I want to break the myth of the first baby who takes hours to come to our world, after a difficult and painful long labor, leaving the mother totally exhausted. I am not the only one to have enjoyed an easy labor. I did my best to prepare for a home birth, reading about it and hiring an independent midwife. I had no idea how long my labor would be. What a beautiful surprise to have given birth within a matter of few hours! I started having very intense contractions around 9 pm and my amazing baby daughter was born at one in the morning. I am grateful for both the strong raspberry leaves herbal tea I drank throughout the pregnancy and for the inflatable birthing pool I used. My friend, my sister, it is definitely possible to give birth at home, within hours, without an epidural, without atrocious pain and without episiotomy.
Please find below an extract from my midwife’s notes about the day my baby daughter was born:
early labor since morning
regular since 8pm
Claire is walking around at 9:30pm
at 11pm when midwife arrives: Claire is active and mobile, puttering around in the flat, drinking raspberry leaf tea, squatting during strong contractions which come every 3 minutes
emotional state is very well
snacking and drinking plenty of water
at 11:30pm contractions every 60 seconds
at 23:30pm: Claire in the shower, helps with contractions, quietly vocalising through these, sometimes singing and keeping nice and relaxed
midnight: strong contractions, Claire is moving around the flat coping well, can feel baby moving
contractions strong and long, membrane still intact
having sips of apple juice
0:30am: pushing during most contractions now, can feel baby moving
vacalising, labor intense
1am: Claire feels like being sick, contractions very powerful, feels afraid, wants to stop, isnt pushing anymore – midwife talks about fear being normal and that Claire is doing it anyway
Claire is very quiet and poised
1:20am: birth! beautiful and quiet greeting, Claire scooped her baby, we haven’t seen yet if it’s a boy or a girl
1:25am: baby to breast, cord still pulsing
1:30am: out of the pool and in bed, nursing baby, blood loss approximately 200 ml, Claire lying on side
2am: still nursing, cord still pulsing
236am: birthed placenta
2:50am: cord clamped and cut by Claire
3am: vaginal exam by midwife: labial grazes, nothing requires stitches
Breastfeeding has not been that easy at first. I had trouble positioning my newborn so she could latch on properly. I almost got discouraged during the first days. However, I was very determined to breastfeed, so much that I had started attending the local La Leche League meetings when I was four months pregnant. I loved being surrounded by mothers breastfeeding their babies. This was exactly what I needed: not abstract theory but practical example from other women. After a week of trial and error, I eventually managed to get a good position to feed my newborn daughter, so that she would not take too much air when feeding. When I started going to La Leche League meetings with my own baby this time, things got even easier. Breastfeeding became a natural part of my daily life. Breastfeeding was tremendously helped by learning the skill of babywearing. Hence, carrying my baby against my heart allowed me to feed her discreetly anywhere. If giving birth at home does not mean than breastfeeding will be automatically an easy task, it has secondary benefits. Thus, giving birth at home, enjoying the first nights with baby from the comfort of my own bed and being surrounded by a familiar environment meant for me I had more energy and peace. Whenever the life of a new mother is made easy in some way, she can enjoy peace of mind and the strength to learn this ancestral and beautiful art: breastfeeding her baby.
Raspberry leaves: myth or reality? It is a reality if the plant is of utmost quality while the beverage is highly concentrated. If this is the case, yes, raspberry leaves make giving birth easier. When I did my research about them, I discovered that they were even used by veterinarians to help female animals when they give birth. I do not believe in a little tea bag of raspberry leaves taken like a usual herbal tea, but by a strong and concentrated infusion. As of the fourth month of pregnancy (not beforehand as it is not recommended), I bought the highest quality I could find of organic raspberry leaves, in bulk. Each evening, I would take a generous handful of leaves and fill a big thermos. It was left on the counter all night. The next day, I had a dark and strong beverage. The idea was not to get a pleasant taste but an effective help for the birth. I drank my leafy green tea during the day, whether cold with some lemon juice, or added to a warm herbal tea to have something hot to drink.
