the one night a week our midwife was scheduled to be on our Pacific Northwest island, and I did. (Otherwise, the commute from Seattle by car and boat would have taken her at least 2 1/2 hours- a worry!) I hoped that I’d avoid getting a swollen cervical lip during the transition, like the 1st time, and I did, and that pushing would be easier this time, and it was.

My husband Randy and I had just asked our friend Nina help with the birth – to help Randy fill up the birthing tub, as we were planning another home water birth, like Braeden’s – and to help with Braeden in case he was awake. Nina came over that night to discuss the birth plan, which I had just finished writing out (an exercise I recommend), and after I got Braeden to sleep, Nina, Randy and I were sitting around the kitchen table going over the plan, when, at 10:30 p.m. – POP! – my water broke. It felt like a rubber band breaking. We called Jackie, my midwife, who staying at her office in town, just minutes away. We were all laughing and excited. Nina was there, Jackie was on her way, Braeden was asleep, everything was ready to go – it was perfect timing, thank you baby!

I started having and timing contractions at 5 minute intervals at 11:00. Like the first time, my water broke, there was a short lull, and then boom, straight into active labor. (No mellow, hanging out, walking around, Early Labor stage for me.) Randy and Nina inflated the tub and started filling it. I hung out in the bedroom where my son was sleeping, breathing through the contractions, comforted by his peaceful sleeping presence, but after I had to vomit – like the first time – my labor got too intense, and I got help moving into the living room, where I lay on the futon & piles of cushions we had set up on the floor. The candles I had arranged around the room were the only light, besides the light of the fire in the woodstove. It was dim and warm and cozy.

I lay on my side on the pile of cushions and labored there the whole time. I found one comfortable position and stuck with it – and that’s how I stayed ’til she was born. I remembered at one point that it can be useful to change positions every so often, so I tried getting up into a squat at one point, but it was too intense. I didn’t need any help getting this labor to move along – it was like a fast train, barreling along, and it was all I could do to just hold on for the ride. I knew that side-lying could help me avoid a swollen cervical lip, and my body was telling me to stay that way.

With my son’s birth I felt so swept away by the intensity of labor, the surprising degree of just PAIN, that I felt I didn’t stay as connected to my husband as I wanted to, and I felt regret that I didn’t share it with him as much as I’d imagined I would. This time, the experience was so similar, but even more intense, as it was all happening even faster – twice as fast as Braeden’s birth. I quickly accepted that this must just be my process, to go to a place deep inside, keep my eyes shut, and make alot of noise! I was intuitively using low, loud sounds, moans and OMS, “toning” through the contractions, as I had with my son’s birth. I had wanted to stay with just my breathing longer this time, but when it comes down to it, you use what works, and for me, it was making LOUD noises. And forget gazing into Randy’s eyes while he coached me on my breathing. All that practice really did not get used. You can’t know what it’s like, or what is going to work for you, til you’re in it. But it’s good to have a full bag of tricks ready! I had some nice aromatherapy massage oils, and I got Randy to rub my back. That helped – for a couple of minutes.

I never made it to the tub – it was across the room, and by the time it was full, I was in transition and was NOT about to move. I also felt very hot, and the idea of getting into the hot water had no appeal (whereas with my son’s birth, I spent 4 hours in there and it was my salvation from the pain.) Nina had spent the whole night filling the tub, and my poor husband had spent weeks beforehand rigging up a system to allow us to have enough water, as our well had been dry for the past 2 months – and in the end, he had to siphon the water he’d collected back into our tank. Oh well. Olivia didn’t want to be a water baby like her brother, who we’d held as he floated so peacefully on the water with his cord still attached. She was in too much of a hurry to come out. But she was so present and aware right away, and it felt like she just belonged and was comfortable with us all from the start.

I remember the feeling of her head clearing my cervix and the pressure on my lower back. Then a couple of long, moaning contractions, and her head was crowning. Everyone, even Jackie, was taken by surprise. I’d had to push for an hour with my son, and I never felt that I got the hang of it. Jackie would coach me, but I didn’t seem to be able to follow her directions, and all the sensations were so confusing. She later said my pushing was never very efficient, but the water and my squatting position did alot of the work. Now, I didn’t even have to add effort to these pushing contractions. I didn’t bear down, I just kept breathing and making my noises and she just came right out on her own. My husband hadn’t had a chance to cut his nails (kept long for guitar playing) in order to catch her, and it was a good thing my midwife took over at that point anyway, as she had her very long cord wrapped twice around her neck, and under one arm! She was fine, though. She squeaked as Jackie carefully unravelled her, and I didn’t know how tangled she was at the time, but was thrilled to hear that sound. Then I couldn’t believe it – here she was in my arms! I was still lying on my side through all of it. I exclaimed, “Oh my god, thank you!” or something to that effect. Shocked, and so deeply grateful. We sat up, and I held her and let her nurse.

Right about then, my son woke up. His daddy went and brought him out. His first reaction – freaked out to be taken out of the bedroom and to see this whole scene with all these people in the middle of the night, and perhaps realizing that the baby that we’d been talking about for so long was not in my tummy anymore, and that his life would be forever changed – was “NOOOO!!!” He wanted me, he wanted his “nye – nye” (to nurse) in bed, he was crying, I had just begun to examine this amazing gift in my arms – talk about feeling completely torn in half. With his birth, I felt physically torn in half (though I didn’t actually tear.) With hers, I felt emotionally torn. Now I would have to love two children, not one. A big transition. All three of us were crying.

