My name is Emma & my husband is Drew. We have five amazing kids: Jude, Regina, Talia, Grayson, & Nadia. Our first four babies were born at West Penn hospital. With each of those labors I arrived at the hospital 4 cm dilated and had plenty of time to have an epidural. We were very blessed to have had uncomplicated deliveries each time and genuinely had a good experience overall with each of those births.
And then, like so many people can say regarding so many changes in what they thought they had planned and how they thought they viewed the world: Covid happened. After rejoicing over the confirmation of our fifth pregnancy in the late summer of 2021, we started discussing prenatal care and delivery in light of the events of the last year and a half. That led us to full agreement that a home birth was the right choice for us. I looked into various local birth centers and a few midwife groups, but without even needing to call them could tell we weren’t going to align with their Covid policies – one would only offer virtual prenatal care until 37 weeks if you didn’t meet all of their requirements!
I was so thankful to find the Pittsburgh Midwife website and knew pretty fast during our first phone screen that we were on the same page with Jennifer. Prenatal care appointments were a lot more like a coffee date than my previous experiences at an OB-GYN office, and the recommendations she made encouraged and enabled me to care for myself and Nadia throughout and to prepare for the birth experience.
So, let’s get to that: labor & delivery. I joked that based on my previous deliveries I would consider myself lucky to have a precipitous birth, and this experience stayed true to form, lasting about 24 hours. Early labor started on a Wednesday evening on the drive home from our homeschool co-op’s closing program. I called Jennifer to give her a heads up, and she told me, “This is not the time to clean the house! Go lay down with some pillows and try to rest” – this said as I was switching a load of laundry! So we headed for bed and I did my best and managed to stay in bed until 5, but irritating contractions every ten minutes aren’t conducive to wanting to lie down much. There were a few items left on my pre-birth checklist, including making a birthday cake for Nadia to decorate with the older kids (also Jennifer’s idea 🙂 so I mixed that up and started baking it and spent some time reading the Bible and journaling and praying. The contractions continued, but were still only annoying and not super painful.
My oldest is an early bird like me, so he was up and talking with me before anyone else was. We had a field trip to a local fire station planned for mid-morning, so we did our homeschool morning time and some school work and still went to that. My husband joked before we left that at least I would be safe if I ended up delivering there! We enjoyed the tour, and as it wrapped up I could feel the contractions intensifying and per the timer I was using on my phone they were also coming more frequently. The friend who had organized the trip wished me the best, and I told her thanks and that it might be pretty soon and we headed home. There was a road closure at a stoplight (while I was having a contraction!) but they opened the road before the light changed! For whatever reason that pushed me to go ahead and call the world’s best grandparents to head over to pick up the kids and then let Jennifer know things were amping up.
After finishing decorating the cake with the older four (one bag of spilled chocolate chips and half of the icing sneaked from the bowl later 😉 the kids headed to grandparent-topia and Drew and I prepped our second downstairs bedroom (which we use as a school and playroom) with what we’d need for delivery and after. Since Nadia is our first spring baby I had wanted to take advantage of the weather and go for a walk as part of our labor plan. So we did…barely making it to the end of the street before I was in too much pain to keep going. Still, we did walk!
For the next two hours we laid in bed (I got into the second position of the miles circuit, which did help move things along) and Drew applied counter pressure to my back with a heating pad through each contraction (amazing!) while we rested between, prayed, and listened to part of our favorite podcast. I also recited John 11 out loud and praised Jesus for His nearness in our sufferings in this life. It struck me then how much more free to pray and say Scripture I felt being at home versus in a hospital setting, and I thanked God for that right then.
Jennifer and Tara got there around 6, and the adventure really began. It was reassuring to hear Nadia’s heartbeat and very motivating to find out I was 7 cm dilated. I wanted to know that I had made it past my progress in previous labors sans pain meds. They had me get up and walk around through contractions and rest between. Unfortunately I also threw up a lot, but tried to see the upside that I wasn’t feeling a contraction each time! I kept hoping that the pressure I felt meant it was actually time to push and each time I second guessed myself, Jennifer and Tara encouraged me that she would come when it was time and to just keep going. They also applied counter pressure through contractions, which definitely provided relief. Drew was so helpful and kept me going with affirmation and reassurance through the pain and exhaustion.
Transition and pushing are a bit of a blur- my water broke ten minutes before pushing, and when I pushed I tried to pant through it like Jennifer had had me practice but did end up screaming a lot. Drew described it after as a movie scream. To which I said I wasn’t acting! It was truly incredible to feel her come out and so wonderful to hear her first screams of life follow mine.
They handed her to me and we spent time skin to skin and having her first meal. Jennifer and Tara took care of us so well. Pushing out all of the placenta felt a bit challenging, but Jennifer was so calm and reassuring and I know that made a world of difference. They made sure I was hydrated and eating to help counteract the blood loss, while still allowing Drew and I a few minutes to ourselves with Nadia.
I took a nap through Nadia’s newborn screen (I vaguely remember hearing her get mad about it, but I was so tired I slept anyway) and then they helped me to the bathroom and our bed and headed out, potentially to another labor soon since there were other moms who had been having signs of delivery being close!
It was truly incredible to go through labor and deliver Nadia in our own home, and I’m super grateful God provided all that we needed to do that, including our amazing midwives! Much love and blessings to you for everything you do for moms & families!
- Emma, successful home birth with The Pittsburgh Midwife team to baby girl, Nadia Joy River