My daughter is my first baby. She was born at 1 in the morning, after a four-hour labor. I thank the raspberry leaves for such a quick and easy labor. With my second baby, I used the raspberry leaves again. I started having contractions at the seventh month of pregnancy. While it became clear that I needed to be transferred to the hospital as my baby was going to be premature, I drank a very concentrated raspberry leaf tea before the ambulance arrived. My son was born at the hospital but only within thirty minutes of me arriving there. Thank you red raspberry leaf tea.
There is one children book which touched my heart deeply. It is entitled “Welcome With Love” and I read it so many times when the children were smaller. The drawings are stunning. I love how the story is so authentic regarding giving birth at home. Thus, the mother goes outside for a stroll when labor begins. Then, when contractions intensify, she leans on her husband. The aunt is present in the house and reassures the big brother. She tells him than mummy is making loud noises because the baby is coming soon. She has brought nice soup for the whole family. There is a drawing of a baby boy coming out of the mother back body while she is almost standing. The father gathers wood outside, then makes a big nice fire in the living room. Eventually, they all sleep together on mattresses gathered in the main room to celebrate the new baby.
Having the freedom of moving around and choosing the positions which suit us most during labor is a true luxury that only home birth can offer. While my daughter was born at home, my son was born prematurely at the hospital. Consequently, I know the sensation of the monitoring tools being wrapped all around the belly. Some women even have a perfusion in their arm during labor. Very often, women are prevented from eating in case a c-section would be required. Home birth is quite the opposite. It allows a beneficial freedom to the mother, who is then more relaxed. This lowers the risk of the baby getting stuck during labor. When my contractions started, I walked a bit around the neighborhood. IT was a nice and warm summer evening. When the contractions intensified, I remained active, but inside the house only. With each contraction, I would squat and do a kind of moaning to relax my whole body and mind. The last step was getting into the birthing pool. However, my midwife made sure I did not get into it too early. Indeed, water is so relaxing that it could stop the labor altogether. While I was in the warm water of the inflatable pool, I still enjoyed my freedom of movement. Eventually, I was squatting when my daughter made her big entrance into our world.
How do you spend your days after giving birth at home? First, the few hours after the actual birth are a delight. My friend, my sister, you will enjoy the comfort of your own soft bed and your beautiful baby is so worth it. One great tip is to lay a big shower curtain underneath your bed linen. It will protect your mattress during the labor and birth. Losing some blood is normal. Afterwards, all you have to do is remove the shower curtain and the stained sheet, then replace it with a new sheet. Within a few minutes, your bed will be nice and clean. What a luxury compared to giving birth at the hospital!
My daughter was born in an inflatable birthing pool in the kitchen. After she made her entrance in the world, I went out of the pool and into the shower to cleanse myself. Then, I ate a little while my brilliant midwife weighed and measured my beautiful baby. Lastly, the baby learned to properly latch on the breast before we enjoyed a well-deserved rest, on my own familiar bed.
The next day, the birth pool had to be emptied. The house had to be reordered a little bit. Nevertheless, being already at home in a familiar environment, was true luxury and such a blessing. For instance, I could easily learn how to use cloth nappies.
My lovely midwife visited me daily after the birth, then weekly. After a few days enjoyed resting and getting to know my baby at home, I started going outside, to do some grocery shopping and see an osteopath, both for her and for me. Thus, I learned to tie a wrap baby carrier, so she could al ways stay close to my heart.
Preparing a birth plan means taking back our power as a mother giving birth. It does not mean being stuck to such plan and become disappointed if things do not turn out as desired. Thus, if plan A is giving birth at home in water, plan B could be to look into the various positions in which I can give birth on a bed, at home or at the hospital.
Because the idea of giving birth was overwhelming for me at first, I decided to write things down. It gave me some comfort. Moreover, it helped me to see more clearly what I really wanted versus what was secondary details. So, I wrote a list of my wishes and desires for my midwife to read. I had hired an independent midwife, but my birth plan was also printed to be transmitted to any midwife at the hospital if a transfer was ever required.
