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Home birth (part two)

Home birth (part two)

Welcome back!  Thank you so much to everyone who submitted questions for this home birth series by way of Facebook and Instagram.  Part two shares my response to those questions and includes a few tips to help make home birth a great experience.  If you are joining us for the first time, you may find it helpful to start by reading Jude’s birth story and then part one of this home birth series.

Q: What do you need for a home (water) birth?

img_7965A: I was so impressed by how little we needed for a home birth.  I didn’t have to buy anything!  We had also decided on a water birth and were really fortunate to borrow a birthing tub from a friend.  We did spend $50 to buy the liner required for the tub (our only expense).  Most midwife clinics have tubs for rent so be sure to put your name on the list early if you’re considering one to better your chances of it being available for you near your due date.

Our midwives sent us home with a list of things to put together from around the house – towels, a large bowl, a strainer and sheets.

For the water birth portion, we added our borrowed birthing tub, a tarp, a hose, a thermometer and a sump pump for clean up.

The midwives will set up one area for the baby after birth so we had receiving blankets, a diaper and a hat to add to what they had.

Water Birth Q: How do you keep the water warm?

img_5173-2A:  This was a tricky part of the process.  Ensure that your hot water tank is turned up and be ready to boil water from the stove as needed.  The water needs to be at body temperature when the baby arrives.  Adam used a hose from a tap upstairs directly into the tub and used the provided lid for the top to keep the heat in when not in use.  Towards the end of my labour, we needed to bring the water temperature back up so Adam was going back and forth from the sink with bowls of hot water.  It did the job for the temperature of the water but made it difficult for me to get my bearings because the tub was too full and I was very buoyant.  In hindsight, we should have taken some water out of the tub before adding in the final hot water.

Q: What’s involved in cleaning up after a home birth?

A:  This was something that I hadn’t even considered until it was asked at our home birth information night – at which time I went “oh yeah!  What does happen?”

The midwives are careful and incredibly proficient in cleaning up after a home birth.  They pack up all of the equipment that they brought and use two garbage bags – one for things to be washed and one for things to be thrown out.  They had our basement looking presentable within two hours of Jude being born.

For the birthing tub, Adam used a sump pump to pump the water outside.

The second midwife that came for the delivery left once the baby was stable.  Our midwife stayed until we were all comfortable and all but tucked us into bed on her way out the door.

Q: How do you manage with older siblings?

img_7983A:  We invited my Mom to be on “Clyde duty” no matter what time of day the baby arrived.  If it was a daytime delivery, we were open to the idea of him being there but I had an overnight bag packed for him in case he was uncomfortable and wanted to go to Nana’s house.  As it happened, Jude came after midnight so Adam was able to put Clyde to bed at his normal bedtime.  He slept through everything and then woke up two hours after Jude was born.  Adam brought him down to meet his brother and then went back up to bed until morning!  Seeing Clyde come down the stairs with Adam was one of the most memorable moments of this experience for me.  He knew right away who the baby was and was overjoyed to meet him – phew!

One of the midwives that hosted our home birth information night shared about having her small kids at home when she delivered her new baby.  She pointed out that young kids have a very fluid concept of what is “normal” and are seeing all kinds of things for the first time every day.  She also had a grandparent on site to help care for the kids but they enjoyed being near Mom and had fun mimicking her through labour.

I wasn’t sure that Clyde wouldn’t be upset to see that I was uncomfortable but it was a good reminder that it may be a non issue and to consider all options when planning for care of big siblings.  Having him come down to meet Jude after he was born was a really special time.

Q: How many people attended your birth?

A:  We felt very open about having people around during our birth so there was Adam, my Mom, my sister and our midwife.  The minimum number of people is two – your midwife for the duration of your labour and a second midwife to arrive for the delivery of baby.  I greatly enjoyed having the support of my Mom and sister throughout my labour.  It was nice for me to have three people taking turns help me through contractions and it was nice for Adam to have people to talk to and give him a break.

It was also a really special moment to have my Mom and my sister there to hold Jude just hours after he was born.

Q: What happens if something goes wrong?

