This week for our #NoHoodLikeMotherhood series, I thought it would be great to finally talk about my personal experience of birth – more specifically, HOME BIRTH. I’ve gotten a lot of requests recently to share my journey & overall thoughts and decided this would be a great way for you all to learn a little more about me 🙂 Ironically, I’ve actually been wanting to get this down on paper for awhile and am excited to finally be doing this — YAY! I think it’s so important for us as women & mothers to be open about our experiences and things we go through so that we can help inspire, encourage and uplift the next woman. Sharing is caring, right guys?!
SOOOO…..WHERE DO I BEGIN???? Well, first and foremost, let’s be completely honest — I didn’t always know that I wanted to have a home birth. The journey for me really started when I first found out I was pregnant. My boyfriend (Ryan) and I were going through a tough patch in our relationship – lots of tears, moments of uncertainty, him trying to figure out who he was after a major career change, not being on the same page (over even in the same book) about what we wanted. We were in a really rocky space and on the brink of separating, which all made it difficult for me to be the happy, positive mommy I saw myself being. I knew how important is was to keep myself in a good place, despite what was going on in my life, so I made the decision to take control of my thoughts, feelings and emotions no matter what happened. I was going to make the choice to stay positive and continue directing good energy towards this new life I was creating.
I found out I was pregnant right after coming back from a trip to LA for work – it was January 2014. I was really under the weather and after months of irregular periods, this was finally IT. I went in to visit my OBGYN at the time (Spring OBGYN in Soho – they are great if you need a good gynecologist in NYC) to confirm my pregnancy — I was 7 weeks. At the time, it was a bit challenging to be as excited as I wanted to be since my relationship was somewhat shaky. We definitely weren’t actively planning to get pregnant but obviously weren’t taking the necessary precautions to avoid it, if ya know what I mean. This first appointment and ultrasound would be one of only two that I had with my current doctor. My only other appointment was after a trip to Thailand (almost a month after finding out I was pregnant). I was so sick the last few days of our trip that we ended up leaving a day early and I went to get a check-up immediately after returning to be sure my sickness hadn’t effected the baby.
In between appointments, I, like other first-time mothers, started researching EVERYTHING. Apart of that research included trying to decide what doctor and hospital in the NY/NJ area would best suite our needs. Simultaneously, I was having some candid conversations with a few friends about their birthing experiences. The takeaways from our talks seemed consistent across the board: they all longed for more control during their birth, they were disappointed with their hospital experience and they would definitely approach things differently for their second child. These conversations sparked my initial curiosity to look at alternative birthing options. Ryan and I also had a conversation around our thoughts on drugs and labor. My opinion at the time was that I would only get an epidural if it was absolutely necessary or the pain was completely unbearable. Him being the person he is, he challenged me to think outside of that mentality. His stance was that we as women are stronger than we think we are and why not give our child a chance to enter the world naturally, if we are able to — and he was right.
A few days after our talk, I came across the documentary, The Business of Being Born, produced by Ricki Lake (available to watch on YouTube – here). Although we can always find ways to pick at and discredit any documentary, the major nuggets I took away from this film were this:
- There are so many misconceptions around home births and there is an overwhelming lack of knowledge regarding midwifes and the roles they have played over the years
- The hospital is first and foremost a system/business and medical decisions are sometimes made for monetary and/or legal reasons, not always because what’s being done is best for the mom and baby
- Many women are afraid of birth and unfortunately a lot of women in the US have never seen or experienced natural births without some type of interventions
- Home births allow women to do things on their own turf and play an interactive role in the birth of their child
From there, I hit the ground running. I decided to shift my efforts to researching birthing centers, instead of a traditional hospital setting. As I looked online, it wasn’t long before I came to this “AH HA” moment and immediately knew I wanted to have a home birth. I can’t tell you what made it click for me, it just felt RIGHT! I have a few women in my direct family who had home births (my step-mom and my aunt, although years ago) so I knew from personal experience it was possible and that gave me the boost of confidence I needed. I sat down with Ryan that evening and talked him through my idea – he was surprised but completely on board which was even more reassurance that I was making the right decision. Our conclusion: we wanted to have a natural birth, without unnecessary interventions, and a home birth was going to be the best plan for our labor & delivery.
