Life, Love, Long Hair, Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth, and other mysteries

All this and more, from a semi-Serbian, slightly sane, former editor for physicians and surgeons, who is the mother of seven kids.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Giving Birth ALONE By Choice

Chapter 1 - The Beginning

I had my seventh baby by myself.

"By yourself?" you might ask.

"You mean as opposed to without a doctor, like with a midwife?"

No, by myself.

"Oh, so you were in the hospital and the doctor didn't get to you before you pushed the baby out."

No, I mean I did it BY MYSELF, right here at home.

"Come on.  You're crazy!"

Unassisted childbirth - not crazy, not brave, just educated.

Why would I entertain such a thought as to plan an unassisted home birth?

Typical highway scene around here in winter

Well, winter in the Cariboo region of British Columbia was my original motivator, our highways looking something like this in February:

Also, our local hospital, which has two maternity beds, was sending all but emergency births to the town an hour away.

I did not want to be on a snowy highway for an hour in labour!

Chapter 2 - Discovery

Childbirth did not become a hospitalized event until only the past few generations. Prior to that, all throughout history, home birth was the norm.

In late December, 2008, when I was seven months pregnant with my seventh baby, still in the mindset that childbirth was not something a woman could do on her own, I posted the following on a message board for moms:

My last baby (sixth) was born after a total of two hours and fifty minutes of labor.  My next baby is due in less than two months (late Feb or early March 2009).

I'm concerned I might not make it to the hospital.  Last time, my water broke, within five minutes I could barely walk, and I was about 6 cm dilated by the time I got to the hospital less than half an hour later.

I live in a small community.  The nearest midwife is a 2-1/2 hour drive away in good weather, but at that time of year it means snow-covered mountain highways.

We do have 911 service.  I wonder if I were to call them, if someone would come out and help me with the birth.  I don't know if it's okay to call them in advance here and ask if they would do that, as I think that service is only supposed to be dialed during an actual emergency, so I'm not sure how to find out.  Anyone know?

Who else might I call if it comes down to it that it feels like this baby is going to be born really fast?

What kinds of things should I have prepared in case it happens?  I mean, I don't want to destroy our bed's down comforter and the few sheets we own.  What can I have ready for protecting the bedding, carpeting, etc, from all the blood and gore that always comes out while I'm in the birth process?

I've always dearly wished to have a home birth anyway, but never had a midwife close by so it's always been in hospitals.

The following reply set me off on a journey of learning that changed the way I think about childbirth:

Perhaps you should prepare yourself and your husband so you feel confident enough to not have to ‘call someone’.”

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

Chapter 3 - Learning

I started to look into the possibility of having this baby at home.
I became increasingly fascinated and excited by the idea of a planned, unassisted, home birth.

When I asked Sweet Man what he thought of doing a home birth, his enthusiasm surpassed my own.

Like he said after the last two hospital births, "We could have done that ourselves at home."

Over the next two months I read everything I could find on the subject - books and websites about childbirth, birth stories of those who have had unassisted home births, asking questions on message boards of those who have experienced it – until I was saturated with confidence that I, too, could do what millions of women throughout history have already done - have a baby at home without medical intervention, or as I would soon consider it, medical interruption.

The biggest teachers for me were, in no particular order:

  1. The Kamloops, BC midwife with whom I had talked on the phone and via email a few times.  She had sent me some helpful documents on preparation for a home birth.
  2.  The book "Ina May's Guide To Childbirth", by Ina May Gaskin.
  3.  The book "Hypnobirthing" by Marie Mongan.
  4.  Laura Shanley's website "Bornfree!" and her discussion forums.
  5.  The message boards at Gentle Christian Mothers.
  6. The book "Wise Woman Herbal For The Childbearing Year" by Susun S. Weed (a book I'd read and loved with every one of my pregnancies).
  7. Various library books on natural childbirth.

Although some women choose to avoid all medical involvement, even foregoing prenatal visits, I continued to go for those, but didn't tell my doctor I was planning to have a home birth.

I didn't want any discouragement, as I had read about many doctors frowning on home birth, especially unassisted ones.

I also went for ultrasounds to make sure the baby was in no obvious distress.
I had a doula on standby a few blocks away if I needed her, and a friend who was a doula with whom I had talked a lot about my plans for a home birth.

My due date (aka “guess date”) for my seventh baby was February 26, 2009.

