Samantha Lea Hart
9 lb. even, 21 inches
Apgars 7 and 9
May 7, 1999
Mother: Jennifer Krulic Hart
Father: Chad Edward Hart
My due date was May 10, and my husband's graduation ceremony for getting his Ph.D. was May 7. Luckily he decided early not to go! I was working at a post-doctoral position at Iowa State University when I found out I was pregnant. This was potentially alarming, since I work with a lot of nasty chemicals (and radioactivity) as a molecular geneticist, but everyone in the lab was very careful and safety minded, and it was also really nice that I finished my lab work at around 8 months and then got to work at home, writing my paper, until the baby came. I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy, other than gaining over 60 pounds. I was amazed at how many people tried to make me feel guilty for that! Other than that, I was very healthy and didn't get a moment's grief from the little fetus. Never even threw up during the first three months, although I did sleep whenever I wasn't working, and generally felt like I had the flu. Iowa State has a very generous sick/vacation day package, and I took advantage, staying home one day a week to rest. Luckily that flu feeling subsided after twelve weeks, but I still tried to get a lot of rest and practiced relaxation exercises to relieve stress. I got the Bradley book from the bookstore and that's what I based most of my preparation on, though I did read a lot of other books too. I knew I wanted a natural childbirth from the start, and I used the university library search engines to look up as much as I could in the medical research journals about how to make my baby's birth safer and easier. I found out that the safest and easiest birth was a home birth with a certified nurse midwife attending, so that's what I decided on. My husband was petrified at first, but he said that as long as I went to talk to the OB's at the hospital and gave both options some thought, he was okay with whatever I decided. Well, nothing I saw at the hospital made me change my mind, so I found a midwife who would do home births, a very competent and patient woman named Carey Ryan, and I practiced squatting and relaxation techniques every day.
Carey and I had some clashes; I'm not going to say that having a midwife instead of an OB automatically means you're going to agree on everything. Carey is very into herbal remedies; I refused to take any type of medication during pregnancy or birth, even herbal. Carey is also very anti-dairy; I loved drinking 4 glasses of milk a day even before I was pregnant. So we agreed to disagree. When it came time to have Samantha though, no one could have been more professional and reassuring. I would definitely recommend her to anyone in the Des Moines area.
It was around 6 pm on Wednesday the 5th of May, and I started having regular contractions which felt more purposeful than any of the preterm contractions I'd had. They weren't really painful, just strong enough that I couldn't sleep during them. They would vary from 5 minutes apart to 10 minutes apart, and lasted all night. I was pretty excited, but I let my husband sleep and tried to rest. In the morning I called my mom, who lives 8 hours away in St. Louis, to tell her that I was in labor and that she should go ahead and start the drive. She wanted to be there to be my doula for the first couple weeks, but she was scared to be there during the birth because she would be so upset if something went wrong. (I got a lot of grief from people about choosing the homebirth route, though my family supported my choice and Mom was great, actually changing her mind in favor of homebirth after she'd read some of the stuff I sent her.) So she started out, hoping by the time she got to Ames she would see her first grandchild waiting for her.
Didn't happen, of course! Midwife Carey arrived sometime during the late morning (Thursday) and stayed till early afternoon. That's when she finally did a vaginal exam (I had requested not to have more than two of those during labor and delivery). I was only 2 cm dilated! I wasn't depressed though, the contractions had been pretty easy and I was still sure that this baby would be coming eventually. Carey went back to Des Moines (about 45 min away) and told me to call if I felt like anything was changing, or even if I just felt more secure with her around. Mom arrived around 6 pm, I had been in labor 24 hours and still no baby in sight. As soon as she got there, though, things really picked up. I guess Samantha was just waiting for Grandma to arrive! We ordered pizza for dinner - by the time it got there, I knew I couldn't eat a bite. The contractions really took off up the scale of intensity, and were suddenly only a minute and a half apart, and I knew that if I ate anything (especially pizza!) I would just barf it back up. So I had chicken broth and fruit juice the rest of the night. I was wandering around the apartment naked, sometimes sitting down between contractions, and then shuffling into a walk during. I called Carey and got her voice mail (she really hadn't thought I would have the baby anytime soon, I think!) but she was there within a couple hours. She observed me during a couple contractions, I described what had been happening, and I asked if she would need to do another internal exam right away. "Nope," she said. "I'm convinced!" So she called her support midwife and a student midwife to come, and we brought all of her equipment inside.
