Baby Series: Why I Changed My Birth Plan to a Home Birth
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
If you’d asked me anytime before March what my birth plan was, I would have said hospital, hands down, no question about it. Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed. The more I read about protective measures in L&D departments, the more anxious I became. Mandatory epidurals. No support person. Wearing a mask. No nitrous oxide. No visitors. Not being allowed to leave your room. It was a lot to process that close to my delivery date, not to mention the potentially increased risk of contracting the virus and passing it on to my newborn. I was obsessively reading news articles and research studies about the effect that COVID-19 was having on newborns and pregnant moms.
I had a discussion with my midwife about my concerns and a home birth was put on the table. Like I said earlier, I never considered it an option. After working in a hospital, covering the Neonatal Intensive Care and Pediatric Intensive Care Units, I was very aware of all the possible complications that can arise during labour and delivery. Neither option appealed to me: hospital delivery or home birth. After months of wanting to “get this baby out of me”, I was wishing I could keep him in until things simmered down. Since crossing my legs wasn’t going to keep him in, we decided on trying for a home birth. I was told that 60% of first time moms who try for a home birth end up in the hospital, but we decided to go for it anyway. Using a birthing pool wasn’t an option because of the pandemic, so we gathered the materials we needed and I mentally started preparing for a home birth.
On the eve of my due date, I went into labour. Let me take this opportunity to say that I had always planned on a natural birth for a variety of reasons - I don’t respond well to synthetic hormones, I wanted to experience the natural surge of hormones and I knew I could trust my body to do its thing. After all those years of learning about the body, I wanted to experience it first hand. (I’ll share below some of the resources I used to prep myself mentally.)
That was pre-labour Steph. About 5 hours into labour I told my husband I wanted to go to the hospital NOW for an epidural. A little while later, I said we were adopting our next kid. Then the midwife arrived and told me I wasn’t even far enough along to get an epidural. I was only 3cm dilated. I was crushed. It was then that I pulled my socks up (metaphorically of course) and put my hypnobirthing practice to the test. I made it through the night at home, progressed fairly quickly from that point on, and, without medical intervention, our son was born at 10:15 am on April 25th, in our Petawawa home. The rush of oxytocin (that amazing love hormone) that flooded the room after his arrival made it all worth it. What an incredible high!
Because I’m Type A and a big planner, I had a long list of pain control options that I thought I would take advantage of during labour and delivery. I had planned on labouring in the tub (I lasted one contraction, felt claustrophobic and vomited). I wanted to use gravity to assist in delivery. I thought the TENS machine and exercise ball were going to be my best friends. I had my husband practice rubbing by back in preparation. None of this happened. All I wanted was to lay in bed, in the dark, with a cold compress on my forehead and to squeeze my husband's arm during contractions (he had the wounds to prove it).
I did quite a bit of reading while pregnant, to get into a good, positive mindset for labour and delivery. The first book I found helpful, and recommend to everyone who is pregnant was Ina May Gaskin’s Guide To Childbirth. Written by a midwife with 30+ years of experience, I found this book full of amazing information about the stages of labour. It helped reduce my fear going into labour, and allowed me to trust my body throughout the process. I learned that fear leads to tension which results in tense muscles and therefore a more challenging birth. The second half of the book is where you’ll get the most education (the first half is birth stories).
In an effort to help reduce my fear and relax my body, I started looking into hypnobirthing by reading Hypnobirthing: The Breakthrough to Safer, Easier, More Comfortable Childbirth by Marie Mongan. Much of the information from Ina May Gaskin’s book was also covered in this book, but I recommend this book for the breathing techniques. She highlights different breathing patterns for the different stages of labour. I occasionally needed to be reminded to go back to them, but they did help me relax my body and allowed for mind-body connection during contractions.
There are a ton of guided hypnobirthing tracks available online (both free on YouTube and paid on iTunes). I used the Kathryn Clark series on iTunes to practice relaxation, mindfulness, and breathing leading up to my due date. I preferred part 2 (Release all fear of birth), part 4 (Breathing and birth visualization), and part 5 (Anaesthesia for early birthing). This was another thing that I thought would go differently during labour. I envisioned myself listening to guided meditations with my earbuds in while labouring. In reality, I put Part 8 (Birth Music), track number 3 (Adrift) on and it played on a loop for the full 14 hours. Pretty sure everyone in the room was sick of it long before the baby arrived!
My husband and I signed up for a pre-natal class through the Renfrew County Doulas as well. I found it to be a good review of what I had been reading as well as reassuring that I was preparing myself by reading about the right things. My husband found it helpful and it seemed to help get him in the right mindset for what was to come. It was also nice to have the information come from someone else, rather than me.
One thing I tell everyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive is to look into pelvic floor physiotherapy. It’s not all about kegels! While it is important to have a strong pelvic floor, it’s equally important to be able to fully relax it (how else is the baby going to get out?). There is so much complexity to the pelvic floor and it plays a pretty important role in pregnancy, labour, and delivery. It’s worth getting assessed if you have any concerns about your pelvic floor health.
This Contigo water bottle. I wanted something that I could use with one hand and that I wouldn’t spill all over myself while trying to drink when laying down. This bottle was perfect. It’s also come in super handy when breastfeeding when I only have one hand free. The straw folds down and locks so it’s perfect to throw in a diaper bag for on the go use too. My only complaint is that I wish it held a larger volume of water.
So, while I don’t have anything to compare it to, giving birth during COVID-19 wasn’t as terrible as I was fearing. This was, in large part, due to my team: the Madawaska Valley Midwives and, of course, my husband. They kept me focused on my birth preferences While it wasn’t at all what I envisioned when I first found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t be any happier with how it went.
So that's my birth story. I'd love to hear yours in the comments below. What helped you prepare for labour and delivery? Did your birth go as envisioned?
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