First thing in the morning after being gone for a weekend, messy kitchen and all, 8 months pregnant with Baby Girl (don't laugh!  those are my Hanna Andersson long-johns, super comfy for pregnancy, and my Ben & Jerry's tie-dye)

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

Chapter 4  - Beginning Of The End

Day 1 – evening of Wed February 25, 2009

On the evening of February 25, my 15-year-old daughter, CJ, headed downstairs and said, “I’m going to bed, Mom. G’night.”

I had just typed my last medical report for the night, shutting down a bit early as I'd been so sore for the previous few weeks.

Sitting and typing was incredibly hard on my lower back, shoulders, neck, and arms.

Plus I had symphysis pubis dysfunction, resulting in me getting a temporary parking permit for disabled people.

I could barely walk, and the doctor said I could even get a wheelchair if I wanted. Too many stairs in my house to bother with it, though, so I just took it slow.

One thing on the plus side was that I'd been going to the chiropractor once a week. The adjustments did relieve the pain a little, and I was told it would also be good for making the birth process easier.

So on that evening of February 25, just after I finished typing my last doctor’s report for the evening, I thought I felt a trickle of water leak out of me.

I got up and went to the bathroom and a lot of water gushed out.

I went back to our home office where Sweet Man was at his computer and told him, “My water just broke!”

As usual when I say such things, I kept my voice and facial expression calm so as not to worry Sweet Man, but inside I was hyper with anticipation.

I said, "Maybe we should get the birth pool up here."

So Sweet Man went to the basement and brought it up.   We’d already inflated it for a "dry run" a few nights earlier, using the vacuum cleaner in reverse and a little plastic cone-shaped attachment that fits in the air hole of the pool. I was surprised at how quickly it filled with air, taking only five minutes.

Sweet Man hooked up the hose to the kitchen tap (I'd learned that regular garden hoses can allow lead and other contaminants into the water, so I'd previously purchased a drinking-water-safe hose for $20).

The tub was ready for me to get in.

But I wasn’t ready.

I was assuming this labour would be as quick, if not quicker, than my last one.

How wrong that assumption was!

However, it worked out perfectly for what needed to happen.  I am amazed at the story and love telling it.

Contractions were coming every eight to ten minutes, sometimes sooner, sometimes later.  I didn’t have a digital watch to time them as accurately as I had in the past, but this time it didn’t matter to me as I wasn’t planning on going to the hospital.

I brought out the blue and white waterproof pads I'd bought at the local drug store for the birth, and placed one on a reclining seat in our L-shaped couch before sitting down to relax through my contractions.

Sweet Man brought a strawberry-scented candle in from the kitchen and placed it on the coffee table in front of me.

I had my camcorder in hand and was filming a bit, giving some commentary on how things were going, but not much was showing up visually in the candle-lit room.

A few times I got up to use the bathroom, and to go read more about unassisted childbirth on my computer, down the two steps in the sunken part of our living room which is our office.

I posted updates on a few childbirth-related message boards about the fact that my water had broken, and did some re-reading on meconium staining, as I'd noticed the amniotic fluid was yellowish and had a smell that was slightly “off”, kind of like shrimp chips.

I'd previously read some stories where there was serious meconium in the amniotic fluid and yet the mothers delivered babies without problems, so I wasn’t alarmed by what I was experiencing:  I remember my third baby, born in a hospital, was born after meconium staining, and she was fine, although the medical staff made it seem like a scary situation. I found in my online research that light meconium staining is not a big deal.

By around 2:30 a.m., my contractions were slowing down and I was very tired, so I fell asleep on the couch's recliner while Sweet Man already snored on the other side of the L, next to me.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

Chapter 5 -  Still Waiting

Day 2 – Thursday February 26, 2009

Around 7:00 a.m. I was awakened by my sister calling me on the phone, returning the call I'd given her the night before, where I left her a message about my water having broken.

While I talked on the phone, CJ came up from her room.  She stood there looking from me to the pool, pointing wordlessly at it with a bewildered look on her face.

She had not seen the pool prior to that point so it came as a confusing surprise to her.

Oh, yeah, I hadn’t yet mentioned to her that I was planning an unassisted home water birth.

I had been so hush-hush about who I told, not wanting to have negative feedback to discourage me, I just never got around to telling her.

After hanging up the phone with my sister, I explained to CJ that my water broke the night before, and the pool was for me to use while in labour, to have a water birth here at home. She nodded in understanding and all was cool.

I asked her, “Would you mind staying home from school today?  Your baby sister might be born in the next few hours.”

We’d already discussed it days before, that she’d be here to watch my two littlest ones, who were then aged 18 months (J-Bird) and 4 years (C-Fish), in case I needed Sweet Man's assistance during the birth process.

