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My Unassisted, Unexpected Home Birth

My Unassisted, Unexpected Home Birth

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When I am pregnant I enjoy reading pregnancy and birth stories, and dreaming of the type of birth I’d like to have. I once read a story of a woman who gave birth in a car because the baby came out much quicker than expected, and wishfully laughed, wishing I would be blessed with such an easy birth. Little did I know what G‑d had in store for me.

A day before my due date, I was chopping up vegetables for supper while chatting on the phone with my closest friend. All of a sudden I felt a pain, not a contraction, but a pulling and moderately painful sensation. When I mentioned it to my friend, she suggested that it may be the beginning of labor, but I laughed her off, as all of my previous births had been ten days to two weeks after the official due date.

My body knew exactly what it was supposed to doLater that night, contractions woke me up. I waited about forty-five minutes to see whether the contractions were steady and that labor had been established, and then called my midwife, who suggested I stay home, as the contractions were only lasting forty seconds. She said they’d have to last at least a minute and twenty seconds to warrant going to the hospital. It was 2:30 AM by then, so I decided not to wake my husband until I really needed him.

And so I labored.

During previous births I had been “blessed” with back labor, and this one was no different. However, the contractions were not as intensely painful as in previous births, which is why I did not think I was in the advanced labor stage yet. I doulaed myself: when the contractions peaked I’d apply counterpressure in the painful spots on my back with my fist, I’d breathe and count and get through them, one by one, closing my eyes and resting in between contractions.

For my first birth, which was attended by a midwife in a hospital, I brought along a doula because my mother lives overseas, so I wanted an advocate—and she was indeed very helpful. For my next births I birthed with a midwife in a hospital. I have to say that when the contractions peaked I very much depended on her, squeezing her arm, barely allowing her to move from my side during transition.

Yet here I was, doing everything alone, contracting, riding the waves, reassuring myself. And it was simultaneously so amazing and yet so completely natural. I had been blessed with the ability and power to bring a new life into this world. And while it is great to have wonderful and caring practitioners to support us, and crucially important that help be accessible when unique medical situations or emergencies arise, I discovered that my body knew exactly what it was supposed to do. So I followed its lead and did what I never thought was possible.

The longest contraction lasted forty-five seconds. I walked around the house and watered my tomato seedlings. I tried to do my Chabad.org work on the computer, but did not have the patience for it. I showered, allowing the water to soothe my aching back as the contractions peaked—and then, before I knew it, it was 6:30 AM and the kids woke up.

Reality hadn’t yet hit. I did not immediately think it could be the baby!I must have been close to transition, even though I did not realize it then, as I did not have any patience for anything. I woke my husband and updated him on the situation. He took over, taking them downstairs, feeding them breakfast and dressing them in preparation for a trip to the hospital, as we live far from family and had no one we could call at that early hour.

The contractions became more intense and painful, but still not as painful as in my past births when I was close to giving birth, and they still lasted no more than forty-five seconds. I remembered reading that going on all fours and rocking back and forth can help alleviate back labor pains. I had never tried this technique before, perhaps because I felt inhibited to do so during previous births in a hospital setting. But in the privacy of my own bedroom, on my own bed, with no one watching, I had no such compunctions. I tried it and it worked. I felt some relief and swayed back and forth, right and left for a few minutes until my waters broke.

While on the phone with my midwife, updating her on the situation, I suddenly felt the urge to push. She encouraged me not to push and to come right away. While my husband packed the kids into the car, I went to the restroom to change. All of a sudden I felt extreme pressure. Reality hadn’t yet hit. I did not immediately think it could be the baby!

But after a few seconds I realized the inevitable was happening, the baby was coming and it was coming right now! Down on the floor I went, squatting on a towel I had conveniently dropped while showering. My husband called the midwife on the phone and patrolled the hall to ensure that the children wouldn’t make an appearance. I felt the urge to push twice, but unlike my previous births where the pushing stage took enormous efforts and strength out of me and were quite painful, here I felt no pain at all. The pushing process was gentle and smooth, and out came the baby, essentially birthing herself, welcomed with one of my hands while I supported myself with the other.

The first thing I noticed was that she did not cry, probably because the cord was draped around her neck. The midwife suggested I slap her on the back, so I did, and she immediately gave a nice cry. She was still a bit blue; but fortunately by then the ambulance arrived and administered some oxygen, and waited for me to deliver the afterbirth, after which we were bundled up and brought to the hospital.

Out came the baby, essentially birthing herselfLess than ten minutes elapsed from the time my water broke to when the baby was born, so there was no time to panic, no time to be afraid or think about anything other than what was happening in the moment. But a few hours later, as I was relaxing and reliving the experience, I could not help but be amazed at the power that G‑d has given us women.

