Thank you Shannon Van Heest for sharing your very personal story with our MilitaryOneClick family!
“Every mother is different and there are many “right” ways to have a baby. This story is mine.”
The couches in our family room have seen a whole lot of living. As old as our seven-year marriage, they bear the stains of four moves with the Navy, all night study sessions, potty-training two little girls, projectile spit-ups, sippie cups, and toddler temper tantrums. A permanent marker smear from graduate school, tears as we held one positive pregnancy test (surprise!) and a second (surprise! Again!) and a third, prayers for our first house to sell and my grandfather to live, a creative picture in blue crayon that I can’t get out. In their crevices, we’ve found flight school study cards, highlighters, rice cake crumbs, and swaddle blankets. The couches in our family room have seen a whole lot of living. A whole lot of love. And now they’ve experienced the birth of our littlest daughter, Blythe.
My husband and I have welcomed our three daughters in three different ways – dependent on the options available to us in the regions where we’ve lived at the time of delivery. We delivered our first daughter in an upscale, suburban hospital under an OBGYN’s care. After her birth was characterized by interventions, though, which interrupted our initial bonding, I became a natural birthing advocate. And so, our second daughter was born in a hospital with a Nurse Midwife.
Then, three months ago, we delivered our third daughter with a midwife and doula team at our home. In our living room, on the way to the birthing pool because my labor was just that short and intense. Hanging over the edge of the couch, in the middle of our older girls’ toys. Stuffed ducks were quacking, vacuums were blaring, cars were vrooming. A fitting entrance for the youngest of three in four years and our spirited bunch.
We chose home birth in the beginning this time around for several reasons, but primarily because we wanted to deliver with a midwife and the region where we currently live doesn’t offer a hospital midwife option. In comparing our first two experiences, we felt like the midwifery model best captured our beliefs about birth.
We felt safe with a midwife – safe that we would not feel pressured to intervene, that she would work with my body – and wanted the one-on-one attention and support that a midwife can guarantee as well as the emotional safety of delivering with like-minded people. We wanted our first moments with Blythe to feel like they did the second time around – when our yearning for a natural, un-medicated delivery was realized with the help of a midwife – instantaneous and overpowering and fierce. I wanted to be an active participant in my daughter’s birth, to feel the contractions, be transformed by the experience, to clutch her womb-sticky body close and know that we made it through together, but I doubted a hospital’s support of that aim.
If we wanted a midwife here, we needed to take ourselves out of the hospital.
When I was 34 weeks pregnant, we decided to see if any of the midwives in our area had availability around our due date. Miraculously, one did. We continued to meet with her once a week or more until the birth. She came to our home and involved our daughters. She desired to know me – not just as notes on a chart, but as a mentor and friend that we trusted to see us safely through contractions and first breaths.
It worked. Blythe’s labor was my quickest and easiest of the three. My water broke at 7:15 pm on a Friday night, one week past her due date of
May 31st, 2013, and she was born three hours later at 10:20 pm. Within a few minutes of birth, my husband, Blythe and I were nestled into our own bed. No one else held her but us for the first few hours of her life. When the older girls woke up around midnight, they found us there, new sister in arms. My milk came in earlier, she recovered her birth weight within a week, and the three of us got way more sleep than we ever did with our previous births. She was peaceful.
In fact, when she was delivered into my arms, she wasn’t crying. So used to the hospital loud noises and lights and screaming, I actually thought something might be wrong. I kept saying, “Is she ok? Is she ok? Tell me she’s ok!”
Our midwife reassured, “She’s perfect! Just keep talking to her.”
And we did.
“Thank you, baby girl, for coming! We’ve been waiting so long for you! I’m so glad you’re here!”
As we spoke, she took on blush-pink and cried a bit. She blinked up at us, those delicate eyes framed with tiny half-moon lashes, and woke up to the world. Instead of hospital loud noises and lights and screaming, she woke up to our words, our arms, our nest.
I love sharing the story of our home birth. If you have any specific questions about how we made it work or why, I’d love to answer via email, www.thisfoxtaillily.com
Shannon is a Navy wife of six years, mama to three daughters three-and-under, blogger, and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling. She’s a lover of simple things like farmer’s markets, barefeet, and bluegrass music. When she’s not tickling sweet toes or chasing toddlers, you can find her reading a good book and sipping sweet tea. For more, follow her at: www.thisfoxtaillily.com
To read more of Shannon’s fabulous blogs, please click here.