The Home Birth Story of Oliver Harold
Oliver Harold Smith was born on February 24 at 1:55am- at home! No, it was no accident that I gave birth to our beautiful son on the living room floor. This was our plan from the beginning- to have our baby in the comfort of our own home surrounded by the most amazing nurse midwife and birthing team in the world. Most of our close friends and family know our reasons for choosing to have a home birth, but for those of you who are wondering why we would chose this, let me share.
Why at Home?
I could go into detail about the research Joel and I did. I could list the statistics that exist on home births versus hospital births. I could tell you all about the FALSE stereotypes that float around concerning home births. But ultimately these things are not why we chose a home birth. We chose it because we had total peace about it. Sure, there are those horror stories of home births gone wrong, or situations where, had mom not been in a hospital, things could’ve ended badly. But Joel and I refused to make our decision based on fear. We knew that God was leading our decision and would protect us wherever we chose to have our son.
Gentle Birth Options, LLC
One of the reasons Joel and I had so much peace about our decision to birth at home was our discovery of Gentle Birth Options. Gentle Birth is a local home birthing company owned and operated by Cindi Denbow, a Certified Nurse Midwife. Cindi has years of experience, not only with home births, but in hospitals as well. She brings the same training and supplies to a home birth that you would find at any level one facility, such as fetal monitoring with a doppler, oxygen, and drugs such as Pitocin in the event of a hemorrhage. Cindi and her birthing team have the perfect amount of respect for both the medical AND natural aspects of birth. After meeting with Cindi and interviewing a few of the couples who birthed at home with her, our decision was an easy one!
On Thursday, February 23, Joel and I had our 40-week appointment with Cindi. It was a 3 o’clock appointment and a beautiful day, so we decided to walk to her office. While there, Cindi checked me and I was dilated to 2 cm. We decided to go ahead and strip my membranes, discussing how this could possibly encourage labor, but only if my body was truly ready. To be honest I didn’t really expect it to do much. I really felt like labor was never coming. Joel and I walked home from our appointment, talking about how exciting it will be to finally go into labor, but still speaking as if it were a long ways off. When we got home I made us some dinner and we snuggled up on the couch. I told Joel I felt a bit crampy and his eyes lit up as he said, “Contractions!” but I insisted it was just cramping from having my membranes swept. At first it seemed to be a constant cramp, but the more I paid attention, I noticed these ‘cramps’ were about a minute apart and slowly getting stronger. I still didn’t recognize these as contractions because I had always heard women tell stories about their contractions being 20 minutes apart or something, and then progressing to a minute apart. I thought surely if these were contractions, they wouldn’t be a minute apart already! It had to be something else. I started getting uncomfortable as the cramps intensified, so I told Joel I was going to take a bath and go lay down for the night. All this time I was convincing myself I wasn’t in labor. I was so afraid to get excited and then find out it was a false start. I couldn’t get comfortable in the bath. I kept flipping over on my hands and knees to try to breathe through what I was still calling ‘cramps’. After the bath, I tried lying down for a while but the cramps hurt so much worse when I was lying down. This was the point that I realized perhaps I was in labor. Since sleep wasn’t an option I decided to start on our ‘pre-labor checklist’. I had heard so many times that first time moms usually have a 24 hour labor, so I knew I needed to keep myself busy. Joel began to inflate the birthing pool and I called our close friends, Mike and Elsie, to come pray with us. They came right away. I cranked up some worship music and we stood together in our living room and prayed for a safe, beautiful labor and healthy baby. I felt so at peace after they left. Joel continued to work on our to-do list, and I was keeping really busy with my minute-apart-contractions. At this point I was already “ooh”ing through each contraction and I can remember thinking, “Why are these so close together? I can’t do this for 24 hours! I’ll be dead by tomorrow!” I reminded myself of a coping technique that talked about contractions being like waves and to picture yourself as a surfer, riding on top of the water. I used this mental image a lot for the first couple of hours, and it really helped me. Around 11 o’clock the contractions started getting really intense and there was no more pretty pictures of waves in my mind. I began feeling nauseous, so I ran to the bathroom and threw up. I remembered from our birthing class that vomiting is often a sign of approaching transition, and if we were vomiting it was definitely time to call the midwife! Joel was relieved when I finally told him to call her. He had wanted to call her earlier, but I kept insisting that it was too soon. Within an hour the midwife and her team arrived. I remember looking up and seeing Cindi and feeling so excited that this was really it! The contractions seemed pretty much on top of each other at this point and I began feeling the urge to push. I asked Cindi if I could get in the pool and she told me that there was no time to heat the water because this baby was coming fast. I remember thinking, “Oh thank God! So I don’t have to do this for 24 hours?!” Cindi had me try a few different positions while I pushed, but I kept coming back to my hands and knees in front of the couch. This position allowed me to feel like I could stay on top of the pain and control my breaths. I remember hearing my worship music playing and really loving it. It reminded me to pray between contractions