Jen’s Outdoor Home Birth
I learned that birth outcomes can truly improve if a person is in an environment they feel comfortable and respected in whether that be at home, at a birth center or at a hospital. Whether that be with midwives, doulas, OBGYNS, family practice docs, just yourself, your family or anything in between. I realize that privilege (racial, financial, education, health status, etc.) can play a large role in what choices someone has available to them, but my hope is that someday we can all have the quality birthing experiences we desire and deserve.
I envisioned a birth that felt right for me and my family. My goals for birth came about through a mix of research and intuition. I practiced affirmations and mindfulness exercises daily to visualize my dream birth (including reading through this website and changing the narrative slightly to make it my own) . And it happened. My birthing experience was challenging and hard, but also beautiful.
On Saturday, July 6 I started pre-labor contractions. My husband, myself and our dogs went for an early morning 3 mile hike (I’m grateful I was able to stay so active during pregnancy) and I was feeling some mild contractions every 10 minutes that lasted about 20-30 seconds. After arriving home from the hike we did a lot of nesting: cleaning the whole house, mowing the lawn, preparing the birthing space (I was planning a home birth). At one point in the evening my contractions started to get more intense and painful. They were close together (~2-5 min), but still very short in length (~20 sec), so I took a warm bath which helped slow down the intensity and frequency. I was really hoping to get some sleep that night to prepare for a possible birth in the early morning. However, I continued these pre-labor contractions throughout the night. The contractions were too frequent and too intense to get any sleep, but was able to use this time to adjust to what was happening with my body all while my doggie doulas offered cuddles.
Sunday, July 7. I believe my active labor began around 2 a.m. At that time the contractions were becoming more intense and I headed to the shower. The warm water helped calm me and allow me to process what was happening. Around 4 a.m. I decided to send out a text to my team of midwives telling them that I was confident I’d been at 5-1-1 (every 5 minutes 1 minute long contraction for over 1 hour). I let them know I was still doing okay solo, but that I was probably going to call one of them within the hour if labor kept progressing. By 4:45 a.m. I knew I was ready to have others join me and I made the call. I told one of my midwives I was ready to have her come check my progress, but no need to rush. Then I went to wake up my husband and tell him he should probably call into work because “I think this baby is coming today.” :)
By 5:30 a.m. my first midwife arrived. She watched me through a contraction or two and then with my request and consent checked my cervix. She let me know that I was fully effaced and that I was dilated to 4cm but quickly opened to 6cm while she was checking. After her confirmation that this was really happening, my contractions continued to intensify. I felt a release in my body and a connection with my baby that we were really ready to do this. I started to be more vocal and really go into the contractions. I felt wild and powerful. I kept my eyes closed for a lot of my labor and just went inside my body/experience. I labored on the couch for a bit on my hands and knees and then sitting on the toilet. Around 6:30 a.m. my second midwife arrived and shortly after I wanted to be outside. We headed to the deck as the sun was rising. Around 7:30 a.m. the student midwives (two of them) also arrived. My whole midwife team also happens to be dear friends of mine and I’m so thankful I had them surrounding me during this experience. Throughout labor, my husband was always near me holding my hand or putting an arm around me as I needed it. My dogs were also a big part of my comfort, giving me little licks or letting me pet them which brought me peace.
Around 9:30 a.m. I felt the urge for the first push. The pushing phase was the hardest part of labor for me, both mentally and physically. Full disclosure, it was really hard for me to put my professional mind aside and connect with my body’s need for breathing versus breath holding while pushing. Also, my water still had not broken and I could feel a resistance from that. I tried pushing for a while outside and slowly took off layers as the sun continued to climb. I began to get too hot and we decided to move the bed over to the shade, which was the original area we envisioned for our baby to be born. I tried pushing there for a bit, but was still having difficulty. At one point I let out a cry for my waters to be broken, as I knew intuitively I wanted this relief of pressure to be able to progress. My midwife broke the water bag and I felt a huge relief. I then decided that it would be best to connect with pushing on the toilet, so back inside we went. I squeezed my husband’s hands hard and gritted my teeth against our hand hold. I held my breath more than I ever expected to, but it’s what I felt like I needed to do at the time. During contractions prior to pushing, I felt I could exhale or be vocal during the sensations, but during pushing I felt the need to breath hold and use that pressure to push baby out (this isn’t what I typically teach, however, I do always recommend following what your body is telling you). After some more progressing and pushing in on the toilet, I was able to feel my baby's head start to come to the opening.
We really wanted our baby to be born outside, so my husband held me in a slow dance embrace and we walked back out to the deck where we initially envisioned birthing at. As we got outside I stood along the railing looking out to the trees. I pushed a few more times. I felt my baby’s head. My husband felt the baby’s head. And then I gathered all the remaining energy and strength I could and I pushed my baby out into my husband's hands. It was 11:02 a.m. I didn’t plan to birth in a standing position, but once again I listened to my body.
My husband caught our baby and then helped bring baby into my arms. There baby was, earth-side. We lied down together in the bed and cuddled baby to us. The dogs took turns meeting baby. It was around then that I looked down to see the sex of our baby. An awesome surprise. I really thought I was about to see a penis, but instead I saw a vulva.
I was still having some strong cramping and shaking in my legs, so the midwives helped deliver the placenta while we were lying down. And then it was done. What an amazing birth. It felt so awesome to give birth to our baby outdoors at our home surrounded by trees. Elements that felt comfortable to us.
After birth, we headed inside to bed where the midwives tucked us in and made us breakfast in bed, which was amazing. They did a few newborn tests while we all lay in the bed and bonded.
Baby weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces and was 21 inches long. We named her Rowan after the rowan tree and for our love for nature. On day two, we gave her the middle name Sofia after the Greek word for wisdom.
And that’s my birthing story. It was amazing and I’m so thankful it went so smoothly. There are so many choices available to us in our birthing process. And there’s no right or wrong way. There’s no medal for doing birth a certain way. And sometimes your birth doesn’t go the way you want. If you’re struggling with your birth not going the way you wanted, I encourage you to reach out to others, share your story and heal when you’re ready.
Do I recommend others birth at home like I did? Only if it’s something that you want. Do I recommend some people go to a birth center or hospitals or have epidurals or have a water-birth or even recommend some have elective cesareans? Yes, absolutely. It’s all about being informed as much as you can, or as much as you want to, and then making a choice that feels right for you and your family. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone. You do you. And best of luck!!
Jen Torborg, PT, DPT, CMTPT, is a pelvic floor physical therapist and author of three Amazon bestselling books: Your Best Pregnancy Ever, Your Best Body after Baby, and Your Pelvic Health. Jen treats clients in Ashland and Bayfield, Wisconsin through Orthopedic & Spine Therapy.
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