Andrew Jonathan Hart
10 lb. 12 oz., 21 1/4 inches
April 22, 2002
Mother: Jennifer Krulic Hart
Father: Chad Edward Hart
I know everybody thinks I’m a freak.
Here’s my story.
When Drew was born, there were no surgical masks or gowns (whose vagina is sterile anyway??). I was not cut open, above or below. There was no last-minute frightened rush to the hospital. Chad didn’t have to drive like a maniac or get a police escort. I didn’t have two OBs, four interns, six nurses’ aides and the custodian all watching my labor and birth. I had only one internal exam. We filled out no paperwork. I was able to eat and drink whenever and whatever I wished, all the way through labor. I was able to give birth in the hot tub. There were no needles or hep locks. I was not strapped down to a bed or tied to a machine. I was not forced to push against gravity, lying on my back with my feet in stirrups.
So that’s what we DIDN’T have. Here’s what we DID have: the expertise of a certified nurse midwife (CNM) and all her equipment (seven bags’ worth). She (Carey Ryan, CNM, ARNP) has attended over a thousand homebirths in the past 10+ years. She brings along equipment and supplies that she might need in case of minor complications (such as if I hemorrhage or the baby doesn’t breathe at first); and she also brings the expertise to know if the birth is not going normally, and if transfer to the hospital is needed. She brings two assistants. She brings along a handheld Doppler to check the baby’s heartbeat every 15 minutes. Just imagine: instead of being hooked up to a machine, unable to walk or even roll over, while a nurse oversees the readout of my machine and six other machines at the nurses’ desk; I had an actual person there to take heartbeats personally, and I was free to walk around, get in the hot tub, and labor any way I wished. I held Drew immediately, and we (Chad, Mom, Drew and I) had all the bonding time we wanted. They rubbed him dry, weighed him, etc., all in the same room he was born in … my own living room.
As a scientist, I did my research and found that, as substantiated in the best scientific journals (click here), planned homebirth when assisted by a health care professional is AS SAFE AS vaginal hospital birth for women having low risk pregnancies, where high risk is defined as multiples, breech, preterm (-37 wks) or postdate (+42 wks).
I did not have any medications, no induction, no Pitocin, no painkillers. I didn’t need them. I was willing to let my body work naturally in the way it was built to work. In my own home, I felt safe and comfortable and nurtured, so I never felt the kind of pain that women feel during childbirth when they are apprehensive and uncomfortable. I did have pain, but it was never more pain than I could bear. I did work hard, but it was never beyond my capacity.
After Drew was born, and we had experienced our first nursing session with the help of several knowledgeable experts, the midwives cleaned up the mess and I walked off to the bathroom to pee and take a shower. Since no one cut me and I did not tear, the bathroom was not a painful place. The shower was not a big deal. Recovery was not difficult or painful because I did not have a high-tech, highly invasive birth. Drew was 10 lbs. 12 oz., by the way.
So, that’s the end of my preaching (for now). My message: which seems more freakish to you, my experience, or the average hospital birth?
My personal story:
Now that the preaching is over with, here’s what happened in more personal detail:
One week before my due date, I had some contractions. I was feeling confident. After all, I’d done this once before. I knew what to expect, right? I called Mom to tell her that Drew was on the way and she should drive up from St. Louis because I really wanted her to be there for the birth. Mom arrived on cue. Drew did not.
One week later, after several more experiences with contractions which started out promising and then faded away, Mom gently told me she would have to go back home. I could call her when Drew was born, and she would come back up. I was bitterly disappointed, not in Mom but in myself. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I had called her up here, 7 hours away from home, for no good reason, and now she wouldn’t be here for the birth. Mom left early that morning and I lay in bed and cried and felt sorry for myself. Even my body felt a little achy and crampy, like my period was about to start.
Three hours later, Mom called from her cell phone. “Am I supposed to be in Nebraska?” she asked.
“Not if you’re going to St. Louis,” I said. Mom said some choice words. She’d gone west instead of east on Highway 30. She decided to come on back to Ames, spend the night, and try again to go home the next morning. She didn’t know at the time that it was the best possible luck for both of us: I had Drew that night! She was able to be there for the whole thing.
That night around 7:00 pm I felt some more light contractions, but I didn’t tell Mom or Chad because I had had so many false alarms. Eventually, when they didn’t go away, I asked Chad to start timing them. They were all over the place: one minute apart, then five, then three, then thirty seconds, seven minutes, etc. Some were pretty strong and some were barely there. I could tell that Mom and Chad both thought it was another false alarm. After all, it was only one day past my due date. (We’d spent my due date enjoying the VEISHEA parade and festivities, all day long, so I was glad Mom was there for that.) Samantha’s bedtime came, and I nursed her to sleep. That’s when the contractions really picked up in intensity. I could barely stand to lie there and nurse her. When she was asleep, I went to the bathroom and lost my mucus plug. I returned to Mom and Chad in the living room and told them to call Carey. That was at about 11:30 pm. (Yes, Samantha has always had a very late bedtime. She’s a night owl, like her father.)
