Warning! Long post ahead!
In August of 2007, I was beyond excited when I found out I was pregnant. I think I took a pregnancy test 3 times just to make sure. My husband and I had tried to get pregnant since our 1 year anniversary earlier that June, and I couldn’t wait to tell him it had finally happened. Thinking back on it, I don’t even know how I actually told him. I’m sure I planned some fun, memorable way to say it, but a lot of good it did me since I now can’t remember. LOL!
I wanted a boy, and my husband wanted a boy. We’d talked about names before, throwing a few around to see what we liked, but it came down to one old-world Hebrew name that was pretty rare. There was no arguing or debating. If it was a boy, Judah was it. If it was a girl… well… I’m still waiting on that one, and you will too! Can’t go giving my name away now can I!
We get asked a lot why we chose the name, Judah. We’re not Jewish, and neither of us have any ancestry or lineage in that direction. We are Christians though, and we love the meanings of the old Hebrew names found in the Old Testament For me, I wanted a name that was unique. For my husband, he wanted a strong name with solid Biblical meaning.
Judah means “Praised” and “Full of Love,” and it was perfect for our first-born.
Now growing up, I was not into homesteading, self-sufficiency, or natural anything. I started my journey towards more natural living when I was in college. My church was going through a Biblically based health seminar, and I started learning things that I wasn’t learning as I was training as an RN in school. It was like two different worlds that could work together if both sides made a huge effort, but for the most part they were miles apart. It was then that a fever came over me.
While I was pregnant and working part-time night shift in my local ER my love of all things natural continued to grow. I was devouring everything I could come across in the wee, slow morning hours. One of the things I stumbled upon (and I can’t remember now how I got there… maybe it was a Google search) was a natural health forum called Well Tell Me. It opened my eyes up to what natural living was like. There I met some great like-minded women that I still have great relationships with and daily learn from.
This is where I first learned of homebirths and midwives.
The Road Less Traveled
I’ve always been a tad rebellious I suppose, and I like to go my own way when it comes to a lot of things. This just so happened to be one of them.
Having a baby at home seemed so old-fashioned and backwoods to me. Luckily I like old-fashioned things, and I’m from the backwoods so if wasn’t too far-fetched. The more I read empowering stories (and some scary ones) on Well Tell Me, the more curious I became.
I then met a lady at a local bluegrass joint that had homebirths, and one night I talked her ear off trying to learn as much as I could from her experiences. She was one of those fabulously modern gals with a little bit of hippy in her… like me I suppose, and I bonded with her immediately. She shared her experiences with me and encouraged me to research more about it and to look for a midwife in our area to get to know.
So long story short… my insurance didn’t pay for midwives or home-births, but it did pay for birth centers. So I found one that was about 2.5 hours away that did water births, and I was determined to go for it. It looked great online so we made an appointment to go see the facility and drove the long drive there. We weren’t there for 30 minutes before we knew it was NOT for us. So home we went and disappointed I was.
A few weeks later I came across a listing on Google for a certified professional midwife an hour away from us who did homebirths. I was excited that another door could be opening, but seeing as how our insurance wouldn’t cover a dime of the cost, I had to talk my husband into us paying for it out-of-pocket. Thankfully he said yes (and I worked extra shifts), but we were both a bit skeptical because it was a lot of money and home-birthing was new to us. Plus, this was our first baby! We didn’t know what would happen or even what to expect. We decided to set up a meeting to get to know the midwife and see how all this worked.
After that meeting, my husband and I had a real heart-to-heart. It was tough. We felt very uncertain and certain at the same time. We knew we didn’t want the typical hospital birth, but we didn’t know anything about having babies… especially at home. I didn’t know a single person who’d done this (except my hippy friend acquaintance at the bluegrass joint) so I had nothing to go off of and not much encouragement from friends or family. Most people said things like, “Are you sure,” “Is that safe,” and “Well, it’s your decision.”
