Note: This birth story is being shared from a mama who had a planned home birth that ended in transfer. It is not intended to scare women away from home birth, but to encourage them to research their options and make sure they know and trust their care providers fully. Home birth is not for everyone, and high risk women should seek appropriate obstetrical care. Women should also know the the midwife featured in this story is NOT the norm and that her actions were extremely unprofessional.
In the Beginning
When I got pregnant I started to research all of my birthing options. My SIL’s hospital horror story was a big motivation to look for something outside the box. After reading homebirth stories on BabyCenter, watching Yoube videos and meeting my wonderful midwife, I was inspired. There were a lot of reasons to choose homebirth. I grew up in a sarcastic, verbally abusive home and lived through a rape as a teenager so to have a caring midwife to work one-on-one with me spoke to my heart.
Warm water pool, dim light, candles, soft music, massages, freedom of movement and never endless encouraging guiding words all in the familiar surrounding of my own home sounded heavenly. No unexpected strangers walking in and out, needles, monitors, bright lights or sudden noises to distract. It’s just me, my home and people who are there 100% to support and help me through.
Every time I met with midwife, we discussed my high-risk pregnancy, going over our birth plan and what was important to me, her guidance and encouragement during labor.
I was a high risk pregnancy due to my hyperthyroid, my days filled with nearly daily fainting, severe nausea and one hospitalization for chest pains. My midwife still felt she could handle my birth with no problems. She said she will come more prepared, as time came closer I will be her top priority and she will bring another midwife with her just to have some back up just in case. My DH, although very supportive was not comfortable with the idea. It made him queasy to his stomach and he just said “when it happens just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Our midwife eased our discomfort by promising to guide him in ways he can help me.
On Fri. Feb 3rd at 3:00 am I got up from my bed and felt a gush of water run down my legs. Over-filled with emotion, I had difficulty falling back asleep; I simply could not stop smiling from the excitement. In the morning I called my midwife and she said that my water has broken. Within couple of hours my contractions started off as bad menstrual cramps and were far apart. Mid-day they picked up and started coming on about 1-2 every hour lasting 2-3 minutes each. During the day my midwife, I’ll call her Nancy, came over and said my cervix was very soft but has not started to open just yet. We decided to wait the weekend to give my body a chance to start on its own.
Saturday Feb 4th
My contractions came on more often and more strongly, about 2-3 an hour. Pain level Mild-Medium. I got very little sleep that night as they were uncomfortable enough not to let me fall asleep.
Sunday Feb 5th
My contractions came on every 5 min that lasted anywhere between 1-3 min. My first strong contraction came on around 6:00 pm while eating pizza. I could not move, talk or breathe. I vomited everything I ate at 6:50 pm. My contractions became very powerful. It was sharp burning pain that made me nauseous and I broke out in sweat over and over again. 9:00 pm the baby became very active for about 15-20 min. 11:00 pm I took a hot shower which I enjoyed tremendously. I was working hard at having this baby! So much excitement!
That night I got no sleep, just dozed off for couple of minutes in between contractions. My pain level escalated what seemed like through the roof. Throughout the night I kept on updating Nancy and waiting for her to arrive; that’s when I found out that she is at another birth.
Monday Feb 6th
By 4:00 am I was beside myself from hours and hours of labor. I spent the night on my knees leaning over our futon. I texted Nancy that I need her here, couple hours later she replied to me that she is still busy but someone will be there shortly to check up on me. At 6:00 am her back-up midwife (I will call Susan) shows up with her assistant. Susan tells me that she has been up all night with her client (about a mile away) that was laboring as well. Susan checked me. I was dilated to 4 cm, she found that I was running a slight fever and dehydrated.
They could not stay and had to return to their laboring client, so they spent about 30 min with me. I didn’t want them to leave! I started to panic that I was left alone when I was at a point where I need support and could no longer do this on my own, but I gathered all my strength trusting that my midwife and her assistant will soon be here and everything will be ok. I was shaky and sweaty, in between contractions my body would vomit but there was nothing there. I could not keep liquids down and was very thirsty.
9:00 am or so I was desperate and texted Nancy that I need her. She calls me back and instructs me to call Susan and ask Susan to come over and help me. Everything turned numb inside. Things were starting to go not the way I imagined them too. Out of my mind with pain I was still too shy to call Susan since I met only this morning. I knew that she was up all night with her client as well. I decided to wait out a little bit longer.
My pain increased with every contraction. My wonderful husband was by my side every moment. Just having him there made me feel better but I started to feel like I was not a priority to my midwife, and why was she telling me to do her job?
