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X-Man: My Homebirth Story

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We knew we wanted a homebirth before I even got pregnant. Jack’s birth experience and our journey into parenting left us wanting a different experience the second time. We wanted an experience where our wishes were respected, where my body and baby would be respected, where we would be consulted on every decision along the way and where we were in control of our environment. For my husband and me this meant planning a birth in our own home. We agonized over every single detail. We made a plan for every scenario.

After months of contemplating what to wear during labor I bought a pink and white tie dye sun dress from Target. I made a list of “labor tasks.” These would keep my family and me busy during the early hours of labor. I imagined we would bake cookies because Jack could be involved and then he could have a treat while I delivered the baby. I would brew the herbal sitz bath to prepare for postpartum recovery. We would take family photos with me on a birthing ball. Josh and Jack would help rub my back during contractions. I was going to set up my beautiful kitchen island with all of the supplies and snacks for the midwives.

But this happened instead.

I went to bed on Wednesday June 4, 2014. In the early morning hours of June 5, 2014, I woke up to contractions. I had Braxton Hicks contractions for more than half of my pregnancy so this was not unusual. I got up to pee and drink some water as I always did. I had a few more. I tried to sleep. A few more kept me awake. This was a bit strange, but I was 39 weeks pregnant. I was induced at 41 weeks with my first son, Jack. At that time I was not dilated, not effaced and he had not dropped. He was nowhere near ready. The midwives had no plans on taking calls from me for another 2 to 3 weeks. It was clearly an increase in Braxton Hicks in order to prepare for labor. It seemed logical to me that they would get more frequent and stronger as the weeks passed.

At 4 a.m. I finally got out of bed. I found my husband on the couch thanks to the cats that wouldn’t stop scratching at the door. I told him what was going on. We sat up and talked, both convinced this would pass. It was exciting nonetheless. I got a piece of paper to track the contractions as a practice run. That was a huge pain in the ass. I mentioned I had seen a screenshot of a contraction app on Facebook. He said he had heard of this too. Since we were not sleeping we figured might as well try it out. After a few contractions it was clear there was no rhyme or reason to this. Proof that this would all go away soon. I had some tea, tried to relax and continued to chat with my husband.

IMG_20140605_053016My husband at 4 a.m. trying out the contraction app and shielding his eyes from my obnoxious flash 

Around 5 a.m. the contractions started to make a bit more sense. We tracked them at about 5½ minutes apart for another hour. They were very mild. Since there was some rhythm now I figured I should call a midwife. I had been told as a second-time mom that I should call early, as things tend to go a bit faster the second time around. I told the midwife what was going on and she said to watch them for another hour and see if they get more frequent. She was not convinced. I had just seen her the day before in her office. We planned to deliver this baby in another couple of weeks. We went back to tracking the contractions. They were all over the place again. The phone call alone and the reminder that this was all a fluke was enough to break the rhythm.

I decided to go back to bed with Jack. I didn’t sleep at all. I looked at the clock and watched as the contractions began to show up on schedule again. I got back out of bed around 8 a.m. My mom was in town and she was up as well. I told her what was going on. We had a very detailed plan of who would be present for the birth and my mom was not on the list. She and my dad had a trip planned to Ireland in mid-June and I did not want there to be any maybes for Jack. Since she might be out of the country when the baby came I did not want to tell Jack that she might be there so we stuck with the plan for her not to attend. She asked several times if she should leave so we could stick to our plan, but something kept me from letting her go.

It seems funny to me now that I did not believe I was in labor. I suppose it is natural and healthy to remain calm and distracted until you have no choice but to pay attention, but I had spent so much time preparing for early labor and I spent the whole time in denial. I did such a good job staying distracted that I didn’t see the freight train that was about to hit me.

Jack woke up and I decided to take a bath. Surely that would slow things down. I texted my doula and photographer and said that I talked to the midwives and was watching the contractions. I would be in touch. My doula asked how far apart they were. They were remaining steady at 5½ minutes apart. Still mild. She said she would stay by her phone and come whenever I wanted her to. I held her off because I wasn’t sure this was really going to go down anytime soon. My husband sat with me and continued to track. My mom took Jack for playtime downstairs. Every time a contraction started I would say, “ok.” I sat up and said, “ok.” I let out a big moan. That was a strong one. My husband said, “hmm, well that one was 3 minutes.” I stood up. I said, “ok!” and let out a bigger moan. He said, “2 minutes!” What the fuck???

It was around 9:20 a.m. when I got out of the bathtub and crawled to the bed. My husband said, “shouldn’t we call them again!?” I called the on-call number and the midwife asked to listen while I had a contraction. She listened to me moan and howl. She said, “ok, yeah, that sounds real. Get the tub set up. I’m on my way.” I texted my doula and photographer. I had no idea how we got from bath-time-5-minute-contractions to this, but there was no doubt that this was real and happening fast.