After doing our due diligence and researching midwives in our area, we ended up interviewing three women who seemed to have the best reviews and birth stories from their patients. Our final choice was ultimately Vicki Hedley, of Seventh Moon Home Birth – she was the first person we interviewed and ultimately ended up choosing her because her energy just seemed aligned with ours. She was open & honest, listened to my needs and made us feel at peace with our decision. She was perfect for us and we were excited to start this journey with her.
I started seeing Vicki when I was 17 weeks (a little over 4 months). Our first appointments were pretty standard. We talked A LOT – about the process, what we should expect, how often we would see her and about the experience as a whole. The conversation piece was really important for this process – especially for her to stay up-to-date with any body changes, mood swings, discomfort/pain and to answer any questions we had. For the physical exam, this was a pretty quick process. The standard was a urine test, weight check and then listening to the baby’s heart beat. As I got further along, she would check the head positioning to ensure the baby was head down. I was really healthy when I was pregnant and was considered low-risk (I didn’t have any prior medical conditions, past surgeries or anything that would typically be a red flag for homebirths) so my appointments were pretty easy. This is NOT the case for everyone.
I saw Vicki once a month until I was 32 weeks, then twice a month until 36 weeks. At 36 weeks, she and her assistant Raizy, came over for a home visit. We walked them through the house so they could get an idea of our space and discussed our vision for how and where we wanted things to play out. We talked about an emergency plan, if there was a need for intervention, as well as our plan for who would be a part of the birth (this plan included Ryan, his brother, Netic, both of our moms, my best friend Sierra and her daughter Emma, who was 4 at the time plus Vicki & Raizy — a full house for sure).
We met once a week, from 36 weeks to 40 weeks. By 40 weeks, I had already been on maternity leave for a few weeks so was nesting at home in preparation for our little one. The only problem was our little bundle of joy decided to marinate longer than I expected. 10 days doesn’t seem very long but it can feel like an eternity when everyone’s waiting on you to push a baby out! By now, my mother had been in town for a week and a half, Ryan’s brother was staying with us in anticipation of the baby, Ryan’s mom was at the house pretty much everyday to check-in, my best friend was waiting for “the call” and other friends and family were in and out of the house. Needless to say, there was a lot of activity going on and I was getting a little antsy playing the waiting game.
One thing to note – in the state of New Jersey, it is illegal to have a home birth after 42 weeks and as I was quickly approaching the 42 week mark, my team and I sat and discussed natural ways to start inducing labor. I had only been to the hospital/doctor once since I started working with Vicki & Raizy (that being going to see a back up doctor should I have to get transferred to the hospital for any reason) but the morning of day 10 of being late, I was scheduled to go get checked out by a doctor. The main reason was to be able to check my health and the baby’s fluid levels to be sure everything was still progressing the way it should.
The 10 days after I hit week 40 were a little stressful to say the least. On top of feeling overwhelmed by everyone sitting & staring at me, Ryan and I still had our fair share of challenges that we were working through with our relationship. In all transparency, at 41 weeks and 2 days, the day before our daughter was born, I had thoughts of moving out on my own and actually went to look at apartments by myself. I came back home that afternoon and went straight upstairs to take a nap and escape having to talk to anyone. When I woke up, I remember having the feeling of just wanting to go downstairs, watch TV and sit in peace & quite. Instead, Ryan’s brother was entertaining a friend and they were all “Chatty Cathy” in the living room. As I came downstairs, I felt slightly annoyed that I’d have to put on the happy face and play nice with someone I didn’t know. Her name was Sophia (Roe) and she was this bubbly, magical soul with such an intriguing personality — it was hard to not want to engage with her. Her spirit was just what I needed at the time. She took my mind off all that had happened earlier in the day and I was intrigued by her and her story. She was a much needed “breath of fresh air” and I’m so glad that she came when she did (see guys – things do happen for a reason). Anyone that has met or knows Sophia, KNOWS what I mean!