A: This is without a doubt the biggest deterrent for a home birth – the “what ifs.”  While no one can guarantee that everything will go smoothly, there are a few things that helped to reassure us.  Firstly, you are only approved for a home birth if you are deemed to have a low risk pregnancy with zero concerns.  At that point, the risk of anything going wrong is as little as it can be.  Secondly, the midwives come with all of the equipment that can be found at a level one hospital and are highly trained including the ability to intubate and they hold an advanced resuscitation certification.  Thirdly, the most common reason for a transfer to hospital from a home birth is at the request of the Mom for pain management.  At that point, you get in your car, your midwife gets in her car and you meet at the hospital.

One of the couples that spoke at our home birth night was preparing for their second home birth.  They shared that during the delivery of their first baby at home, the baby got stuck and they had to call for an ambulance to transfer to the hospital.  They said that they were amazed by the strength and confidence of the midwives and always felt like things were under control – so much so that they were planning to do it again.

We also made a trip to the hospital a few hours after Jude was born.  I felt great after my delivery and had very little bleeding.  Two hours after our midwives left, I lost a generous amount of blood really quickly so we called for an ambulance.  They arrived in under 15 minutes and by then, my bleeding was under control.  We decided to go to the hospital just to be sure so I went in the ambulance and Adam followed behind in the car with Jude.  I was checked into observation and stayed only for a few hours to confirm that I was stable.  From what they could tell, I was bleeding but it was clotting and released at once.  It was scary and I was disappointed to have gone to the hospital in the end but we were grateful that there were no concerns.

Tips for success

  • Feed the army!  In the weeks leading up to our birth, I made one giant lasagne for the freezer.  As soon as my labour started, I took it out to thaw and delegated the task of getting it in the oven to my Mom.  From what we all remember, that happened sometime around midnight and was ready to eat shortly after Jude arrived at 1:19am.  I remember feeling so hungry and very grateful to have a hot meal.  I also remember feeling glad to provide food for our midwives and our family after a long evening of hard work!  We continued to eat the lasagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the first two days.
  • Organize post-baby support!  Adam and I agreed to invite my Mom to our birth very early on in my pregnancy.  Not knowing what time of day the baby would come, we knew that we would appreciate an extra set of hands to help set up, support me and look after Clyde.  What we didn’t consider, was organizing for people to come help after the baby was born.  Everyone that was part of his birth was exhausted and needed to rest.  We had lots of friends and family come to meet Jude but it would have been a great help to have a new set of extra hands come and stay for a few days to help us settle in with our newest addition.
  • Share your “why” and educate!  Sharing about our plans for a home birth was often met with resistance from friends and family.  Most commonly, people responded with “Wow!  Why?”  The more we talked to people about why it was important to us and the more we educated people about what was involved and the training and education required for midwives, we could see that our friends and family were more receptive to the idea.  Once you are confident in your decision to have a home birth, share your “why” and educate your close friends and family as early in your pregnancy as possible to avoid any questions and concerns coming up towards the end.

In 2009, Adam built this home on family land with the help of family and friends.
In 2013, this home was the venue for our backyard wedding.
In 2016, we welcomed our second child in this home.

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Home birth (part one)

Home birth (part one)

img_0458As a follow up to Jude’s birth story, I am spending the weekend sharing about our experience with midwifery care, a home birth and a water birth.  Please keep in mind that this was our experience and I’m not setting out to say what is the right choice for you and your family.  We have two beautiful, healthy boys – one born in hospital and one born at home.  If ever we decided to have a third baby, we would without question register for midwifery care but there would be lots to consider again before deciding on a home birth.

One question that I often got in response to sharing our plans for a home birth was “why?”  In response to that, in “part one” of this home birth series, I will share about why we chose a home birth and about the incredible care we received from our midwives.  In “part two” I will answer questions, address some of the “hard points” and share about the logistics of a home birth – what’s required with respect to supplies, set up and clean up as well as some things that made our experience a great one!

I was first exposed to the idea of having a home birth through a long time friend.  I had the privilege of visiting her and her husband in their home after having just had a successful home water birth to welcome their first son.  Just the idea of never having to leave the comfort of your own home piqued my curiosity but it was hearing them share their birth story that really caught my attention.  They were both so calm as they recounted the details of what sounded like a beautiful experience.  They talked about having their midwives and family there and feasting on delicious food after the baby was born.  I was in no position to be having babies of my own at this time but I remember leaving that afternoon thinking “huh, I think I might like that for myself someday…”

I started reading birth stories of other home births and even got to hear a few second hand accounts of local home birth experiences from friends of friends.  With everything I read and heard, the same two words kept coming up over and over again – calm and comfortable.  These certainly wouldn’t have been words that I would have associated with child birth prior to learning about home birth but the more I learned, the more the idea grew in my heart.

