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They put our baby up on my chest as they were wiping him off. He was perfect. Round little head (even after an hour of pushing), pink skin, and all his parts were exactly where they were supposed to be. Except for one major surprise. That head of black hair that I had expected? It was strawberry blonde.
We waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing and Chris sawed through it with those flimsy little scissors. We both gave it a good feel first, though. I was surprised at how thick and rubbery it felt, almost inorganic. That was one of the many really cool parts of having a homebirth–we got to participate in all the little details in ways they may not think to offer elsewhere.
I was having difficulty delivering the placenta in bed, so they had me stand up to do it. They began prepping the floor next to our bed by laying down wee-wee pads.
Nilla had been wonderful through the whole labor and birth experience. She was right there quietly supporting me during labor, retreated into her crate when things got intense and the birthing happened, and came wandering back in once the baby was born. Our midwives said that this is almost exactly what small children do at homebirths—minus the crate, of course.
Having found her way back into the action, as the midwives laid down the first wee-wee pad, Nilla expertly trotted over like, “I know what to do with this!” She immediately popped a squat and peed. It was priceless.
I stood up next to the bed (the floor now covered with several fresh wee-wee pads) and delivered the placenta into a stainless steel bowl. Later, after the midwives had inspected it to make sure it was all there and looked okay, they let us look at it and explained it to us. Mine was on the large side. The whole thing is still crazy to me—my body grew another organ. And a tiny human. Talk about mind-blowing.
I had lost a lot of blood during the delivery, so I got a shot of Pitocin and a handful of Cytotec up my bum (we may have been at home, but midwives are still prepared medical professionals). Ali also had her entire hand inside of me for a while, manually massaging my uterus to stop the bleeding.
I didn’t anticipate how uncomfortable the immediate postpartum care would be. It’s just not something I really thought much about. The birth seemed like the biggest deal, and then once that’s over it’s all done, right? Nope. To be totally honest, I think I’d have preferred pushing out another baby.
In addition to the uterine massage, Ali also had to feel all around to make sure I didn’t have any internal tearing that would require stitches, which was very uncomfortable. (Sorry if the following feels like TMI, but it was surprising to me so I’m going to share.) I did wind up needing a few stitches, but not inside and not in my perineum or in the general area that one might expect. All of my stitches were north of the point of exit. Yes it’s true, your labia—all the way up to your clitoris—can tear. And the way the tears happen seems almost random and completely unrelated to the birth, but I guess with the way everything stretches out down there anything’s fair game.
After everything was attended to, I looked around the room and said, “Okay everyone. This is Roman.”
We tried briefly to breastfeed, but he was still a little out of it from being born. I handed him off to Chris for the first time so that I could go and get cleaned up (and you can make fun of them all you want, but those post-partum mesh panties rock). While I was gone they weighed and measured our little guy and checked to make sure that all appeared well. Still totally perfect.
When I returned we put him back on my chest for some skin-to-skin and, ready now, he found my breast and latched right on. We all stayed like that for a couple hours—Roman nursing in my arms, everyone hanging out in our bedroom, either sitting on the floor or standing nearby, people bringing me quart-sized mason jars full of coconut water in lieu of the IV fluids I would have otherwise received for the blood loss had I been in the hospital. We were all relaxed as we chatted about babies and the birth.
At one point Stacey asked, “So, now that everything went okay, when do you think your water actually started leaking?”
I laughed and sheepishly responded, “Um, about a week ago.” I had first noticed the dampness when we were preparing for our friends to visit the previous weekend. Thank goodness we planned a homebirth, or I’d have been induced days ago! And thank goodness again for conscientious midwives that don’t do pelvic exams or I could have wound up with an infection as well.
Stacey shook her head. She said that she couldn’t recall ever having a client whose water “broke” in so many different ways. Usually it’s the trickle, or the big gushes, or a huge splashing break. Basically, I had experienced every possible variation all on my own. Ali then apologized for not realizing what was going on at our appointment that week. She said that I had been so laid back about it that she didn’t think too much of it.
Everyone agreed that I’d been very relaxed through the whole process, from pregnancy on out, especially for a first time mom. They were all incredibly impressed with how I handled labor and the birth. Jax said that it was the easiest birth she’d ever been to and that she felt like I didn’t even need her (I assured her I was glad she’d been there). They all also agreed that I was the most polite laboring woman they’d ever dealt with. Apparently I was still saying please and thank you right up until the end, and I do remember checking a few times to make sure that everyone else was all right. I even recall asking Jax if she was doing okay while holding my leg as I pushed.
I thanked everyone but demurred. The truth was that it had been challenging, even if it hadn’t looked that way on the outside. Plus, I didn’t feel like I had really done anything. I know that a lot of women who’ve given birth naturally feel a great sense of accomplishment in it. Not to take anything away from them, but I don’t. Instead, I’m still in complete awe at what my body did. I was just along for the ride. The only thing I feel like I “did” throughout the process was to relax and get out of the way as much as I could.
The evening came to a natural close. We reached a comfortable lull and the midwives and Jax packed up and headed out. Chris and I had ordered dinner and it arrived shortly after everyone left. We ate in bed, our brand new baby sleeping next to us.
During the pregnancy, friends and family repeatedly told us about that crazy feeling when you bring the baby home for the first time and realize that you now have to take care of this little life, often accompanied by a sense of “What do we do now?” We never had that moment. He was born into our home, so he never felt out of place. Also, he was “ours” from the minute he arrived; never transferred off to a nursery or cared for by anyone else. He just belonged with us. It felt so natural—a totally seamless transition from pregnancy into parenthood.
We spent the next few days camped out together in the bed in which our son was born. Chris made breakfast each morning and we ordered our other meals in. Stacey visited the day after, Ali the day after that. My recovery went well. Roman remained healthy, pink-skinned, and perfect. It was such a quiet, special time; I’ll always cherish it.
A day or two after he was born, I remember looking at him lying in his cosleeper alongside our bed. I couldn’t believe that we had created something so beautiful, that this amazing little being was ours to care for. The love I felt for him was so much bigger than I could have ever imagined and, for the first time since his birth, I cried at how absolutely wonderful my life now was for him being in it. Three and a half months later, I still find myself occasionally welling up as I look at his face, struck by how deeply I care for this one little person and how much I would give for him to have a beautiful, happy life.
After our experience, I cannot imagine having given birth any other way. I know that, especially with the misconceptions in our culture, homebirth doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone and there is sincerely no judgement in the following, but I can’t help but feel that this is the way that–excluding the rare true emergency–birth should happen. It was so nice to labor free of superfluous monitoring devices, to not be periodically poked and prodded by strangers (or anyone for that matter), and to be able to be in a totally comfortable, familiar environment, in whatever position felt best to me at the time. Also, giving birth at home meant that Chris got to be closely involved in the process. So many new dads that we spoke to over the past year talked about how out of place and helpless they felt during everything, but Chris was right there with me at every stage, playing as vital a role as anyone else.
I am so happy that we made the decision we did. There is no doubt in either of our minds that it was the right one for us–and our son. I couldn’t feel more fulfilled by the peaceful, intimate way that little Roman entered this world.