She was fine with that and stayed home for me.

I ended up resting in bed for most of the day, with maybe one or two contractions per hour.

Sweet Man was home, having been laid off work at the sawmill for a few months but still on call during that time period.  Between him and CJ, the little guys were kept occupied while I rested.

Life went on as usual, albeit with much anticipation at the pending birth.

Later that day, with five of my six kids (my oldest, who was 16 at the time, was living with one of my friends in another town for her schooling), we had CJ’s birthday cake while my labour was “in remission”. (Her birthday was February 23).

I'd made the cake a couple days earlier – a chocolate swirl cheesecake topped generously with sliced fresh strawberries in strawberry glaze.

My seven-year-old son, PJ, along with my then-11-year-old daughter, S-Girl, and I decided we would sing a different song to CJ, having sung “Happy Birthday To You” too many times to count over the years with all my kids.

CJ gave us a weird look as we sang, “We wish you a merry Christmas… and a happy birthday!”

(We’re a rather unconventional family).

S-Girl’s school band concert was that evening, and she was so disappointed that I wasn’t able to go. With amniotic fluid leaking out of me onto a folded waterproof pad beneath my dark-green-and-floral hippy-skirt, contractions starting and stopping at random, I wasn’t very mobile nor up for public events.

I loaned CJ my camcorder and she filmed the whole thing, which made both S and me feel better about my inability to attend.

We noticed the air had been leaking from the La Bassine* birthing pool.   (*Available here).

The La Bassine birthing pool in my kitchen that night.
Upon questioning our then 4-year-old son, we learned that he had poked holes in the inner walls with thumb tacks.

Sweet Man and I were mortified.

I had been looking so forward to having a water birth.

We had spent so much money getting that birthing pool, having to cut corners to afford it, and now it seemed it would be all for naught.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

Chapter 6 - Frustration
Later that night, after CJ went to bed, my contractions started up again around 9:30.  The amniotic fluid that was leaking out of me was now clear with no odour.

Sweet Man and I were so tired, and so stressed out, with the last straw being the holes in the pool, we ended up having our first and only real "fight" in all the years we've been together.

As I'm writing this from my draft notes, in 2012, I cannot even remember the subject matter of the fight, other than that we were both using angry voices and neither of us were listening to the other's words.

My contractions became less intense as the night wore on, but I was hoping they’d start up again if I relaxed in a bath.

Still angry at each other, but calming down a little, around 3:30 in the morning, Sweet Man filled our Jacuzzi tub.

I thought I might even have the baby in there.

We both lounged sleepily in the water for at least half an hour.

I brought a plastic bowl with me as I expected to be throwing up from the pain, as I had in the hospital births of the past.

I had thrown up with all but one of my other kids (CJ).

This one, however - thankfully! - would also be with no throwing up.
I finally eased my entire body into the water, but found it to be way too hot for my comfort.

I filled the plastic bowl with cold water and poured it into the water beside me.

It felt so soothing to have the cold water slither down beneath me.

The whole bath experience helped relieve some of the tension we had been feeling, and, as usual, I felt a little bit better physically when water was buoying my pregnant body.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

Chapter 7 - It's About Time!

Day three – Friday February 27

CJ didn’t want to miss another day of school, so S-Girl stayed home to be of help for the little guys in case Sweet Man and I were wrapped up in birthing.
By around noon, I decided I wanted to try castor oil.  Sweet Man and S-Girl went to town and bought me some.

They also stopped at a pool store to pick up a patch kit.

Sweet Man patched up the pin holes. Within a few hours, the pool was re-inflated and holding air nicely. It still leaked a little but it was a slow enough leak that Sweet man was able to keep it inflated with vacuum cleaner air.

I only took a tiny bit of castor oil, never having been totally comfortable with the idea, even though it seemed to have worked with my last baby.  I'm not sure, though, if maybe J-Bird had just been ready to be born at that time, regardless of whether I'd ingested castor oil or not, and I'm also not sure if his relatively speedy birth was also to do with the castor oil or not.

Later that evening, I was lying in bed, doing what I'd done many times over the prior weeks - reading Ina May's book, among other books on natural childbirth I'd borrowed from the library.

My youngest kids had gone to bed, but CJ, S-Girl, and PJ were in the room below me, watching the movie Rocket Man.

Contractions were starting to get serious.

I sat up, holding onto the rails of the crib that was set up next to my bed, and breathed through my contractions.

At 8:00 p.m., I called my homeopath and asked if she had anything on hand that would help ease the pain.

