Wendy and Sean Kelly’s birth story

The last of the birth stories sent to me via Miriam Axel-Lute, intrepid reporter for Metroland, and another beautiful one, at that. This one reads a bit more like an interview, and offers a really neat perspective on homebirth and homebirth midwifery. Wendy and Sean, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us!!

Wendy and Sean Kelly’s Birth Story
(names of midwives have been changed in this piece*)

Wendy: My first one I had at home in Colorado. We lived outside of Boulder, and there are lots of midwives, and it’s legal in Colorado. There were 10 or 11 [midwives] right in Boulder. We interviewed one, and she gave us names of all the other ones in the area just so we could see which ones we were most comfortable with. Here [in the Capital Region, NY] we only interviewed Carol*, because that’s all we could find. Luckily, she’s great. We were just lucky to get her. If we found someone else we weren’t comfortable with, we might not have been able to do [home birth].

[How difficult was it to find her?] Right when I found out I was pregnant, I started looking, because I was nervous. I asked around. There were people I knew who’d had home birth. My brother and sister-in-law took Bradley classes from this woman that had home birth. I called her to see, and she said she’d call around and have someone call me, and nothing panned out. It was very sketchy. My midwife in Colorado had said when we got pregnant in New York to call her and she would try through connections to look for midwives for us, because she knew how it was, because she was a midwife in Colorado before it was legal and after. She [connected us with Carol].

On the phone she kind of alluded to the fact [that she did home birth], until my toddler daughter started singing in the background, so she didn’t think it was a sting any more, so she let me know she did, and we got an appointment. It was pretty early in the pregnancy, but I was more comfortable looking then because I didn’t know how long it would take to find someone.

[How did the birth go?] Wendy: It was half the time of Quinn’s. Pretty much like Quinn’s but half the time. Quinn was a little over 12 hours from the water breaking, his was six. For both of them they went so smoothly because I was home and in a relaxed environment. I can’t imagine being in a hospital and having a bunch of people I don’t know around, a bunch of distractions.

Both of them were water births. In two contractions he came spinning out into the water, he had the cord a little bit tangled, and she untangled it.

The best thing I love about having home birth is after the baby’s born—being home, not having to come home. And having midwives’ support for six weeks, having them on call. I can’t imagine going to the hospital and then being sent home and being on your own. The fact that they come to house to visit for the first few weeks. You don’t have to leave the house.

In Colorado, the midwife has ability to do [pediatric care] for the first six weeks, so she can do the check ups on the baby, the weighing and measuring. I didn’t have to go to a pediatrician right away. Here [our midwives] recommended going 7 to 10 days after. I had a little trouble with that too. I had called ahead of time to make an appointment. I had told my pediatrician, he knew that Quinn was a home birth and that when I was pregnant, Emmett was going to be a home birth too. There’s three pediatricians, and he’s older, he was fine with it. He said in their rule books it says to come in 24 to 48 hours after with a home birth. But the whole reason I have a home birth is to be home. So he said just call when you’re ready and make an appointment. And I called and the receptionist flipped out on me, and the nurse really flipped out on me, which I didn’t need. It was like four days after he was born. My doctor happened to be on vacation. The nurse was like “[Younger doc] won’t like this. He might call you back and tell you why you need to come in.” But he never did. I think the nurse called back, and Sean answered that time, and Sean said we’re going to make the appointment when I said we were. So we were able to go.

Sean: I gave him the voice that said I wasn’t negotiating.

The thing I like is not having to rush to the hospital, especially because Wendy tends to go through labor pretty quickly, or the active parts at least, when they want you in the hospital. I couldn’t imagine trying to get to any hospital in that time. The other problem is I don’t like being in hospitals much—they have their purpose, they’re for sick people. Pregnancy isn’t an illness. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a time and a reason to go there for a delivery, but in the vast majority of cases there is time to get there if it comes down to being necessary, especially if you have someone [there] who’s experienced a lot of births and knows what the signs are. It was nice not to be in hospital and have all the machines that go ping, temperature gauges that screw into the top of the baby’s head inside and all that crazy stuff.

Wendy: I agree with that too. Both times I couldn’t imagine at any time, getting into a car. After my water breaks, I’m pretty much into it. It wouldn’t be very comfortable. I just can’t picture it at all.