By 11:00 am I was screaming into the pillow during contractions. The pain took over my body completely. I was in some kind of a zone, world of pain, pain that surrounded me like a thick fog and nothing else existed. I was tired and thirsty. I tried to keep my voice low but could not. My lips were chapped, my throat dry. I was crying and sobbing that I can’t do this anymore, asking DH “where is my midwife?! ” Why is she not coming? Why is she not answering?!” We text her again, she replied “I’m going to go home now, eat something, get some sleep and will be there after I rest.”
I cannot explain the feelings that I got. Everything inside me sunk. I was up for two nights already, screaming from contractions and she was going to get some sleep! Apart from these flying panic thoughts I was working on living through my contractions. I felt abandoned and lost. My husband had no idea what to do either.
The Midwife Arrives
Nancy arrived at about 2:30 pm. She did not have her assistant with her. She came in asked how I’m doing and if she can check how far along I am. I agreed, and she said that I went back to 2 cm. After she pulled her hand out and told me that she pushed down on my cervix and stretched me to 5 cm. That should help me and move things faster. According to her the baby was in perfect position. That was all the information I got, nothing more nothing less.
After that she went in to the living room and sat on the couch half sleeping. No words of encouragement, no instructions, no setting up the birth pool, no support, NOTHING. I was crawling around in bed scared, panicking and in pain. After waiting for her for the last two days, I was left in my bedroom on the bed in doggie position to deal with pain on my own.
I kept on asking where the pool is. Where are the soothing herbs that she talked about? Nancy did not tell me what she was doing, where she was going, what the plan was. I could not see her, so I was waiting for her to come back in but my mom said she sat on the couch and would not budge, dozing off or texting. I could not understand her behavior. Thoughts like “did I do something wrong? Did I upset her? Is she punishing me? Is she mad at me? Why is she like that?” kept on running through my mind. My mom kept on telling her to go and help me, but Nancy kept on saying “She is doing a good job.”
I was confused and felt lost because I was waiting for her for so long and putting all my hopes and faith in her knowledge and skill. I asked Nancy “where is my birth pool?” and she said “Oh I don’t have it with me.” I say “what do you mean?!! We planned to have a water birth!” So she tells me that the pool is at another couples house, still filled with water and I would not want to get in to it anyways.
I ask her “where am I going to have the baby?” and she offers me my bathtub. I tell her 1, the bathtub it’s not sanitized and 2, it does not even have a plug to fill it with water! Nancy looked as though she started to get irritated and said that if I really want the pool she can go to Wal-Mart and see if they have one. Wal-mart is only 3 miles away from us so I agreed. Well, she was gone for 3 ½-4 hours!
I was in so much pain I could not think straight. I was trying to keep low “ooooh” and “mmmm” sounds but again started screaming in to the pillow. While she was gone the only way I figured out how to deal with my pain was to sing low tone “aaaaah” sound with the help of my husband. If he did not lead me with the low tone I would escalate in to screams. Holding his hand and looking in to his eyes and following his tone was pretty much all I could do at that point. I was clinging to him for dear life. It seemed that time no longer existed and I was in this fog like pain that surrounded me entirely. I was in trance-like state.
Labor Progresses; The Pool Arrives
Nancy comes back 3 ½-4 hours later and throws the pool box on the floor and comes in to see how I’m doing, says I’m doing great that she got me my pool, goes back to the living room and sits on the couch. We kept on asking Nancy when she is going to set up the pool. She said “If you still want the pool I can have my boyfriend set it up for you.” Boyfriend?!
It turns out that her boyfriend gave her a ride and sat outside waiting for her, then drove her to the store to get the pool. Nancy shares that she did not eat all day so they stopped at Chipotle on their way back. Said she needed to eat and get her rest. Her boyfriend was also going to stay and wait until I deliver the baby. I felt ill to my stomach because I have not eaten anything for over 24 hours and could barely keep liquids down. My lips were chapped, my mouth was dry, I was exhausted from pain, crawling around the floor on hands and knees counting minutes until she gets back and she was eating at Chipotle with her boyfriend?! I also felt pressured to have this baby soon since someone was waiting on me in the truck outside.
Already knowing that she does not want to set up the pool and needing my DH by my side, I tell her “ok, let your boyfriend in.” I was somewhat horrified that a stranger will be interring my house when I was not myself, but I desperately wanted my pool because I was dehydrated and felt that maybe my skin can “drink” the water. I was waiting in the bedroom and waiting, but the pool was not getting set up. My mother (very shy person who never speaks much) asked Nancy when she is going to set up the pool, Nancy just stared at her. When asked any questions she ignored them, just sat there, or if she answered any she was irritable about it. Mom asks her where am I going to give birth and Nancy answers that “She can have the baby in bed.”