Sweet Man drove to her house (she lives five minutes from us) and picked up some Arnica.

At 8:30, I took some Arnica.

Sweet Man had set up a crib mattress on the bedroom floor, with a red sheet on it, in case I was unable to make it down the stairs to the birthing pool in the kitchen.

Alone in my room, I breathed through contractions, and then resumed reading my books.

Occasionally the laughter of my kids could be heard through the floor below me, and I called them on the phone intercom, gently asking, "Can you guys please, please, please laugh quietly?  I'm in a lot of pain up here and trying to get through it."

I love that movie and know how funny we all find it around here, so I hated to ask them to hush, but I had to.

I was excited about the contractions increasing in intensity, and so very happy to be at home where I was most comfortable.

I prayed and thanked God for the soon coming birth, asking Him for all the strength I would need, trusting Him that He would get me through it all, even thanking Him after contractions.

I know some refer to them as "rushes" or "surges", or other more gentle and/or empowering words, but for simplicity (and because three years have passed since the birth and I cannot remember what I was calling them at the time) I am referring to them here as contractions.

By 10:30 pm, I decided to go down the stairs to the birthing pool.

First I put on the clothes I had chosen for the birth, as I did not want to be naked in front of my children.

I wore a pretty little cotton T-shirt with fluttery short sleeves, and a loose pareo tied around my belly.

PJ had gone to bed.  CJ had fallen asleep on the couch.  S-Girl was too excited to go to sleep and stayed up to help, being the cheerful little butterfly she's so good at being, lighting scented candles in the kitchen and keeping the mood relaxed.

S-Girl was my 11-year-old surrogate doula. 

Sweet Man and S-Girl helped me into the pool.

That soft-walled pool and the warm water were heavenly on my aching, pregnant body.

Apparently Sweet Man didn't catch every pin hole and we had a slow leak in the pool walls.  He topped it up with vacuum cleaner air and it was as cozy as could be.

The pool water was going a little cold.  We'd used up the contents of our hot water tank to fill the pool, so Sweet Man and S-Girl filled stock pots with water and put them on the stove to heat up.

Sweet Man and S-Girl sat on the floor near me, eating chocolate macaroons, waiting.

S-Girl did a little bit of video recording of me in the pool.  Here's a clip:

In this video clip, you can hear chipper little S-Girl talking about her step-dad hogging all the "markoons" (what she calls macaroons), and at the end you can hear me saying, "I think I feel one starting, " followed by my request for no more video recording as I said,  "Oooooh, turn it off."

S-Girl and I noticed the clock turning to 11:11, and, as is customary for us, we said, "TIME!"

At that point, I told S-Girl that she needed to get to bed, as I really needed to be alone.

I knew things were getting serious, but tried to show only calm on the outside for my family's sake.

S-Girl gave me a hug and went up to her room, which is right above the kitchen.

Then I said to Sweet Man, "Is there anything else you might want to do?  There's nothing exciting happening here, and I really need to be alone.  I'll call you if anything happens."

He went to watch some videos on his computer in the next room, leaving me alone.

That was all it took.

A few more contractions every few minutes and I knew my body was opening right up to let that baby out.

No medical staff poking their fingers in me to measure me.  I could, and did, do that myself, and what I felt was the head of my little girl coming down the birth canal.

Oh, yes, it hurt like mad, but it was exciting because I knew it was almost over.

I let my body do what it had to do, welcoming the contraction and pushing down gently along with it.

I called out to Sweet Man, "Crowning!"

Later, S-Girl told me she heard me say that from upstairs.

He ran to the kitchen.

Another contraction or two, seeing in my mind's eye what was going on inside my birth canal, knowing my body was working the way it was meant to work, pushing along with what happened naturally, albeit agonizingly, one more push.... and she was out into the water!



It was over.

There she was, floating peacefully, not yet needing to breathe air.

There in the candlelight, Sweet Man placed his hands gently around our little girl, carefully unwinding the cord, which was wrapped around her chest and her neck a few times, and then bringing her up to my waiting arms.

Sweet Man ran up the stairs to tell S-Girl her little sister was born.

S-Girl was already on her way out of the room to come down and see.

I kissed Baby Girl's sweet little head over and over, whispering my thanks to God through waves of joy and relief, telling my baby, "I love you... oh, my sweet child, I love you.  I thank God for you."

By the time I looked at the clock, it was a few minutes past midnight, so I figured Baby Girl was born at about 11:50 p.m. on Friday, February 27, 2009.

