I fell in love with birth the night I had my first, despite it not being the experience I had hoped for (lengthy medicated labor). However, just a mere 48 hours after Nico was born, with a NICU stay and all, I left the hospital ready to give birth again. I was already talking about what I would do differently the second time around, and my husband and I began planning right away.
Prior to giving birth the second time, I was already hooked and well on my way to becoming a birth junkie. I knew I would be able to achieve the unmedicated and largely hands-off birthing experience I wanted, because, in true Krista style- I was insanely prepared/overprepared and I was going to stay away from the hospital until that girl was practically out. And that’s pretty much what happened. There was a moment or two where I’m pretty sure they thought I wouldn’t make it up to L&D. I previously shared the story of Gabriella’s birth HERE, and you can read it if you wish!
Within a month of having Gabriella, I knew that for my final baby I desired the Cadillac of birth experiences (no, not a deluxe suite at Cedars Sinai Hospital)- a homebirth- and I knew I was going to have to start my research right away. I began by texting my favorite birth worker for what I called her “black market baby catcher list.” Now, don’t get all worked up, I wasn’t trying to buy a baby. 😛 Let me explain.
Having a homebirth in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (or any state, for that matter) is not illegal, but the Commonwealth makes it quite difficult to have a provider attend your home birth. As trained surgeons, most OBs want to be where there’s an operating room- and that certainly isn’t at home. So that leaves midwives.
The Commonwealth of PA only recognizes Certified Nurse Midwives (“CNMs”) under the law, making the other two categories of midwives (Certfied Professional Midwives “CPMs” and traditional/lay/direct entry midwives) otherwise unaccounted for under the law. Because CNMs are also required to associate with a hospital or supervising OB, CNMs are essentially unable to attend homebirths due to frustration of purpose — a) it would be against a hospital’s financial interest to have CNMs work in out of hospital settings because the money wouldn’t go to the hospital (and the medical model in the United States is all about the benjamins), b) liability/desire to have an OR.
Therefore, you need to find a CPM or traditional midwife to attend your home birth as a provider if you wish to have an assisted homebirth in the Commonwealth. But as mentioned, the law pretends like CPMs or traditional midwives don’t exist. If you’re not recognized under the statutes, you could be charged for unauthorized practice of medicine / practicing without a license (among other things) by the medical board, ordered to cease and desist, and even criminally charged by local authorities. That has happened to enough midwives in the Commonwealth and other states that it is a serious issue. But, more on that in a later post!
I received the “black market baby catcher list” and did some early google research on Pittsburgh homebirth midwives which, for reasons already mentioned, largely left me unsatisfied due to the lack of information available.
Several months later, I found out I was pregnant. We had been testing with ovulation strips for the previous three weeks, with not a one showing an LH surge. I had purchased one of those boxes that was 7 ovulation tests and 1 pregnancy test most recently, and because I was out of ovulation strips, I just took the pregnancy test for the heck of it. Much to my surprise, it said PREGNANT! And, like every woman who might be pregnant, went scrounging around my house for any more tests that I can find and immediately took those too. I could not believe that I was pregnant again. I was watching Nico and Gabriella that night by myself, crying with joy as I put the kids to bed.
Immediately the next day, before even telling my husband that I was pregnant, I did two things — 1) locked down my doula, Bethany Brown of Birth Doulas of Pittsburgh, because she’s insanely good at what she does and therefore books up insanely fast (read my post on her HERE), and 2) put baby #3 on the waiting list at Nico and Gabriella’s school. While I was successful in locking down my doula, we’re still a year out on getting Mila into The Glen Montessori.
Digression: That’s right- a two year waiting list! Apparently putting your name on a waiting list for childcare/early education prior to getting pregnant is a thing. I don’t think I could do that for fear of jinxing it. And, because I didn’t, my latest babe is without a spot for the first year of her life. Bah!
After securing my doula’s availability, I began going through my black market baby catcher list. My search wasn’t easy; I was having a really hard time finding a midwife I connected with as I worked my way through the list. The midwife I ultimately selected, a traditional midwife who worked largely with Amish women, was just wonderful. AND she worked with a backup who was full of energy and I also adored. I will keep both of their names private since they do not independently have an online presence as birth workers. After locking them in, the last person I secured on my birth team was my family photographer, Dana Monticelli of Dana Monticelli Photography. I decided against maternity photos this time around, as I had with Nico and Gabriella. Therefore, I opted to hire her as my birth photographer – another plus of homebirth- no photography restrictions! And aren’t photos like this worth it?
So, with my birth team secured, I was ready to move on to prepping my body and my mind for the homebirth experience that I wanted. I began seeing my chiropractor, Dr. Brie from Live Well Chiropractic, every second week starting around Week 10 of my pregnancy. I increased that to every week beginning in Week 34 and twice a week or as often as I felt like I needed it in Week 37.
I dove into my normal pregnancy prep routine — I pulled out my copy of Ina May Gaskin‘s Guide to Childbirth and Spiritual Midwifery and read all of the stories in both books. I read the stories in G2C twice. I’m convinced that reading about normal births and variations of normal birth programs the default setting in your mind for your own normal birth. It also goes a long way to informing you about what normal can look like, which helps keep fears and anxiety at bay during your labor and delivery. I watched the documentary of all birth documentaries (for the fourth, fifth and sixth times)- Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born. I watched no less than one hundred homebirth videos on YouTube; most of them with my son. He found them as fascinating as I did!
