No one was more surprised than me when I considered having a home birth as a first-time mom. I never considered myself “crunchy” or “extremely religious” or any of the other stereotypes associated with out-of-hospital births.
But I am so glad that I followed through listening to my gut instinct. After watching the Business of Being Born, I realized just how important birth options are for women. Before then, I never actually considered that women had any birth options!
Claiming this home birth for me + my family was by far the #1 best decision I have ever made as a mom. I attribute this birthing experience to my daughter’s incredible growth + immunity, our long + easy breastfeeding experience, her well above-average intellect + our secure mother-daughter bond.
This first home birth was the catalyst for many other empowering decisions I made in my life — including the decision to bring OrganicMommyCEO.com to the forefront.
I am so excited to share the details of this birth with you today. And, as I do, please remember that birth — like anything in health — is a truly individualized experience. Take from it what you will + leave the rest!
11:40 PM — Night Before
Lost my mucous plug after about 30 hours of off/on Braxton-Hicks contractions (noticed those starting around 6 PM after we left our 41 week midwife appointment).
12:00 AM — Early Labor Begins
Kept waking up to surges but wouldn’t let myself look at the clock. Around 1:00 AM, I did the Hypnobirth relaxation audio to fall back to sleep until 2:30 AM. Was still woken up to the surges mid-sleep but was able to stay in dream mode!
Then a giant surge got me up and out of bed around 3:00 AM. Couldn’t lay down anymore! Walked around the house, ate raw almonds, and drank water. Started timing the surges and found them about 6 minutes apart.
At 4 AM, Kev wakes up and asks if I’m okay.
I am so excited to tell him that this truly feels like it’s go-time.
Kevin went to work just after 4 AM knowing today would be the day and put his out-of-office on. We called our midwife, Cheryl, when he came back around 5 AM and contractions were 4-5 minutes apart.
She told us to rest, eat and stay hydrated, and to touch base around 12 PM if nothing had intensified beyond that.
We texted Cheryl around 1 PM with no new news after laboring quietly on the couch and walking around the backyard all morning with the dogs. She offered to come by later in the evening to check me if we needed peace of mind.
Around 5 PM, my surges were stronger and timing was still ranging around 5 minutes apart. Kevin asked Cheryl to come by for a vote of confidence that this was the real thing.
7:30 PM — Cheryl arrives!
My initial vaginal exam revealed I was only 1 centimeter! But after the exam, I dilated to a 3 on the spot.
Side Note: Did you know that cervical checks are OPTIONAL? This was the first + only cervical check I had my entire pregnancy. This is a body autonomy choice that I never assumed I had until my midwife asked if I wanted one. If you get nothing else out of this post, please know what I never felt confident in the majority of my life: that literally ALL of the choices around your body are YOURS to make. 100%. Doctors included. Full stop.
Two surges later in bed, I was in an awesome side-lying/hip-opening position and my water exploded all over me, Cheryl, and the bed! It was a huge warm gush that was like something out of the movies. It felt incredible + the surges felt stronger.
Now it was game time. Cheryl would be staying until we had a baby. Yay!
Kev comes in from taking the dogs outside and Cheryl suggests setting up the birth pool. That’s when we both were like “this is really happening!”
This is also when I stopped responding to everyone around me. Kev was having a meltdown because the dogs went crazy when Cheryl arrived, so he called our one friend in KC, Jessica, who slept on the couch in the side family room blocked off with the dogs all night. Kev was in such a panic that he didn’t even give her blankets or snacks or water! Thank goodness she didn’t even need to pee; she was locked in the back family room with 3 panicked dogs.
[Throughout the course of the birth, Penny the Rottweiler stayed in her kennel, Dunkin the St. Bernard slept on the couch, and Bruin the Black Lab sat vigil at the French doors listening to me scream and moan.]