Chad and my mom and the midwives mostly stayed out of my way while I was going through first stage labor, which was fine with me. I was in my own little daze, wandering around the apartment. Time didn't exactly fly by, but remembering that time is hazy. I had meant to lie down and do relaxation technique, but once the contractions really picked up that was impossible. Luckily we had the portable hot tub full already so I got in it a couple times when I was worn out from walking. It didn't make the pain magically go away as I had sort of hoped it would, but it did make the pain about as bearable as walking did, and I got to lie in the water and float! So that was nice. The hot tub was only body temperature, so after a while I would feel cold and wanted a hot shower. Then I would walk some more.
Eventually I guess transition started. I just remember that I was very, very grateful for the times of rest between contractions. I wanted to be ready to push. I kept asking the midwife how I would know how, and when to push. She said that if I didn't know that yet, then it wasn't time yet. Finally, I think it was around midnight, she asked if she could do another internal exam. I said yes, but if I wasn't at 10 cm, I didn't want to know how far along I was because I was afraid I would be discouraged. She felt inside, thought a minute, and said, "you're doing great, just a little while longer!" I was a little disappointed, but not too much. She was very encouraging. Then came an even more hazy time. It seemed like her fingers were inside me almost continually (so much for only two vaginal exams!) because I would be ready to push, and then the cervix would swell on one side and we'd have to wait for the swelling to go down before I could try to push again. I was just doing little wimpy pushes at that point anyway, since I didn't really have the urge yet, but I really wanted to be doing something during those contractions! My water broke at some point during this stage, and eventually I was squatting beside the bed, doing some real pushing. That was around 3 am on Friday, May 7. This was when my husband became my rock of strength and support. He supported me in any position I tried (actually, any position the midwives wanted me to try - my first response to ANY question they asked me at this point about changing position, having a drink, whatever, was "No!" but I would change positions for them if they asked again). I would grip his thumbs in my hands and really squeeze while I tried to push. He never complained, or said anything to break my concentration. He was just there for me, supporting some of my weight, which was what I really, really needed. Mom was around, and just knowing she was there was helpful, but she stayed out of the way because, as she said later, "It's really difficult to see your baby in pain and know you can't do anything to help!"
I had to push SO HARD. I had no idea how hard you had to push. I really yelled too. During first stage and transition, they were saying they couldn't believe how quiet I was. Well, I made up for it in the pushing stage! Here's where I was so glad I wasn't in the hospital, having an epidural: There was no way I could ever have known how hard I had to push except that when I was pushing harder than I thought possible, at the very end of the contraction, I would feel Samantha move a tiny bit. That was almost disheartening, because of how much I had to work to accomplish it! The midwives were all very helpful at this point, they would cheer me on and tell me exactly when she moved (then I knew it wasn't just imagination). I was absolutely exhausted. The contractions started getting a little further apart, I was just glad for rest time in-between. Still, it was only 3:45 when I felt crowning occurring.
I didn't know I was crowning, though. At some point I had shut my eyes and refused to open them. They asked if I wanted to see the top of my baby's head in the mirror earlier, I said (predictably!) "No!" but then I agreed to reach down and touch the bit of scalp and hair. It felt weird. For crowning, all I knew was, all of a sudden it just hurt like hell. I said, "Oh NO, I don't LIKE this PART it HURTS" and they told me to breathe and push at the same time, and push some more, and then out she came. I was so amazed that she came out. I think at that point I had just accepted that I would be in labor forever.