So we finally decided to go for it. Our midwife, Angie, was a gentle, soft-spoken woman who had a good reputation and she was level-headed. If we needed to go to the hospital, we would, and that gave us a bit of relief that she had my best interest at heart. She did give us the option of going with an OB in case something happened and I needed to go to the hospital. She said it would be much easier if I was already an established patient so she recommended a group that she worked with frequently. They knew her, she knew them, and everyone was in good standing with one another.
I ended up going to Angie for prenatal visits along with going to my OB as well. I loved them both. It was like getting the best of both worlds, and I found out that it pays to have a good OB who’s understanding and accepting of what you want. Both of the doctors I saw were comfortable about my decision. I was low-risk patient, and in good health. There were no red flags.
Time Passes Slowly
Months came and went. It was March of 2008, and I was 6 months pregnant.
So far, all had been going well. I was gaining weight as I should, all exams were going well, and I felt great! Between work, childbirth classes, cleaning the house and ordering everything I needed for delivery… oh yeah, and trying to figure out how to cope with the pain of childbirth… I stayed fairly busy, but as time got closer I was getting more impatient to meet my baby. I can’t explain that feeling of wanting that first child so badly. It’s like an intense longing for something you’ve never had but are so desperate for. It’s like something is missing in your life, but in an instant it will be filled. But… all I could do was wait and do the best job possible to grow a strong, healthy baby.
Around that time I had a couple of baby showers here and there which was a lot of fun. I had special labor candles made so that when I went into labor, Dean would call everyone on our list so they could light their candle and pray for me every time they saw it. I also had everyone at one baby shower bring a bead that represented themselves. I put them all on a strand of hemp and would tie it around my wrist during labor so I could remember everyone cheering me on!
In April of 2008, my sister-in-law helped me with a belly cast I had wanted made! She’s great at all things DIY, and she really did a great job helping me with it. Once it was finished, I took it home and prepped it for painting, and then she and I painted it one day together. Well, honestly she did most of the painting. I’m not quite that talented!
Finally, May was here. My due date was the 10th. I was hoping that I would have my baby in my arms on Mother’s Day. Everyone was eager to meet him. Dean and I went on our last date together before becoming parents, and I decided to go on maternity leave a week early so I could rest and finish doing any preparations I needed. Life was good, and we were ready for our big change!
But… something happened. The 10th came and went. No baby.
Now I wasn’t stressed about this because I’d read up a lot on pregnancy, and I knew that due dates were just estimates so it was really no big deal… to me. The state of Tennessee on the other hand… they like to be cautious. You see, as a Certified Professional Midwife, Angie is licensed through the state of Tennessee to perform home births, but she’s not allowed to perform one if you’re past 42 weeks. By state law, that was the cut-off. So now… I was feeling pressured.
Another thing that was stressing me a bit was the fact that Judah was head down like he was supposed to be, but he was in a posterior position instead of anterior one. This meant that there was a chance that labor would be slower and more painful because the back of his head would be pushing on my tailbone during L&D instead of his face… which has a bit more give than a hard skull does! Although it was late in my pregnancy, he’d been flipping from side to side for a while now, so I continued to walk a lot and do rocking exercises that were suppose to help get baby in their perfect position, hoping that this would get him flipped around like he was supposed to be.
My 41-week mark came, and my doctors knew I was still planning the homebirth. They didn’t try to talk me into being induced or anything, but they did suggest that I get a more detailed ultrasound to make sure the baby was looking good, he wasn’t getting too big, and to be sure there was enough amniotic fluid left. All checked out well, and they said that they’d see me at my 42-week doctor appointment if they didn’t hear that I’d had the baby during the week before then.
Now I was really stressed. I was feeling so ready to be done being pregnant (Come on moms… you know what it’s like at the end. Just imagine being 2 weeks past due!), and there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to have my home birth after all.
