The midwife during our first home birth was so wonderful and we had such an awesome experience, back labor notwithstanding, that we were sure we’d try for another home birth when we learnt we were pregnant again. Unfortunately we’d moved from Michigan to Maryland and couldn’t use the same midwife. Additionally, by the time we’d moved, found a house, and settled in, I was already into my second trimester…that limited our options for midwives as many were already booked.
Finally finding someone we could live with, we contracted her services. But after two visits together, I felt quite uncomfortable with her. But, I figured I didn’t really need her help with the prenatal stuff and it wasn’t like this was our first baby. She would just be there in case of emergencies. Big mistake! She turned out to be the one factor that made my second home birth a traumatic experience.
A couple of weeks before my due date, I started experiencing prodromal labor. The first time I felt the contractions, we waited until they were more intense and closer together before calling the midwife. She came over and spent half the day with us but my labor stalled. She was not happy with me and began berating me for not knowing the difference between Braxton-Hicks contractions and labor. Apparently, she’d never heard of prodromal labor, which I ultimately self-diagnosed through internet sleuthing.
For the next two weeks, the contractions would start at 2am everyday. They would grow stronger and closer together but by 6am they would abate, and I’d be off to work. Once I’d reached a decent stopping point at work, I started my maternity leave because I was so exhausted from going into labor every day. Every day, all I wanted was for the labor to start and lead to the arrival of my second born!
In all honesty, it’s a bit of a blur when the labor that brought my second born into the world started. I do remember going on a long walk the day before and our neighbor ran out to greet us. She said she felt impressed to pray for me and she prayed that the baby would come at the right time, that that time would be soon, and that he would be a healthy baby. He was born the next morning.
At some point that evening, the contractions were close and intense enough for my husband to insist we call in the midwife. I was reticent to call her because I didn’t want her getting upset with me if things didn’t progress. But my husband insisted and so shortly after midnight, she came, with two assistants. Those assistants saved the day!
This midwife must have expected to arrive and deliver the baby within the hour because when I was still in labor 2 hours after her arrival, she grew impatient. I turned down any examinations to check my progress because during the couple of weeks of prodromal labor, she had come to check on me, and performed an examination which led to much unnecessary pain. She had found that for all my prodromal labor, I was barely effaced let alone dilated. She’d tried to manually move things along for me, without asking for my consent and by so doing, eliminated the final modicum of trust that remained between us.
“Do you want to have this baby or not?” “You don’t handle pain very well, do you?!” These were the kinds of comments my midwife made. She was terribly demoralizing! As the contractions came, I would alternate between feeling hot and feeling cold, and at one point, I threw the blanket I’d covered myself with during a cold spell at her. To be honest, I wished I knew how to cuss so that I could adequately express how infuriating her presence was to me. And in retrospect, I really should have just asked her to leave the room because she created a stressful environment not conducive to a good birth.
The labor was completely different from what I’d experienced with my first. I was wholly unprepared for this pain! Thankfully, the midwife’s assistants were helpful. They coached me on how to breathe, and when to breathe. And for their efforts, I learnt how to manage the pain. In essence, I learnt that if you tense up and try to fight the pain, it only hurts more. You have to relax, accept the pain, and allow it to do its work to bring your baby into the world.
Things had started to feel manageable, and then our first born woke up for the day. Suddenly, the calm relaxation I’d achieved dissipated and I knew that I couldn’t have this baby with him in the house. I asked my husband to take him away and as soon as I heard the car drive off, I felt the kind of contraction that delivers a baby. But then I had to go to the bathroom.
Between contractions, I made it to the bathroom, but as I sat there, I felt the baby move down through the birth canal. He was on his way out!
I’d told my midwife that part of why I wanted a home birth was because I knew I wouldn’t have to lie on my back for the delivery. But she practically dragged me to my bed and forced me to lie down. Moving into that horizontal position stalled my contractions. So, naturally, the midwife got upset with me and yelled at me to push that baby out immediately if I didn’t want to end up in a hospital. I’d told her I didn’t want to tear again, but as she yelled at me to push, I just knew it would happen again. And so it did.
There was no moment of joy when my baby entered the world because the midwife began a new tirade about how much I was bleeding (as if I was trying to inconvenience her life…). Breathing threats about how if I didn’t, or she didn’t do this, that, or the other, we’d be hospital bound, she injected me with who-knows-what. There was no communication…unless you count yelling and insults as communication. I was so upset! It was not the beautiful birth I’d envisioned and all because of the negativity that this one person brought into my space!
I guess a part of me just assumed that since our first midwife was so empowering and supportive, that all midwives were this way. I assumed that since my first home birth was a wonderful experience, all things considered, that things could only get better. But I assumed wrong!
I vowed that if I had it to do all over again, I would better advocate for myself. I promised myself not to allow anyone into my birthing space that I felt uncomfortable with. And I planned to better manage the labor pains the next time around, if there’d be a next time. In fact, I felt so wronged, so robbed of the experience I’d hoped for, that I hoped I’d have another birthing story to make things right. And thankfully, I did!
The experience taught me the importance of the people you surround yourself with in critical moments. Just because an experience is challenging, does not mean it must be unpleasant. But if you’re surrounded by people whose outlook is negative and who do not support your efforts, you may birth that baby and that’s always a positive, but you won’t feel good about how it happened – and yes, it is possible to feel good about your birthing experience!