Carey put her on my abdomen immediately. Samantha had a really short, thick cord, so she couldn't get her up any higher. Samantha just lay there looking at me, calm as could be, feeling heavy and limp on my stomach. She had a pretty pink color though, which was heartening. I had prepared myself for gray or blue after watching the birth videos. She didn't breathe at first, I think she was too busy looking around. They slapped her feet and got her to cry though, which she only did a couple times in protest, and then started breathing. We took her into the hot tub to wash both of us off, and she really relaxed into the warm water. It was amazing to see her looking at us, and feel her arms and legs. She was really relaxed from the start, she didn't keep her arms and legs locked in close like most newborns. I think that was probably because she was so big.
Samantha was 9 pounds, her head diameter was over 12 cm, and she had her hand up by her head (no wonder my cervix kept swelling). But I still only had one superficial tear, only 5 stitches worth. I kept bleeding after the birth, so Carey gave me a shot of pitocin to stop the bleeding just like they would have done in the hospital, and I was tired and weak, but Mom really helped us for the first week. Mom taught Chad how to change diapers; I didn't have to do anything but nurse for the first two weeks. Sam has never had any colic, and has been a very good-natured baby, happy and strong. She still wakes up every two hours during the night (and she's 6 months old!) but since she's right there with me, she just nurses a little and falls back asleep. I never slept through the night even before I was pregnant, so it's not really as hard on me as you would think, though I am looking forward to a time when she only wakes up once or twice.
Here's what gripes me though about having had her at home: many people (not all) act like I'm some kind of freak of nature, or else they act like I was terribly lucky that "nothing went wrong." Hey, I did all that research for a reason. Something DID go wrong - I bled too much - and the midwives handled that just fine. They also had an oxygen tank in case the baby didn't breathe on its own immediately. In fact, they had just about every kind of equipment you could imagine. Just no forceps, vacuum extractors, episiotomies (though technically Carey is qualified to do one), pitocin inductions/enhancements, or c-sections. The hospital was only 5 minutes away in case any of those became necessary, but the point is, in the vast majority of cases, those things are NOT necessary. They are done anyway because it's more convenient for the doctor, or to get you out of the bed so they can put someone else in it. But just try explaining that to people! And I am NOT any kind of superwoman to have had a natural birth. I am convinced that anyone can do it, it's just having the self-confidence to go through with it. I don't think doctors do very well at instilling self-confidence, at least not the ones I talked to. I don't think women who use epidurals "wimp out." In the long run, by the time they've recovered from the episiotomies, etc., they experience just as much pain as I did, and had to work just as hard. I do think they were sold short. If I can do it, anyone can. I'm not one of those people who have their teeth worked on without Novocain. But, it is so important for the baby to avoid drugs. If your doctor tells you drugs won't affect the baby, I encourage you to look this up for yourself in the medical literature; I assure you that research tells a very different story. No one is paying your doctor to keep current on medical research. The hospitals DO get more money from your insurance, the more interventions the doctors do. I'm not saying doctors are out to get you or anything. They wouldn't have become OB's if they didn't want to help people, or if they didn't like babies. But I do think that doctors tend to have a "knight in shining armor" mentality where they want to save you from your labor. I don't think they really get it, that the more they intervene in the natural course of labor, the more they mess it up, until you end up over-medicated and lacerated, and so sure that it was necessary because "the doctor said so." I encourage anyone to try a homebirth for themselves and see the difference. It was definitely worth it for me, and it is definitely possible, even with a big first baby like mine. It is also every bit as safe as the hospital as long as you don't have certain conditions (breech, post-date, premature, or multiples). Good luck and believe in yourself! You are much stronger than you realize. If anyone would like to see more current pictures of Samantha or learn more about us, please visit our website at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~chart/homepage.html and have fun!
Last updated 11/7/99