Now we had to tell Jack. I wish he had more time to absorb this. I wish we all had more time to absorb this. I found him on the couch and said “Mommy needs to talk to you. Jack, the baby is coming today.” A cautious look came over his face. My mom said, “uh oh.” We had spent 9 months preparing Jack for this day. What we discussed most was the amount of noise that I would make. Jack is very sensitive to sound and we made a point to cover this ad nauseam with him. I said to Jack, “sweetheart, do you remember how we talked about how Mommy is going to make a lot of noise? Well, this-is-what-it’s-goingtosoundlikeeeeaaaauuuuhhhhhh!!!!!!!!” That’s all the time I had in between contractions now. My mom and Josh both went to Jack and reminded him of all the things that we talked about. “Mommy is going to make a lot of noise; this helps the baby come out.” I felt sick. I asked for a bucket. I never got sick but with every contraction Jack ran over and shoved the bucket into my face. “Thank you sweetheart,” I said.

Josh got the pool. We got Jack on the job to help him. Jack picked up on the frenzy that had built up. He said, “I’m frustrated! We need to get this pool set up!” I felt afraid for all of us. This came on so quick. We didn’t have time to mentally prepare. I mostly felt for Jack. What would he think of all this? It’s really happening. The thing we had talked about so much. The day was here. I wanted to grab onto him, but I knew not to. I didn’t want to put anything extra on him. Thank god my Mom was here. It’s like it was an act of god.

unnamedMy husband struggled to get the seat blown up so he grabbed a bike pump. Jack fed off of our frenzy and grabbed various parts of the pool to help set it up. 

I was beside myself at this point. I went back to the bath tub. On my way I spotted the Hibiclense. I am GBS+ and needed to do the Hibiclense douche. Ugh, I forgot! Now I had to give myself a douche in hard labor. I laid in the bathtub giving myself this douche while Josh connected the hose to the showerhead. Josh sat with me as the pool filled in the living room. I could not find any comfort now. I howled through contractions. I told my husband, “I’m scared! I can’t do this!”

146My Mom stayed with Jack in the other room. Have I said thank god she was there!? We told Jack he would be able to get in the pool. He stood in it while he filled it with water. You can see my birth affirmations hanging from the mantel and also the bowl that Jack kept bringing to me in case I got sick. 

I desperately wanted the pain to go away. I got out of the tub and crawled to our bed. “Where are they!?” I yelled knowing there was no way in hell they could be here that quick. “Push on my back!” I yelled to my husband. He pushed on my lower back and my water broke down my thighs onto our bed. I saw right away there was meconium in it. My husband grabbed my phone and called the midwives again. She said she was almost here. She asked if the water was clear and my husband said, “Yes.” Never mind about that now, she’ll see for herself in a few minutes. She told my husband to tell me not to push. My mom, my husband and I all thought we might be having this baby right here, just the three of us.

282Yep, this is a photo of the amniotic fluid. Don’t ask how long it was before we washed the sheets. 

The midwives (a lead and an assistant) and my doula showed up all at the same time just before 10 a.m. The lead midwife checked me on the side of my bed. “Wow! You’re ready, let’s get in the tub!” They walked me to the tub. I slid into warm water. I hung onto the side as the midwives checked baby’s heart rate. I remember trying to bite the side of the tub. There was nothing to bite. I tried a few positions for pushing. My doula said, “You look like you want to hold onto something.” She directed me to the handles. I loved those handles. I sat on the seat and held onto the handles. That worked for me. “Oxygen on Mom,” the lead midwife said. I later learned that she was hearing decelerations in baby’s heart rate. She felt it was a good idea to get everyone loaded on extra oxygen. She later told me that had it looked as though the baby was not coming for several more hours, we may have had to talk about transferring to a hospital due to meconium and decelerations, but she said, “I knew you were going to push that baby out.”

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And now the real work began. I pushed with each contraction. And screeched at the top of my lungs. I screamed, “Get it out of me!” I screamed “I can’t do this!” The midwives smiled at me with each contraction. They told me to tell myself that I can do it, to come down low with my screams, come down low with my pushing. Down low. For some reason this made total sense to me. And in that moment I learned how to deliver a baby. I moaned in very low tones, made noises that have never come out of me before. I pushed as low as I could. I pushed into the pain. I pushed as if I were pooping. I have always tried to push as if I were peeing. I did this with Jack. They told me I was doing it wrong, but never told me what to do instead. Now I got it. I got addicted to this pushing. It was incredible how much this type of pushing actually alleviated the pain. I pushed so long and hard. To the point where the midwives had to remind me to stop when the contractions stopped. “Take a break, take deep breaths for yourself.” With each push they smiled, spoke very quietly and told me I was doing great: “Awesome, Abby, you’re doing it, I see his head, that’s right, great! Now take a break, deep breaths for you, you’re doing awesome.”

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The lead midwife said, “There is a lot of water in here! Why is there so much water? Is the hose still on?” I was floating in the pool with water up around my neck. I grabbed the hose that was dangling in the pool and water gushed out of it. My husband ran down the hall to turn it off. He and my doula fished water out with buckets. The doorbell rang. No one moved toward it. I knew it was the photographer. “The door!” No one moved. “It’s the photographer! Answer the fucking door!!!” I was still in charge of the house. I vividly remember everything. I was aware of everything going on around me. I concentrated only on the baby head in my pelvis, but I was so sober, so present in the moment, that my senses were heightened to everything in the room. At one point I heard Jack in the hallway saying that the doppler used to hear baby’s heartbeat “sounded like a truck.”

