Excerpted from Journey into Motherhood:
Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth by Sheri Menelli
From Denial to Ecstasy
By Michele Zeck
You could set a clock by my menstrual cycle. But when I was four days late, I focused on all of the physical signs indicating my period was on the way. I bought an Early Pregnancy Test on my way to work, just to put my mind to rest—I knew I was not pregnant.
I went to the restroom the second I arrived. That stick couldn’t have turned positive any quicker than it did… I was horrified! At 32, I had just gotten engaged to Rich, and did not want kids at all. In a state of shock and hysteria, I tried to tell a couple of my co-workers. I was incoherent, carrying on and pointing to the stick, so distraught that I had to leave work. I headed straight to Rich to tell him the news. I could not have asked for a more sympathetic man as I sat in his office blubbering about the situation.
That night we talked over our options. Do we keep the baby or do we give the baby up for adoption? I cried and prayed until I finally fell asleep that night. The next day I had an overwhelming feeling of peace about the pregnancy. It was a go. We accepted our unexpected gift.
As we talked about the kind of birth we wanted—a hospital or home birth—I made it clear that I am against any kind of pain
medication or anything that interferes with the natural birthing process. I don’t understand why people would take care of themselves during their pregnancy but allow drugs to enter their body, and the baby’s, during labor. Our bodies are made for birthing. Labor pain won’t last forever, and there is such a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Although it can seem unbearable at times, I see labor as such a small window of time compared to the bigger picture of growing and birthing a child.
We were aware of the problems that could arise if we chose a hospital birth, but I didn’t know anyone who had given birth at home. We talked with friends about our dilemma, and they knew of a midwife who had been in practice for over 20 years and delivered over 1,000 babies. Encouraged by this sign, we contacted her to set up an interview. She answered all of our questions and talked with us about our philosophy on birthing. She advised us to not make a decision right away, to think about our conversation for a week or so.
We figured it would be smart to talk with my Ob/Gyn about home birth. So we made an appointment, but before we could see the doctor we had to fill out a stack of paperwork. Oh, brother! Then the nurse proceeded to go through her routine, or as I call it, “pushing us through like a herd of cows.” She gave us the “pregnant packet” full of propaganda, which annoyed Rich and I to no end. We just wanted to TALK to the doctor, that’s it. Finally, we were led to an examination room and I was told to get into a gown. I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m here strictly to talk to the doctor. No examination is going to take place.” Thank goodness Rich was there, or I wouldn’t have felt brave enough to stand up for what I believed should happen during that visit.
My doctor, a woman I really liked and had been to for five years, came in a few minutes later. We talked about the possibility of working with a midwife and having a home birth. While she was open to a midwife, she objected to a home birth because of the fact I had herpes. (Herpes can be passed from mother to baby during birth, but only if the mother is experiencing a breakout.) I was so
grateful that I had already discussed this with my midwife. She had put my concerns to rest right away, educating me on foods and immune-boosting supplements that would suppress breakouts. She had safely delivered many babies with moms who had herpes. To hear my doctor try to scare me with the herpes angle did not make me happy. She said she respected our feelings about whether or not to vaccinate our baby, and other choices we wanted to make, which made me feel better. However, she couldn’t guarantee she would be on call when I went into labor, and she warned me that the other delivery doctors wouldn’t be as open-minded. That was all I needed to hear. I wasn’t going to give birth under such uncertain circumstances.
After we were done with the question-and-answer session the doctor said, “I see you didn’t want an exam.” I confirmed that we were just there to talk, so the office charged us for a consultation, which our insurance does not cover. That was the cherry on top of the whole unpleasant experience.
The next day we called the midwife, Yolanda, and told her we were ready to work with her. We met the following week to fill out some paperwork and exchange expectations, and just to talk. She told us that she did not conduct vaginal exams until the home visit, which is two weeks before your due date. She had a 0% infection rate. She does not offer any drugs for pain and will only do episiotomies if absolutely necessary. During the birth she uses oil and massage to help stretch the perineum and make it more elastic. Yolanda also advised me to use ginger for morning sickness… those ginger tablets were my best friends for months. Peppermint oil was also helpful for my tummy. Our next appointment was in two months, which would put me at 13 weeks along.
Our first real appointment with a midwife was astonishing. The wealth of information she had blew me away. My husband has children from a previous marriage and even he was flabbergasted. He told her that no doctor had ever taken the time to include him in the prenatal discussions, or teach him how to help prepare a woman’s body for the birthing process.
In my second trimester I was feeling so much better, now that the nausea had left. But that is also when the fear set in… I was so scared of the pain of labor. Some days that’s all I thought about, and I knew I had to take control of my mindset. I told Yolanda about my low tolerance for pain, and asked what I could do to cope with my fears. She encouraged me to read Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, an excellent book. It was key to helping me manage the pain issue, but also so much more. It is perfect for women planning a home birth, or a hospital birth.