My contractions still weren’t incredibly painful, and so I may not have sounded very far along on the phone. They quickly became very intense, though, after we hung up. I had already decided that this birth, I would spend more time in the hot tub so that I wouldn’t get so tired from all the walking for hours and hours like I did when Samantha was born. So I got right in the hot tub. Before fifteen minutes were up I was wishing I’d done more relaxation exercises! I didn’t remember it being so painful and difficult with Samantha. At 1:00 am I was fraught. “Chad!” I said, between gritted teeth. “Where the **** is the midwife?? She should have been here fifteen minutes ago!”
“Keep calm,” Chad said. “She’s on her way.”
“I think I had to push in the middle of the last contraction,” I said.
“No, you didn’t!”
“AAAARGH! I think I have to push!”
“No you don’t!” Chad sounded a lot more panic-stricken than I was. I was in too much pain to be frightened.
Luckily, this was the moment the doorbell rang. I looked up as Carey came in. “Please say it’s time to push,” I growled. At the time I was rather proud of myself for being civil enough to include the “please.”
Carey gave me a quick internal exam. “Don’t push yet,” she said. She later told me that at the time, I was at an 11, but Drew’s head was so big that I still had to open more (10 is usually the okay to start pushing). She slid the mirror underneath me in the pool and put on her miner’s helmet and swimming goggles. She didn’t actually have time to use the Doppler to check Drew’s heartbeat before the next contraction.
“AAAARGH! I have to push!”
“Don’t push!” Chad and Carey said in unison. Well, sorry, but that’s not happening. When you really get the urge to push (I never had it like that during Samantha’s birth) it’s like saying “Don’t throw up.” You don’t have any control over it, it just happens.
I had about 5 minutes of almost-continuous PUSH contractions, the whole time with them in my face telling me not to push. During a few seconds of respite I reached down and felt a quarter-sized bit of Drew’s head, with the amniotic sac bulging out a little bit in front of it. It felt strange and squishy like a water balloon with a bowling ball inside it. “I can feel his head!” I said in excitement. Carey lunged into the tub and felt for herself. “He’s only beginning to crown,” she said. I had been squatting (I could do a full squat in the water, but not on land). I experimented to see if I could find a position that felt exactly right. I got carefully on my knees, upright, with my legs spread out as wide as I could get them.
“I know – AAAARGH!” I said. I could feel Drew’s head slipping out. It felt bumpy and rubbery, like a watermelon-sized wad of silly putty. “His head’s out,” I informed them. “What do you need me to do?”
“Well, push!” Carey said.
You know, the funny thing is, when they were telling me NOT to push, I just had to. He was coming out, like it or not. But now that it was okay to push, I couldn’t. “I can’t,” I said.
Carey sighed and told me to get out of the pool. So the first thing my Mom saw as she was running into the living room (she’d been in bed with Samantha to try to keep her asleep) was me getting out of the hot tub with Drew’s head between my legs. She almost had a heart attack. Carey had me get onto hands and knees beside the pool. She checked for the cord and obstructions. “Push,” she said.
I felt the urge to push again. She hooked a finger behind Drew’s shoulder (I think; at least that’s what it felt like) and Drew came out in a rush. He was solid and then he came out so fast it was like his body was made of water behind his shoulders. He just kind of flowed out in a big spurt. I’m glad Carey managed to catch him.
Mom’s voice rang out. “Oh Jenny, you have a beautiful baby boy!” That was such a wondrous moment. I’ll always remember the way her voice sounded. I put my head down to look at my baby boy while Carey quickly toweled the gunk off of him. They helped me get into a sitting position (with the cord still attached it took some maneuvering) so I could hold Drew. He seemed a little dazed. His little face looked like a prizefighter’s. Carey said his face was bruised from the quickness of the delivery, and she would recommend a shot of vitamin K to make sure there was no hemorrhage in his brain. We gave our okay to the shot. He cried then, but not for long. He was so big, but there was no fat on him. The assistant midwives arrived and one put him in the weighing sling. “Ten pounds,” she said in awe.
“The sling is still resting on the ground,” Carey pointed out.
“Oh. Ten pounds, twelve ounces,” she amended as she lifted him higher. We all laughed.