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Now that I knew how to move this baby I wanted nothing more than to move him all the way out. I knew I would feel him pass through my outer vagina with a burning sensation. And I craved that feeling because that would mean it was over. I said to myself, “BURN BABY BURN! I WANT TO FEEL THE BURN!!!” I pushed so hard. I could feel his head right there. It was all up to me now. In between contractions I floated as still as I could to try to save as much progress as I could. I could feel his head in my pelvis. In between a couple of pushes my mom emerged from downstairs with Jack and said, “He wants to give you a kiss.” Jack kissed my cheek. “Thank you sweetheart,” I said.


Jack spent most of his time downstairs with my mom. Josh made frequent trips down there to check on him. In the months leading to the birth the plan was to have Josh assigned to Jack. We knew he would miss some of the labor and maybe the birth, but this plan made us most comfortable as a family. With my Mom present, Josh was able to support me in labor and still check on Jack and be present for him. Josh went downstairs again when he heard Jack becoming upset. I had entered “that place” and was unrecognizable to anyone in the room who knew me well. I focused only on pushing. I focused only on the baby’s head coming out of my vagina.With Jack I was so high on drugs and removed from the situation that I forgot what it was all about. When they handed me Jack I thought, “Oh yeah! That’s what all this was about.” With this new baby I thought only of him and his head and how we were working together. Just as Josh had Jack calmed down he handed him back to my Mom and inadvertently poked him in the face which made him burst into tears again. Josh and my mom tried to calm him down just as they heard baby cries from upstairs. They came running up the stairs to find me with Exley on my chest.


That final push didn’t burn quite as much as I thought it would. Maybe the water eases it. They put him on my chest for about 30 seconds before he made any sound. I thought he may need intervention due to the meconium. “Is he OK?” I asked. “He’s perfect!” the assistant said. He let out a big cry and I felt relieved. He latched onto my breast like he was born to do it or something. I don’t remember saying much when it was all over. I just laughed. I was ecstatic. My husband has brought up a few times that he can’t quite wrap his head around how something can hurt so bad and be so intense and then over in an instant. But there we have it, from the most intense experience in life to laughter; in an instant. Watch a short video of this moment here.

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Exley Joseph was born at 11:15 a.m. Less than 3 hours after me believing I was in labor. I delivered the placenta shortly after. This turned the water from perfectly clear to perfectly blood red. They asked if I was ready to get into bed. They handed Exley to Josh for some skin to skin. They helped me out of the tub and dried me off. Walked me down the hallway to my bed. As I walked I said “Ow! My butthole!” I could not believe that I just pushed a baby out in my living room and was walking down my own hallway to my own bed to recover.

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They had made my bed (since I didn’t have time) with tons of pillows. I sat down on an incline. They handed Exley to me for more nursing. The midwives and my doula climbed onto my bed with me. We talked about the birth while they filled out paperwork. It was so cozy and peaceful. Like it was just normal to be sitting around like this. I mean it is, after all, normal. Birth is normal.

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They took a look at my perineum and we decided a couple of stitches would be best. They did it right there. Smiling and chatting away. It was light-years from my birth experience with Jack. They were so gentle and encouraging the entire time. Doing everything at my pace. Asking what my input was at every decision. I was queen of the world. I didn’t think that then, but that is how they treated me.

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It felt like a true “family” affair. At one point there were about 7 or 8 people piled on our bed. This is where the newborn exam took place, my start to breastfeeding, their exam and treatment of my body. My doula even gave me a leg massage. The birth came so fast that it was hard to process the experience. I was surprised at how nurturing and peaceful it felt afterwards. We all shared our experience with the birth and told stories. Jack brought some trucks. My husband brought me food. Every last person had a huge smile on their face the entire time. When they left we all kissed and hugged goodbye. I was sad when it ended.


There were many firsts in this birth making it all the more special. It was our first homebirth. The photographer’s first homebirth (can you believe she has never photographed a birth before?). Exley was one of the first babies that the assistant midwife has “caught.” I love that there was so many special occasions for the people involved. Every now and then, even 3 weeks later, I stop and say “I can’t believe that happened!!!”


I constantly hear the word “empowering” when it comes to homebirth. I don’t know if that is the word that I would use for the birth itself. The entire experience, planning the birth, doing it our way, being the lead in the process was most definitely empowering. The word I would use for my birth itself is maybe “humbling.” I have never gone into spontaneous labor before. To me it was humbling to see nature take over. Once the contractions began and labor set in I had little control over anything. Mother Nature stepped in and I had no choice but to surrender to her. I had to work together with my body and my baby to deliver Exley safely. I found labor and delivery humbling. I find every step of motherhood humbling.

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Abby, Josh, Jack and Exley

***A special thank you to Tiny Bubbles family Photography By Leslie for the professional photos you see here. Please “Like” her Facebook page.