Ashley and her husband Decker raise and grow their own food on their 13 acre farm in middle Tennessee while raising their two precious kiddos, Bridger and Quill. Check out Ashley’s blog, Whistle Pig Hollow.
I am Mama Cow: Baby Quill’s Unplanned Unassisted Home Birth
Preparing for Birth
As you know, I was more than impressed with the graceful nature of our dairy cow’s birth a few months back. So much so that I decided to make my pregnancy and birth mantra “Birth like Mama Cow.” It was my own personal reminder that we- and all of nature- are magnificently designed, and that my body was more than capable of having a healthy, graceful pregnancy and an easy birth, much like what I witnessed from Mama Cow.
I also took the Hypnobabies home study course, really focusing my energy on the positive affirmations. My goal was to have an unmedicated, intervention-free hospital birth with my OB and doula, and I knew the only thing standing in my way was my own mind. Interestingly, we seriously considered home birth, but ruled it out because we are a good 45 minutes from the nearest hospital, and so we wanted to err on the side of safety should mother or baby have any unexpected issues.
Throughout my pregnancy I focused on eating healthy, nutrient dense foods (see my pregnancy diet here), and supplemented with fermented cod liver oil, liver pills(once I grew tired of eating real liver), vitamin K2 supplements (especially after reading this), and magnesium oil. I have experienced first hand a dramatic decrease in menstrual cramps when I use magnesium oil, so I felt certain it would help with labor pains as well. I also had a whole foods prenatal that I took on days when I felt like my diet was a bit lacking.
I found chiropractic care to be very helpful as well. I went periodically throughout early pregnancy, and during the last month I was able to find a chiropractor who accepted our insurance, so I went twice per week. She specializes in pregnancy and the Webster Technique and claims her clients’ labors last about four hours on average… and I have to say, I’m a believer!
Baby Quill’s Birth Story
The afternoon before baby Quill’s birth, I started having what I would describe as regular Braxton Hicks- there was no intensity whatsoever, but they continued throughout the evening and all night. I’d had Braxton Hicks throughout the pregnancy, but they usually stopped after a few hours, so when I woke up the next morning still having them, I thought in the back of my mind that it could be baby day. Around 7:30 AM I shot my doula a quick email just letting her know something might be happening later that day.
My husband had some projects to work on, and I told him to go on and get them done so he could be home for the afternoon, in case anything started to happen. Fortunately, he decided to stay home to be sure I was not in labor- he would have completely missed the birth!
Around 8:30 AM I timed the frequency of the contractions because my doula asked, and they were four to five minutes apart. Again, no intensity at all still, but we went ahead and called my husband’s parents to come pick up our three year old son, just in case. I still assumed the baby would be born later in the evening or the next day, and thought it best to have him settled in at their house already.
At 10:00 AM I ate my morning snack as normal and hubs went out to get the animals fed/watered in case we weren’t there that evening to take care of them. He also went ahead and picked all the ripe tomatoes, because it’s canning season after all. We were planning to go for a walk once he got back inside, but between 10:00 and 10:15 things started to pick up. When my husband came back in, I asked him to sit with me and time my contractions.
Active Labor 10:30 AM- 11:00 AM
Over the course of this time period I began to no longer want to talk through my contractions, which indicates active labor.
By 10:30 AM there was definitely some intensity with the contractions, but I was still able to get through them relatively easily. They felt like pressure only in the lower front of my stomach, exactly where I’d want them to be for dilating my cervix. I did feel like I would soon be needing the support of my doula, so I sent her a text asking her to head on over, knowing that she lived an hour or so away and thinking the timing would be perfect- I’d really need her by the time she got there and then she could help us determine when to head to the hospital.
We have an “L” shaped sectional couch in our house, and once the contractions became intense, each time I’d have a contraction, I’d get on my knees on the floor in the corner of the couch and sort of lay my body over the couch while kneeling on the floor. This ended up being the same position I chose for giving birth.
Transition 11:00 AM – 11:20 AM
Based on what happened after these last few contractions, I was definitely in transition…!
Around 11:00 AM the contractions became intense enough that I felt a little flicker of doubt enter my mind- why did I think it was a good idea to avoid pain medication? I had five or so contractions with these thoughts and then began to verbalize it- I told my husband I wanted to go to the hospital and get an epidural. After saying that through two contractions, he went on out to start the car. He pointed out that the doula would be to our house in five more contractions, and that was a comforting way for me to think about getting through the next five, but we decided to just call the doula and ask her to meet us at the hospital.
