Friday, May 6, 2011

Confessions of a Modern Homebirth Mom

© Ginger Borshov 2011. Ginger provides perspective on why and how modern, educated women birth at home:

Let me first say, I gave birth at home. But I'm not a "hippy". No dreadlocks or hemp here. I'm in my late twenties and had a low-risk healthy pregnancy. I'm a middle class, college educated, married woman who simply made a safe, informed choice that was the right decision for my family and for me. This may not be the appropriate choice for everyone, but it might be something to look into if you want a natural birth.

I knew I wanted to birth without interventions or drugs and I was concerned with the 30% cesarean rate. (And that’s only nation wide, it was actually higher for the hospitals around me!) So after intensely researching, including reading cover to cover 18 books, countless research papers & studies from the World Health Organisation (WHO), reviewing birth advocacy groups, attending La Leche League meetings, interviewing 3 doctors from 3 different hospitals and two home-birth midwifes, I decided to have a homebirth with a highly qualified, certified midwife.

The Sunday before Memorial Day, 2010, I felt different. And I knew this was the beginning. It felt like light period cramps that came and went inconsistently. They were about 10 minutes apart, then 5, then up to 30 minutes. I called my midwife to let her know what was going on and that my husband and I were going to go ahead and attend a family picnic at my cousins' house. 

The whole day at the picnic I was working through mild contractions while everyone was commenting on my belly and telling me birth stories. Why is it that when people see a pregnant woman, they feel the need to tell birth-horror stories? "Oh, my sister had a terrible birth!” “You're going to be in so much pain!" Nonsense, and definitely not what you should tell a person who is about to give birth!

Anyway, by the end of the day the contractions were getting a little stronger, and I felt like I needed to pay attention to them. By 10pm they were peaking regularly. I told my husband to get some sleep because I needed him to be rested and ready to help in a bit. I sat on a birthing ball (a big, inflatable exercise ball) and watched some TV while the contractions worked their magic. 

By 3am they were 8 minutes apart and 1 minute long. I got my husband up to sit with me and help time the contractions. I called my midwife to let her know how things were going. She asked if I wanted her to come over, but I didn't want to be a "watched pot" (...that never boils...) so I told her I'd let her know when the contractions were 5 minutes apart. 

By 7am the contractions were 4/5 minutes apart and I felt like I needed space to focus. My husband called the midwife to tell her to go ahead and come over, and we headed upstairs to our master bedroom. I sat on the birthing ball and just breathed through each surge.

I remember thinking, "this isn't that bad". All the horror stories of how labor is so painful seemed like a huge exaggeration. Of course, when I tried to rest on our bed, the contractions became unbearable and I wondered how anyone could labor like they make you labor in the hospital. Lying on a bed was the worst way to do it in my experience! If you are given the space and time to move around into whatever position your body needs you to be in, it really helps. 

So I walked around, ate some applesauce, drank some lemonade and bounced on the ball. Even when the contractions were 4-5 minutes apart and lasting up to 60 seconds, that's still only 12 minutes of contractions an hour and 48 minutes of feeling fine. In between each surge, I could feel little DD (Dear Daughter) kicking. I tried to embrace those last little kicks; I knew it was the last time we'd share that kind of bond before everything was transformed. I loved it!

Our midwife arrived at 9am and within 15 minutes I felt like pushing. She checked the baby's heart rate during and after contractions through my belly (no internal fetal heart rate monitor, thank you!), just to make sure there was no sign of distress. Then I got up on the bed (knees on the bed, arms and chest draped over the ball, holding my husband’s hands), and my midwife checked me to see how things were progressing. That was the first and only internal check before the baby was born that day (at my request). She confirmed I was 10cm dilated and the baby's head was right there. 

My waters still had not broken and it just ended up coming intact with the baby. I pushed when I felt the urge, and rested in between surges. No one barked orders at me or told me how to position myself, when to push, how long to push, etc. I did what my body needed me to do to birth my baby.

The temperature in the room felt as if it had jumped 20 degrees. The rational me quietly excused itself and the primal me took over. Throughout my whole labor, I never felt the need to vocalize through the surges, but in transition I breathed out a long slow moan with each push. I pushed intermittently for 35 minutes (but things felt much faster). The plan was for my midwife to support me though the crowning and birth of her head, then my husband would catch her, but DD came in one push (now that was intense!) She came with a loud cry (great set of lungs) and was placed immediately on my chest where she calmed down and looked at me for the first time.

The surge of emotions and rush of joy was unlike any I've ever experienced. We looked at each other with amazement and love and I held her on my chest, undisturbed for 20 minutes until she started rooting. Breastfeeding came easily and naturally since neither of us was medicated. We waited until the cord stopped pulsing before my husband cut it. 

My daughter spent the first hour of her life on her mother's chest, surrounded by warmth, soft lighting, and calm voices. After that first hour our midwife weighed her (6lbs 9 oz) and performed a routine exam, all at the foot of my bed within arms reach of me. My husband put her first diaper and onesie on her while I took a trip to the bathroom with my midwife to take care of some afterbirth clean up.
Then while my husband and I adored our new baby our midwife cleaned up (laundry and all!) and made us a healthy breakfast. She answered some questions then showed herself out (she came back several times over the next couple of weeks for check ups). 

It was the birth I wanted, and the birth my daughter deserved. Without a painful, panicked drive to the hospital, interventions, drugs, bright lights, constant internal exams by a rotating staff of strangers, unnecessary stress, or trauma. It was gentle, safe, and natural. Just hours after our daughter was born, we relaxed in the privacy and comfort of our own home, our own bed with our new daughter. The transition to a family of three was seamless and peaceful.


  1. <3 Thanks for posting such a beautiful birth story. PS: I love that you have an Our Lady of Guadalupe fb page!