Willa Darling - Home Birth Story
There was no question after Birdy’s home birth that we would be doing the same thing the second time around - providing of course that everything went smoothly and was low risk again with this pregnancy. We were so incredibly fortunate to be able to rejoin our same midwifery clinic, and not only that, but we were also able to choose which team we wanted to care for me and baby throughout pregnancy, which led us back to our incredible midwife, Rebecca, who was also the one who delivered Birdy almost exactly two years ago.
I had a lot of energetic and subconscious fears surrounding birth this time, which I believe was one of the intuitive reasons - beneath everything else - that kept us from “publicly” sharing the news of us awaiting a second baby.
Everything with Birdy’s birth had gone so wonderfully and was one of the most intense and incredible experiences of my life, so these fears had to have been seeping in externally, and were continuing to have a really strong effect on my emotions and worries as Willa’s due date continued to approach. After going through the heaviest depressed season (and still on a deeper level continuing to work through the trauma) after Birdy was born, there is still a lot of residual healing to be done, which is another reason why I kept our second pregnancy so close to my heart. On some level, I don’t think I could handle the outside opinions a second time around, nor did I want to continue to be privy to these traumatic stories and thoughts that strangers felt as though they had the right to share with me. Birth has the potential to be an experience unlike anything else in this world, and ever since going through it myself, I always do my best effort to either talk about it positively with others, or to not insert my own opinions unless they are asked for.
I believe that it’s so important to be incredibly sensitive when dealing with such a powerful life event, and unfortunately when it comes to social media, that sensitivity isn’t usually there.
In the weeks leading up to Willa’s birth, I worried often about going into labour at night and not being entirely sure what we would do with Birdy; do we keep her sleeping in the hope that she doesn’t wake up while in labour, or do we wake her and send her home with my sister in the middle of a really cold winter night? Although we were super prepared in every other aspect, this worry of being sensitive to Birdy’s emotions, needs, and feelings was really something that I think was holding me back from going into labour.
On Tuesday, February 12th, we had a routine midwife appointment that morning, and Mark and I both felt going into it that we would be having a baby either that day, or the following day. I was checked, and we learned that I was already 2cm dilated and 60% effaced. They did a ‘membrane sweep’ (which was also what I had done the day prior to Birdy’s birth) to aid in potentially starting my labour, and we were off to head back home. That night before I had begun feeling small, infrequent, and sporadic cramping, which had already led me to believe that things were underway.
Once we were back in the car, we decided that we just needed to get back home and start mentally preparing for the next 24-48 hours. My cramps continued to come and go throughout the rest of the morning, and I was mentally already all-in with knowing that labour was already underway. After getting home, I made sure that Birdy’s bag was all packed and ready to go, and also that the house was clean. We fed Birdy lunch, put her down for a nap, and then decided that it would be best if she went to spend the rest of the day at my sister’s house, and stayed there for a sleepover in case things did progress and went into the night. That way, not only would she be out of the house and wouldn’t need to be woken up if I went into active labour during the night, but I would also be able to mentally let go of my worry around wanting her to be comfortable and taken care of and hopefully be fully at ease to allow my labour to progress without any lingering worries or hesitation.
My sister came to pick up Birdy after her nap, and although I was relieved that she’d be well taken care of and that we wouldn’t have to worry about her, saying bye to her that afternoon was one of the hardest little goodbyes I’ve probably ever had to do; especially since she turned to me right before leaving while holding my hand and asked if I was going to be coming with her. With all of my prior worries surrounding this birth, as well as just the idea that this was potentially the last moments that it would be just the three of us made letting her go feel all the more intense.
The following hours progressed with such calmness; I think that if I had to choose one word to sum up Willa’s labour and delivery, it would be calm.
Mark and I made our own lunch and relaxed (him on the couch, me on an exercise ball) while watching some tv. We spent the rest of the afternoon resting until eventually Mark then began to slowly prep our living room space, while I laid down and took a short nap because I knew I would need all the energy that I could get leading into what we knew was inevitably approaching.
When I woke up, I knew things were underway and that they wouldn’t be slowing down, so I got myself changed, tried to eat some more, and then popped in some headphones and turned on one of my birthing playlists. A few weeks prior to Willa’s birth, I created two playlists for labour + delivery; one being my usual style of indie/folk acoustic music, and another being a hip-hop/rap playlist that would really get me in the right state of mind for the task at hand. I’ve always been a huge hip-hop/rap music fan (especially back in high school when I used to play sports and listened to hip-hop playlists as pre-game music), and I wanted to try to use it to get myself in a really good and pumped up/confident state of mind.
I quickly learned that I could control my contractions and my labour depending on how I was moving or what I was doing. Although my contractions were still a little sporadic at this point (some coming every 3-6 minutes, while others happening every 12-15), if I walked up and down our stairs, I could bring on a contraction almost instantly. I found that sitting down or sitting on the exercise would almost immediately bring my contractions to a halt, so I did my best to continue to keep things steady by alternating between walking up and down the stairs, having small drinks of water, and swaying my legs and hips once the contractions began to increase in intensity.
Much like with Birdy’s birth, contractions quickly began to regulate and grow in intensity, now coming every 3-5 minutes consistently, and increasingly stronger, and I remember thinking that it can’t already be time to call everyone and ask them to come over. Nevertheless, I called our midwife, texted Brittany (our photographer), and continued to ride out my contractions as they came. When our midwife, Rebecca, arrived around 7:30pm, I wasn’t officially in active labour yet because I was only 4cm dilated, which I was slightly surprised about; but, it didn’t take long for that to change. I was determined to keep things going, so after that, I continued to walk up and down the stairs so that contractions would progress, only slowing when I felt slightly tired or needed to pause for a contraction.