Pushing and Birthing 11:24 AM- 11:37 AM
In case you forgot, my husband had gone out to start the car so we could head to the hospital. He came back in to get me, and then…
With the very next contraction, I felt myself accidentally push. I jumped up and told my husband we had to go to the hospital right that minute, but then I felt somethingbig come partially out and just hang there, and it wasn’t the baby’s head… I racked my brain for what possibly comes out before the head, and the only thing I could come up with was a prolapsed cord. I told my husband to call 911 just in case the cord was prolapsing, since that is a true emergency situation. The 911 call was placed at 11:24 AM, which means I’d pushed once by then.
Meanwhile, I reacted to the situation- I took my clothes off, went into the bathroom and got into the face-down bottom-up position I knew to get into if the cord was prolapsing. And I prayed. Not a normal prayer, but more like a conversation directly with God (I know that’s what normal prayer is supposed to be like, but my daily prayers sometimes lack heart. This one did not.) With the next contraction, more of whatever it was bulged out, and I was able to reach back and feel that it was just part of the amniotic sac- nothing but fluid. And so then I praised. I thanked God profusely, told my husband it was not the cord prolapsing, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. (FYI, the cord can’t prolapse if the water has not broken.)
I was on my knees on the bathroom floor and used the edge of the bathtub to support my upper body- it was the position I automatically went to. I felt so much peace realizing the cord had not prolapsed and knowing the ambulance crew would soon be there in case baby had any issues. My husband was on the phone with the 911 operator the entire time I was having the baby. He would talk in the other room so he didn’t scare me, and then come into the bathroom to check on me, and then go back out to talk to the operator. It was just me, my body, and my baby doing our thing, and it was amazingly peaceful and powerful and calm.
My pushing contractions involved absolutely zero pain. The only way I knew I was having another contraction was because I’d feel my body bear down and push. I had what I remember to be five total pushing contractions- the first two where the amniotic sac bulged out, two more contractions during which I felt the baby’s head crowning but not yet coming out (I did feel the ring of fire, but all you can do is hang on for the ride at that point), and then a final contraction during which the water broke and the entire baby came out at once. She landed on towels on the bathroom floor, and I immediately got to her to unwrap the cord, which was around her neck three times.
(My son was born with the cord around his neck twice, and I remember my OB telling me it was no big deal, that she just unwrapped it and it was fine… and so I was not panicked about the cord situation. I just knew we needed to get baby crying, which we did with no issue.)
I believe the first EMT man walked in as she was being born- possibly the moment before- because he stooped down and helped me unwrap her cord and get her crying. They recorded baby’s birth at 11:37 AM and when asked to report on the status of the baby, they held the radio up to her precious crying voice and let her answer for herself.
At this point I was completely naked on the bathroom floor holding the baby with about five EMT gentlemen and one woman all in the bathroom with me. (Three different emergency vehicles/crews responded- what else do you do on a Sunday afternoon in the country besides go help a lady have a baby?) My doula arrived and sat with me and helped talk the EMT folks into letting me have some time with the baby before they loaded us up to head to the hospital. I wanted to nurse and do immediate skin to skin, and since baby was fine and I was fine, they agreed- although not for nearly as long as I wanted. (Their job is to get mother and baby to the hospital alive, not facilitate bonding, so I was thankful for their patience.)
Finally, my husband came in! He’d been telling the EMS crews where to go and hadn’t even been in to see the baby.
Then they loaded me onto the stretcher (they made me, I didn’t want to!) and we took an ambulance ride to the hospital. Fortunately the hospital bags were in our car, which reminded my husband the car was still running!
Afterbirth and Recovery
At the hospital our OB delivered the placenta and stitched me for a small tear. Both baby and I were given the thumbs up from the doctors, and we finally got to really start nursing and having unlimited skin to skin time.
My husband and I were (and still are) on cloud nine over this unplanned home birth. I found unmedicated birth to be miraculous and amazing and empowering and something I’ll never run from again (I had a wonderful epidural birth experience with my son, by the way). I ended up with no IV and took no pain medication after (I did get local anesthesia for the stitching). It was all very noninvasive, and the moderate amount of chaos associated with the ambulance situation was worth it to me for the peace of mind they brought with their ability to handle emergencies, should baby or myself have had any.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a birthing experience that was so easy. It was truly the best experience of my life, so instinctual and so… Mama Cow. What a blessing to have experienced life in such a raw form.