The next morning I woke up on the couch around 5:45AM (back story: I was on the couch because the air in our bedroom wasn’t working and it was HOT as all hell in our room; not even close to ideal sleeping conditions for a overly-due pregnant woman). I was feeling what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions so I decided to try to go back to sleep. I tossed and turned for another 15/20 mins with no luck and at that point realized and said to Ryan… “I think this is the real thing”. I had my “10 day late” appointment set up for 9AM that morning but since my contractions seemed to be stronger than I’d experienced before, I called my midwife around 7AM and told her we should cancel my appointment. She instructed me to continue monitoring my contractions and be conscious of the time in between them. If they were getting stronger, with less time in between, that meant labor was progressing and to keep her posted every couple hours. I believe I called her every hour and a half to 2 hours, giving her progress reports of how I was doing. Up until about 12PM, I was downstairs with everyone and was able to communicate but at that point had to make the transition upstairs so that I could be in a more quiet space to zone out.
Not too long after making my way upstairs did we call Vicki back for the final time – except this time Ryan called her for me to tell her it was finally time to come – as my contractions were starting to get stronger and closer and I could no longer carry on a full conversation. I needed all my energy to focus on breathing. I sat on the bed in just my underwear with a fan blowing directly in my face and I paced around the room when I could to take my mind off the contractions. It wasn’t until somewhere between 1-2PM that my midwife’s assistant, Raizy, arrived. She checked to see how far along I was – if I remember correctly, I was only about 2-3 centimeters dilated – that news felt like a blow straight to the gut! I was tired, really tired and felt like I lacked the energy to get through this process. Internally, I almost felt a sense of defeat but told myself to keep breathing and focus on the gift that I would be holding soon. We decided it was time to change the scenery and ran a warm bath. Ryan and I got in as the contractions continued to get longer and stronger. I’ve been asked numerous times what “real” contractions feel like and for me, it was similar to really bad cramps. They would come on for about a minute and then have 45 seconds to recover before they start again. It was bearable in the sense that it wasn’t excruciating but no where near comfortable.
It felt like we were in the bath tub for HOURS, except we had only been in for about an hour and a half. I had really intense back pain throughout my labor so I give total props to my brother-in-love, Netic, who kneeled on the floor the entire time rubbing my back while I sat in the tub with Ryan. My midwife, Vicki, had arrived while I was intensely focused in the tub (around 3/3:30PM) and I remember distinctly looking and her with a sense of relief. I asked her in a weak and vulnerable voice to “HELP ME”. Her response – “you are doing great Porsha, just keep doing what you’re doing”………. What?! That’s it?! I thought for sure she’d have some secret magic trick to get me through my contractions but deep down I knew this didn’t exist. I just really wanted to close my eyes and be sleep.
By the time we got out of the tub, I was BEYOND exhausted! The day before was long and I had very little sleep so as we paced up and down the hallway, I hung onto Ryan like a rag doll, barely able to move my feet. After being checked again, I was a little over 7 centimeters – slowly nearing the end but not quite there yet. I suddenly had to pee but couldn’t make it to the toilet fast enough so I peed on the floor. More walking and pacing….and then all at once I collapsed to the floor by the bed. My legs wouldn’t move anymore. I needed to rest so I crouched on the floor and laid my head on the ground. Everyone but Sierra, Vicki and Raizy left the room for a minute to take a breather. Sierra thankfully jumped in on the back rubbing duties while her daughter Emma stood by my side reminding me to breathe.
One last check and I was finally cleared to start pushing. I was told to “push like you are sitting on the toilet, trying to take crap”, so I did….. and with that push came a loud yell, to the point that everyone who was downstairs KNEW that it was time. Ryan quickly ran up to hold me from behind and braced me for support as I squatted to continue pushing and thankfully a few pushes later we welcomed new life into this world, our precious baby girl, Steele Nova Wisdom. Born September 30th at 7:41PM….9lbs, 22 inches. My emotions overcame me (and everyone else in the room for that matter). I cried because I was overwhelmed with joy and happiness, I sighed because I immediately felt a sense of relief, I smiled because I’d never known love at first sight before her. In that moment, everything was perfect!
Ultimately, having a home birth for ME was magical. It was a perfect experience and I wouldn’t change one aspect of it. I share this story not because I think that everyone should have a home birth but because I think so often people don’t allow themselves to be open to doing something different and to stepping outside the norm. This was a life-changing experience – it gave me a new sense of trust in myself, it gave me the ability to see that we can & should take control of our own life, and it gave me an overwhelmingly deep understanding of how powerful we as women truly are!
I hope that by me sharing my journey, the overall messages resonate with those who are reading. Please share this with other women & mothers and feel free to drop a line with any feedback or questions below.
Love & Light,