I ask my husband to go check and see what is going on, what is taking her so long? DH finds Nancy on the couch with a dazed look on her face; she did not have her boyfriend set up the pool like she said she would. She refused to set up the pool herself. She did not want to pool period. Mom called my brother from upstairs unit (we live in a duplex, parents and 3 brothers live upstairs with them) have him set up the pool for us.
So now I’m butt naked in a short nightgown that does not cover much of private parts and my brother (who is divorced) is setting up the pool. I’m embarrassed. That was not part of the plan, my brothers were not supposed to see any of this. My brother came in and helped set up the pool. Eventually my husband goes out to help him so I can get in the water faster. I was sobbing but no tears came, it was just dry sobs and Nancy…I don’t know where Nancy was.
Around 7:00 pm Nancy’s assistant shows up, the same midwife, Susan, that came in to check on me early that morning. She was also up all night with her client and looked really tired. Susan checks my cervix and says I’m dilated 8-9 cm but discovered that my water has not yet broken! Nancy checks again right after Susan and confirms that I’m that far dilated and that my water has not yet broken. That was confusing to hear because Nancy told me that my water broke 2 days ago.
More Labor Progression
Susan was kind, she tried to rub my back but I was back laboring as well and it felt worse to be touched by anyone than my husband. It was the worst back pain imaginable. I asked not to be touched. After couple of minutes they both leave the bedroom and sat chatting in the far corner of our living room, I could not see them. I asked not to be touched but I needed them! I needed encouragement, I needed someone to tell me that this will soon be over, that there is a baby coming, that I’m doing a good job, that with each contractions I’m one step closer to seeing our baby. I needed someone confident who knows what’s going on, explain the process. I needed someone! With my husband setting up the pool and my mom trying to reason with Nancy left me all alone. Mom could not handle seeing me in pain so she would come in and out of the room.
At one point Susan tries to feed me some yogurt when she found out that I have not eaten anything for so long. She was kind and spoon fed me. I was grateful.
Shortly I started to shake uncontrollably. I was breaking out in sweat over and over again. Nancy came in and I asked her why is my body shaking? She told me “you’re going in to transition, you’re going to have your baby soon” and walked out of the room before I can say anything. My DH comes back and helps me through my contractions with the humming sounds again. I waited for Nancy to come back, but she disappeared. No one could find her in the house. I was completely lost and had no idea what to do or think. So out of control.
Susan came in and tells me that it looks like the baby is stuck, so she has me do some positions to help the baby move. I was grateful for some help and instruction.
After a while mom saw Nancy through the window sitting in the truck with her boyfriend. Nancy was gone for about 45 minutes “resting” while I was shaking in the bedroom. That was after she told me was dilated between 8- 9 cm! I was in shock once again. Trapped by pain, helpless. I was reminded once again that her boyfriend was outside and felt pressured have this baby because he will be waiting outside in his truck until I do…
With Nancy still gone I finally went in to the living room to climb in the pool. When I saw the pool it was a joke, the pool turned out to be a kiddie pool that was 13 inches off the ground, barely covered my bottom and cooled off within 15 minutes. Still it was nice to get in the warm water even for such short time. I wanted to soak, float and relax in the water, but it was way too small. Soon I was just cold and wet.
While in pool I kept on asking Susan “Where is my midwife, where is Nancy? Why isn’t she here?” but Susan just looked tired and did not answer. Finally Susan picked up her phone and started texting. It started to feel like my contractions started to die down and spreading apart.
Nancy comes back in 45 min later. She hangs around, chatting with Susan. She would come in and look at me here and there. Then Nancy tells me to go sit on the toilet, that it will help move things faster. She said that and went back to sit in the far side of the living room. I had no help from her getting to the bathroom. I got on my hands and knees and crawled past both midwives, stopping and waiting through contraction. I was sobbing at this point; I was hurt both physically from pain and emotionally from lack of concern or any help from my midwife. I felt ashamed that I was in such position. I was humiliated that I was crawling on the floor while they just sat there glancing at me continuing talking to each other.
I made it to the bathroom and with help of my mom and husband sat on the toilet. I was exhausted and started to get dizzy in between contraction. It felt like I was about to lose consciousness. I had to come off of it every time I had contraction. Sitting on the toilet was the worst, the pain was worse than anything I ever experienced. My flesh was being ripped, my bones on fire and the pain so intense that I forgot how to breathe. After a while Nancy came in and said I’m doing a good job. Yay, some encouragement!
