In my previous post on home birth I discussed my hesitancy, my fears, and the business perspective that led my wife, Jen, and me to the decision to have our child at home. Then, my world changed.
Earlier this month, Jen, my thirty-nine-plus week pregnant wife had been having a few, sporadic contractions and was feeling pretty miserable when I decided to stay home from work. During the day we rested and took a few long walks around our neighborhood. By about 3:30 p.m. her previously inconsistent contractions fell into a more routine pattern, and we realized that we may be having a baby within the next several hours. At 4:30 p.m., my sister came and picked up my fifteen-year-old daughter, our one-year-old son, and our dog, Winston, to help ensure that our home was a little quieter with fewer distractions. For those following closely, that left Jen and me home alone, with her in labor. Strangely enough, I wasn’t too nervous.
At 4:45 p.m., Jen started moaning and rocking her hips during her contractions. We called the midwife, Penny, who lives about 40 minutes from our home, and she said that she would be on her way. After half an hour of encouraging Jen to relax and reminding her that she was a strong woman in a very natural situation her mood changed–she became a little more frantic, a little more serious and we made our way into the birthing pool in the living room.
Within ten minutes, Jen said “I feel like I need to push. I can’t help it! I’ve gotta push!” I jumped from the pool, ran to the kitchen and grabbed the handy, laminated sheet with the bold headline that read “What To Do If the Baby Arrives Before the Midwife.” I sat that sheet on the shelf near us and was ready to call Penny’s cell when Jen started making some of the most unforgettable, animalistic sounds that I’ve ever heard. I knew that the baby was coming. I hoped that Penny was hurrying!
At 5:30 p.m., Jen let out another scream and our front door opened. Penny walked in with her bag of medical supplies and asked “How long has she been pushing? I heard her from outside.” Penny made another trip to the car for more supplies and, at 5:35 p.m., Nellie was born–in our living room–in a portable hot tub. It was beautiful. Jen was strong and amazing. I will never look at her the same.
It’s also worth noting that Nellie didn’t breathe at first and her cord was wrapped, twice, around her neck. Her birth was so fast and so sudden that her system was a bit shocked. With a minute or so of rubbing her back and a few puffs from an ambu-bag she was resuscitated, crying and turning the prettiest shade of pink that I’ve ever seen in my life. Now, a few days later, mom and baby are doing fine–still at home.
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A few observations: Our midwife got there in the nick of time, but it occurred to me that, if we would have gone to the hospital for this birth, it’s likely that Nellie would have been born in our car. Although it took a little while for Nellie to breathe, she wasn’t in imminent danger–her umbilical cord provides all the oxygen and nutrients she would have needed for much longer that she was in distress. Having our baby at home, in such a natural, loving and empowering way, far-outweighed the criticism, cost and risks that we chose to accept. Although not the right choice for everyone, home birth was right for us.
Originally Jen said “Home birth?” and I said “No.” Although we don’t plan to have more children, the next time my answer would be “Of course!”
Happy Birthday, Eleanor Evelyn “Nellie” Wingler! (November 5, 2012)