Many thanks to Marian Forrest, one of my clients who delivered a healthy and beautiful baby at home on my own birthday weekend. Marian was kind enough to share her story with us, and when you read it you’ll understand why I called her the “poster child for childbirth.”
April 13, 2010, was a transforming day in my life. I learned what I as a woman was made of and that God created a beautiful gift in childbirth. I always looked at the pain as woman’s consequence for sin, but after April 13 I realized it is God’s way of teaching us to trust Him and show His beauty in creation.
For a couple years I have been feeling a yearning to have a simpler life. I felt like we hustle and bustle through life and don’t really enjoy what has been given to us. Little things had taken shape with this new perspective—getting rid of stuff, having a garden, starting a compost pile, talking about raising chickens, talking about homeschooling. During this time my husband and I were considering having another child. In seeking simplicity I read about midwifery and natural childbirth. We had planned on a natural birth with our first child but due to complications were unable to do this. While considering this I read a book called Memoirs of a Midwife that had a significant impact on me. I found it at the library and thought it would be entertaining, but in reality the book started me thinking about how much we hinder the naturalness of birth with “medical procedures.”
A year or so later I was seeing an OB-GYN and was fairly pleased with her, as she helped us with decisions for infertility, mostly due to my impatience. Finally we got pregnant! When we went to see her for the first time at around eight weeks she did an ultrasound and a thorough history. It was at this first appointment when my eyes were opened to something different.
As we began talking to the OB, it appeared she was very proactive with “procedures.” When telling her about my previous pregnancy, a big RED flag came up. A little background is needed here for understanding. Catherine was born in a hospital with a wonderful group of OBs who were almost midwife-like. But due to some complications, I was induced with pitocin and then had an epidural shortly thereafter. I felt like a rocketship taking off to the moon with pitocin. Because of this, I don’t have fond feelings toward pitocin. As silly as it sounds now, the current OB asked me about the previous birth and I shared about my pitocin experience and she made a note in the chart “doesn’t like pitocin.” I thought it was kind of odd that this would be noted in my chart. The problem with that note in my chart for me was that it shouldn’t matter if I like it because pitocin should be used only when medically necessary. After talking to others I found out she induces almost all her patients—and I wasn’t okay with that. I knew natural childbirth was the only option for me. I called my mom (who is a nursing professor) and told her I was looking for a midwife.
I thus began the process of finding a midwife. My mother knew some nurse midwives who did not practice OB, but they recommended a group called Little Rock Midwives. I called and made an appointment with Kim, who lives in Conway. Honestly, I saw a picture of the midwives and was a little scared. I am definitely all for simplicity, but they looked like I was ready to go to Woodstock. I wasn’t sure I was ready to be that “crunchy” yet! Looking back, I think I was more scared of the “Mother Earth—let’s do what feels good” philosophy with no sound facts to back it up. The day I went to meet Kim to make sure this would work out, I was totally impressed. Yes, we have the “crunchy” factor: it is a home birth, after all, but she had solid factual and medical information to give. She answered all our questions, and she was really cool. We decided that day this was our best option for birth.
MY SOAP BOX
I am now a huge advocate for using a midwife. In Arkansas we do not have a birthing center, so homebirth is our only option for using a midwife. Midwives are specifically trained for the time of pregnancy and birth. OB-GYNs are great doctors, but they are actually trained to be SURGEONS. I find it hard to expect someone to spend hours doing difficult surgeries, then come in and talk about healthy pregnant lifestyle with a low-risk pregnancy. During every appointment Kim, my midwife, spent an hour talking about every question I had and doing an extensive history with me. When she was concerned about my exercising or food choices, she spent extra time with me to figure what is best to eat or do for exercise. She was also accessible to me 24/7 when things weren’t going right. One day near the end of pregnancy, I hadn’t felt kicking in a long time. I texted her at 6 a.m. scared out of my mind, and she came over that morning to make sure all was okay. It was okay, and I had a house call! She focuses her continuing education on healthy, low-risk pregnancies and is truly an expert in that area.
Thankfully my pregnancy was fairly uneventful. About a week before my due date I started having small contractions. They weren’t painful, just a noticeably contracting feeling in my abdomen. I called Kim and she told me to start counting. I was very busy that day, selling a car and delivering it to Little Rock, cleaning the house, and getting some business finished; by the end of the day the contractions subsided. On Tuesday, April 13, I woke up again with contractions at 5:30 a.m. and thought, “Woah! Yesterday those contractions were like a massage on my belly! Today this is the real thing.”
My contractions were definitely noticeable, but I really didn’t think they were painful. I went along cleaning house and made an appointment for a pedicure at 2 p.m. I was fairly ready for this part. I had spent a good deal of time reading Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and a book entitled Birthing from Within. Both books helped me prepare myself to “ride the waves” of contractions. I had practiced letting go of the control and “leaving my body,” in a sense, when they came. Kim came at 11 a.m. to check me out, and I was one centimeter dilated and 70% effaced. She left to enjoy her birthday lunch with friends and I kept going about my day. I cleaned a little more, ate lunch and then had my pedicure. After the pedicure I noticed the contractions becoming a little more intense and spent most of the early evening rocking in the wooden rocking chair my mother rocked me in as a baby.
At 7 p.m. Kim came back to check on me and I was three centimeters dilated and 90% effaced. Since things were not progressing too quickly, we sent her home to enjoy her birthday with her family. I had wanted the birthing pool up so I could sit and rest in the water, but we hadn’t put it up yet; Mike then went into overdrive to get the pool up. At this point I knew my contractions were changing but didn’t really figure we were going to go that fast, considering the previous hours.
The next moments in time are slightly a blur because my body took over and I was really just along for the ride. I remember sitting at the kitchen table thinking I need to be in water RIGHT NOW, so I decided to get into the shower because Mike was still working on the birthing pool. After the shower I was definitely moving along faster because I had to sit down just to dry off. After getting dressed I started walking back to the family room and almost stopped. The contractions were way more intense and I couldn’t do anything during them but focus on nothing.
I got to the family room and sat in the wooden rocking chair and immediately my body felt like pushing. I was grunting and growling and Mike was thinking I was going to be sick, but I look up and said, “Call Kim. My water just broke or I really peed on myself.” At 8:55 p.m. Mike immediately called Kim and told her my water broke or I peed, and Kim heard me pushing in the background and said she would be right over. I continued pushing (couldn’t really do anything else) and Mike continued working on the pool. During this time I feel the head push down so much it was flush with the chair. At this point all I could think was, “I can’t talk enough to tell Mike to catch this baby, so I all I can do is wait until Kim gets here.”
At 9:10 p.m. Kim came in the house, took one look at me and sent Mike to get the birthing stool and oxygen. I swear he didn’t touch the ground because I looked up and he had both in his hands. She prepared the stool, had me stand up, I pushed once and Rowan came out perfectly pink and crying. He was born at 9:15 p.m. at 9 pounds, 2 ounces with a 14.5-inch head circumference, and was 21 inches long.
After the birth we sat and talked. I felt like this was one of the exhilarating experiences of my life emotionally, physically and spiritually. After my first birth I was SOO exhausted, but after this I felt incredible and actually felt bad for my midwives to have been cleaning up all themselves (I know, crazy!). My midwife said she thought I was the poster child for childbirth. I truly felt better with less pain doing an ALL natural homebirth than being in a hospital with medical intervention.
This experience has empowered me to move out of my comfort zone more often. It also has helped me see the power of a woman’s natural instincts. And yes, I am thinking about doing it again.