Monday, March 17, 2014

Ellie Mae's Arrival (my home birth experience)

Several people have asked if I'd share the story of Ellie Mae's home birth and my overall thoughts on the experience. It seemed like a daunting task because there's so much I could say! But here's what I've come up with.

First, the hard facts: 

Eleanor Mae Jaros was born on Saturday, January 25th (her due date) at 1:50pm on the bathroom floor. She weighed 8lbs, 13oz and was 20in long. Counting from when things started to intensify, I labored for ~16 to 18 hours.

Now, a few words on why we chose home birth. 

If you'd asked me a few years ago what I thought of home birth I'd probably have said something about tree hugging, crunchy granola eating, hippies. I had a fairly negative but uniformed view of it. Of course, many people do their research and still choose to have a hospital birth, but I found that the more I researched (you can spend your entire pregnancy on Google, but I don't recommend it), the more I knew that if I chose a hospital over home birth that it would be a decision made out of unfounded fear.

The reality is, despite the bad press they often get, home births for low risk pregnancies prove to be a safe, if not safer, option than hospital births. The vast majority of births do not result in a medical emergency. And far less unnecessary intervention occurs when you are in a familiar place, surrounded by familiar people, who believe in you and respect your decisions.

Home birth just made sense to me. 

On to the nitty-gritty!

To describe my birth in three words, it was: long, painful, and absolutely beautiful (predominately in hind sight, but beautiful nonetheless).

But here are more words. ;)

I was woken up on Friday morning by contractions. I began to time them and realized they were 10 minutes apart and around 30 seconds long. Kurt wanted to shout it from the roof tops but we decided to keep our mouths shut because we knew they may slow as the day progressed. We were right. But I had my 40 week appointment that afternoon and I was 3cm dilated and experienced a big contraction during the visit. They sent me home with instructions to eat a good meal (to be thrown up later), drink lots of water, and go to bed. The going to bed part didn't happen. Those bad boys kicked in double time as the night went on.

Kurt and I prepared the bed with a waterproof sheet and set up the birthing tub (when they tell you to do a trial run with the tub weeks before, do it!).

I called my doula and midwife at 1am. At this point the contractions were around 5 minutes apart and I was having difficulty talking during them. My doula came over but my midwife told me to call her back at 3 minutes apart. It was around 4am when she and my nurse came. 

The bitter but mostly sweet thing about birthing at home is that you can move around without restraint. I spent time in the shower (where dinner resurfaced), in my birthing tub (seriously so nice!), and yes, walking up and down the stairs. I do remember falling asleep at a couple points. It's amazing how hard your body works in labor; once I fell asleep sitting up.

Looking gooood as a family of three on Ellie's birthday.
The more the memories of pain fade (God's way of getting us to have more babies), the more sweet in-between moments of my labor come back to me. A half-eaten plate of scrambled eggs on the kitchen table, my nurse praying with me in the dim morning light, Kurt reading out affirmations, me telling myself under breath that "this is worth it, this is worth it, she is worth it", people laughing downstairs, Ellie's heartbeat on the doppler. These are moments I'll treasure forever. 

When it came to actually pushing, I again moved around quite a bit. I first pushed on the bed on all fours and then sitting between Kurt's legs as he supported me from behind. Then my nurse very matter of factly told me that I should go push on the toilet. What! She wanted me to walk down the hall and then sit on the hard toilet seat?! Ellie's head was just an inch or so shy of making it's appearance. They helped me down the hall and to my surprise, pushing on the toilet felt the most natural. It was there that I felt Ellie's head. I also felt panic as I realized there was no going back. I had to "push through the pain"...literally. 

I pushed again on all fours on the bathroom floor. Kurt was on all fours in front of me cheering me on. I don't care how many stories you hear of wanting to beat the crud out of husbands during labor, nothing beats a husband's loving support. 

Ellie's head finally came, but her shoulders were stuck. I didn't know, but apparently her head began to turn purple. Before I knew it I was tackled football style to the bathroom floor by my nurse (kudos, Karen!). I felt bewildered and was shaking. They did some maneuver down yonder and woooooosh! There she was on my chest. People say that first moment is like nothing else. And they are right! But I will also admit, I was in pain and my midwife and nurse were doing weird (but normal) things to my stomach! 

I remember thanking everyone in the room profusely, crying, and exclaiming to Kurt "look, look at her face! She has the cutest face! LOOK!"

And there you have it, my and Ellie Mae's birth(ing) story. 

A few things I learned:
  • The birth team you choose makes all the difference. My midwifery team of two and nurse knew their stuff! I felt 100x confident in their ability to care for me and Ellie. Their care leading up to, during, and after the birth was top notch. Furthermore, my doula was indispensable to me. I was skeptical about whether doulas are all they're cracked up to be. They are! I did everything she told me to and it helped immensely. The pain was surprisingly manageable. 
  • Environment is huge. 
  • Believe in yourself and speak words of truth. And surround yourself with people who believe in you too! 
  • Preparation is good but it's not everything. I remember being frantic about everything being just right before delivery. The reality is, you'll buy snacks for the birth team and eat half of them. You'll plan to vacuum and it won't happen. And if you're me, you'll buy birthday cake supplies and never bake the birthday cake. Don't ask. On the other hand, I'm sure glad I had that Jello and those postpartum padsicles
  • Not much beats falling asleep as a family of three in your own bed just hours after delivery. No ugly hospital gown, no pull-out couch for daddy, no beeping machines or stranger nurses checking in.
  • God's design is mind-blowing. I can't believe the amazing thing that birth is. That I - and billions of women before and after me - are capable of pushing multiple pound human beings out of our bodies. And then, we produce milk to feed them. And THEN, we heal ourselves! Just think about it. 
Would I consider having another home birth?

There is nothing about my birth experience with Ellie that I believe would have been improved by being at the hospital.

Not even medication.

There was only one point during labor that medication came to mind. That thought was preceded by the unfounded fear that perhaps I'd have to transfer because things seemed to be taking foooorever. It was followed by the realization that medication for my temporary, albeit extreme, pain wasn't worth giving up the luxuries of home.

All in all, if I have another healthy pregnancy, home birth will be my top choice.

My heart is full of gratitude to God and everyone who supported us. What an incredible adventure!

Michaela Rae


  1. Oh Michaela! What a beautiful experience!! I loved reading the details and I loved how you gave God the glory for things being the way they were :) :) :) You will cherish this post as the years go on! So glad you put "pen to paper" to share your experience!

  2. What a fantastic story! I had a home birth too (we had the same nurse - my cousin, Karen), and it was amazing. I agree with you - NOTHING beats sleeping in your own bed together as a family after giving birth :)
    Thanks for sharking your story!
    I shared my birth story on my blog too:

  3. Thanks for sharing. Very special! Congratulations!

  4. Thank you for sharing, Michaela! Congrats! I'm Heather and I was hoping you would be able to answer a question regarding your blog! Please email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)


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