Drew wasn’t interested in nursing at first, just looking around at us. He didn’t cry much either. Eventually though, we got him latched on, and then he found that he really liked it. All in all, he was born at 1:23, about 15 minutes after Carey got there, and after only 10 minutes of pushing. It was an amazing time for all of us. At around 4:30 the midwives left and we got into bed, waking up Samantha. She was so excited. “Oh Mommy,” she said, “You got a good one!” Then she wanted to stay up, but we pretty much all collapsed. She really loved Drew at first sight. She’s been really good about sharing everything with him too (most of the time). I’m very proud of her.
It ended up that Carey was late because she stopped to put a sign on the clinic door that she was attending a birth, so that in the morning her clients would know where she was. Obviously she thought it would go a lot slower than it did! She was wonderful, though, very capable and competent and we would definitely recommend her to anyone in the Des Moines area who wants a homebirth.
So why am I writing all this? For one thing, I enjoy remembering it. It’s a way for me to relive a very special time of my life.
Warning: another soapbox rant coming up!
Second, I would like other mothers-to-be to know that they have options. Learn. Question. Get a second opinion. You don’t have to have a homebirth, but I would love for every woman to take charge and take control of her own birth. Don’t just blindly do what your OB says. Most of the time he’s telling you to do things for his own comfort and convenience, NOT YOURS. It’s your birth. You have the RIGHT to do it your way.
Are you upset because they won’t “allow” you to drink water while you labor? Find a doctor or midwife who will. Telling people they can’t eat or drink during labor because they “might” need intubation for emergency surgery is like telling them not to eat or drink at least 7 hours before driving a car. It’s overkill, and it is a lot more about hospital staff not wanting the inconvenience of cleaning up your vomit than it is about safety. (And people vomit whether they are drinking water during labor or not).
Do you wish that you were free to walk around to take the edge off contractions, instead of being tied to the bed by the monitor? Insist on being taken off the damn thing. Find someone who is willing to check you with a hand-held Doppler instead. Intermittent monitoring has been proven to be just as safe and effective as continuous monitoring.
Are you apprehensive because your doctor is pushing you to be induced 2 weeks before your due date only because he’s afraid you’ll have a big baby? REFUSE, and take comfort in the fact that research has shown that 1) every baby is different, but in general you will not grow a bigger baby than you can push out; 2) ultrasounds can be as much as 2 POUNDS off at the end of pregnancy so he can’t know for sure if your baby is too big – or too small, which is more problematic; 3) positioning is much more important than size when it comes to ease of delivery; and 4) in general, the real health risks involved in giving birth to a premature baby far outweigh the discomfort of pushing out a large, but ready, baby. Look into the warnings on the product label for Cytotec: it specifically states that it has not been approved for induction purposes and that if it is used for induction you run a very real risk of rupturing your uterus. Doctors who use Cytotec for induction are putting it to off-label use and are, in general, experimenting on YOU. Get a second opinion. Find another care-giver, if necessary. It’s never too late to get a birth provider who has YOUR comfort and safety in mind, not HIS convenience.
If you are afraid you are having a big baby, why not look into ways to make pushing easier? 1) push in an upright position (squatting, kneeling, using a birthing chair). 2) have a natural childbirth so that you can feel to push. With Samantha, this was the only thing that helped me get her out: I could FEEL how incredibly hard I had to push! 3) Please look into water birthing. You will be surprised at what the research shows. It has actually been shown to ease pain and to make the pushing stage much faster and easier. It wasn’t just me! The birthing tub has helped other mothers too; and it is just as safe as birthing on land if you control the temperature of the water (body temperature) and bring the baby to the surface immediately.
It’s up to YOU to find out the truth about birth. Look everything up. Become educated. Take control of your birth. Or else don’t complain when it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted.
The easiest way to get what YOU want from your birth is to find a midwife. Maybe look into a birthing center, if you know you are not comfortable with homebirth. You do have options. You do have a choice. This is YOUR life. It isn’t a dress rehearsal. Don’t wait for your third, or sixth, or seventh birth, to have the safe, calm and empowering experience you really want.
You may be wondering, who am I to tell you something different from what your OB says? Why should you listen to me, and not to him, when he has all that schooling and experience? I would respond that you shouldn’t listen to him, OR to me. You should do the research yourself. Find out about your options, and then follow your own heart.
Not everybody is used to doing research in medical journals, as I am. (I had to do a lot of background reading in scientific journals to get my Ph.D., after all.) So please click here to read medical journal abstracts substantiating my views. Then look up your own on PubMed.
If you’ve read all the way to here, thank you! And good luck!
Last updated 6/15/2004