No one was more surprised than Courtney when she considered having a home birth as a first-time mom.
Courtney never considered herself “crunchy” or “extremely religious” or any of the other stereotypes associated with out-of-hospital births, but we’re so glad that she followed her gut instinct.
After watching the Business of Being Born, we realized just how important birth options are for women. Before then, we never actually considered that women had any birth options!
Claiming this home birth for us + our family was by far the #1 best decision we have ever made as a family.
We attribute this birthing experience to our daughter’s incredible growth + immunity, our long + easy breastfeeding experience, her well above-average intellect + our secure mother-daughter bond.
This first home birth was the catalyst for many other empowering decisions we made in our life + we’re so excited to share the details of this birth with you today.
And, as we share our experience, please remember that birth — like anything in health — is a truly individualized experience. As productivity strategists for parent entrepreneurs, we want to help you make the most customized choices for you + your growing family in as little time as possible.
But, most importantly, we remember how much we loved consuming any available story about people like us having successful, unmedicated, noninvasive births. One of the most challenging parts of confidence-building for our first home birth was that we rarely found stories of families who looked like ours: the preppy New England entrepreneurs getting their Whole Foods groceries delivered. We needed to see that we could do this to build our confidence. We’re sharing our personal story so that you can consider seeing yourself in this life-changing (+ life-giving!) experience. Take from our story what you will to build your own confidence in home birthing + leave the rest!
11:40 PM — The Night Before
Courtney lost her mucus plug after about 30 hours of off/on Braxton-Hicks contractions. She noticed the contractions started around 6 PM after we left our 41-week midwife appointment.
Note: Most first-time birthing moms go past 40-weeks naturally. This is entirely normal. Our bodies are completing growing a baby for the first time ever + our muscles have not yet stretched + moved for birth, so taking longer makes sense!
We remember feeling so impatient in the days leading up to this time because despite our midwife’s consistent reassurance that we would likely birth past 40-weeks, we were insisting our baby would be well-matched to its “due date”.
The planner-lover in Courtney wanted so badly to circle a date on the calendar, but nature needs no appointment. With the “due date” as a fun “suggestion”, we felt like we crossed a major milestone when that mucus plug appeared!
12:00 AM — Early Labor Begins
Courtney kept waking up to surges but wouldn’t let herself look at the clock.
Wondering what in the world a “surge” is? Using positive-associated language around birthing terms — like replacing “contraction” with “surge” — can help the body to stay open, which is what a mom needs to do in order for her baby to pass through.
Think about it: what does your body want to do when you hear the word “contract”? Tighten up! Mindset matters just as much — even more — in birthing as it does in business.
Around 1:00 AM, Courtney turned the Hypnobirth relaxation audio on to fall back asleep until 2:30 AM. She was still woken up by the surges mid-sleep but was able to stay in dream mode!
Then a giant surge got Courtney up + out of bed around 3:00 AM — she couldn’t lay down anymore! She walked around the house, ate raw almonds + drank water. She started timing the surges + found them to be about 6 minutes apart.
4:00 AM — Kevin wakes up + checks up on Courtney
Courtney felt so excited to tell Kevin that she truly felt like “it was go-time”.
Kevin went to work just after 4 AM knowing that day would be the day + set his out-of-office notification up.
We called our midwife, Cheryl, when Kevin came back around 5 AM + the contractions were 4 to 5 minutes apart.
Cheryl told us to rest, eat, stay hydrated + to touch base around 12 PM if nothing had intensified beyond that.
We remember being like “7 hours?! Really?!” Even though we had learned that first-time labors are often much longer — again because the body has not birthed before — we weren’t sure we could mitigate the excitement for that long!
We texted Cheryl around 1 PM with no new news after laboring quietly on the couch + walking around the backyard all morning with the dogs. She offered to come by later in the evening to check on Courtney if we needed peace of mind.
Around 5 PM, the surges were stronger + timing was still around 5 minutes apart. Kevin asked Cheryl to come by for a vote of confidence that this was “the real thing”.
7:30 PM — Cheryl arrives!
Courtney’s initial vaginal exam revealed that she was only 1 centimeter dilated, but right after the exam, that immediately increased to 3 centimeters.
Note: Did you know that cervical checks are OPTIONAL? This was the first + only cervical check Courtney had her entire pregnancy. Having her cervix checked is a body autonomy choice that we never assumed Courtney had until our midwife asked if she wanted one.
If you get nothing else out of this post, please know what we never felt confident about in the majority of our lives: that literally ALL of the choices around your body are YOURS to make. 100%. Doctors included. Full stop.
Two surges later in bed, Courtney was in an awesome side-lying/hip-opening position + her water exploded all over her, Cheryl + the bed!
Courtney’s water breaking felt like a huge warm gush that was like something out of the movies. The experience felt incredible + the surges felt stronger.
Now it was game time. Cheryl would be staying until we had a baby. Yay!
Kev came in from taking the dogs outside + Cheryl suggested setting up the birth pool. That was when we both thought “this is really happening!”
During the birth pool set-up was also when Courtney stopped responding to everyone around her. Her body was getting her in the zone mentally. This is exactly what happens with animals giving birth, too. So cool!