I liked the fact that my daughter could be there. It really gave her a connection to him, and she’s very protective of him, and very in awe of him. Before we watched a bunch of water-birth videos that Carol had given us, so she’d have some idea, and we talked about it and kind of role played it. Most of the time she was asleep. But right before he was born, she woke up and she came in the tub with me, and she swept the hair out of my eyes, which I thought was sweet. Then she went back to play with her toys. She came back right after he came out. It was nice. Now she still comes up to him and says “Thank you for coming out of mama’s private parts.” She was two-and-a-half years old.

I’ve been to one hospital birth. [What differences stuck out to you?] It was a very good birth, it was my sister-in-law’s. They left her alone pretty much. She had a really good midwife, and she guided her really well. Except the nurses came at one point when she was having really tough contractions and said they had to draw blood, and they were trying to put a needle in her arm while she was having contractions really close together. And I was like “Why do you have to draw blood right now?” You’d think from the prenatal visit you’d have enough information on her blood.

The other thing was she started pushing at 7 AM, she was born at 7:20 AM, and the nurses switch at 7 AM, so a new nurse she’s never met came in. It was really strange for the energy in the room. Obviously the midwife was in charge, but the nurse very much took control. The other nurse who had been with her all night, did stay, but she wasn’t really allowed to do anything. She just stayed to see the baby born. I don’t know if I’d have been able to deal with that.

The other thing was my sister-in-law had a completely natural birth, and whenever I went out to get something in the hallway in the nurses station ,and all the nurses were sitting there—the rooms were completely full but it was pretty silent except for my sister-in-law’s room and the nurses were saying ‘Yeah people are saying it’s pretty noisy in there.’ So I’m assuming everyone else was hooked up to drugs. She wasn’t pressured, but she was definitely something different.

[What’s it like not being able to talk about it?] I always had to guard myself and not say when someone asked me who my midwife was. I usually said my regular OB/GYN midwife. I had to go to visits there, so I would be covered if I had to go to the hospital, because if I wasn’t on record, it would look fishy. So I would use them, but it was kind of hard. I had to guard myself. Obviously some people I told, like my family. They knew.

They were funny, because when we first got pregnant, we had had the home birth in Colorado and we were pretty far away and this time they were like, “This time you’re going to have it in the hospital, right?” [Were they disappointed?] No. Everything went well. My mother was actually here with my daughter. I think my mother got a better view of it this time.

In Colorado, since it’s legal, it’s easier with everything after the baby. The midwives had to chart everything and do the PKU screening, they did the birth certificate. It’s all set up for that. All the little things that [our midwives] couldn’t do because that would show they were helping. Here, Sean had to go down to the town hall and tell them we needed a birth certificate.

Sean: Well, it hasn’t really been like something I can’t talk about per se. When people ask I feel comfortable telling them about it and leaving out names. There’s a lot of people who have this curiosity. They want to know what it’s all about. I don’t consider it to be out of the norm, but it’s out of the norm for most people. More during the pregnancy, I felt constrained by that, because it hadn’t happened yet, and there was a little bit of worry. The bigger difference is having a home birth and people being agog at the idea of it. ‘How could you do it?’ ‘How does your wife handle that?’

Wendy: I did have to be hush, hush when I went to the doctor. I could talk to my “cover midwife” about it, but I couldn’t talk to the front desk person. The nurses were strange about it. I went it at three months. They were like ‘Is this your first visit? Have you seen others?’ I said yes, but I didn’t say who. Then the midwife said I could talk to any of the nurses, but not the front desk people. But they did find out at my last checkup, because there was an extra charge, then they said “You had the baby, where did you have the baby?” because they didn’t have it in their records. They were trying to claim I had an extra charge because I didn’t have the baby in the hospital. Actually they billed it wrong. But I had to say I had the baby at home. They were OK with it. But they did say “Did you have someone with you?”

Sean: Those are the kinds of questions that are uncomfortable. I had a similar experience when I went to go get the birth certificate. I went to the Town Hall and I said “I need to get birth certificate” and they said “They should have done that for you at the hospital,” I said “Well, the baby was born at home,” and they said “Oh we have to get in touch with this person who only comes in once a week.” Once they got to talk to her, and once they found out the right paperwork, they said “You have to fill out this information,” and I said “Here’s this part about witnesses, what do I do about that?” They’re like, “Well, who attended the birth?” and I was like “Well… umm…” The other woman told them “If they have a home birth, they might have had a midwife but they’re not going to want to talk about it, so just have him sign it as the witness.” She had done birth certificates two other times in the entire time she’d been the town registrar, which was years and years and years.

(transcribed and edited by Miriam Axel-Lute.

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