When the birth pool was ready, I got in. I was half-kneeling up and half-standing and couldn’t change positions because I was so overcome with the pressure. I just hummed and breathed through surges that were increasing in intensity quickly.
Cheryl encouraged me to get out and labor backwards on the toilet to change it up after some time had gone by.
10:30 PM — Cheryl calls her assisting midwife, Nicole, to come.
I had dilated the rest of the way (from a 3 to 10) in 3 hours.
I remember feeling the natural expulsive reflex. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t resist my body’s urge to push. It reminded me of that feeling when you have to throw up but you’re resisting it. Your body just sends a huge wave of pressure through you until it comes out anyways… same thing as this labor.
During transition, I remember saying only once “I can’t do this” to which Kevin and Cheryl promptly replied YES. YOU ARE DOING THIS! That was the beginning and end of my self-doubt. It was go time and there was no going back.
A few surges came with incredible back pressure. I felt paralyzed like I couldn’t continue regardless of how much I wanted to. Cheryl told me this is where it’s time to really believe in a Higher Power/Holy Spirit and ask for help because baby was suddenly sunny side up. She told me to ask baby to change positions and I started talking to the baby — begging, actually — for a shift! I think it may have actually worked. The back pressure relieved after a few more surges.
Next, we moved me to laboring backwards on the toilet. After lots of pushing, but no results, Cheryl had me lie on the bedroom floor so she could check baby’s positioning and my cervix. In the moment, she told me she just needed to move part of my cervix during the next contraction or two. That part hurt — and it makes sense that it did — when your body is trying to push something out, it’s not going to be happy with someone going in!
That was the most painful experience of my life. I SCREAMED BLOOD CURDLING SCREAMS and literally thought I was done for. I could hear Bruin wailing in empathetic pain with me.
After the birth, we learned that the baby had been asynclitic due to sleeping with its hand on its face and the cord wrapped around the neck and hand which kept the hand there and made the head stick sideways. The baby’s lopsided positioning kept my cervix opening lopsided, so one side created a swollen lip over the baby’s head making it super difficult to push down the birth canal and made all of my pushing ineffective. After she moved the cervix, we saw much more progress. Thank goodness for midwives!
11:30 PM — Nicole arrives.
I got back in the pool for 2 hours, then Cheryl encouraged me to change positions because the tub was ineffective at the moment. I couldn’t bear the thought of laying on the bed. Being on my back sounded like a new version of hell I didn’t want to experience! So we went to the bathroom where I labored the rest of the way on the toilet facing forwards.
1:30 PM — The home stretch!
When baby’s head was crowning, Cheryl had me feel the progress. So motivating! At that point, I wasn’t even waiting for contractions. Kevin said I just went full throttle pushing and it was like I was in another world. He sat on the edge of the tub holding one leg up in a stirrup position, while Nicole leaned over Cheryl (sitting between my legs ready to catch baby) to hold the other against the sink vanity.
I never would’ve guessed I’d birth my baby on the toilet.
Cheryl used hot wet facecloths to apply pressure as the “ring of fire” started. To be honest, I welcomed that burn feeling after 4 hours of pushing. It meant baby was really going to be here soon and it was the first true sign of “yes, these pushes are working”.
Side note: If you’re wondering “what does the ring of fire feel like?” I found the sensation to be like when someone twists the skin on your arm in opposite directions (like that “Indian sunburn” thing kids used to do to each other in childhood). The feeling was so manageable — I felt like the intimidating “ring of fire” name was overreaching!
Nicole encouraged me to reach down and feel my baby a few times but the intensity was so strong I just wanted to ride it out and not interrupt myself. I started peeing as the baby moved off of my bladder, then blood and all of the rest of the mess came with it — all over Kevin’s feet!
I felt baby’s head crown, then come out, then Cheryl had me pause while she unwrapped the cord from baby’s neck. The arm was up against the face and held there by the cord.
Another push or two brought out the shoulders and baby slipped out the rest of the way.