I needed to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and we finally did for the first time at about the 17th week. Until that day, a part of me was still in denial about being pregnant. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case something went wrong during my first trimester. Once I heard that little heart beat I was overwhelmed with happiness. I really was pregnant! There really was a little person growing inside me. The reality of having a baby finally set in.
The more I read my book, Birthing from Within, the more thrilled I was and the more confident I became that I could have a perfectly wonderful home birth. Birthing at home can be a very daunting thing for most people. My mom and friends resisted the idea at first. All I heard was, “What if, what if, what if… hospitals are safer and better equipped to handle emergencies….” I told them to educate themselves about home births and hospital births
before making a judgment call. As I shared more and more information with them, they gradually opened up to the idea.
Two weeks before my due date, our midwife came for a home visit. She examined me and confirmed that all was well with the baby and me. She checked our birthing supplies to make sure we had everything we would need. Rich and I were so ready to have a baby… we were just waiting for the baby to be ready to join us.
And then, the day came. It was about 3 a.m. when I started feeling uncomfortable so I went downstairs to lay on the couch. By 4 a.m. I was sitting at the table, reading a chart in a book, trying to determine if those sensations were fake contractions or true contractions. I honestly didn’t know. According to the book, I was having some of each. I timed them, but there was no consistency. By 5 a.m. I knew they were true contractions, coming about one minute apart. An hour later I yelled upstairs, telling my husband to call our midwife.
I lay over the side of the bed, breathing and talking to Yolanda. She asked me questions, trying to discern if I was in true labor. She was just finishing up with another birth and was about 30 minutes away, but said she was on her way. Rich called my mom to tell her I was in labor and asked her to pray for us.
Yolanda arrived at the house at 7:30 a.m., bringing with her an energy of calmness. I was safe and at peace with her there. I felt the safest in our bedroom, so that is where we stayed (along with our dog and cat). I can’t remember much of what she said to me but I remember that Yolanda’s voice was very soothing. Rich was at my side the whole time. Whether I was in the bathtub or on the toilet wanting to throw up, he was there. He was my rock.
My midwife would not let me stay in any one position for too long. She believes that different birthing positions encourage the baby to move into the birth canal. She was right. By 8:30 a.m. I was dilated to eight centimeters. My water still had not broken; it never really did, it just leaked a little at a time. By 10 a.m. I was fully dilated and ready to push. My husband was a great coach, and I
clung to him like never before. I needed him, and he came through like a knight in shining armor!
Yolanda listened to the baby’s heartbeat one more time before I started pushing. Believe it or not, I asked her if she could tell what sex the baby was by the heartbeat, and she said yes.
With each contraction I pushed deeply… I wanted the baby out and I wanted it out now! For the first 20 minutes of pushing I was on the bed, and then I moved to a birthing stool. That was perfect. As our baby was crowning, she told me she could see the baby’s head and that it had lots of hair. She lowered a mirror so I could see, and then I put my hand down to feel the hair. How incredible that moment was! To feel part of the baby before it entered this world was just magical. Yolanda gave me specific instructions, telling me to stop pushing. She was preparing the baby’s opening with oil, massaging it to stretch with the baby so there would be no tearing. I started pushing again, but had to stop—as much as I didn’t want to, I knew what the consequences would be if I didn’t. With one final push, the baby emerged face up. Yolanda told me to grab my baby girl and pull her out. What a glorious experience, to pull your child out of your body and welcome her into the world!
Shea Kiley lay on my chest with the cord still attached for 10
or 15 minutes before Rich cut it. I was helped up onto the bed and started nursing my precious angel. God was good to me. Everything went exactly the way it should have—perfect.
A Mother’s Guidance: Having a home birth with a midwife was my key to a great birth. Birthing is difficult, that’s just reality, but to give birth in the comfort of your home can make it an awesome experience. Choose a midwife who explains everything to you and lets you know how your pregnancy and labor are progressing. She will reassure you that you are doing a great job, and you won’t be stuck in bed or have monitors hooked up to you. (That idea scared me, and felt like we would be anticipating problems.) What a story you get to share with your child—that they were born in their home!
Additional Thoughts: One of the most important things you can do at the beginning of your pregnancy is to carefully interview doctors or midwives. If you do not feel comfortable with them at the beginning of your pregnancy, you probably won’t feel any different when you are giving birth. You can find a great list of interviewing questions in the appendix of this book.
Michele Zeck is a stay-at-home mom to one daughter. Her husband Rich has managed a chiropractor’s office for the last four years.
To purchase Journey into Motherhood (48 more birth stoires), contact Sheri Menelli at 760-930-0913.