Angie, my midwife, suggested that she come over and we do some acupressure and some herbal therapy to see if we could coax some contractions to start. Everyone kept asking me if I had been having any Braxton-Hicks contractions (false contractions), and I didn’t know. I just couldn’t tell. As far a I knew… NOTHING was indicating labor anytime soon. So, we did a lot of the things that we were supposed to do to encourage labor to get going like spicy foods, lots of walking, sex, herbs, acupressure, stripping membranes, etc. to no avail. Judah was not ready to meet us yet.
Our only option was to wait some more and pray.
Finally! It’s Time!
On May 22nd… just 1 day before my cut-off time… I woke up at 12 AM to contractions. Slight, non-painful, squeezing contractions.
HALLELUJAH! IT’S TIME!!!
I woke Dean up and told him that I thought this was it. I timed my contractions for a bit to see what they were doing. They were coming every 5 minutes, but only lasting about 30 seconds. We debated calling Angie then but decided to hold off until the contractions were stronger and lasting longer. I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited. My baby would be here in a matter of hours. Sleep was not possible. So I went downstairs to try to get some rest on our couch and let Dean sleep as long as he could. I dozed off and on until 4 AM when I realized my contractions were still coming every 5 minutes, but they were now lasting around 45 seconds in length and getting a bit stronger. We went ahead and phoned Angie to let her know what was going on and told her not to rush. I was okay at that point. She told me to rest and that she would come over in the morning. So we did. Sleep was hard because I knew the delivery was so close. My adrenaline was pumping. I was ready to birth this baby!
At 9 AM Angie showed up at our house. I was super excited. All our prep earlier in the week had paid off and everything we did had helped to get labor going… not strong labor, but steady labor. She did her normal exam, and all looked good. I wasn’t very dilated or effaced yet so she said we had a while to go, but that this was a good time to get some things ready.
We spent the entire day that day walking up and down our road talking about random things. My mom came over around 11 AM and made chicken noodle soup for me to eat during the day. We played card games. We cleaned. We did some more herbs and acupressure to try to get labor really going… nothing. By 5 PM I was still having very steady contractions that were around 5 minutes apart and now about 45 seconds in length. The only thing that had changed was that at the peak of a contraction, I needed to stop walking and lean over something. I had this intense cramping pain you know where, and my back would throb with every contraction because it was mashing the back of Judah’s head into my tailbone.
At 9 PM, Angie said that since things had steadily increased over the period of the day she knew they would keep heading that way during the night and that we all needed to rest. So off to bed we all went (Dean & I, Angie, and my mom), but I could not sleep. Every 5 minutes I was awakened with cramping, throbbing pain in my back. I couldn’t find a comfortable position. I couldn’t lay down. I wanted to be on my hands and knees, but I was tired and wanted to sleep. I’d been up since 12 AM the following day with no sleep!
Around 11 PM on the 23rd, I finally decided to get up and go downstairs so at least Dean could get some sleep. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Walk. Who knows, but I was so tired, in pain, and this baby was taking FOREVER! All I remember thinking was that when he gets here… I’m going to bed!
By 12 AM, my walking around downstairs, stopping to have a contraction and whine during it woke everyone up. Angie suggested I get my exercise ball out and try to get comfortable on it. She also helped Dean apply counter-pressure on my back during contractions to help me with the back labor I was having.
This was the only position that I could get somewhat comfortable in… on my hands and knees. I think it kept the pressure off my back which helped the most. Luckily I was able to rest this way in between contractions, but unfortunately, when they came, nothing helped. The counter-pressure on my back worked, but Dean was the only one that could push hard enough for me to get any relief. Contraction after contraction after contraction… his arm was getting tired and my back was getting sore! Thankfully he was there to do whatever he needed to and he kept pushing on my back even though his arm and wrist was tired.
Around 1:30 AM, I was really starting to get uncomfortable. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t walk. I felt completely out of control and like this baby was never going to get here. Angie suggested I get in the tub for a bit and let the warm water relax me so Dean went upstairs to fill the tub.
