I am that crazy mom. I had a home birth. Not by accident, I planned it because I wanted it. In our one-bedroom apartment.
“Whaaaaat!?” or “Woooow!” are the usual comments I get from people. I understand why. When I heard about home birth for the first time, I thought it was a wild idea, too.
Then I did it. Turns out home birth really isn’t as crazy and wild as it could sound. If I was to pick one word to describe my experience, it was “simple”. It was all about letting the baby be born and trusting that your body knows how to do it. Everything happened at the comfort of our own home throughout the pregnancy and the birth. It was so carefree. I feel so happy and fortunate that I was able to do this.
AND THIS IS HOW OUR HOME BIRTH WENT. MY BIRTH STORY.
I woke up in the morning of February 9th, 2019 with a slight cramp. Then I went to the bathroom and found a bit of blood. My sleepy brain slowly started to wake up and thought “Wait a minute… I feel like I was having cramps throughout the night… Am I having my baby today?! But I am NOT ready!”
It was still 3 days before our due date. And I had a cold. I had been coughing and my temperature was 100.4, but I was feeling much hotter. Around 9am, I called my midwife on call, Carol, to let her know what was happening. I was getting a bit nervous but Carol sounded excited. She has always been an upbeat person but I had never appreciated her character more than this time. Her positive voice made me realize that this is not the time to be scared but more of an exciting moment of my pregnancy! Baby is trying to come out of my body! I started to keep track of my contractions as Carol suggested, and I was feeling safe that she would be around for me whenever I need her.
After I learned that today could be “the day”, all I wanted to do was to clean up our tiny home. I ordered around Inje, my husband, on how to clean around while lying down on our couch. It was something like “Move this, move that, vacuum here and there and bring me water.” and “Yes, my lady”. He also took our 2.5-year-old oldest child, Sali, out on a walk on her stroller so she would nap. I was the boss and I’m thankful that he let me be. He also followed my command to play the Rainbow Relaxation from HypnoBirthing affirmations on speakers for me and I just closed my eyes and rested on my couch.
When Carol came to our home at 12:15pm for an exam, she found out that I was actually in labor and I’m already 2-3cm at 50% effaced! Inje and I were in a shock and I was speechless. Carol said something like “You might have your baby today, tomorrow or sometime this week… we just never know but I’m on call for you and you can call me anytime.” And she left our home. Yes, she left. She left so that I can labor at home in private until I was ready to have her back again. I love this part about home birth that I was able to be comfortably alone and have privacy in one of the most special moments of my life.
My contractions were still regular and kept getting more and more intense. Around 4pm, my contractions were every 4-6 minutes and lasted 60-90 seconds. I was having lower back pain and a mild feeling of bowl movement, which made me feel like I was getting closer. I informed Carol and at 4:40pm, she came over with Lindsey, her birth assistant who is a nurse and a doula. Our photographer/videographer, Katherine, also arrived. I was lying on the couch with a blanket on as contractions kept coming. I had my eyes closed but I could feel that they were so quick to set up their stations. Carol asked me if I wanted peppermint oil diffused for my nausea. It was soothing. It made me feel completely at ease to have these professional ladies in my own home with me.
At 5:09pm, Carol checked me again on the couch. I knew it was necessary but it felt so uncomfortable. With a big smile, she said I was at 9.5 cm. I knew it. By then, my body really felt ready to birth this baby out. But the level of “pain” I was experiencing made me want to shut off everything around me. I was very scared to move and I kept my eyes closed so I won’t get any visual stimulations. I wasn’t able to talk during the contractions but still was able to yell at my husband who kept playing the HypnoBirthing affirmation recordings. “I don’t want to hear it anymore!”, I said. What a poor guy. He was just trying to make me feel better.
I really wanted to have Sali present at birth by my side so she can watch her little sister being born, and that was my plan. But I had to change my plan because I did not want to lose my momentum. We left her with our doula Kiyoe outside of our home. Later, I found out that both Carol and Lindsey were shaking their heads to my husband when he was asking me at the peak of my labor if I wanted Sali to come back home to be with us. I did not know this because I had my eyes closed but I really think that it was the best decision not to have a toddler around at such an intense moment.
As I kept laying on the couch, my pressure waves became stronger and stronger. Although I originally wanted to labor and birth in the birth pool, I felt like I was too sick to be in and out of water at this moment. So when Carol suggested for me to move to a birth stool at 5:21pm, I followed her lead.
It took me a while to get myself up on the birth stool from the couch. Between my pressure waves, I managed to get down on the floor by the side of the birth stool. I felt the pressure on my vagina change drastically right after I got on the birth stool. It got so much heavier and the urge to push became much stronger. It was so tricky because I was not able to tell if it was my baby or poop that I wanted to push out! Seriously, why does baby’s head have to feel so similar to poop?! It is so confusing.
When I finally got myself up on the stool, the pressure was at its peak. Inje was sitting right behind me, rubbing my back for comfort and reminding me to breathe. It really felt like the baby was so ready to make the entrance, but the head felt so big right at its door. “Is it out? Can you see baby’s head?” I kept asking because I really wanted to know how much loner I needed to keep doing this work! I definitely think I was more in a panic mode than my first birth in water. I really had to consciously try to maintain my roaring to be low-tone so that I wouldn’t start screaming my head off.
