The Birth Interview Project consists of 17 simple questions designed to help mothers process their birth story & share it with others. All mothers are invited to take part in this project. Born out of Joy’s desire to help women discover, process and express the feelings surrounding their birth experiences, The Birth Interview Project strives to offer a platform for mothers and readers alike to share and be heard, to search and to discover, to identify and to heal, and to exhort and remember. The views and opinions expressed here are unique to each woman who takes part in the Birth Interview Project and may not reflect the values of the blog author.
I’m Heidi, wife to Kit and mom to six little ones. We are homeschoolers and I’m a doula in my spare time. :) I’m sharing the birth story of our sixth baby, which was our third VBAC (2HBAC, first in the water. Would that be WBAC?) :) . We’ve alternated boys & girls and after our fifth baby was born the kids announced we had one spot left in our van and one empty chair at our dining table and we needed to fill it. My husband said we really needed to balance out the boy-girl ratio, too.
What was your due date, and what was your baby’s birth date?
I was due mid-October, but we’ve never gotten to our due date and my husband really wanted her to arrive on 10/2/10. Our daughter cooperated. Such a sweet baby! :)
What was Miss O’s weight and length?
7lbs 7ozs and 21″ long.
Please give a brief, one paragraph synopsis of your birth.
Silly me, I thought that by the time we welcomed our sixth baby I had some clue of how things would go. HA! Our labors had all been relatively fast and I (naively) assumed this one would be fast as well. It was our longest labor, which caught me off guard. I had visualized our “dream” birth with our fifth baby and it absolutely came true, so I did the same thing this time. Things didn’t go exactly as I imagined! But it was where I wanted (home, in the tub) and with the people I love surrounding me, and it was just the way it was meant to be.
What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
I re-read several birth books (Birthing from Within, The Birth Book by Sears, etc) and I wrote a lot in my journal. I talked with my husband, midwife, and doula about my concerns and hopes. In the last week of my pregnancy I also worked with a therapist to make sure my PTSD (from a prior birth) wasn’t going to negatively impact my birth. In our first trimester we had some complications with Miss O, so a lot of our birth related fears returned. We had been terrified at the possibility of losing our daughter, and I needed to do a lot of work finding faith that all would be well. We felt very prepared logistically – when we found out we were expecting our sixth literally the only things I bought were some more breastpads (I was still nursing our 19 month old when we conceived) and some newborn sized diapers. But emotionally I had a lot of work to do to prepare.
What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
I LOVED my birth team (midwife, doula, photographer, friends, family!) and location (home) and where I delivered (in the tub) and I loved the feeling that day… the laughter and joy and peace and patience and enthusiasm and confidence. It was like an amazing party!
The length of time – because my water broke in the middle of the night and because of my history of fast labors my birth team all gathered quickly together. Then my labor slowed and I spent so much time being anxious and wanting it to hurry up. I was confused about why my body was doing things differently this time and it made me worry for a while. I remember at one point telling my midwife I was scared we would need to transport because I felt like nothing was happening. She reassured me that my body was working beautifully and it would all be okay.
What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
I was surprised that labor didn’t kick in soon after my water broke. I start contracting so early in pregnancy, and I was already dilating so I thought my water breaking was going to kick things into gear. With my fourth baby my water broke at 10:30pm, contractions got serious around 1:30am and I had a baby just before 5:30am. This time my water broke at 12:45am and I didn’t have a baby until 3:40 pm. Which is still fast! But slow compared to what we were use to, so we were all surprised.
In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before the birth, during or after?
During the birth I wish I could go back and tell myself to be patient. I wasn’t in hard labor, but my mind was not relaxing and I was confused by the slow labor. I would have not worried about things going fast and would have just let myself rest and not stress about the speed. I focused too much on the contractions, anticipating at any moment it would get serious and I would pop this baby out. Instead I should have distracted myself as long as possible and just let the birth unfold at its own pace.
What do you remember the most about your birth?