Meanwhile, I needed to deliver my placenta. That ended up taking half as long as the birth – an hour and a half. It was very difficult, I think because the birth was so fast, and the muscles of my uterus were tired from the huge expulsive effort. I tried with all my might and energy – which wasn’t much at that point – to push, but the placenta wasn’t coming. I’d squat and push, over a bowl; I nursed one baby and then the other to help my womb contract, but it wasn’t coming. I just wanted to sit back and rest. I passed the baby off to Nina, and Braeden calmed down and sat with his daddy, and I tried and tried, and finally started to cry. I just wanted to hold my baby and be done with all this hard work, hadn’t I done enough? But Jackie was trying to keep me out the danger of hemmorhaging. It’s funny. I am squeamish by nature, hate having my blood drawn, but I got over all my qualms about the birth process the 1st time with all my preparatory reading. Except when I got to reading about this stage, and then I’d have to put the book down. I suspect that because I didn’t have as good a grip in my mind on what my body should be doing, or because I had fears about the dangers of hemorrhage and shock, I ran into trouble at this point. Birth is a total mind-body experience, after all.

Who knows, maybe my body was right in telling me that I did need to rest for awhile. But my midwife knew what she was doing, I am sure, in really almost forcing me to keep trying to deliver that placenta before I had lost too much blood. It’s tricky because there’s no way to judge how much blood has been lost when the bleeding is in the uterus. As it turned out, it was hard to push the placenta out because as time went on, the blood from where it was detaching was clotting. As it filled with clots, it grew to a huge size, Jackie said it was about the biggest placenta she’d seen. But it finally did come out as I squatted and pushed, and I was finally able to sit back and hold my perfect, 8 pound, 8 ounce baby girl with a full head of dark hair.

Nina and Jackie did some cleaning up – the rest of us went to bed. One of the greatest things about home birth, I think, is that your trip home to your own bed after giving birth is just a few steps, and baby’s at home from the very beginning and doesn’t have to travel to get there.

I recovered so easily this time, I was amazed. I was up and around the next morning. My son’s birth had been pretty perfect, and I had no complications, but I was amazed at how much it hurt, and afterwards, I was SORE. This time, labor was no less painful, but I handled the pain better because I knew what to expect, and I bounced back faster because my body had already been opened up for birth. The first time, it felt like my bones were being rearranged by force during labor – and my baby boy looked like he’d been in a fight with my pelvic bones. His head was dented, whereas hers was perfectly round.

But in both cases, the surge of elation at the moment of birth and in the hours – even days – afterwards – was indescribable. Birthing mothers, don’t let any man-made drugs interfere with your experience of nature’s endorphins if you can help it! I am in awe of the perfection of the whole process as nature designed it, the birth process that starts with the miracle of conception to the miraculousness of mother’s milk giving our babies their perfect food. How lucky we women are to experience the creation of life in our very bodies. All we have to do is let it unfold.

Books that helped me alot were:

  • BIRTH REBORN – Michel Odent;
  • SPIRITUAL MIDWIFERY – Ina May Gaskin;
  • SPECIAL DELIVERY – & other titles by Rahima Baldwin;
  • ACTIVE BIRTH – Janet Balaskas;
  • OURSELVES AS MOTHERS – Sheila Kitzinger;
  • AFTER THE BABY’S BIRTH… – Robin Lim;
  • WISE WOMAN HERBAL FOR THE CHILDBEARING YEAR – Susun Weed (a must).

I’m also very lucky & grateful to have found a licensed midwife who does home births. One key to home birth is to take full responsibility for the outcome of the birth you plan, rather than surrendering decision making to an authority figure. A midwife is there to assist you in finding your own best way to give birth. It is crucial that you and your partner educate yourselves about pregnancy and birth as completely as you can in the 9 months you have to prepare.

Women have been giving birth in their homes, with the guidance of experienced, wise women, without any help from such inventions as: forceps, stirrups and straps on tables, electronic fetal monitoring, Pitocin, epidurals, episiotomies, etc., for eons – or we wouldn’t be here! For a gynecologist’s perspective on our relatively very recent and very damaging mismanagement of birth, read BIRTH REBORN. The cycle of one misguided intervention leading to another and another until a caesarean is “necessary” – 20 to 25% of the time in U.S. hospitals, is tragic. It doesn’t have to be that way. Women’s bodies know how to give birth. We do not have to give up our innate authority on this process, the minute we go into labor, to an OB/GYN with a distrust of nature’s timetable and a pressing golf appointment! If you read all the birth stories you can, you will be able to see the pattern of misguided interventions and birth experiences tinged with sorrow and regret vs. those that are a peak, transcendent, empowering experiences. The only way out of the unhappy outcomes is to stop buying into the traditional medical model – throughout prenatal care as well as in making birth choices – and opt for alternatives such as home birth and water birth, and the care of midwives and doulas. It was never recommended to me to have any unnecessary ultrasounds or amniocentesis, nor did I subject my newborns to silver nitrate in their eyes, Vitamin K shots, pricks on their heels, or circumcision. I had no electronic fetal monitoring, no artificial hormones, no analgesia, anesthesia, episiotomy…I was free to use any position I chose for labor. I had my choice of loved ones in attendance. My newborn babies were never taken away from me to be “cleaned up,” weighed and measured, sent to a nursery and fed from a bottle. When it is clear to enough people that there is a better way, things will change! It will be in the medical establishment’s be$t intere$t to do so!

Good Luck, fellow Mothers!


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