Rebecca and Jenny (the student midwife who we had also seen throughout my entire pregnancy) set up all of their emergency equipment, and Mark continued to fill up the pool.
For the following two + hours, I laboured around our living room, eventually no longer needing to walk the stairs as the contractions were now coming regularly on their own with the sort of strength that I knew meant we were starting to get closer to the next stage. This time around, I found the best relief was endless hip swaying, leaning against the wall, and leaning onto the stairs/railing so that my upper body was on a bit of an incline.
With Birdy, my placenta was anterior, which correlated to a lot of back labour during her labour and delivery, and I had to have Mark applying counter pressure on my hips every single contraction. I think this was something that made Birdy’s birth feel all the more hectic in one sense because it felt like both of us were 100% occupied throughout labour.
With Willa, my placenta was posterior, which unbeknownst to me, really altered the way that labour felt, as well as where the majority of my pain appeared. This time around, I felt my contractions primarily in the front - in my lower abdomen - with very minimal back labour pains. As a result, I laboured through almost every contraction alone, while Mark had the space and time to make sure the pool was ready, as well as join me in the form of verbal support and encouragement during the rest of the time. We actually tried counter pressure during one of my contractions and it actually made my contraction pain worse haha, which I found so funny since with Birdy’s birth I literally felt like I wouldn’t have been able to make it through a single contraction without that counter pressure; funny how similar yet different labours can be.
I’m not entirely sure of the exact timing, but I would say that somewhere around 10:15 pm or so I was able to get into the pool. With Birdy, our pool hadn’t been hot enough, and she actually ended up being born outside of the pool; but this time around, the pool was wonderfully hot, and it did help with contraction pain. At this point though, I was already ready for everything to be over with. Everything was going super smoothly and as well as it possibly could be, I just knew what was coming next, and although a lot of women feel relieved when it comes time to push, I think I would prefer intense contractions over pushing. With the help and encouragement of Mark and our incredible student midwife, Jenny, and our main midwife, Rebecca, I was able to keep pushing through and keeping my mind as mentally positive as possible.
Much like with Birdy’s birth (you can read more about whether or not my water broke at all during her birth here), up until this point my water still hadn’t broken, and I knew from last time that it can make things slightly harder when it comes to pushing; so this time around, they did break my water just to make the last few minutes or labour and delivery easier for me. After my water was broken, it was another two or three contractions and pushing combinations before Willa came out and I guided her right up onto my chest - it was 11:08 pm. If any of you are really keen at remembering details, Birdy was born at 1:08 pm, and 11:08 is actually my birthday: November 8th.
I can’t even begin to describe the immediate relief that I felt holding her on my chest; it’s something that you can’t fully articulate unless you’ve experienced it yourself.
It’s incredible how that in that exact instant, all of the pain is gone; it’s done. Your body did what it knew how to do, and as soon as your baby leaves your body and is placed upon your chest, all of the incredibly hard moments cease. The contractions stop (until you deliver the placenta anyway, but even then the cramping is much more bearable), the intensity stops, the sheer primal feeling of birthing a human just stops, and all is calm. That feeling is something that I’ll never ever take for granted.
I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to be able to birth both of our babies at home, and there is not a thing about either of their labours and deliveries that I would ever change - they were honestly perfect. We were also so incredibly fortunate to have been supported by the most loving, gentle, encouraging, and empowering team of midwives that anyone could ever ask for, and I will always hold in my heart the way that they made me feel throughout every single moment of our time together. Words honestly cannot express their importance in our journey.
My favourite thing about midwifery care and our experiences with birthing at home, is how cared for you feel. Once Willa was born, we stayed in the pool for a little while until her cord was done pulsing and we were able to cut it. From there, Mark took Willa while I was aided out of the pool and onto a makeshift bed that we had made up in our living room. Mark and I laid there in baby-bliss while we called our family to let them know that she had arrived and that everything went so so well. I delivered the placenta soon after we were moved onto the bed, and was checked over and learned that I didn’t need any stitching, which was lovely news! We snuggled together on our floor bed while everything was cleaned up around us, paperwork was filled out, and I was given some food.
After everything else was done, the last steps were to check over baby, measure and weigh her, and make sure everyone was happy + healthy. Willa weighed 7lb 12 oz at birth.
Once through with her newborn exam, we were all led upstairs and tucked into bed, where we were hugged and left alone to soak in these next few hours just the three of us, Mark, Willa, and I.
Again, just as I wrote once before, there aren’t enough words that I adequately string together to be able to fully express my gratitude towards both of my birthing experiences. They were hard, oh gosh, they were HARD, but they were beautiful, and I am endlessly thankful. I am also so proud of myself for trusting myself to go through with birthing two babies naturally and at home. In the moments of fear or self-doubt I continued to show up, for myself, for Mark, and for my girls, and I owe that to the wisdom of my own body and soul from lifetimes past.
If you have any questions about our personal experience, about home birth in general, or about anything else somewhat related, you’re more than welcome to leave them in the comment section as I plan to do a follow up post to answer any questions in the weeks to come.
***All of the images here were taken by the most incredible Brittany Esther. Mark and I can never fully express our gratitude for being fortunate enough to have have Brittany attend both of our girls’ births; she is such a supportive presence to have surrounding you during labour and delivery, and we are forever grateful for her talent and her heart.