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Powerful…very powerful…

And now presenting…Amira’s Unassisted Birth Story!!!  YAY!!! 

When I found out that I was pregnant with baby number 3, I knew right away that I wanted to do things differently this time around. My previous pregnancies were over-medicalized. What should have been a natural process that my body was created to experience, was instead treated like a sickness- something that needed to be monitored and treated. I had normal, healthy pregnancies. So why was I expected to spend so much time in a hospital- a place where you go when you are sick? Couldn’t I trust in God’s perfect design for my body to bring forth children and in the well being of His tiny creation growing inside of my womb? If there was something that needed medical attention, wouldn’t the Holy Spirit lead me to see a doctor, if it was in fact necessary?

Around the third or fourth month of my pregnancy, my husband and I agreed that we were going to have this baby at home, without the assistance of a medical “professional”. During my pregnancy, I did not receive the standard prenatal care from an OB, and instead just took care of myself. I didn’t get any blood tests, glucose tests, or STD tests. I did not even step foot inside of a doctor’s office except on one occasion to get a pregnancy confirmation for vital records (in order to get a birth certificate after baby was born). I had no complications during the pregnancy and felt very comfortable (and excited) about giving birth at home with just my husband by my side.

On December 4th, about three weeks before my estimated due date, I was up until almost midnight trying to design some modest Barbie doll clothes for my niece (not the smartest thing I’ve ever done). When midnight came around and I was so tired I felt like my eyeballs were going to fall out, I finally put my things away and laid down for bed. My husband wasn’t home from work yet, but I expected him home any minute. As I laid there in the bed, I started to feel uncomfortable on my right side, so I carefully turned over to my left. As I rolled over, I heard a little “pop” coming from inside of my belly. I wondered for a quick moment whether it could have been my water breaking, but dismissed the idea right away. My water hadn’t broken with my previous labors (it had been artificially broken at the hospital both times). I closed my eyes and tried to get to sleep, but as I moved slightly, I felt a tiny gush. This sort of “tiny gush” was not unheard of throughout my pregnancy, so again I dismissed it and closed my eyes. As I adjusted again to get comfortable, I felt a bigger gush. This time my pants were wet. Ok, now this was not normal! I went to the bathroom and the gushes continued. Now I knew that my water had broken, but I didn’t know what to do! In the movies, the woman’s water breaks, there is one big gush and…all done! Well, in real life, apparently you have to put on an adult diaper to absorb the numerous gushes that follow! In case this might be valuable information for anyone reading this someday, adult diapers hold an incredible about of liquid without leaking. 🙂

 After I got the “water” mess under control, I tried to call my husband at work, only to learn that he had left an hour prior. This meant that he was not on his way home and must have been with a friend. Of course, we do not own cell phones, so my only choice at that point was to start calling around. I felt very silly doing this considering the fact that it was about 12:30 at night, but I really didn’t have any other choice. I just laughed as his friends completely freaked out at the news and asked if I needed a ride to the hospital. They were surprised at my lack of worry, but they didn’t realize that although I wanted my husband to be there, if it came down to it, I was prepared to give birth to this baby all by my lonesome.

After calling all of the numbers in my phone, I put down the phone and started picking up around the house. It was now about 1am (an hour after my water had broken) and I hadn’t had any contractions yet. I called my sister and my friend Lori, to let them know that I was in labor and to laugh with them about the fact that my husband was MIA. Just after I got off the phone, my husband walked through the front door. He had no idea that tonight was the night we would have our baby. You should’ve seen the look on his face when I told him the news! It was priceless!

A few minutes after my husband arrived home, the contractions began. It didn’t take long at all (about ½ hr-45 min) before they were all under 4 minutes apart. My husband started to fill the birthing pool, and by the time it was just halfway full I was ready to get in. The contractions were getting pretty intense and the warm water felt wonderful. At this point I was still able to relax during contractions with ease. I took slow, steady breaths and tried to visualize the baby moving down and my cervix opening. I really feel like this helped me to work with my body, instead of fighting against its efforts.  I also spent many contractions praying and repeating scriptures like Phil 4:13 and Isaiah 66:9, reminding myself of God’s faithfulness and His promises.