This worked, but only for a while because the water got cold. In order to fill our tub up all the way, it practically uses all the hot water so once the water got cool there weren’t many options for getting it warm again… so out I got because the cool water wasn’t helping… at… all.
At that point, it was around 2:30 AM. I got dressed and tried to lay down and sleep again. It wasn’t happening. Finally, I came downstairs, totally frustrated, and asked Angie what else I could do to get this labor going. She hadn’t check to see how far along I’d come since earlier the previous day. Most midwives are too keen on checking mama’s too much. They find it unnecessary and most can tell how far along a mom is based on how she’s acting. If we were basing things on how I was acting, I wouldn’t have given myself a very good score. I was tired, irritated, in pain, and almost done with this whole mess! Looking back, I feel like I was acting like I would if I were in transition (around 8-10 cm).
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. After Angie checked me, I was only 2 cm and 60% effaced. I WAS NOWHERE CLOSER TO HAVING THIS BABY THAN I’D BEEN 24 HOURS EARLIER! Talk about frustrated. I’d kept it together up to that point, but I just couldn’t take it any longer. I cried and cried and cried. Having a baby is a lot of work, but I felt like I was having a REALLY tough time of it. Labor is supposed to last 12 – 16 hours at the max. I’d been having consistent contractions, 5 minutes apart, for over 24 hours at this point. I was tired, and I was getting nowhere.
Finally, after Angie got me calmed down, she assured me that we were all doing great. She reminded me that labor was taxing, and Judah was posterior. She said he was going to take longer because of that and because he was my first baby. She said that because of my body frame size, it may take me a little longer for him to work his way down, but that he was coming and I could do it. After her pep talk, I felt much better and much more ready to keep going.
She also suggested calling her assistant Christy to go ahead and come on out. Christy knows essential oils really well, and Angie felt like we could try using some oils to get my contractions moving along stronger. Christy also is more… what’s the right word… she’s had more babies, more recently than Angie, and she can really snap you out of your feeling sorry for yourself and tell you like it is. Angie is very soft-spoken, encouraging, and calming. They make a good team because sometimes you need a bit of both.
By 3:30 AM, Christy arrived. I was feeling really unsure again by that point. She came over and told me to lean over the couch so she could take some oils and rub them into my feet. She did this for a while… talking to me and trying to encourage me the entire time. Angie went back upstairs to sleep some more, but the problem with the oil rubs is that it didn’t leave much room for me to move around or for Dean to push on my back.
At this point, my back was SERIOUSLY sore from all the counter-pressure. I was so tired, and I still didn’t feel like anything was changing. My contractions were STILL 5 minutes apart and around 45 seconds long. They weren’t coming any more frequently. They weren’t lasting longer. The only thing they were doing was getting stronger… either that or I was getting more tired. Most likely, it was a combination of the two.
At 4 AM, Angie got back up to see if anything was changing. Same ole’, same ole’. The only thing that had changed was my attitude. I told her that I was done. I was tired. I wanted to sleep. I wanted this ongoing, never-ending pain to stop. I wanted to go to the hospital, get an epidural, and have this baby like NORMAL people do!
She was very calm with me. She understood my whole situation… that this labor had been going on much longer than most do, and that I was tired. She told me we could go if I really wanted to, but she also said we could try breaking my water first as one last effort to really get labor moving at home.
Midwives, like to let water break on its own, but Angie knew that there was water cushioning Judah’s head from coming into contact with my cervix. This cushion wasn’t putting enough pressure there to really cause me to dilate. She said that if we broke my water and things still didn’t progress and we ended up going to the hospital, chances were that they would put me on antibiotics and shorten my “clock” because of risk for infection.
I’m grateful she was honest with me, but that did it for me. I felt like this delivery at home wasn’t going to happen, and I didn’t want to put myself in a position to have any unnecessary interventions at the hospital. I thanked her and Christy for all they had done, but I was going to the hospital. She totally understood, and she didn’t make me feel bad about my decision… not once, and she said she was coming with me. She sent Christy home, and we all went upstairs to pack.
