Homestead Homebirth Story
Last month, my daughter, Stella, graced our New England homestead with her arrival, all thanks to the remarkable support of River Valley Midwives. This homestead homebirth marked my second, and I’m excited to share our journey with you.
Stella’s birth marks my second home birth and third natural delivery. Opting for a home birth again was a clear and easy decision. The idea of delivering in a hospital hardly crossed my mind. As the pregnancy progressed smoothly both Stella and I enjoyed excellent health throughout, reassuring me that I was making the right choice.
Six years ago, embarking on my first home birth journey, I was supported by wonderful friends who had taken the same path. Their presence provided the reassuring community I needed. This community, combined with the wisdom I gained from reading Ina May Gaskin’s works, has guided me through my three deliveries.
Jharna of River Valley Midwives provided my prenatal, delivery, and post-natal care with the grace and expertise of a professional with over thirty years of experience. Jharna has helped deliver eight children that I know personally, an amazing testimonial to her abilities! In her care for the second time, I felt immensely comfortable, cared for, and supported. Much more than I could say for my first in-hospital birth experience where I felt like a “number” in the hundreds of pregnancies the OBGYNs saw monthly.
Preparing for a Homestead Homebirth
Planning and preparing for a home birth on our homestead involved unique considerations compared to a typical hospital birth. This preparation encompassed two crucial aspects:
- Gathering essential birth supplies for a smooth delivery and postpartum period and,
- Making sure our homestead, animals, and operations could run smoothly during the period when we needed to devote less attention to them.
Gathering Birth Supplies
Collecting the necessary birth supplies is always a gratifying process for me. I started assembling these items early in my pregnancy, reviewing the checklist provided by my midwife to ensure everything was in order.
The list included medical supplies like sterile gloves, alcohol prep pads, and gauze, but there are also less common items that you may not expect. Candles and a flashlight for power outages, specially brewed tinctures, gold seal root powder for umbilical cord care, sitz bath herbs, cookie sheets to organize medical supplies, and flannel-backed tablecloths for mattress and rug protection.
*A great resource that I used for purchasing homebirth supplies is In His Hands Birth Supply.
Keeping my home clean and organized always brings me joy and eases my mind. So, it was also important for me to have an especially clean and organized home by the time of birth. In the weeks leading up to delivery, I worked hard to maintain the regular cleaning patterns of our home as well as tackle some deeper cleaning projects.
I also continued to add meals to our already stuffed freezers. Lasagna, Shepard a pie, soups, breads, and casseroles freeze extremely well!
Preparing The Homestead
In addition to getting our home ready for the birth, we undertook various outdoor tasks to ensure our homestead would run smoothly in the early postpartum weeks. These preparations included:
1. Splitting and stacking firewood for winter heating.
2. Tending to the garden by planting garlic for the next year, cleaning out garden beds, and enriching the soil with rabbit manure before winter.
3. Thoroughly cleaning and bedding the chicken, turkey, and duck areas, as well as adding pine wood chips to the poultry run.
4. Cleaning the chicken coops, including the nesting boxes and manure trays.
5. Deep cleaning and refreshing the rabbit cages.
6. Stocking up on livestock feeds and ensuring waterers were topped off daily.
These efforts were essential to ensure our animals and homestead remained well cared for during the busy period surrounding the birth.
The Homebirth Journey Begins
A week past my due date, I visited with my OBGYN, whom I had been seeing occasionally (and who would act as my “backup” in case homebirth was no longer an option for any reason). The OBGYN performed a biophysical exam which checked on the baby via ultrasound, the results revealed that Stella was healthy and comfortable with plenty of amniotic fluid left.
That same day, I met with Jharna, my homebirth midwife to pick up a specially brewed tincture of cotton root bark. (This tincture proved to be quite powerful, as such, please only use it under the direction of a herbalist or birth professional.)
Now eight days past my due date, in the early hours of October 10th, I began taking the tincture of cotton root bark. I would continue the tincture every few hours throughout the day.
Since my midwife and I both had a gut feeling that Stella would be born today, my fiancé, Mike, stayed home from work- luckily we were right!
The Unexpected Waters Break at Our Homestead
As the morning progressed, Mike and I eagerly anticipated Stella’s arrival.
We tried various methods to jumpstart labor, including walking, bouncing on a yoga ball, using the breast milk pump, intimacy, and taking tinctures of cotton wood root, hops, and cohosh.