and ask God for courage and strength! After awhile I started talking out loud a lot. I was giving myself a major pep talk. Every time my mind would say, “You can’t do this, it hurts too much!” I would respond out loud with, “I can do this! I’m having this baby!” I can also remember saying a lot of things like, “Come on Oliver, work with me buddy!” or “Fast labor, I’m going to have a fast labor!” Later Joel told me that I was punching the pillows next to me through each contraction! Because I teach yoga, I thought I was going to be able to internalize the pain and quietly breath through the contractions, but I ended up being the exact opposite! The shouting and talking felt so good because it was a release, and because I was at home I was totally comfortable saying and doing whatever I wanted. Joel and the birth team were so amazing. Joel was right up by my face the whole time. He let me grab onto his forearm and I would pull myself up on his arm with each contraction. I can remember that feeling so good to have his strong arm right there- I could feel his forearm flex each time I would grab onto it and it reminded me that he was there and was being strong for us too. Cindi was behind me the whole time rubbing my back and encouraging me. Any time I would say, “I can do this!” she would respond, “You ARE doing it Erynne!” One of the birth assistants had a big bottle of Gatorade and would give me a drink between contractions; another had cold washcloths for my forehead. I remember feeling so safe and taken care of. They were monitoring Oliver’s heart rate with the Doppler the whole time. That was a great feeling because every time she would check his heart rate she would tell me that he sounded great and he was excited to come out! It was great motivation! At one point Cindi said to me, “Ok Erynne you have been pushing for about an hour so we need to change positions.” She had me get up and go to the toilet for a few practice pushes because it would give me a good idea of how to relax my bottom and push more efficiently. I pushed a few times on the toilet, and it really worked because that’s where my water broke. We went back to the living room and I got back on my hands and knees where I was before. Cindi told me that during the next contraction she was going to put her fingers on a spot just inside of me and that I should try to push against her fingers. It hurt really bad, but it helped me so much. I could feel her pushing against me and it gave me a really specific goal of where and how to push. After she did that, it seemed like things really started to progress quickly. I could feel the baby’s head coming down and she told me that this was the point where I had to be really careful if I didn’t want to tear. She coached me through the crowning, telling me to let his head come down only so far and then to hold it there to stretch the skin. This part was definitely a mental battle. I knew I was crowning, and that meant I was so close to meeting our baby, but it hurt so bad that I didn’t want to do it. The conversation in my head was something like, “Yay! I’m so close! But NO, I’m not pushing his head out. It hurts too much!” Every time I would push I could feel that ‘ring of fire’ feeling and she would tell me to hold his head there. I wanted so badly to just give it a good hard push and be done with it, but I fought the urge. I finally got his head out and I was so excited that the shoulders were no problem at all. I hadn’t even noticed that Joel was no longer by my face, and that he had actually caught the baby! The girls helped me sit back and Joel handed me our boy. We sat and cried together and I just remember saying “WHAT?!” over and over. I couldn’t believe I just did that. I couldn’t believe this was our son. I couldn’t believe how beautiful he was- how beautiful the whole process was- how awesome God was! We sat there on the floor for quite some time just crying and staring at him. The girls were bringing warm blankets and hats and wiping him down. After awhile they helped us to the bedroom. Joel got to cut the umbilical cord and then they had Joel hold the baby while they took care of me. It took me quite a bit longer to deliver my placenta than I had anticipated, and it was a lot more painful than I had thought it would be. We soon discovered that I had hemorrhaged, but it wasn’t a big deal because Cindi carries Pitocin for such an event. I did need a few stitches, but Cindi numbed me up and I didn’t feel a thing. Joel got to weigh Oliver and he rang in at 7 pounds, 15 ounces. Cindi measured his head and length, got his footprints, and gave him a full assessment. She helped me get Oliver to breast-feed and watched me to make sure we were getting the hang of it. At first he wasn’t latching on, but she told me to talk to him and it really helped! After I was all stitched up, the girls helped me to the bathroom where I got a nice hot shower and put my PJs on. They tucked Joel, Oliver and I into our bed and turned down the lights. They left us alone for a couple of hours and later brought us breakfast in bed! They cleaned the entire house and even did laundry! After a couple of hours everyone came into the room and we all admired the baby. It was so comfortable; it felt like one big family! Cindi came in and sat on the bed with us and went over some information. She told Joel to watch my temperature and monitor my bleeding, and gave us a sheet for Oliver to check his respiration and temperature every 2 hours. After that, the birth team came in and hugged us, turned down the lights again and left us to be a family! I could’ve stayed there forever. I will never forget those hours of Joel and I just staring at our beautiful son. I was so in love, not just with Oliver, but with Joel as well. I was so proud to be his wife and to have made such a beautiful miracle with him. I was so glad that I had the birth I wanted and Joel was able to be so involved in every step. I was so happy with our decision to have our baby at home, to be in my bedroom with my family. It was beautiful and perfect- just like our son.