Around 3am, the contractions started getting really intense.  At this point I really started to regret staying up so late!  I was practically falling asleep in between contractions and it was getting much harder to relax through them. But Sam was right by my side, holding my hand and encouraging me every step of the way. It wasn’t long after that (around 3:45) that I started crying “I can’t do this”. My husband was unaware of the fact that this was a sign of transition, and although the thought had crossed my mind, I dismissed it on account of the fact that maybe I was just being a big fat baby. 🙂 I checked my cervix and could feel the baby’s head, but it was still high and I couldn’t tell how dilated I was because of the awkward tilt of my uterus that made it hard to reach. I had been feeling a lot of pressure for awhile, but tried to relax through it and let my body do the work without any extra strain. It wasn’t long before I felt as though I couldn’t take it anymore and started pushing with each contraction. My husband realized what I was doing (mainly because I was holding my breath while pushing) and told me that I needed to breathe. I looked at him like he was nuts. Breath while pushing?? Is he crazy??! But, I listened…and it worked. When I pushed while breathing, I could feel much more progress being made than when I had been holding my breath (otherwise known as “purple pushing”).

Even with all the pressure and the signs of transition, I still didn’t feel at all as if the end was near. How could it when it just began??!! The thought that I would be holding my baby in my arms in just a few minutes honestly did not even cross my mind. I had just checked my cervix and felt that the baby’s head had not moved down any further. But for some reason, out of nowhere I said to my husband, “The baby is coming now!” I started to push and out came the baby’s head (along with that lovely “ring of fire“ I had heard so much about). We checked to see if the cord was wrapped around the neck, and it wasn’t, so with the next contraction my sweet baby entered this world (on December 5th at 4:35am) into the loving hands of mommy and daddy. My husband immediately turned the video camera on so that we could record the first moments of our sweet baby’s life. It was AMAZING! My husband was at a loss for words, just repeating over and over again, “Wow…wow…WOW!” It’s truly a feeling that cannot be described! A minute or two passed before I even realized I didn’t know the sex! I looked down…it was a girl!!! Amira Lee Bryant, welcome to the world!

My children woke up from the commotion of those final pushes, and came downstairs to meet their baby sister. Although they weren’t present for the actual birth, their being part of her first few moments outside of the womb has made such a difference in the bond that they share with her. They were a part of something very special that day, and although they may not fully grasp that, the effects of that event are present in the relationship that they have with her everyday.

About 45 minutes after Amira was born, I birthed the placenta. We waited a couple of hours before cutting the cord (after it was limp and we could see no more blood flowing through it). I cuddled up with my baby girl on the couch and took a nap, in the comfort and warmth of my own home, and with my family close by. No one was there to deprive her of a quarter of her blood supply (by cutting the cord immediately after birth) poke her with needles (a vitamin k shot and hep B vaccination), vigorously rub her with towels (stripping the vernix ~ a natural moisterizer ~ from her skin), or smear gunk in her eyes (antibiotics in case mom had an STD). She was brought into this world just as God intended; naturally…peacefully…and at home.

And just as an extra added bonus, after Amira’s birth, nobody pushed forcefully on my uterus and pulled on the cord (a rather painful experience) in order to force my placenta to deliver (a practice that most doctor’s do and GREATLY increases the risk for hemorrhage).  There were no strangers there, bothering me or trying to take my baby from me to run “tests”, during our crutial mommy-baby bonding time.  Instead of trying to rest in an uncomfortable twin size bed, in a cold empty room, I was sleeping comfortably on a full size futon I bought especially to share with my baby after birth.  My baby girl kept warm against mommy’s skin, rather than the “warmer” that they use in hospitals (my husband calls it the “fry warmer”).  And unlike my other two who cried and screamed for the first hour after birth while they were poked and prodded, Amira didn’t cry for the first four days (aside from the two tears that she shed immediately after she was born). 

It was a wonderful experience, and I am so thankful to the people in my life that informed us and helped us in our decision to have an unassisted home birth.  I cannot adequately describe to you what a difference it made in the birthing experience and how much of an impact it has had in our family relationships.  I cannot even imagine going back to the hospital to give birth after the experience of unassisted home birth.  I pray that others learn what we have learned and we begin to move normal healthy births out of the hospital and back at home where they should be (unassisted or otherwise).