Helen and Nora are a lesbian couple that had their second child with Midwifery Care NYC. In light of Pride Month coming to a close, they graciously agreed to talk to us about their experience:
What was it like getting pregnant?
Helen starts: “I am a woman of a lot of words, I can talk about this a lot, but to make a long story short, we had high hopes of easily being inseminated at home, with our first we went to a reproductive specialist (Reproductive Specialists of NY). After two rounds of home IUI we went back to the specialist.”
Nora adds that they had a close friend who struggled with their ability to get pregnant a second time and they were both fearful that this would happen to them, so two failed IUIs were incredibly stressful. Helen states that her mother had a lot of miscarriages and was concerned there was a genetic component to what seemed to be an inability to become pregnant. (At home, IUI boasts a 20% success rate. It requires that the person track their cycle meticulously, and then find a provider who will place the washed sperm into their uterus in the small window of ovulation.)
“Nora and I wanted to share in everything, so we went to all the appointments together.” As luck would have it, they got pregnant on the first try with the specialist, in both pregnancies.
They both agreed, “it was exciting and exhilarating to become pregnant!”
Helen continues, “The specialists were really great people, so welcoming, and the RN was so lovely. I have a hard time with needles and cried uncontrollably when getting my blood drawn, but the RN was just such a special person, she made me feel comfortable.”
Lexi’s birth story
Their first baby, Lexi, was born in a hospital. Helen recounts, “we wanted a hospital birth with the first.” There was a need for Helen to be induced but “everything was fine and wonderful, I got an epidural as the pain was intense and they hadn’t even started the Pitocin yet. All the things in labor that I didn’t want to happen, happened. But I was thankful for a 12-hour labor. We felt blessed that Lexi was so healthy.”
“The two nights in the hospital made us doubt that we could care for Lexi at home. There was so much intervention and so much support, that we felt there was no way they could do this ourselves. And they let us put this tiny baby in a car seat and leave!”
Nora adds, “the hospital was great, there were no issues with us being a two-mom family, the RNs were amazing!”
“When we got home, Helen’s mom was there when we walked in our door and we were flooded with relief. The hospital room was so uncomfortably hot and it felt so sterile, but it was not a warm space.”
Helen agrees, “it was not conducive to helping you be yourself. When we walked into our home we both realized that this is where it should have happened. All our fear went away the second we walked in, and we vowed that if we were to have a second child, it would be at home.”
Jillian’s home birth
Helen asks Nora to tell the story, “I was so in the labor that Nora has better perspective.”
Nora shares, “We had two or three false starts over a couple days; Helen wasn’t sure it was happening, so we agreed to sweeping membranes.” (If it is in the best interests of the client and their baby, a midwife will separate the membranes between the amniotic sac surrounding the baby and the cervix. This act, a membrane sweep, can stimulate the release of hormones that work to encourage labor.)
At 6:30am Helen requested, in a specific tone, “Nora, get me some food.” Nora explains that in that moment, she thought to herself, “‘Ok, this is not a drill!’ I could just tell by her demeanor and voice that this was happening. Lexi had a doctor’s kit and did a checkup of Helen and the baby and said ‘she’s going to be ok’ and my heart just melted!”
Nora states that Lexi learned how to care for Helen and listen to the baby from all the home prenatal visits with the midwives. A friend upstairs came and picked up Lexi for school and labor progressed slowly throughout the day.
“Later we were playing Scrabble when we noticed Helen having contractions and she couldn’t really talk, so we decided to go for a walk, and that’s when labor really started to kick in.” Helen told Nora that she remembers that stroll and “putting my arms around you with each surge [of pain].”
They quickly returned home and the doula arrived shortly thereafter. Nora overheard the doula call the midwives, “I think you should really be here!” Helen recalls walking around a bit, leaning and swaying, “I can hear myself moaning, it was getting more intense.” Nora tried to set up the birthing pool, they had two, one was deflating, the other had sprung a leak.
Helen then wanted to take off her clothes as she felt the urge to start pushing. The doula joked that she did not want to catch the baby, so she coached Helen to breathe slowly as they waited for the midwife’s arrival. To distract Helen the doula talked about babies being born in the caul, a rare and amazing circumstance that she had only seen it twice. (It is considered very good luck in folklore.)
Everyone was happy when Carol came a mere 45 min later. With the pool abandoned, Helen was on the verge of giving birth. Helen, however, had a strong desire to get in the pool, unaware of how close the baby was. Carol assured her that the effort to walk to the pool would be the trigger for the baby to be born. Helen fondly reflects, “she assured me I was exactly where I needed to be and that everything was right and beautiful.”
Helen’s water had not broken yet; she could hear people saying, “look at that—you can see the sac coming out. It was creating this beautiful space for Jillian to come out. If we were in the hospital, they would have broken the water by now.”
Nora remembers, “Helen’s energy became erratic, and her breathing changed, and was clearly exhausted. Carol gave a pep talk, to help bring her focus back and that is when Jillian came flying out!”
The membranes burst as soon as she came out, Jillian had been born in the caul, the cord was around her neck but there was never any problem. It happened beautifully, with minimal intervention. “The birth was amazing and I didn’t even need any stitches!” Helen recalls how the interventions for induction during her first pregnancy caused vomiting, and that, “I couldn’t eat or drink! It seemed ridiculous to me that I couldn’t drink anything, and they needed to hydrate me through an IV! At home, I was eating and drinking the whole time and I never felt nausea or threw up.” (A nuchal cord around a baby’s neck happens in approximately 25% of births and is rarely ever a medical emergency.)
Would you give any advice for other families?
Nora insists, “You need to find other women who have just had children as soon as possible. Find your community and tribe. This was so valuable to us following the birth!”
Helen agrees, “finding a tribe through the community of our friends was key. We also wouldn’t have been intrigued about this birth option if we didn’t have a friend who also had home birth with Carol and Shar.” Nora states that her sister had a home birth following their experience, “I got to go be with her for this—it was incredible.”
Helen stresses that they were very supported with legal matters, “Nora has adopted both our kids. This is a very necessary action to protect both partners. It’s not enough to be legally married.” They used Lambda Legal services.
How do you celebrate Pride?
Nora shares, “I love Pride, there’s a festival in NJ that we typically go to. I love it because we see all the families there and the love that they share together. We don’t go to Pride in the city now, I find that big crowds tend to overwhelm me and it’s hard to keep an eye on the kids.”
Helen added, “We celebrate it on our own way; last week we had professional photos taken. And, although I may not be at Pride, I don’t ever forget that day at Stonewall. I often think of the history of Pride and the struggles of people before us. It’s good to be at Pride events so we can feel like ourselves, it’s the little things that make a difference.”
(Feel welcome to check out our recently updated LGBTQIA resource page for more information and insightful blogs and stories.)