The morning that I found out I was pregnant with Clyde, I submitted an application for a midwife.  Adam and I weren’t completely convinced that a home birth was the right choice for us but having a midwife was the first step in making that a possibility.  Weeks passed without hearing anything and in the end, our July due date fell in a busy time for the clinic and we were placed on the waiting list.  As I shared in Clyde’s birth story, we ended up seeing a local ob gyn throughout my pregnancy and having a successful delivery in hospital.

18 months later, I submitted the same application for a midwife on the morning that I found out I was pregnant with Jude and very quickly got a call to say they had a spot for us.  I was thrilled with the good news and the opportunity to consider having a home birth.  This phone call marked the beginning of a very fulfilling journey.

Right from our first midwife appointment, Adam and I left knowing that we were in for a great experience.  We would be seeing a team of three midwives throughout my pregnancy and one of the three would be there for Jude’s birth.  Our appointments would be anywhere from 30-60 minutes in length each time and included a “topic of conversation” to make sure that we were able to make informed decisions along the way.  These topics included our plans for pain management, whether we wanted to breastfeed, the options to circumcise or not and so much more.  This was a welcomed change from the 5-10 minute appointments to “discuss any concerns I might have” with my doctor while pregnant with Clyde.

The standard of care with our midwives continued to exceed our expectations.  We greatly appreciated being welcomed as a familiar face with each appointment and not having to share our details again and again.  We were encouraged to bring Clyde anytime we needed and never felt rushed while balancing a conversation and a toddler.

Midwives are educated in their field having to complete a university program and many hours of hands-on experience.  In Canada, there is no additional cost to having a midwife.  You can submit an application and transfer to midwifery care at any point in your pregnancy – it all depends on the availability of midwives around the time of your due date.  You can choose to have a hospital birth or home birth with a midwife.  Either way, the post-natal care includes home visits for you and baby in the first few days after their arrival.

If you are considering a home birth, you’re invited to attend an information night whereby a couple that has had a home birth comes to the clinic one evening to share about their experience.  The evening is hosted by a midwife who is there to answer questions, talks about the logistics and shows the equipment they bring to your home.  It was after attending this session that Adam and I got in the car and knew with absolute certainty that a home birth was the right choice for us.  We felt confident that all of our questions had been answered – questions like “how do you manage with an older sibling?” “what things do we need to buy?” and “what happens if something goes wrong?”  We felt satisfied with the answers that we received and I will share in detail on tomorrow’s post.

If you have questions that you would like to see answered with “part two”, there is still time!  Please comment below and check back for a response.

A Birth Story: Jude

A Birth Story: Jude

IMG_8047.jpgJude Joseph Robert O’Rourke was born at our home in rural Ottawa on Saturday, September 5 at 1:19am weighing 7lbs, 8oz.  While he was our second baby and we felt slightly more prepared for what was happening, he was our first home birth so there were still lots of unknowns ahead.

Jude was destined to be a Labour Day baby due on September 4.  Once again I had gone off work a few weeks early but this time I had a toddler getting up through the night so I img_7929was savouring every day that I had to rest prior to the arrival of little brother.  On the morning of his due date, we set off to continue what would be a “due date tradition” of hiking Luskville falls.  It was a beautiful day and we so enjoyed completing this hike with Clyde in tow.  Our plan was to head home for an afternoon nap and then join our family for dinner at my Dad’s.  Little did we know, Jude had a plan of his own.

We no sooner sat in the car to go home after the hike and I felt my first contraction.  Adam was talking to me all the way home but I couldn’t tell you one word he said because I was stunned by the regularity of my contractions.  As we pulled in the driveway I broke the news to him that I didn’t think we would be going for dinner that evening.  It was shortly after 2pm when we got home.  Clyde had fallen asleep in the car so Adam stayed outside while he slept and I img_7960went in to try and rest – still not totally convinced that these contractions were here to stay.