I had this sense of relief wash over me at that point. We were all doing great. I was healthy. My baby was healthy. The only thing that I felt was in my way was being overly tired and the pain I was experiencing was causing me to lose my motivation. But… the thought that I could go somewhere that could help assist me with these two problems was really encouraging… even if it was not what I originally wanted.
At this point, I was in such a hurry to go. The contractions were “killing” me. I couldn’t even think what I needed to pack. I left half of what I needed at home, and I don’t even think I got much of what I needed for the baby. You see, I wasn’t planning on needing a bag for the hospital so I was totally unprepared for this part.
It was 4:30 AM by the time we left for the hospital. We had a hours drive to get there. I couldn’t buckle. I couldn’t get comfortable. My mom could not drive fast enough. Honestly, this was my grumpiest hour! The entire time I’d been in labor I was trying to NOT be one of those mean laboring women, but now… I wanted to get to the hospital and get my drugs immediately! I remember getting mad every time she’d stop at a red light or a stop sign. I remember saying, “It’s 4:30 in the morning. No one is on the road. JUST DRIVE!!!!!”
Finally, we got there. Angie had called my OB on the way. Thankfully she was on call that night. I got in the room pretty quickly. Got strapped to all those lovely monitors, and they checked me. I was 4 cm and 90% effaced. Woo-hoo!! The car ride had really helped get labor going more, and I was glad I had finally gotten a bit ahead.
My doctor came in and was so nice about me being in labor for so long. She apologized that I didn’t get to have the baby at home like I wanted, but she assured me that they’d be as accommodating as they could and try to let me do things as naturally as possible at the hospital. She broke my water, and I got my epidural pretty quickly after that.
A quick note about epidurals here. The entire reason I hadn’t wanted an epidural had nothing to do with the safety of my baby or natural birthing. From my understanding, drugs from an epidural do not enter the blood stream, therefore they don’t ever reach the baby or affect them. They block the spinal nerves from feeling the pain of childbirth. That’s it. They stay in the spinal fluid. (I’ve recently changed my position on this after some readers informed me that a small amount of epidural medication does, in fact, enter into the blood stream and into babies body and directed me to some great sources! This goes to show how long it’s been since I’ve looked into epidurals – since nursing school – and what I was taught about them. Check out the comment section to learn more!) My big deal with it was that I’d seen them done in nursing school, and it grossed me out. Now I’m an ER nurse, and I love blood and guts, but something about that just did it for me. I could not imagine ever getting one myself. I even remember telling Dean (back when we were dating) that I did not want one of those nasty things when we had a baby.
On this day though… that epidural was a welcomed sight, and I thanked God for the advances made in pain relief. I was dead set against any drugs in my IV though. Fluids only. And, I wanted to sit up and not lay down. I wanted labor to continue to progress, not slow down now that I’d had an epidural. Thankfully, our great hospital has cool beds that break down every which way, and they fixed it so that I was sitting up like I was in a chair!
As you can see in the photo above… I was a happy and relaxed mama, but I looked rough! My mascara was rubbed all down under my eyes from keeping my head down into my pillow or couch at home during contractions! LOL!
Another great thing that I was blessed with at the hospital was that my nurse was a friend from college. We’d gone through nursing school together, done clinicals together, and graduated together. She was a great person and a very good nurse! I was lucky to have her be a part of this with me!
By 6 AM, I’d had my water broke, my epidural in, and everything all settled (paperwork and such). Now it was time to sleep! I slept and slept, and slept! I bet we all slept until 10 AM! My mom, Dean, myself, and Angie! It was great. By the time we all woke up, we were all feeling good.
Over the course of the day, all went well. I was doing well, baby was doing well. I declined exams which may have made things a little uncertain on the nurses part… since they didn’t know where I was at, but I knew that we’d know when it was time. I also had my epidural turned down after I’d slept so that I could feel the contractions a bit. Not at their full extent, but I wanted to feel them. I wanted to know what was going on. The medical staff seemed a little taken back at that request. I don’t suppose they have many people asking for their epidural drugs to be “turned down”.