The dizzy feeling became more and more strong and my contractions started to die down (fainting was my #1 problem the entire pregnancy). My mom started to freak out. I kept on saying “I’m dizzy, I’m dizzy” in between contractions, but both midwives were far away and could not hear me.
A bit later Susan checked me and said that I closed down to 7cm. My contractions really started slowing down and spreading apart. We asked if they can break my water but they refused.
I told my husband we have to go to the hospital. They are not going to help me.
Nancy came up and we told her our decision asking for her professional advice, she advised to wait out some more. That if I wait one more night that the baby should arrive early morning, but she could not guarantee that. She said things like “going to the hospital is not a great idea, because medical staff treats home birth mothers horribly” and “this is what you wanted” and “you will regret it” and “you will never forgive yourself.” Actually, she told me that I will never forgive myself a number of times. DH and I still decided to go.
We planned to go to the hospital that is about 3 miles away from us, but our midwife encouraged us to go to the hospital in her hometown, that there’s a doctor there that backs up her practice, all her transfer patients are treated well there and that doctor takes on her transfer patients.
So we decided to drive the 40 miles to the hospital she recommended. Nancy said she will meet us at the hospital. I asked her “what if the baby will come as we are driving?!” she said to call her and she will drive out and meet us there on the road then. She left. I felt abandoned. I was scared to drive without her. After Nancy left it took us 20 minutes to get ready and get in to the car. I had hard time going down the stairs outside. I cannot describe how horrific it was to drive those 40 miles. I thought I was going to die. I was so dehydrated I could smell water in the air. I was shaking. My mom, my DH and I kept on praying for us to make it there. I begged Jesus to help us.
Nancy was supposed to call ahead and let the hospital know we are coming. She had over an hour to do that, but when we got to the hospital no one knew anything. As we drove up the valet guy grabbed a wheelchair and helped me get out of the car. Some nurse ran out to wheel me and told me to sit down but I was in the middle of contraction and couldn’t. She yelled at me that she cannot start wheeling me in until I do that. People stared. Finally when the contraction was over I sat down and we raced down the halls.
I was admitted pretty quickly, a little before midnight. They checked me and I closed back down to 5 cm. The doctor came in and was shocked at my story; he did not believe us at first. Our midwife was nowhere to be found. We could not reach her and she was not at the hospital. Nancy shows up 40 minutes later saying she got lost. All together that was about 2 hours since she left me at home saying she is heading toward the hospital ahead of us to take care of admission.
The doctor was mad at her. He told her off in the hallway, came back in and told me that they will be taking good care of me, that they don’t neglect their patients. That was music to my ears. I was grateful, grateful, grateful! I was beyond exhausted.
They gave me the epi and gave some pitocin to get my contractions going again. The nurse that attended me was an angel. She hugged me, she talked to me, she soothed all my fears, she calmed me down saying I’m in good hands and they will take care of me. She explained what she was doing in detail. She was with me until I dozed off, came and checked on me regularly. I cannot praise her enough. She was truly and angel!
Nancy just sat there by the window the entire time that the nurse was running around making me comfortable. Finally Nancy got up and told me that she lives about 10 minutes from the hospital (how odd that she got lost getting there…), she will go home and get some sleep. She instructed us to call her when we are about to push the baby out (just wondering… did any of you think of calling someone when you are about to push?)
I told her I will, but inside I knew that I never wanted to see her again.
Tuesday, Feb. 7th
I got some rest but at about 6:00 am my back turned on fire, unbearable, like I was in hell. The nurse told me that the baby is going to be sunny-side up. I was twitching from pain trying to find a position with some relief from that burning pain.
Then my stomach started to push. The nurse turned around and said “what are you doing?!” I told her “I don’t know! My body is doing it by itself!” The nurse ran out and within minutes my room was filled with people, about 8 total. I pushed and pushed, but soon was losing all the strength I had. I started to get dizzy and fainted. Another contraction got me back up and I pushed with all I had, praying to God that I would not have to go for a C-section. I pushed 30 times. I pushed so hard that the room turned gray and black every time and the room was spinning. The baby was stuck so the doctor helped with suctioning the baby out. It was like a battle.
Our son was born at 7:32 am at 9lb 3oz and 22”. He did not make a sound at first, then he cried… and so did I. It was the most beautiful sound that I heard in my entire life! I held him for couple of minutes in my weak, shaky hands. It’s over. Feeling of relief and awe was overwhelming. I was so grateful to everyone for helping me. I could not stop thanking them.