Sweet Man handed me a red and white checkered tea-towel, which I dipped into the warm water and placed over her back, while her front was snuggled up against my chest and chin.  I kept swooping water over her back to keep her warm.

We left the cord untouched until it stopped pulsing, and then some.  There was no hurry.

There was a pair of brand new heavy-duty scissors sitting in a pot of boiling water, which Sweet Man removed and used for cutting the cord.

CJ woke up shortly after Baby Girl was born, and with bleary eyes peered into the kitchen.

"Your little sister's been born!" I said.

"Oh, cool," she said, and stumbled off to bed.

I don't know how long we sat in the pool.  When the water started cooling down, I took that as a hint to get out.

Sweet Man helped me and Baby Girl out of the pool, wrapped Baby Girl in a clean towel, and helped me into my soft pink bath robe.  Then he helped me up the stairs to bed, where I lay down beside Baby Girl, trying to breast feed her.

She took a little bit, but wasn't too interested.  She was content to lie beside me on the bed.

I phoned my sister around 2:00 a.m. to let her know her new niece was born.

After I got off the phone, I was getting a little concerned that the placenta still hadn't come out of me.

Sweet Man was down in the kitchen, draining and cleaning the pool, and tidying up.

When he came upstairs, it was perfect timing, as I had just sat up and was pushing the placenta out onto one of the blue absorbent pads on which I'd been lying.

Sweet Man ran to get a garbage bag, into which he placed the placenta and absorbent pads, and took it to the garbage can outside.  Hey, it was well below freezing, so no worries about animals getting at the garbage that time of year.

It was so sweet going to sleep that night, with Baby Girl between Mama and Daddy, right there at home.

After sunrise in the morning, the rest of the kids started piling onto the bed to meet their brand new baby sister.  I was loving it, having six of my seven kids there with me while I lay back and relaxed.

I called my oldest child, then 16, down at my friend's place, on the phone to announce the birth to her, and called a few other friends as well.

The rest of the day I lay in bed with Baby Girl, getting up only to use the bathroom.

Sweet Man brought me taquitos in bed, as well as water, tea, and juice.

The day after that, Sunday, I came downstairs with Baby Girl, and by Monday I started work again.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

Chapter 8 - Done

Also on Monday, we went to the doctor to have Baby Girl weighed and measured, which was right in the average range for all my babies around 7-1/2 lbs and 20 inches long.

When I told the doctor we had her at home, unassisted, by choice, I expected chiding, but instead was surprised at his happiness and support.

Baby Girl, in my bed, 2 hours old

(Sorry I don't have more - or better (LOL, mo' good'r) - baby pictures.
The camera I was using at the time was a video cam with
the still-shot feature, and this one was taken with night-vision 
as it was dark in the room.)

Among other encouraging words, he said, "And you've saved the medical system thousands of dollars by doing this yourself!"

I wish I would have had all seven of my children at home, had I known what a blessedly wonderful experience it was going to be!

Baby Girl, 14 months old, in April 2010, with me (age 43 here)

September 2011 (age 2-1/2), taken with my new Canon T3i camera
She's a natural born model, always saying, "Take picture of me?"  :)


January 2012, almost 3 years old

In a future blog, I will share my journey on how I got back into shape after this birth.

UPDATE (March 28, 2012).  
Here is one part of that journey -  30 Days On The Shred

I love hearing from readers, and I welcome your questions and comments!

PS:  If you like my writing, check out my other entries, and click "follow" on the top left of this page.


  1. because I don't have much time now I only have read the last bit about the birth (plan to read the other bits later)

    the way you gave birth to your baby girl sounds intimate and wonderful, without hospital stress.
    what a great way to do it!

    (I hope intimate is the right word in this context)

  2. Good for you! Awesome! I've thought about going unassisted as well and hubby isn't ok with it. I have had 3 homebirths though. :)

  3. Wow! I had no idea! That's sooo amazing!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like a wonderful birth! Congratulations!

  5. That was precious, Christine! Thank you for sharing this!! Joy ~Warriorbride~

  6. I loved your birth story. I gave birth a few weeks after you did, March 17 of the same year. That was my first Unassisted Birth.
    I am also glad that you are giving birth in your 40's. I love to hear more positive stories, empowering and enabling stories about free birth and family being involved.
    What a beautiful little girl.

  7. If anyone would like to read a bit about my journey getting back in shape after seven children, here's the latest thing I've done - a blog which documents 30 days of my experiences doing the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred.

  8. Beautiful story thank you for sharing! Just wish you had filmed it. :)

  9. What a beautiful story!!!!


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