Finally around 2 PM on the 23rd… I started feeling a lot of pressure and the need to push a bit. My doctor checked me, and I was at 10 cm… FINALLY! This baby was going to be here soon! We all got a second breath of air. We were ready to go!
I wanted to push sitting up. Again, I wanted things to be as natural as they could be, but with an epidural and hospital rules, you’re pretty limited. But, like I said before, they were very accommodating to me. They fetched the squatting bar, attached it to my bed, and got me sitting up to start pushing.
In this photo, you can see Dean counting for me and Angie watching. They kept me very modest the whole time… which was SUPER important to me. And, they left us alone. I wasn’t surrounded by tons of people. They made it like home as much as they could. Angie, Dean, and my mom were the only ones in the room the majority of the time. My nurse and my doctor would peak their heads in occasionally asking if all was well or if we needed anything.
After the first hour of pushing, Judah wasn’t dropping any so my doctor asked the nurses to come in an help. I had my nurse and another very friendly nurse come in and see if we could change pushing positions. Like I said earlier, my epidural was turned down so I could feel when contractions were coming and how long I needed to push, but I couldn’t move too well. The nurses had to get me onto my hands and knees to push for a while which helped a lot. I stayed in this position for about an hour I think. This helped to turn Judah a bit because after that, he went from posterior to anterior and things sped up.
Now here… I’d reached the well-known 2-hour push limit, but because of the relationship my midwife Angie had with my OB, and because of the relationship I had with my nurse… I think that really helped me be able to continue going. They never even mentioned c-section to me.
After Judah turned into the anterior position, I got in the normal hospital delivery position… on my back and the nurses got everything ready for delivery. I pushed for a bit longer (almost another hour) until it was almost time. Dr. Pickler came in and within 20 minutes, he was here… all 7 pounds 3 ounces and 21 inches of him!
It was over, and I was so relieved. They let me do things the way I wanted. No one made me feel like my decisions were bad ones. I and my baby were safe and healthy. I had made it through a LONG labor and delivery. 42.5 hours total with 3 of them spent pushing. Whew!
I was able to keep Judah with me, nurse him, and then get him cleaned up and dressed so my entire family (who has a tradition of rushing off to the hospital every time one of us are having a baby and waiting for the birth) could come see him. My sister-in-laws were so patient. Even though they have kids, they were all still there after HOURS of waiting on Judah to be born. I have the best, most supportive family, and I’m so grateful for each and every one of them.
I felt so blessed to have the best of both worlds… natural and medical… present at my birth! What a great experience and this just goes to show how both of these seemingly different approaches can trust each other, respect each other, and work together to make birthing beautiful!
Looking back… I see that Judah wasn’t ready to come. It’s a bummer that even having a midwife in a lot of cases still puts you on a time crunch, but for me that’s the way it was. If we’d been able to wait, I certainly don’t think labor would have come on so slowly.
Looking back… I also see the need for rest and sleep, but with a first baby who’s already a bit behind schedule… I couldn’t help my excitement and inability to rest.
Looking back… I also think that if I’d chosen to have Angie break my water at home it would have really allowed labor to progress, but with my tired state I don’t know that I would have been able to push for 3 hours at home. I don’t know what that would have meant for us if I’d stayed home, but I’m still to this day, happy and confident in my decision to go to the hospital.
Looking back… I can’t think of a single thing I would have changed about my hospital stay. They did everything they could to help me have Judah as naturally as possible, and no one argued with me over my decisions to do things naturally… including skipping vaccines.
Posting about my birth stories couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Judah’s 5th birthday is this Thursday!!
Life is good, and I’m a blessed woman. I hope you’ve enjoyed my first birth story. Be sure to come back Wednesday to hear about the birth of Isaiah. It’s completely opposite of Judah!
xo xo, Meagan