Meanwhile, Kev was having a meltdown because the dogs went crazy with excitement when Cheryl arrived, so he called our one friend in Kansas City, Jessica, who slept on the couch in the side family room, blocked off with the dogs all night.
Kev was in such a panic that he didn’t even give Jessica blankets, snacks or water! Thank goodness she didn’t even need to pee; she was locked in the back family room with 3 panicked dogs. Thank goodness for patient friends!
Throughout the course of the birth, Penny the Rottweiler stayed in her kennel, Dunkin the St. Bernard slept on the couch + Bruin the Black Lab sat vigil at the French doors listening to Courtney scream + moan intermittently. (More on the scream in a minute!)
When the birth pool was ready, Courtney got in. She was half-kneeling up, half-standing + couldn’t change positions because she was so overcome with the pressure.
Courtney hummed + breathed through surges that were increasing in intensity quickly.
Cheryl encouraged Courtney to get out of the pool + labor backwards on the toilet to change it up after some time had gone by.
10:30 PM — Cheryl calls her assisting midwife, Nicole, over
Courtney had dilated the rest of the way — from 3 to 10 centimeter — in 3 hours.
Courtney remembers feeling the natural expulsive reflex. Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t resist her body’s urge to push.
Have you ever had that feeling of needing to throw up suddenly? The expulsive reflex reminded Courtney of that feeling when you have to throw up but you’re resisting it. Your body just sends a huge wave of pressure through you until it comes out anyways — same as with this labor.
During transition, Courtney remembers saying only once “I can’t do this” to which Kevin + Cheryl promptly replied “YES. YOU ARE DOING THIS!”
That was the beginning + end of Courtney’s self-doubt. It was go time + there was no going back.
A few surges came with incredible back pressure. Courtney felt paralyzed like she couldn’t continue regardless of how much she wanted to. That numbing feeling was actually the baby having turned “sunny side up”.
Courtney was told to ask the baby to change positions + so she started talking to the baby — begging, actually — for a shift! Cheryl said now is also the time to ask a Higher Power or Holy Spirit for some assistance to get the baby to change positions. All of those silent conversations may have actually worked as the back pressure relieved after a few more surges.
Next, we moved Courtney to laboring backwards on the toilet. After lots of pushing, but no results, Cheryl had her lie on the bedroom floor to check the baby’s positioning + Courtney’s cervix.
In the moment, she told Courtney she just needed to move part of her cervix during the next surge or two. That part hurt — and it makes sense that it did — when your body is trying to push something out, it’s not going to be happy with someone or something going in!
This next part is unique to our birth story + NOT the typical home birth experience…
Honesty time because we’re not ones for sugarcoating: That cervix movement was the most painful 30-seconds of Courtney’s life. She screamed a blood-curdling scream + literally thought she was done for, but this was over as soon as it started.
We could hear Bruin wailing to come to Courtney’s side from across the house + this was some sweet support that we wouldn’t have experienced in a different birthing setting.
After the birth, we learned that the baby had been asynclitic due to sleeping with its hand on its face + the cord wrapped around the neck + hand which kept the hand there + made the head stick sideways.
The baby’s lopsided positioning kept Courtney’s cervix opening lopsided, so one side created a swollen lip over the baby’s head making pushing down the birth canal super difficult + all of Courtney’s pushing ineffective.
After Cheryl moved the cervical lip, we saw much more progress because pushing was effective again. Thank goodness for midwives!
Had we been birthing in a conventional hospital, we likely never would have gotten to or through that experience. We would have been forced to have an emergency C-section surgery + our outcome could have been drastically different.
What was an uncomfortable 30-second adjustment by a midwife saved Courtney from weeks of more painful postpartum surgical recovery.
In the moment, Courtney fully trusted the midwife’s recommendation + felt in her body that the cervical adjustment was the right choice. There was so much power in that informed decision alone.
11:30 PM — Nicole arrives
Courtney got back in the birthing pool for 2 hours, then Cheryl encouraged her to change positions because the tub was ineffective at the moment.
Courtney couldn’t bear the thought of laying on the bed. Being on her back sounded like a new version of hell she didn’t want to experience! So we went to the bathroom where Courtney labored the rest of the way on the toilet facing backwards.
1:30 PM — The home stretch!
When the baby’s head was crowning, Cheryl had Courtney reach down to feel the progress. So motivating!
At that point, Courtney wasn’t even waiting for surges. Kevin said she just went full throttle pushing + it was like she was in another world.
Kevin sat on the edge of the tub holding one leg up in a stirrup position, while Nicole leaned over Cheryl (who was sitting between Courtney’s legs, ready to catch the baby) to hold the other leg against the sink vanity.
“We never would’ve guessed we’d birth our baby on the toilet.”
Cheryl used hot, wet face cloths to apply pressure as the “ring of fire” feeling started.
To be honest, Courtney welcomed that burning feeling after 4 hours of pushing. That burning-like stretching sensation meant the baby was really going to be out soon + this was the first true sign of “yes, these pushes are working”.