First, no light. My midwife used a tiny lamp to write notes during the labor. Second, no vaginal exams. The word itself scares me. My very talented midwife was able to monitor the baby’s health during labor, only by expert touch on my belly and by listening to the baby’s heartbeat with a trumpet-shaped tool. Third, I did not want to be informed of the time. Loosing track of time was indeed required for me to use another part of my brain, e.g. my intuition. I focused on the contractions while relaxing my body, allowing them, not resisting them. The last part of my birth plan was dedicated to my refusal of both epidural and episiotomy. Again, I was ready to have to undergo such interventions should the need arose. However, expressing my wishes and desires in this meant they were only to be used in real emergency.
When I gave birth, I was trapped in an abusive relationship. The father of my children stated later than he only made children with me so that it would prevent me to leave him. Consequently, he was not elated when I got pregnant, totally not involved during the pregnancy and he spent the time of labor at home in front of his computer. Yet I had a fulfilling and happy birth.
Moreover, I read many books by the well-known French doctor Michel Odent. It is interesting that, over the course of his work, he changed his mind about the presence of father during the actual birth. He concluded later in his career that giving birth was a sacred time which was best enjoyed between women only. Thus, the body of the woman could keep the same appeal to her man after birth. I find it quite interesting. I am convinced that it is true, even of a subconscious level. Maybe it is better for fathers to avoid seeing their woman in pain. Loving men do everything to avoid their woman being in pain by always looking for solutions. It is only natural, then, to prevent them from being disempowered witnesses to the unavoidable labor pain.
During my first pregnancy, supported by an extraordinary independent midwife, one of my friend was due to give birth soon to her second baby. Her first baby was born by c-section. During her second pregnancy, she had taken the decision de do her very best to avoid the hospital this time. Her goal was to give birth at home, in water. She was very motivated. I was overwhelmed with joy the day she sent me a text announcing the birth of her second son within the comfort of her own living room. She confided in me afterwards that giving birth at home rather than at the hospital compared to enjoying a five-star hotel.
Personally, I gave birth at home for my first baby. I had read dozens of real life stories similar to my friend’s experience. I wanted to avoid the trauma induced by the hospital. Birthing was a sacred time for me, quite incompatible with lying down on the back with my legs in the air. Consequently, I acquired lots of knowledge by reading tons of books on giving birth, before hiring an independent midwife. She would visit me at home during the whole pregnancy. I never step one foot at the hospital. On the day my daughter was born, she had all the necessary equipment, required in case of an emergency. Thus, she had oxygen and episiotomy tools. In my humble opinion, the time it takes to go to the hospital should an emergency arises is equivalent to the time needed to set up a hospital room for a c-section. I was not worried about this. In the end, my admirable midwife did not have to use any of her special equipment. The only thing she used was a trumpet-shaped utensil to listen to my baby’s heartbeat during labor. So yes, giving birth at home is possible for a first baby. It is even better to do it for the first baby, because giving birth at home after a hospital birth makes it riskier and requires a lot more effort and preparation.
Lastly, I would like to acknowledge all the midwives. You are doing an exceptional job. Thank you.
During my first pregnancy, I was working as a personal assistant within a law firm in London, next to the river Thames. During my one-hour lunch break, I used to go for a walk on South Bank. I loved standing in front of the river, admiring the tranquil water. For about ten minutes, I would visualize my future contractions while observing the little waves. I would visualize a fabric doll with long legs, light and flexible, floating on the waves’ crest, coming and going effortlessly. I was preparing my body to handle the physical pain of the contractions. I was training my mind to be aware of the impermanence of such pain.
A few months afterwards, when I started experiencing contractions on the evening my first baby was born, I made the conscious effort to remember the way my imaginary fabric doll gracefully danced on the waves. I gave birth to my daughter without epidural nor episiotomy.