An Unplanned Home Birth: Birth Story
Birth Story: An Unplanned Home Birth
Take a deep breath and don’t panic--unplanned home births are very rare! In six years this has been my second one. If you would like to know what you need to prepare for this event, continue past the story.
I got the call early in the morning: Mama had been experiencing some mild contractions during the night, and she was allowing her husband to sleep in because she wanted him well rested for the day ahead. She was going to hop in the bath, and would keep me posted.
Later that morning, Dad calls me and says the sensations have picked up quite a bit and I should be on my way. I was driving to their house when he texted and said they were going to head to the hospital, but would wait for me because I was less than 10 minutes away. I arrived and heard one contraction, went about washing my hands and heard a second contraction. My ears perked--what was that sound?
I went to mom’s side and asked what her sensations felt like. She replied that she felt the urge to push, I said it was a good time to go and they were correct that things were moving very quickly. Another one hit about 2 minutes later with that same gutteral sound that women make when they are beginning to transition into the pushing and descending phase of birth.
The plan was to birth at BC Women's; however, it was about 9 am on a weekday and traffic was sure to be no fun. I said, we have a couple of options: we could try to make it, call 911 and be transferred to the hospital in style, or call the midwife and have her come to assist at home. Mom said she wasn’t moving--I was to call the midwife and have her come.
Prenatally, I talk about what it means to change locations. When having a planned home birth, we talk about what it looks like to move to the hospital, and in a planned hospital birth, we talk about what it may look like to have an unplanned home birth. We discuss the steps that both need to have in order for these plans to change. By talking about it openly and honestly, my hope is to remove any fear and doubt, and to let the families know that they are safe and supported.
I sent Dad to call the midwives and grab me all the towels and receiving blankets he could find. I also sent him to find a bucket. The midwives and I chatted. I was not worried that they would not make it. Even though the mother was in fact starting to push, I was seeing no signs of the baby rushing. Dad gathered the supplies and I set to work building a safe space to birth her baby. In my supplies I carry a shower curtain and lots of large absorbent pads.
I instructed Dad on what might happen if his son came before the midwives. His wife was already on all fours draped across the couch. I would call 911, and he would place his hands gently by the head to receive the baby. Mom wasn’t to give any force--she was blowing away the tension and not adding any extra tension behind the push. Dad would receive the baby and pass the baby through Mom's legs where she would receive him, when she was ready. 911 would stay outside unless they were needed. The midwives arrived and said that baby was low and there was a small lip holding him back (meaning 9.5cm dilated out of the 10cm needed for birth). They let her know that we may still have had time to move to the hospital, but she chose to stay home.
Ten minutes later, she was fully dilated and she began to really give all her efforts, standing and rocking while pushing, sitting on the toilet and pushing, squatting and pushing, and pushing on all fours.
As he was coming out, Mom moved to a supported sitting position because she wanted to receive her baby herself. Out came both his hand and his head at the same time, as though he was waving “Hello!” to the world. His head rotated, followed by his shoulders and his body. Everyone was thrilled with him, and his perfect size, skin, eyes, and hair.
He soon self-latched in the laid-back nursing position like a champ and easily breastfed. I cleaned up and they snuggled on the couch, now as a family of three. Dad called his family and informed them that they just had a baby on the floor. He was so proud and relaxed!
Both parents were unphased by the change in plans, and both made powerful choices that were right in the moment for them. This is a birth that I will never forget.
This family made the choice to stay home, but sometimes the babies don’t give us much choice and they are birthed--at home, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, on the stairs, or even on the way to the hospital. Thankfully, women have it written into our DNA and ancestry: we know how to have babies and babies know how to be born. Despite our best plans, we do not always have a say in what is happening. I want you to know that if this is happening to you, you are safe, your baby is safe, and you will be well supported. The birth may be moving quickly, but I trust you, your body, and your baby to know what it is doing.
How to prepare for an unplanned home birth
Preparing and birthing
Call your midwife, if you have one, and let them know you are birthing quickly, so they can be on the way. Then call 911. (You may also call 911 first.)
If you do not have a midwife, call 911. Follow their instructions.
If you have second phone and a midwife, keep your midwife on the first phone, so she can hear you call 911 on the second phone. Let them know what is happening, so that they can guide you through it.
The birthing woman should get low to the ground, on all fours or in the side lying position.
Do not consciously push--your body will do that all for you. Breathe through the sensations as best you can, allowing the tension to ease off. Pushing is hard to fight, so allow your body to do the work, while you don't add any extra “oomph” behind it.
You will need as many towels and receiving blankets you can find. Set them up under your body, and leave a couple for Baby.
Find a bowl or bucket for the placenta.
Wash your hands well.
Gently allow Mom to intuitively guide the head out. Baby will then rotate to face either side of a thigh, and release its shoulders. Do not pull on the baby. Make sure your hands are always there to receive it.
Allow Mom to catch her breath and pick up her baby, or receive the baby from you and bring the baby to Mom’s chest or abdomen. Cover them both with towels to keep them warm, and do not touch the cord or pull. Trust that someone will arrive shortly to be with you, if they already have not already arrived.
Tips for cleaning up
It is also handy to have some regular everyday table salt.
Put about ½ cup into the washing machine with any of the soiled linens and towels, and put your washing machine on a cold pre-wash cycle. This works to remove any of the blood from the linens. After the pre-wash, put soap in the load and wash as usual.
Your choice if you want another rinse or not, but dry as usual.
Peroxide will remove any of the stains from carpets, furniture, or floors.
I hope this helps bring you confidence and some knowledge, that if this is happening to you, you know how to handle the situation.
Be prepared and confident in the fact that for thousands of years, women have birthed their baby naturally and safely. We are hardwired and written to birth this way. It is only in the recent years that we have began to rely heavily on technology and our care providers. We have forgotten what it is like to be instinctual mammals that intuitively bring babies safely into the world. Technology can be life-saving, no doubt, and it is an amazing tool that we are lucky to have, but we do not need to allow it to take over the instincts that women and partners have to birth their babies.