Although this was not my first birth, I never felt as empowered as I did after this unexpected, unassisted birth experience. I thought of how thankful I am that the baby’s cord was only draped and not wrapped around her neck, and that thank G‑d she was okay (did the position I tried during labor help the cord unwrap itself from around her neck?)

But most powerful was the thought I had of our Jewish ancestresses. These brave women who lived in slavery in Egypt and defied Pharaoh’s edict for the Jewish midwives to kill Jewish male babies, by giving birth on their own, squatting in the fields. As I held my baby girl and relived my miracle, all I could think was that perhaps a little bit of their strength trickled down to me.

Chani Benjaminson is co-director of Chabad of the South Coast, coordinator of Chabad’s Ask the Rabbi and Feedback departments, and is a member of the editorial staff of Chabad.org.
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Discussion (17)
January 8, 2013
What a powerful story. G-D gave women a special power, let the medical community assist them in using this power and not negate it!
Tip: The best way to know how deep in labor you are is how focused you are on the birth process happening inside you (in authors words: how much patience you have for anything else). Birth, being a journey inwards, the further it progresses the less one can focus on outer distractions. Length and power of contractions can vary for each individual birth
Jewish Mother
June 27, 2012
right hospitals get it right?
To Anonymous Brooklyn, trained professionals get it wrong too. My last child was born in hospital, and I gave birth with no so called professional help, they all left saying I was not even dilated. So I feel baby coming and no help came, so I delivered him myself, I had no choice. Chani had no choice she did what she had to. This is an inspiring story.
sinead Eclipse
cheam, uk
March 16, 2012
Thank you!
Amen and thank you so much Ester for your kind words and wishes, may you and all women be blessed with beautiful births and healthy babies.
Chana Benjaminson
NB, MA
March 13, 2012
birthing with security
what an inspiring story!! after having my 2nd accidentally at home (and by accident i mean the whole labor took half an hour) i refused to give birth to my 3rd in the hospital like i did w/ my first. i had the best support team. my midwife, doula, best friend who had a planned home birth and my amazing husband . i have to admit, the entire time i screamed to Hashem to help me bec im petrified!!! my amazing doula kept on reminding me that Hashem is w/ me in the room. what u wrote gave me something to focus on for my next home birth that will deff keep me calmer and have more security. i thank u soo much for sharing this amazing story! may Hashem bless u that u are able to share more inspiring stories !!
ester
brklyn, ny
May 31, 2011
Karen
Doula is a Greek word. It is a woman who helps women who are giving birth, and also assists the family after birth,. This person is not as medically trained as a lay midwife, or nurse, (let alone a CNM) but they stay from the start of labor until well after, not leaving because the shift ends or someone else needs them, as a doc would. They are there to support the mom, and don't have quite so much to do with the baby.
Sarah Masha
W Bloomfield, Mi/USA
October 18, 2010
I was told by my doctor when I was pregnant,
That due dates are our adult, human guestimates. The fetus does not know how to read a calendar!
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, Ca, USA
October 17, 2010
Mazel Tov!
What a beautiful story!

I also ended up with an unexpectedly unassisted birth - with unexpected twins, too! It's our job to do our best to provide a safe birth environment - and Hashem makes the final decision as to where and how the the birth will go.
ND
MA
October 14, 2010
Amazing!
Wow! What an awesome experience for you and your baby. Thats incredible... and also very hopeful. Thanks for sharing!
Ariella Levi
Chicago, IL
October 13, 2010
It was destiny(G-D) who was at work here. Why? We don't know, but one day mother and daughter will understand why the baby was supposed to get here in such a natural way. Bless the mother that knew what to do to have a save and healthy baby by herself.
Anonymous
Florida, USA
October 13, 2010
To Anonymous in Brooklyn--
Annon in Brooklyn--

clearly this post hits a sensitive spot for you! My sympathies.
Having been a homebirth doula for a good while now as well as working L&D on staff, well.. let me say it this way, the medical "safety nets" people assume are there to keep them safe... simply aren't what people assume them to be.

I don't want to take up too much room on this beautiful post on this tangent, but I strongly encourage you to look past your fears and assumptions and delve into some actual fact of what is what in the birth world. You may be surprised by what you find there. Like most things, what you see on the outside is a facade -- you need to look deeper to see the truth of the matter.

as for the mom here, clearly she places her trust in The Almighty, and not luck. She was told by her midwife to wait to go to the hospital (which is standard procedure). She did nothing unusual or risky -- babies come when they want to and they don't always give us proper warning! :)
Elle
richmond, va
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