By 4pm, there was no doubt this baby was on his way so we notified the troops!  We cancelled dinner at my Dad’s, called for my Mom to come look after Clyde and notified our midwife.  From this point on, I tried my best to stay rested, fed, hydrated and comfortable.  Having run out of steam during my labour with Clyde, I wanted to give myself the best chance of having a successful unmedicated delivery.

We planned on a water birth so Adam setup the tub in the basement and put together all the odds and ends we wanted around for Jude’s arrival.  At 7pm, we called the midwife again to let her know my contractions were coming every 4 minutes and it was time for her to come.  Adam put Clyde to bed and I got in IMG_5173.JPGthe tub to continue labouring while watching “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” (perks of a homebirth!).  Our midwife arrived at 8pm, got set up and checked my progress – 5cm.  Woo hoo!  I remember feeling great and so relieved that I didn’t have to be thinking about when to leave the house.

Unfortunately, I was feeling a little too relaxed in the birthing tub and my contractions slowed to 6-7minutes apart.  This is what happened with Clyde’s labour – I got to 5cms and then stalled for hours.  My midwife had me get out of the tub and start walking around.  The frequency and intensity multiplied almost as soon as I stood up so I laboured out of the tub for the next few hours.

My sister was in town from Montreal for the long weekend.  She had asked me earlier if she could attend our birth if baby decided to come on his due date.  She was at my Dad’s for the family dinner so after her kids were put to bed, she came up to the house with my Dad and my step Mom.  A true family affair! Haha!  We had decided to camp out in the basement for a few days with our newborn so my Dad helped Adam bring our mattress down and then he and my Step Mom gave us their best wishes and headed for home.

It was coming up on 10pm now and things were going very smoothly.  My Mom, my sister, Adam and I would chat and then pause for a contraction.  My midwife was observing, taking notes and would occasionally come over with the doppler to monitor the heart rate.  I laboured while resting on the birthing ball with one person squeezing my hips together during a contraction and another holding my hands.  My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and I felt strong and in control.  I actually remember saying to Adam “I don’t know what all the fuss is about a natural birth.  I feel amazing.”

Before long, it felt as if the baby was very low and I started to feel pressure during a contraction.  My midwife checked my progress during a contraction (effective but not comfortable) and agreed that the baby was pushing quite low.  I was ~8cm and nearing the home stretch so I got back in the tub for the delivery.  Our midwife then called the on-call midwife to have her come for the delivery, which is standard procedure.

Remember what I said about ‘what’s all the fuss of a natural labour’?  I get it now.  The last part was hard.  Really hard.  I was labouring on my knees in the tub and had everyone around me for support.  It’s important that the water be around body temperature for the delivery so Adam was coming back and forth dumping pots of hot water into the tub.  The contractions were almost one on top of the other and it was after midnight so I was tired.  The baby felt so low and I kept asking my midwife if I could push but she said I would know when it was time.  Sure enough, just after 1am during the next contraction my body pushed all on its own.  I couldn’t believe the difference and how naturally it happened.

The midwives came around the tub and still while on my knees, my body pushed with each contraction.  I know the saying goes that childbirth is a gift but let’s be honest…the gift is that we instantly forget the level of pain that we endured.  Pushing this child out was an out of body experience for me.  I remember trying to climb out of the tub and reassuring everyone that this wasn’t actually going to happen.

Eventually, my midwife had me sit down, leaning back and I felt much stronger.  With one big push, the baby’s head was out and I could reach down to feel him.  Two more big pushes and he was here!  He came up on my chest right away and after a few minutes, Adam cut the cord.  Another beautiful, healthy baby boy had arrived and we were instantly in love.  Hallelujah and welcome, Jude Joseph Robert O’Rourke!

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Note: Over the weekend, I will share about our experience with home birth.  Please comment below if you have any questions you would like answered!

A birth story: Clyde

A birth story: Clyde

IMG_0010.JPGClyde Martin O’Rourke was born on Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 10:09am weighing 8lbs 5oz and measuring 21″ long.  Despite all of the birth stories and books we read, people we talked to and planning we did, he was our first and we had no clue what was in store for us.

Clyde was due on July 5. I went off work two weeks early in preparation for his arrival only to have him come one week late.  As you can imagine, by the time July 12 came along, I was feeling good and ready to get this show on the road.

