Now that Zara is most definitely not a newborn and I’m fairly certain that I have survived the postpartum period, I wanted to take a moment to finally write about my post home birth experience. This will be my last post about our home birth experience (at least until our next baby). If you missed them, the other posts I have included in this series were about my prenatal care, preparing a sibling to participate in a birth, safety and supplies, managing pain in labor, and, of course, Zara’s Birth Story.
In most cases following a normal vaginal birth, you leave the hospital or birth center after two days of care and you don’t see your doctor or midwife for another six weeks. Sure, you can call if you have a problem or question, but rarely is someone checking up on you. Some hospitals do follow up phone calls for breastfeeding mothers, but many do not (even the “alternative” hospital where Nora was born did not do that) and if you formula feed you wouldn’t get a phone call at all. That means that aside from visits with baby’s doctor, many mothers go from an environment of 24/7 support preceded by weekly prenatal checkups to an environment with absolutely no professional care. Especially for first-time mothers, this can be an incredibly scary and exhausting time. It’s no wonder so many women give up on breastfeeding or experience postpartum depression when they don’t even have the support of their birth care provider.
Following Zara’s birth I mentioned several times how much better I felt and how much quicker I felt better than I had after Nora’s birth. Some of my improved postpartum experience was probably due to me being a second time mother. For example, this time it only took me 9 days to get into a good breastfeeding rhythm, whereas last time it took me about six weeks. But other things I firmly believe had to do with just how wonderful my birth experience was.
Even though I have no major complaints about Nora’s birth, there were still things about it that I thought could be better, and how I felt after each birth was like night and day. I was and still am amazed at how great I felt after Zara was born; I even told my midwife, Sybille, within two or three days of Zara being born that I didn’t even feel like I had given birth. After Nora was born I had to have stitches for two small tears; the stitches did not dissolve properly and contributed to my discomfort (I could barely sit down for a while). When Zara was born, I lost such a small amount of blood that my midwife remarked upon it, and I barely bled at all following the birth. Because I was home, more relaxed in the water, and in a better position I didn’t tear at all during Zara’s birth. Afterward I felt no discomfort sitting and I was up and about a birthday baking cake just two days later. If it wasn’t for the baby attached to my breast and the excess skin flopping around my middle, I never would have known that I’d just birthed a baby.
Every single part of the home birth experience was infinitely better than my hospital birth, from prenatal to postpartum, and I continued to be impressed by the attentiveness and thoughtfulness Sybille put into my care even after Zara was born. She came to check on us on day 1, day 3, day 5, day 10, day 12, and did a final follow up just before we moved off Nantucket; in between visits for the first two weeks she called or texted me every day, and she was available to answer questions whenever I had them. At each visit she continued to ask me about my diet, monitored my vitals and uterus size when necessary, and checked Zara’s weight and vitals. Sybille did (or offered to do) everything that a hospital would have done for Zara, including the PKU. She provided suggestions for herbal remedies to reduce swelling and brewed herbs for me to use in a sitz bath, which was something that had not even been suggested to me following Nora’s birth. And better than all the medical care, Sybille provided a significant amount of emotional support and follow up that just isn’t offered by hospital-based care providers. Through the whole experience I really felt like Sybille cared for me and my family, and we have become friends through the experience of Zara’s birth. She came to a post birth picture viewing session after we got the pictures from Lisa and she even cleaned our fridge for us when we moved! We have continued to talk via email and Skype since I moved to Wyoming. I can’t imagine a birth experience any better than the one we had in Nantucket, and I can’t wait to do it again. I just hope that whenever that time we can find a midwife just as good as Sybille.