Note: If you’re wondering “what does the ‘ring of fire’ actually feel like?” The sensation feels like when someone twists the skin on your arm in opposite directions (like that “Indian sunburn” thing kids used to do to each other in childhood). The feeling was so manageable — the intimidating “ring of fire” name was overreaching!
Nicole encouraged Courtney to reach down + feel our baby a few times but the intensity was so strong Courtney just wanted to ride out the surges + not interrupt herself.
Courtney started peeing as the baby moved off of her bladder, then blood + all of the rest of the expected birthing fluids flowed out — all over Kevin’s feet!
Courtney felt the baby’s head crown then come out fully. Cheryl then had her pause while she unwrapped the cord from around the baby’s neck. The baby’s arm was up against its face + held there by the cord.
Another push or two brought out the baby’s shoulders + then the baby’s body slipped out the rest of the way!
2 AM — It’s a girl!
Kensington Claire Gilroy is here.
We will never forget the moment we locked eyes with each other. Kevin was holding her while she was still attached to Courtney by the umbilical cord. She was a blue-grey color with the largest cone head.
We had to suction her + rub her a bit to encourage her first breath because she was much slower to take it. Cheryl had the oxygen mask out + ready when Kensie took the biggest deep breath + let out a cry! We were overcome.
Courtney started shaking uncontrollably from the release of adrenaline + turned ghost white, though feeling totally fine. Kevin said he never doubted Courtney would be okay throughout the whole labor until this particular moment. Her adrenaline-shaking scared the life out of him!
Everyone helped Courtney waddle back to our bedroom where we did skin-to-skin contact with the baby + Cheryl checked Courtney for tearing while keeping a visual on the baby.
When the placenta wasn’t coming out naturally even after about 15-20 minutes, we cut the cord (the blood had emptied already + the cord was a beautiful pure white color) + let Kevin take over skin-to-skin bonding with Kensie. This way, Courtney could go to the master bathroom to try to labor out the placenta + pee in silence (an important birth step).
Nothing was working. Courtney was exhausted after about 26-hours of labor + was dying to get back to Kensie + Kevin in bed, but when Cheryl approached her with the Pitocin needle + a catheter in the doorway, she thought “God/Source/Whoever You Are, if you exist, you’re gonna help me finish this naturally!”
And whoosh, out comes the placenta + a bunch of pee. Thank goodness!
Nicole came to teach Courtney how to use the peri-bottle (MomFrida) with After Cleanse to clean when she finished going to the bathroom. Courtney also got into a Depends diaper.
All of those post-birth tools were WONDERFUL.
Courtney’s belly immediately looked + felt like a deflated balloon.
Courtney crawled back into bed in her diaper + nothing else, held Kensie again for skin to skin contact + mustered down some peanut butter toast with apple slices before Cheryl weighed Kensie + took her other measurements (20 inches long + 7 lbs 15.5 oz).
Cheryl showed Courtney how to lay Kensie down for safe bedsharing + breastfeeding laying down.
Nicole + Cheryl cleaned up, then left with Courtney’s placenta for encapsulating.
We caught our breath + FaceTimed Courtney’s mom + sister to announce we had the baby!
We slept for a few hours before waking up to feed Kensie again + relieve our friend Jess from dog duty. Kev took the dogs out + made a big breakfast.
Jess hung out in bed with Courtney + Kensie for eating, then after she left, we introduced the dogs to the baby.
This experience was a mindblowing 26 hours + quite literally the most empowering experience of our life.
Some summary notes Courtney wrote out from her postpartum bed:
Birth events that were different from our expectations:
- Surges (aka “contractions”) were manageable if Courtney wasn’t distracted.
- Courtney thought she would want deep massage but ended up wanting light touch or nothing at all.
- Courtney felt an overwhelming connection to Cheryl + needed to hear her sweet, light voice. There was such a gift in knowing she had experienced birth before personally, that Courtney trusted her assurance more than anyone else’s.
- HypnoBirthing helped Courtney stay mentally focused, but without the music to help, it was easy to fall out of. We were so flustered + focused elsewhere that we forgot to follow the prompts on our own.
Birth choices that Courtney loved:
- Our decision to not have a birth photographer or doula — Courtney did better with as little movement + additional energy around her as possible
- Warm washcloth compresses as the baby was crowning
- Letting go of the expectation that we would have this quiet, picturesque birth + instead welcomed whatever feelings or sounds were part of the experience. Turns out, Courtney sounds like a cavewoman when she gives birth + she wears that badge so proudly.
As Nature Intended
While every birth story is unique to the mom + child, we hope that our deeply personal + honest perspective helps you consider what might be available to you in your own birth story (or stories).
This birth wasn’t particularly “easy” but it was as nature intended + Courtney proved to herself that she had both the mental toughness to push through the heavier parts + the mental calmness to allow her body to do what it knew how to do naturally.
The result was so great that 2.5 years later, we chose to do it all over again with baby #2!
So, tell us: What are your thoughts around having a home birth?
If you’d love to read a variety of other birth stories or share your own, please share in the comments below.
We’d love to hear from you + help curate more home birthing stories that parent entrepreneurs can make their empowered choices from. 💌