2 AM — It’s a girl! 🎀
Kensington Claire Gilroy is here. I will never forget the moment we locked eyes with each other. Kevin was holding her, she’s still attached to me by the cord, and she was a blue/grey color with the largest cone head. We had to suction her and rub her a bit to encourage her first breath because she was much slower to take it. Cheryl had the oxygen mask out and ready when Kensie took the biggest deep breath and let out a cry! We were overcome.
I started shaking uncontrollably from the release of adrenaline and turned ghost white. Kevin said he never doubted I’d be okay throughout the whole labor until this moment. The shakes scared the sh*t out of him!
Everyone helped me waddle back to our bedroom where we did skin to skin and Cheryl checked me for tearing and kept a visual on baby. My placenta wasn’t coming out after about 15-20 minutes, so we cut the cord (the blood had emptied already and the cord was a beautiful pure white color), let Kevin do skin to skin, and I went to the master bathroom to try to labor out the placenta and pee in quiet. Nothing was working, I was exhausted and dying to get back to Kensie and Kevin in bed, but when Cheryl approached me with the Pitocin needle and a catheter in the doorway, I was like “God/Source/Whoever You Are, if you exist, you’re gonna help me finish this naturally!” And whoosh, out comes the placenta and a bunch of pee. Thank goodness!
Nicole came to teach me how to use the peri-bottle (MomFrida) with After Cleanse to clean when I finish going the bathroom. Then I got into a Depends diaper. All of these were WONDERFUL. My belly felt like a deflated balloon.
I crawled back into bed in my diaper and nothing else. Held Kensie again for skin to skin and mustered down some peanut butter toast with apple slices before Cheryl weighed Kensie and did her other measurements (20 inches long and 7 lbs 15.5 oz) and showed me how to lay Kensie down for bedsharing and breastfeeding laying down.
Nicole and Cheryl cleaned up, then left with my placenta for encapsulating. We caught our breath and FaceTimed my mom and sister to announce we had the baby!
We slept for a few hours before waking up to feed Kensie again and relieve Jess from dog duty. Kev took the dogs out and made a big breakfast. Jess hung out in bed with me and Kensie for eating, then we introduced the dogs to the baby after Jess left.
That was a mindblowing 26-hours + quite literally the most empowering experience of my life.
Some summary notes I wrote out from my postpartum bed:
Birth events that were different from my expectations:
- Contractions were manageable if I wasn’t distracted.
- I thought I would want deep massage but ended up wanting light touch or nothing at all
- I felt an overwhelming connection to Cheryl and needed to hear her sweet light voice. There was such a gift in her having had experienced birth before personally, that I trusted her assurance more than anyone else’s.
- HypnoBirthing helped me stay mentally focused but without the music to help it was easy to fall out of. We were so flustered and focused elsewhere that we forgot to follow the prompts on our own.
Birth choices that I loved:
- Our decision to not have a birth photographer or doula. I did better with as little movement and additional energy around me as possible.
- Warm washcloth compresses as baby was crowning.
- Letting go of the expectation that I would have this quiet, picturesque birth + instead welcome whatever feelings or sounds were part of my experience. Turns out, I sound like a cavewoman when I birth. I wear that badge so proudly.
As Nature Intended
While every birth story is unique to the mom + child, I hope that my deeply personal + honest perspective helps you consider what might be available to you in your own birth story (or stories).
This birth wasn’t particularly “easy” — but it was as nature intended — and I proved to myself that I had both the mental toughness to push through the heavier parts + the mental calmness to allow my body to do what it knew how to do naturally. The result was so great, that 2.5 years later, I chose to do it all over again with Baby #2!
You can read my second home birth story here.
So, tell me: What are your thoughts around having a home birth?
If you’d love to read a variety of other birth stories, consider joining my free, private mom group — The OrganicMommyCEO Community.
I’m happy to share all that I know in more detail there 🙂