I was starting to lose the sense of powerfulness and I wanted to cry. I felt tears coming up in my eyes and said “it hurts so bad.” But I was also talking to myself out loud in Japanese that I was “daijoubu (alright)” to keep calm. My whole body was insanely tense. Every single muscle of my body felt like a rock. Lindsey was holding a mirror on the floor facing me but I couldn’t tell if I saw anything but Inje was looking into it behind me.
I was on the birth stool only for 2-3 minutes, and oh boy, it felt like forever! I said “I feel like pushing” and Carol said “push then!’. I pushed a couple of times and finally the head was out. I said “yes!” in my head and it made me feel stronger. I had to take a moment there to push one more time. When I did the final push, baby came out so smoothly. I clearly remember the super slippery feel as the baby slid down my birth canal.
Right after the baby slipped out of me, my head suddenly became super clear. All my senses came back and I was able to see and hear so much better. I felt so high and so happy that I did it and honestly really relieved that it was over! I quickly took my shirt off to receive my baby from Carol directly on my chest for our first skin-to-skin contact. I was just laughing the whole time. I was not graceful, I was literally laughing out loud. I couldn’t help it. Inje had happy tears in his eyes.
Our baby was so warm, pink and fragile. She had some blood and meconium on her body and somehow a bit of her meconium was on my back too. I have no idea how it got there! She really looked like a cute little alien. I was so happy just to have her in my arms that I was a bit hesitant to check the gender, which we had kept as a surprise. Slowly, I lifted her up a bit. I felt my umbilical cord being pulled. We had always guessed that we would be having a boy but we didn’t find what we had thought we would find… it turned out that that it was a girl! Inje and I looked at each other and laughed again. So funny how our serious research on circumcision turned out to be totally unnecessary.
Later on, we found out that she was born with her left hand on her cheek and her right hand under her chin. It was 5:30pm. Until this day, it still feels so unreal that my body was creating this perfect person inside.
After enjoying holding the newly born bundle of joy in my arms for a little while, I was ready to hand her to Inje. Although I was filled with love for my new baby, I suddenly felt extremely exhausted. I also felt a weird emotion of fear towards her probably because I was still in shock from the birthing process. I was afraid of my tiny baby for giving me so much pain although it sounds wrong to feel such a strange feeling.
Five minutes after the birth of my baby, someone was pointing out that my placenta was about to come out. I gave it a little push and it came out with no pain or pressure. This was a surprise because with my first birth, I was lying on bed to birth my placenta and had pretty severe contractions before it came out with a big gush. It was placed it in a bowl and kept in the fridge to be picked up the next day for placenta encapsulation. I needed some stitching and Carol worked on it while I laid on my couch. It hurt but Carol was quick and being funny making jokes that people didn’t like her because of this procedure.
If you’ve given a birth, you know how dreadful your first bathroom trip could be after birth. I was not excited about this but at least this time, I was lucky enough to do that in my own bathroom and it made a huge difference in terms of comfort. As I was sitting on my toilet, Lindsey sat by my side on the floor and she was gently cleaning the blood off of my legs with a small rag. We were talking that it is pretty funny that we just met but we are put in such an intimate situation. She helped me putting on the infamous mesh diaper while joking that it isn’t “quite Victoria’s Secret”. I could also hear everyone else was quickly cleaning up everything in the living room.
About 30 minutes after the birth, it was time for Sali to meet her new little sister. She came back to our apartment room and slowly walked toward me holding the baby on my chest on the couch. I was so excited to see her first reactions. She carefully touched the baby and asked me “what is the baby doing? （ベイビーなにしてんの？）” and told me to imitate the faces that the baby was making. We told her the baby’s name is Namu (means “tree” in Korean) and that she is her new little sister. She seemed so curious but she was more excited about being able to take part in the newborn exam with Carol and Lindsay. She started using the stethoscopes as she’d always did at prenatal checkups and listened to her little sister’s heartbeats. She enjoyed watching her sister being weighed in a tiny little cotton bag that looked like a hammock. Carol showed her how to test her newborn reflex and she was so happy to see Namu opening up her arms each time she pulled them.
I loved these post birth hours with my birth team so much. It was just SO relaxing to be home with my new baby on my own couch and wrapped in my own blankets. We ordered pizzas from our favorite restaurant. Everyone stayed and we were just hanging out. It was just like any other night but with a fresh newborn of ours. After everyone left, there was no mess to be cleaned up. I put Sali to bed, and Inje and I enjoyed our first night with Namu at home until Sali woke up in the morning so ecstatic to see her little sister again.
That was my home birth. I would choose to have a home birth again in a heartbeat if I would be lucky enough to have another child.
Timeline of Namu’s birth at home-
- 8:30 am – Woke up with cramps, called my midwife.
- 12:30 pm – Exam by midwife at home, 2-3cm dilated. Midwife left soon after.
- 4:00 pm – 60-90 seconds contraction every 4-6 minutes. Called midwife.
- 4:40 pm – Birth team arrives at home.
- 5:30 pm – Baby born!
- 8:00 pm – Birth team left after having pizza 🙂
Doula: Kiyoe Ito
Photographer/Videographer: Katherine Marivelle Photography
Placenta Encapsulation: Inner Yin