So let’s talk about why I chose a to give birth at home…
At the time, I was 33 years old, had three previous non-medicated births (no c-section or epidural), I last gave birth 2 ½ ago and yet I was considered HIGH-RISK. No Bueno.
Be Prepared for a C-section…
From the day that the doctor told me that I was pregnant, I made sure to let them know that I gave birth three times with no issues, no medications, c-sections or epidurals. I made it ABUNDANTLY clear that I did not wish to have an epidural or c-section this time around. Although the doctor expressed being impressed and stated how strong I must be, still, I was met with, well you are high risk and be prepared for a possible c-section! I asked why I was considered high risk, because I didn’t have high blood pressure, diabetes or any other pre-existing condition. I had to be really candid with the doctor and told him to just tell me it’s because of my weight. Well let’s just say it wasn’t that- surprisingly! I was considered high risk because of my age – PAUSE – I was only 33 years old though! Like really?!
Just about every appointment since, I was reminded that I was high risk and should pretty much be mentally prepared for a c-section. After the first mention of the “possible c-section” I didn’t even want to let them know that I had a miscarriage before having the kids. I mean, what would they say to me then? I thought that if I mention it, then they definitely might force a c-section! In January, I spoke to the doctor and nurse practitioner about having a homebirth, and I expected for them to educate me about the pros and cons, but their reaction was so negative, I almost felt like they thought I was trying to kill this child by having a homebirth. They frowned upon the idea and discouraged me from going that route, because they thought it was unconventional and too dangerous. I’m not even going lie, I let what they say get to me and proceeded to plan for a hospital birth, even though deep down inside I thought it would’ve been safer to give birth at home, especially during the pandemic.
I wrestled with the idea for months and then COVID hit! Witnessing how women were being cared for (or the lack thereof) in the medical setting was sickening. There were too many testimonies of women receiving subpar care at the hospital; one even got a c-section 5 weeks before her due date (her due date was misdiagnosed), and then she was discharged home the day after her c-section, and the baby had to stay in the hospital in NICU. And yes, she was African American. Despite her telling the doctors that she was in excruciating pain, they still released her, without much pain medication as well. We already knew that there were health disparities in our community, but this pandemic shed extra light on what has been occurring.
Despite the testimonies and the virus spreading even in the hospitals, I still wrestled with the idea of having a home birth. When I was 14 years old, my 4 month old baby brother died in my arms, and I always blamed myself for his death. Something told me to check his crib before cleaning the house, but I didn’t, and not even 30 minutes later my mom and I were calling the ambulance, because he wasn’t breathing. Three months later baby boy died in the hospital in my arms. With all the RIPs and RIHs amassing on social media, family and friends losing loved ones because of COVID, churches losing their elders and because of the lack of medical care, the fear of death crept in. Also, the doctors really planted a seed of doubt, and past experiences watered it.
At 36 weeks, I went for another ultrasound appointment and was told that the baby was not head down but was in a transverse position. When a baby is in a transverse position it means that its body is lying sideways and not head down. I had an appointment with my Obgyn afterwards, and when she felt the baby’s position, she was already ready to schedule me for a c-section, because they “do not deliver breeched babies”. Once again, I made it CLEAR that I was NOT having a c-section. She was stunned and said that we have a few more weeks to go so “we’ll play it by ear”. I went home and of course sat with anxiety that week. If you know me, you know that I am a worry wart! I was so upset that the doctor didn’t even give me any tips to encourage baby to get into position. I didn’t even bother asking, because I was so over them.
At that point, I spoke to my sisterfriends, and I told them about the appointment. They all encouraged me to pursue the homebirth. I spent a few days looking for a midwife who was a POC and had no luck, and at that point midwives were not taking clients who were past 34 weeks or so. Most of them were also booked for homebirths as well. I even looked into birthing centers, but they were not using birthing tubs for waterbirths because of COVID. This virus was just messing everything up! One of my sisterfriends took to facebook to find me a doula, one of my brothers and other sisters even sent me suggestions for a doula as well. Thankfully a doula replied to my sisterfriend on facebook, so she gave me the contact, and I hit her up that night. I was going to simply hire a doula to give birth at home, but doulas can’t provide medical care, so I decided to hire a midwife as well, because I didn’t want an unassisted birth. Thankfully that same night I found a midwife who is a POC and was accepting clients who were past 36 weeks. PRAISE.THE.LORD!
I had a consult with the midwife and doula and immediately wished that I had contacted them sooner. They made me feel so empowered, so comfortable and they explained their process to the T. They educated me and reminded me that it is completely normal process, and we have every right to give birth at home! The doula gave me resources, a free E-course on home birth and exercises to do to encourage baby to get into position. Even though I hired the doula and midwife, I still had an appointment scheduled with the doctor, which would be my last visit with them. At my last appointment with the doctor, I was 37 weeks. After the exercises and of course prayer with my mom, the baby was in position! Halleluiah !!! Even though baby was in position, the doctor proceeded to remind me of the possibility of a c-section. At this point, I felt like it didn’t matter what I said, there was an agenda. The fact is that moms who gave birth during COVID, were sent home within 24-48 hours, if that. So, I believe that performing c-sections can help hospitals control admissions and discharges instead of potentially dealing with a mom who was in labor for hours. At that same appointment, the doctor checked me and told me that I was nowhere near dilated and wanted to strip my membrane to encourage me to get into labor. I declined as I felt like it was too early for that- I was only 37 weeks at that time. Not only did the doctor mention the potential for a c-section, but they also wanted to schedule me to be induced. Once again, I was only 37 weeks pregnant. Needless to say, I only met with my doula and midwife, for the rest of my pregnancy.
At the last appointment with my midwife, on a Wednesday, I was pushing 42 weeks- or so I thought. We discussed different options should I surpass the 42-week mark, and she gave me a recipe to make a concoction that would promote labor- good ol vanilla ice cream, a little bit of castor oil and peanut butter-. She also put in an order for another ultrasound to reassess my due date. She firmly believed that I was a couple of weeks off or so. Yet again, she reassured me that everything was going to be okay. Still, in my mind I thought I was going to have to forfeit the option for a homebirth and deal with giving birth in a hospital. I was so sad. After the appointment, my sisterfriend took me out for a long walk with hubby and the kids. When we came back, she helped me do prenatal exercises. I didn’t take the concoction that night because I wanted to give birth towards the weekend, since the kids were still homeschooling. I ended up taking the concoction Thursday afternoon and went into active labor and gave birth on Friday morning. When I gave birth, baby girl came out and was full of vernix. Immediately, the midwife and doula affirmed that the baby was not past 40 weeks because she was so full of vernix.
Trust your instinct…
When hubby went back to calculate the date of conception (lol) and baby’s date of birth, he found that she was actually born a week early! So, I was stressing about her being overdue for nothing. On top of that when I was last at the doctor’s office, had I let them do a membrane strip or schedule me for an induction, I would have only been 34 weeks! I’m so glad I gave birth at home. My top 5 benefits of giving birth at home includes the fact that I got to choose how my birth was going to be, I was not forced to have medical intervention, I got to choose my support and medical staff, it was less expensive than a hospital birth and I felt that it was a safer option admist COVID and risk for hospital infections. With everything that’s going on with Black women’s health, you have to trust your instinct! If something is wrong, speak up, and don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself! If I didn’t listen to myself, I would have given birth way too early, and baby would have been in NICU.