Without realizing it at the time, things were set in motion after eating a spicy dinner at a friend’s house the Thursday before his birth.  I felt some cramping throughout the evening but had come to terms with the fact that I was destined to be pregnant forever so I didn’t let my mind wander to the possibility of it being early labour.

I slept fine that night and woke up as usual the next day.  We had breakfast not knowing it would be our last before becoming parents, then Adam took off for a run and I set out on my daily walk.  By the time we made it back to the house, I was feeling some contractions and was finally ready to accept that this might be the early stages of labour. We watched a movie and rested on the couch and then decided we shouldn’t just sit around waiting for this baby but instead we should head to Costco and do some shopping…yes, I realize it sounds ridiculous now and how I would savour that final day of sitting on the couch if given the chance again!

We made it home in the late afternoon and I called the hospital to see if we should make our way in.  The nurse and I had a lovely chat about how (in)frequent my contractions were and what we were having for dinner.  She graciously informed me that if I was able to carry on a conversation like I did, I was still hours away from getting in the car.  She was right.  But still, like all first time parents, we hummed and hawed throughout the evening about when it was time to go.  We are a 40 minute drive from the hospital and we didn’t want to get stuck having a baby in the car.  We called friends to ask their opinion and my Dad and Stepmom popped by to pick up the dog and weigh in.  Finally around 9pm we decided to make our way towards the hospital.

It was a toss up between going to my Mom’s for some sleep or going to the hospital to see how far I had progressed.  Of course the eager first time Mama bear voted for the hospital so away we went.  I was 4cm dilated when we got there which is the minimum for them to keep you so we got the green light and were shown to our labour room.  Adam will tell you that we should have gone to my Mom’s for some sleep and while I don’t often utter the words “you’re right,” this is one that I can’t deny.  All I wanted to do was sleep but once you’re checked in to the hospital, they like to keep things moving so we walked and walked the halls.

I slowly progressed to 5cm and then stalled for hours.  My contractions were regular but not very intense.  My doctor came in at 3am to break my water in the hopes of moving things along and shortly after that I tried the labour tub.  By now, my contractions were coming much closer together and were much more intense.  I remember laying in the tub dreading the start of the next contraction and overwhelmed by the thought of it getting harder.

I set out to have an unmedicated birth but by this point I had been awake for almost 24 hours and to say I was tired would be a major understatement.  I decided to have an epidural and slept through the remaining 5cm.

When the nurse came to check me at 10cm, they listened for the heart beat and it seemed that baby was in a bit of distress.  They helped me flip from one side to the other and decided that baby needed to come out quickly.  Poor Adam had gone to the bathroom and came out to find a room full of nurses and doctors and the bed transformed for delivery.

For the first time, I remember feeling very nervous all of the sudden that something was wrong and that I wouldn’t be able to do this.  Adam was by my side and the doctor that came in for the delivery looked me in the eye and said sternly “Alright Kelly, everything is OK but we need to get this baby out.”  That was all I needed to get my mind back in the game and in less than 10 minutes [with the help of a vaccuum] our little bundle was here.  Clyde was whisked away instantly to get a once over but was back on my chest within minutes with a bill of clean health.  Hallelujah!

[I must add that while he was on the table being looked over, one of the nurses asked if Dad wanted to take a picture.  Adam, white as a ghost, stumbled (literally) over and managed to snap a picture on the diagonal catching half of our new addition.  It’s a picture that reminds us of the intensity of his delivery and is still good for a laugh today.]

We were officially a Mom and a Dad!
Suffice it to say we were proud, exhausted and exhilarated.


IMG_0015.jpgOne of the most memorable moments for me of Clyde’s birthday was when my Dad came in to meet him.  Adam and I knew the gender of the baby but decided to keep it to ourselves so coming to meet their grandson was a fun surprise for the grandparents.  Even more so for my Dad to learn that his grandson was named after his Dad who passed away before I had the chance to meet him.  Clyde O’Neal (my grandpa) is described as a great friend, a loving husband, a volunteer firefighter, an athlete and always the life of the party.  We were honoured to bring this name to life again in our family and sharing the news with my Dad was an unforgettable experience for me.  So far, our little Clyde is living up to his namesake!