Nancy showed up at around 10:00 am that morning. When she walked in I felt fear. I did not want to see her. She asked why we did not call when it was time to push the baby out, she would have been there so I told her we did not have time. She also asked if I have any regrets with transferring. She spoke slowly and quietly, reminding me of a hissing rattle snake.
When she left it all hit me and I shook and sobbed uncontrollably. My mom was hugging me and I could not stop crying. My mom cried with me. The next day the same thing happened again where the memory hit me and I sobbed while talking to a nurse. The hospital staff was so understanding and just amazingly kind!
When we got discharged and I walked in to our living room it hit me again and I clung to my husband shaking and crying in to his shoulder telling him I can’t look at all this birth stuff laying around. For weeks after that I had nightmares and flashbacks about my home birth. My last nightmare I woke up screaming and shaking in the middle of the night.
It took me 2 months to gain some strength back. The first month I barely could get out of bed. I had no strength, my legs were jell-o. Bathroom, feeding baby and pumping was pretty much all I could do. My mom and my amazing DH did everything for me.
From the time of my first contraction on Friday the 3rd to time of delivery on Tuesday the 7th , I was having contractions for 93 ½ hours. If you count from first strong contraction that keeps on growing with intensity will put me 65 ½ hours. If you count from the time I started having contractions every 5 minutes and less, well that puts me at 36 hours.
You would ask me why I didn’t go to the hospital earlier? Well, in the beginning big part of it was that we have paid in full already. Also I did not want to be a failure. I didn’t want to hear “I told you so” from people who predicted I would end up in the ER anyways. I also told my DH and my mom not to step in and make me doubt myself. This is what I wanted and I can do this! I wanted prove that I was strong and I trusted my midwife completely.
By 11:00 am I begged to go to the hospital but my DH gently reminded me that I warned him not to let me go even if I beg, he thought he was helping me realize my dream birth. I was confident that once Nancy gets there everything will be ok. She would tell me when things are going wrong not when I’m just thinking them. By 2:00 pm I was not able to think clearly. I was in foggy world of pain. I felt I was doing something wrong, its my fault. I did not want Nancy to be mad at me, I was confused and scared of her as I heard irritation in her voice. After that I was just in the world of pain and nothing else existed. My thoughts were random here and there, like scared chickens all over the place. Only when thoughts of death started coming to me when I was dizzy on the toilet I realized I needed to go to the hospital.
I am not advocating against homebirth. I want to bring more attention to it. There is good and there is bad in both hospital and home birth. I still believe that it can be a wonderful intimate experience. But I found it difficult to share my story in the home birthing community. Midwives defend each other, after hearing my story they point out my mistakes and defend my midwife. I was told by another midwife that I might have expected too much support and encouragement from my midwife, although she validated my feelings of neglect.
Yes, it was my mistake in choosing this midwife, in putting too much trust in to one person, not calling references right way and when I did it was way too late, for not following my instincts and talking my self in to keeping her as my midwife.
Through this experience I have learned to trust my instincts. If something does not feel right don’t “explain” it to yourself that you are just getting cold feet. God gave us instincts for a reason.
Small piece of advice, when you look for a midwife do check your references. Ask to talk to women who transferred. They might have a different story. My midwife says I transferred due to “maternal exhaustion” and there’s some truth to that but talking to me you would get a totally different picture as to why I got so exhausted. Don’t ignore the red flags, things that bother you. Check her car, house, office if its messy then most likely your birthing experience will be too.
Don’t worry about the money, even if you don’t get a refund its not worth living through horror.
Make sure there is someone else advocating for you. Someone who will make sure you are treated well and understands what’s going on. Finally and most important don’t close the your doors by telling your support group not to let you go to the hospital if you beg, that it’s just pain talking. My poor husband was so blind.
Have a plan B.
Looking back, here are some warning signs to go to the hospital even if your midwife does not agree:
- Your MW does not respond to your call that you need her NOW.
- Does not send her back up to STAY with you.
- Shows up without equipment that you agreed to have.
- Make you feel unsure of yourself.
- Gives no instruction/help/coaching through contractions.
- Leaves you alone for long periods of time unless you request it.
- You feel fear creeping up at you.
- Lost trust in your MW.
- Strangers show up
Our LO is almost 8 months now. He is my sunshine, my joy, the air I breathe, my miracle, the heartbeat of our home and I am totally in love with him. Because of him, I found out what it feels like to be a mother. My heart melt at his every smile and my soul soars up in to heavens every time he looks in to my eyes. His giggles, coos and laughter is the best music to my ears. He is worth every minute of pain that I went though. He is truly God’s perfect gift.
Have you ever experienced a less-than-qualified midwife or had a rough birth experience?
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