Birthing at Home: My Birth Story

In 2001, I was at a party and ran into a couple that was there with her newborn. I had been married for a little over a year so hearing birth stories was on my radar. Her daughter was born at a local hospital but with the help of a midwife.

I was instantly intrigued because I didn’t know that midwives existed in the city; I thought they were for rural areas where the hospital was too far to birth. Plus, I live in Richmond, VA, a town know to be conservative. Turns out, the hospital with the midwife was the Medical College of Virginia (MCV). As the mother and father began to tell me their birth story, I was struck by the confidence they had as a couple.

Richmond Mom Catherine Jones

She had confidence that the large majority of woman could have natural births if they trusted their body. And her husband spoke with pride about his wives ability to birth their daughter and he beamed with pride about how much he was able to support her during the delivery. They had taken a Birthing From Within class together and spent time as a couple preparing for the birth. And they described the birth as powerful and spiritual. I had never heard of someone describe a birth in that way.

Their passion was contagious and they convinced me that I too could have an amazing birth.

In the early fall of 2002, I found out I was pregnant and began searching for a midwife. Turned out, there was a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) that lived in my neighborhood. Her name was Nancy and she specialized in Home Birth.

What? People have kids at home on purpose?

I totally understand not wanting to have drugs but having a baby at home seemed extreme. However, my husband and I met with her and found out that I was not a candidate for a home birth due to major internal injuries I suffered during a car accident, but she would be glad to coach me on natural birth. Because I was going to have both a doctor and a midwife, I had to go to meet with both on a regular basis at their prospective offices/home. When I would go see my OBGYN, she would check my urine, measure my belly, listen to the baby’s heartbeat and that was about it. In and out in 15 minutes. When I would meet with Nancy, she would check my urine, measure my belly, listen to the baby’s heartbeat and then we would talk about how I felt for the next 45 minutes to an hour.

She would ask me what my fears were. She would educate me on the stages of birth and what to expect and she gave me a ton of books to including Ina May Gaskins “Spiritual Midwifery” . (On a side note, Ina May Gaskins is this year’s winner of the Alternative Medicines Nobel Peace Prize.) I began to see childbirth as natural and my body as an amazing machine that was designed to have a baby. All I had to do was trust myself and the process.

Spending time talking to Nancy and joining a group of like-minded women (Homebirth Circle and Birth Matters ), I gained the confidence I needed to have the birth I wanted.

On April 22, 2003, at 1:30am, five days after my due date, I went into labor. Although my contractions were mild and only about 10 minutes apart, I could not sleep due to excitement. I just lay in bed wondering what my baby was going to look like. I decided not to go to work and stayed home. I took the dogs for a slow walk around the block. I already had an appointment with my midwife set for 1:30. She checked me and I was only about 1 ½ centimeters dilated and my contractions were now 5 minutes apart. She told me to go home and take a nap, which I did.

I woke up at 4 pm to my water breaking. Then my labor went into high speed. Suddenly I knew why so many ran for the pain medicine. My contractions were strong and I was scared. My midwife came over at 5 and I was almost 5 centimeters dilated. Although 5 is ½ way to 10 (full dilation), in birthing terms 5 is more like ¾ of the way to 10.

I labored at home until about 6 when we headed to the hospital. The hospital was only about 7 minutes away but it was a long 7 minutes. My husband strung up Christmas lights and turned off the horribly bright hospital lights. He played “Music to Be Born By” by Mickey Hart . The lighting was great. I don’t remember the music at all. I do remember really wanting to get into water. The hospital did not have a birthing tub so I got in the warm shower and was amazed at how much it helped. The contractions didn’t stop, but I was able to control my reaction to them by simply having the warm water cascade down my back.

Fifteen minutes later, I stepped out of the shower and was ready to push. It was around 7pm. Lying on my back was NOT comfortable. I was working against gravity. So I squatted much to the OBGYN on calls dismay. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Gavin, at 7:28pm. Amazingly, I was the first natural birth that the OBGYN and the LND nurse had ever seen.

In fact, that OBGYN was so moved by my natural birth and the talent of my midwife, that she had her two children at HOME with Nancy, my midwife. After my uterus proved it would hold despite the scars from the accident, I was cleared for a home birth. My two daughters were born at home.

Please note: I am NOT against hospital births. I have many good friends that had great experiences birthing in a hospital and some of them love having C-sections and even signed up for them months in advance. Homebirth is not for everyone. However, if you are interested in a natural or homebirth but are still concerned about the safety, here are some websites. Some helpful links:

You might be surprised at the statistics which show that homebirth is at least as safe, if not safer, than having a baby in the hospital.