I also increased the number of birth podcasts I listened to in the car from a slightly nutty number per week to a full on “she’s a wacko birth junkie” amount. My go to pregnancy podcasts include: Birth Kweens, Doing It At Home, Happy Homebirth, Dr Berlin’s Informed Pregnancy Podcast, Birthful with Adriana Lozada, The Harshe Podcast, and Dr. Stu’s Podcast. The men and women that run these podcasts – OBs, chiropractors, midwives, doulas, and fellow lay birth lovers like myself – do an incredible service for pregnant women everywhere- shout out to these amazing people – I recommend each of them highly. I love them all for different reasons. Women that want to be pregnant, are pregnant, or just love birth- check them out!
I could not get in a rhythm of attending prenatal yoga classes this time around. The class closest to me is still 20 minutes away and squarely in the middle of naptime on Sundays, but it just wasn’t fitting. So I maintained a schedule of practicing yoga at home whenever time would allow, because I really find it beneficial to lengthening and loosening!
I started reading my pregnancy affirmations as often as I could- I ordered THIS SET from Mama Natural, and I liked them so much I saved them for Mila’s time capsule. I found these incredibly empowering and affirming to have stirring around in my subconscious mind.
Thanks to an amazing package my husband purchased me, I went for a prenatal massage every 3 weeks from February through May and every 10 days in June and the beginning of July. Relaxing the muscles is so helpful to me in preparing for labor. Like a real crazy person, I use massages to practice breathing during contractions as well, which my massage therapist finds particularly amusing. I swear it works- let me explain! When you and getting pressure on a particular muscle, it’s your natural instinct to tense up, just like it’s natural to tense up during a contraction. However, your body actually needs you to do the exact opposite. You have learn how to relax through them – effectively, lean into the contractions – in order for your cervix to dilate. I find practicing during massages helps me to get ready to do so during labor! It’s counter intuitive, so practice helps me!
I began drinking my red raspberry leaf tea about every other day once 30 weeks hit; I switched brands this time and used Traditional Medicinals Organic Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. I also increase that to every day at 34 weeks (when I remember) and as much as I can stomach at 37 weeks. Red Raspberry Leaf is thought to help strengthen and tone the uterus, making contractions more effective and ideally, labor shorter.
I started doing spinning babies daily exercises around 30 weeks too. I did an insta story poll on this several months ago and was shocked how many mamas didn’t know about Gail Tully‘s work on Spinning Babies! Spinning Babies is essentially an approach to improve fetal position or keep a baby in an ideal position if already there. There are specific exercises based on the position of the baby, and daily activities/exercises that help to lengthen and loosen the pelvic muscles, most likely resulting in an improved labor experience and reducing the need for cesarean. The daily activities can be found HERE.
I did some Miles Circuit work to help baby from a ROA to LOA position and to possibly naturally induce labor if my body was otherwise ready. I did the circuit a few times between 37 weeks and when I delivered at 39w2d.
Of course I also was balancing my regular prenatal vitamin (MegaFood Baby & Me) and DHA (Nordic Naturals DHA) with some end of pregnancy supplements- MegaFood Magnesium, MegaFood Vitamin C, and Empirical Labs BeetFlow. All of these things worked together to help make my body working best for me and baby!
At 39 weeks I went out to get my “let’s do this” pedicure, making sure to get an extra 20 minute calf and foot massage with lots of pressure to spring my body into labor.
Lastly, and not because it’s the least important, I really thought a lot about the space I wanted to prepare for birth. I spent hours looking at photos of homebirth online, and tried to visualize what I wanted it to look like. We repainted the wall in the bedroom from white to a dark gray and added some circular mirrors above the head of the bed. I took some 5×7 and 8×10 maternity and newborn photos from Nico and Gabriella and decorated the space near where I would be laboring. We rearranged the furniture giving the space a fresh new feel. I prayed long and hard for inspiration for bible verses that I could include in my space. I ordered some fairy lights and sheer fabric from Amazon and decorated the windows near where I would put the birth pool. I picked up a few other random items and all in all loved the look that I created.
All that is to say, I work really HARD for birth. And I worked the hardest for this one, because I knew it was my last and I really wanted it to be everything I dreamed of. I was pregnant in the middle of the most stressful months of my life, personally and professionally, with two babies two and under. I have a demanding job, with almost no time to myself. That being said, I still had time to do this because- when do mom’s sleep anyways? There is never enough time, and there wasn’t for me, but this was so incredibly important to me that I tried my best to make time, and after praying about it long and hard, God somehow found a way to extend the days and nights so I could get it all done.
Some ways I made time- listen to podcasts on 1.5x speed, shortening the amount of time it takes to get through them! It’s life changing! I would listen to them in my car when driving from the kids school to work or vice versa- basically any time that I was in the car by myself. While I like to talk on the phone, take conference calls, or listen to Sirius XM, I also like my birth to be short and sweet and as comfortable as possible. Preparing simply helps make that dream a reality. I would do yoga and exercises before bed, and use those bouts of pregnancy insomnia to read birth stories in the middle of the night. That being said, it’s possible to prepare even more than I did and still have to alter your plans- that’s the nature of birth. It’s largely unpredictable. But, for me at least, I was going to do everything possible to control the aspects that I could, and surrender to those I couldn’t.
On Monday, Labor Day (yes, Labor Day!) I’ll finally share the story of my Dream HomeBirth of Milana Grace, you will see exactly how all this preparation payed off!