Light contractions started around 7:00 a.m. and stayed light throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Still, with high hopes that the day would bring forth our new child, I made plans for my father to get the other children off the school bus. He was to take them a few miles down the road to my grandparent’s house, where they would await the arrival of their new baby sister.
Around 3:00 p.m., while waiting with my father for the bus to arrive, we all believed that active labor was still likely far off. My contractions were still far apart, and I was comfortably able to walk and talk through them. We decided to change plans and let the older children come home for a while; I would call him to pick them up later when things progressed.
As my father turned to leave he gently patted my belly, my water unexpectedly broke! We all couldn’t help but laugh and cherish the most perfect timing! I promptly called Jharna, and preparations for Stella’s arrival began.
Overcoming Challenges at Our Homestead Homebirth
Jharna’s arrival and a cervical check revealed that I was only 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Jharna also performed a membrane sweep on my cervix at this time and adjusted its positioning to help labor continue to progress.
The path ahead seemed like it would be long and challenging; when I was in labor with my other two children, initial cervical checks revealed dilation of about 6-7 cm.
However, I refused to let myself feel discouraged, despite that exact feeling sneaking into the back of my mind. I knew that there could be a long road ahead, filled with unknown challenges, and I could not start doubting myself now.
I continued with the labor-inducing regimen that I had been performing all day; using the breast pump, walking, bouncing on the yoga ball, and taking strong tinctures.
Mike’s support was invaluable, and with each contraction, he stood by my side. He provided strength and comfort by allowing me to wrap my arms around his neck and place my head on his shoulder as we swayed through each wave.
The day was beautiful, and I labored like this outside in the fresh autumn air, listening to the sounds of our livestock, watching the orange leaves fall from our maple tree, and seeing the sunlight shining on the nasturtium flowers.
The Final Push: Homestead Homebirth Progress
As the hours passed, my contractions intensified and Mike and I moved indoors. Around 6:30 p.m., after a particularly long contraction, Jharna called me to come upstairs as the birth room (my bedroom) was finished being set up and she wanted to check my progress. Her check revealed that I was about 6 cm dilated- making me (again) believe that delivery was still far off.
I forced the feelings of disappointment back down and instead focused on my birth mantra, “happy, love” and conjured positive thoughts of my great-grandmother, Mary, who delivered twelve children at home.
My optimistic attitude worked; after laboring in my bed for less than an hour, I felt the unmistakable urge to push.
Jharna confirmed that Stella’s arrival was imminent, and also that the second midwife, Siana, was on her way (but would likely miss the birth).
With controlled pushing, my body started to bring my baby into the world.
Between 6:56 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., I experienced long, luxurious breaks between contractions, which provided much-needed relief. I was able to talk, laugh, sip water, and speculate what my sweet baby would look like. Mike was positioned behind me and with each wave of pain, I would reach my hands behind my shoulders, find his, and squeeze.
By this point, I knew the end was in sight, and Jharna said that she could see a larger and larger amount of the baby’s thick, jet-black hair with each contraction. This was all the motivation I needed to keep going.
At 7:00 p.m., Stella started crowning, and her birth was just seconds away. She emerged, crying, and was instantly placed on my chest just as the second midwife pulled into our gravel driveway.
Welcoming Stella at Our Homestead
After forty minutes of tears of joy, cuddling, and getting over the shock of the immense amounts of hair Stella had, she eagerly latched onto my breast at 7:41 p.m., and Mike had the honor of cutting Stella’s cord at 7:55 p.m. By 9:00 p.m. she had been weighed and measured and the midwives tucked us all in for the night.
In the days that followed, my midwives would visit us to check my postpartum healing and Stella’s health. These at-home checks allowed us to avoid leaving our homestead, getting Stella loaded into the car, and over-exerting myself during travel.
Birthing at home allowed me to feel safe and cared for in my own environment. It allowed me to labor outside at my homestead on a beautiful fall day, it allowed me to sleep in my own bed from day one, it allowed the baby to enter the world in a warm home filled with love, it allowed me to have a say about my labor and delivery without the need to fight for it, it allowed me to get a good night’s sleep without interruptions from nurses and blinding florescent lights.
Homebirth, to me, is so special in many many ways. It is what feels most natural to my heart and mind.