I remember the moment I realized things were happening beyond my control and I had to make peace with them, and trust my body. Because of our birth history I don’t always trust my body! The hardest part of my labor was believing in my body and letting go, so I was doing a lot of meditating and seeking inspiration. I felt myself releasing any sense of control and turning to prayer and trusting in something greater than myself. With that prayer and talking with my husband and midwife and I was able to find peace. During this birth I remember most the quiet moments alone in my room when I was able to have such a beautiful, sacred experience of comfort and reassurance. I’ll never forget that feeling!
How was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be?
It was longer! But it was not harder, just longer. I imagined I would go quickly and our birth team would be racing in but instead we had PLENTY of time to sit around chatting and wondering when this little girl was going to join us.
What were your immediate emotions about yourself and or your birth experience after the birth?
Absolute joy and a sense of peace and comfort and confidence. Because this birth was not going as I imagined I started to doubt myself and my body. Having our baby girl in our arms, healthy and strong, reassured me like nothing else could. This was also our first birth with all the older siblings attended, so I was pushing our baby out in the tub with five children all cheering and grinning as they stood around the pool. Their smiling faces, my husband’s arms around me, and our newest baby in our arms made me feel indescribable joy. We were surrounded by love.
How would you describe your recovery?
Fantastic. With our first birth I had an episiotomy and tear and brutal recovery, physically and emotionally. The births since had mostly been easier but still had some challenges. This was also the first birth after which I used the herbal bath – WOW! That made a dramatic difference in the physical healing for me. Emotionally we just kept grinning at each other and saying, “I can’t believe she’s here and she’s okay!” The older kids fell madly in love with her and there were a few tears over having to take turns holding her.
How has your perspective of your birth experience with Miss O changed in the last year since the first week of having her?
I think because my birth was longer, I actually had time to really ponder and pray and seek some perspective on what was happening during the birth itself. In the year since I don’t think my perspective has changed much, it’s just confirmed to me that birth is humbling and unpredictable and beautiful! I can also see now how my birth experience with her has influenced my work as a doula. When she was six months old we felt strongly that it was time to start my certification process to become a doula, which was sooner than we had planned. Things fell beautifully into place and I was certified the month she turned one. Each time I attend a birth now I am grateful for the ways my own experiences help me better serve other families during their births.
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
I learned that I can do hard things. Even though I had given birth before, and experienced some scary and challenge situations, I surprised myself at how I was able to get through the labor and remain focused on the experience. In the past I had felt like during transition I “lost it” and wasn’t coping or focusing well. With those births I didn’t feel truly aware when I was pushing, I felt more stunned than anything else! But this time I was surprised at how alert I felt, how connected to my children and husband and baby and how I was able to still speak as I pushed and watched my baby emerge into the water. I learned that I had a stronger faith than I previously realized, and that I absolutely believe I was carried through the experience by loving hands and divine intervention.
Would you recommend having a natural childbirth or medicated childbirth to other women?
I recommend women learn all of their options and do what feels best to them… but I also encourage women to explore the idea of natural childbirth, and I reiterate to them that they are truly stronger than they can possibly imagine!
Any further thoughts, comments or advice you would like to share?
I’ve experienced a range of births – in and out of hospitals, with midwives and OBs and perinatologists, vaginal and cesarean and VBAC. I believe possibly the most important aspect of a birth is how the woman is respected and treated during the birth process. It’s not where she births and how, or who is catching, or even if everything goes beautifully or things fall apart. A woman in labor needs to be treated with respect and kindness and love, and I’m so thankful I’ve had the chance to experience that. It’s also why I became a doula – I want to help protect the experience for other families, so they can have a space of peace and love surrounding their births. I will be eternally grateful for our birth team, our midwife and doula and family and friends. They gave us a priceless gift by supporting us through the experience. Every mother deserves that kind of care!
Take a moment and explore Heidi’s great doula page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/betterbirthdoula
Plus, she’s got an excellent doula website: http://betterbirthdoula.org/
And her fun personal blog: http://thadenpierce.org/
- The Birth Interview Project | Ruth’s Attempted HBAC w/Transfer (thejoyofthis.com)
- The Birth Interview Project | Beth’s Birth Center, Waterbirth (thejoyofthis.wordpress.com)