OUR BIRTH MARATHON
By Jodi and Steve Schollaardt
When I found out I was pregnant in 2010, I was training for a half marathon… little did I know I was actually training for a completely foreign yet challenging and rewarding experience. This is the birth story of Henry Neil Schollaardt.
Jodi – for some reason, I always knew I wanted a home birth, for me it was not a choice; it was an innate feeling I could not let go of. I was blessed to have women in my life who choose this path for themselves and their babes before I became pregnant with my first child. Their experiences and choices to birth at home became my ideal of what birthing should look like – especially through continued conversations and questions with these amazing women, who became an integral part of our birth story.
Steve – I would always say to some degree I was skeptical and fearful of birthing at home mostly because I had no knowledge or expectation of what birthing at home would look like. I was unsure if it was a safe decision for my wife and unborn child. It was not until I read, “Ina May’s Guide To Child Birth” by well-known and respected American midwife Ina May Gaskin that my ideas began to change. I was able to relate to several examples of home birth in her book, and the idea of having our baby at home started to feel more and more fitting for our family. Suddenly things began to make sense, not all at once, but over time, I knew that this was the right decision for my wife, our child, and me.
Jodi – I would say I had a great pregnancy! I was active and completed an 8 km race in Victoria, British Columbia, over Thanksgiving weekend with a personal best time. As I grew through my pregnancy, I ran less and less, as expected. I began to prepare in a different way, I focused on the nursery, reading birthing books, and started to picture what I wanted our home birth to look like. I (never the patient kind) wanted things to happen immediately, waiting for 9 months to go through labour and meet my baby seemed impossible.
Jodi – My husband and I met with our family physician for the first few months of my pregnancy, which is common practice in Grande Prairie, and he was supportive of a home birth as his wife gave birth at home with their third and final child many years ago. Our family physician does not attend births so it is common practice to be transferred to an obstetrician after the first few months of pregnancy. Our family physician, Steve, and I discussed our options. Since we wanted to give birth at home, we went with our best available option: a traditional birth attendant1. We still needed a doctor since birth attendants are not part of Alberta Health and they cannot legally order tests, ultrasounds, or do our prenatal care. So we spoke of the only other option available to us, having an obstetrician. We chose the “best possible” obstetrician that would hopefully not make me feel ashamed, judged, or scared for choosing a home birth. Our obstetrician was supportive to the degree that I did not feel judged nor did she kick me off her caseload, but she also did not jump for joy! It is unfortunate that in Grande Prairie, with a population of 55,000 (and growing), we have so few choices in regards to labour and delivery.
Steve – I remember in December 2010, we had our second ultrasound, and everything was perfect, we were well on our way to delivering a healthy baby in the comfort of our own home. Things were becoming very real.
Jodi – The months leading into the New Year were stressful for me, I was working fulltime and completing my Bachelor of Social of Work Degree, I was able to have time off work, and after that, everything kept sailing smoothly. As the months fell closer to our delivery date, we began preparing as much as we could. Besides reading Ina May’s books and watching her videos, I read “Birthing From Within” by Pam England and Rob Horowitz which I found to be very helpful. I had conversations with friends who had similar experiences and I read loads of past Birth Issues magazines that a friend had passed onto me! Overall, I mentally got into a place where I intrinsically knew and believed 100% that my baby would be born healthy and safely at home. We knew, our birth attendant would be present, but also elected to have special friends Meranda Ekins and Nicole Stevens (both who had given birth at home previously) present as well. By this point our birth attendant had became a close part of our family, she stopped in every few weeks and then more frequently towards the delivery date, she was always available to answer questions, and support/guide us in anyway we needed. We were all able to be together for lunch prior to the birth – Our birth attendant, Meranda, Nicole, Steve, and I.
Steve – As our due date came closer, I was motivated by the arrival of our baby to finally finish renovating our basement and improve our backyard – by then the date was even closer! By this point and time, I had had done as much research as possible, and a home birth had become the natural first choice for Jodi and I. A hospital tour had a profound influence on my state of mind. The entire experience re-iterated a feeling of parent non-involvement and turned what I felt should be a deeply fulfilling personal experience into a clinical procedure. Our birth attendant had become a friend and was dedicated to help us make the birth an experience we would never forget. The home birthing room was set up and before I knew it our due date had came and went.
Jodi – The due date I was given was May 20, 2011; however, I knew being past the due date was more than a possibility. I knew that 40 weeks was in the middle of the healthy season to give birth (37-42 weeks). I had an obstetrician’s appointment on my due date; however, she had left the country due to a family emergency. We were left with a replacement doctor who was insistent on having an induction2 within the next few days. Without a prior relationship established with this doctor, we found it difficult to make a decision. We left the office concerned and failed to discuss our home birth plans.
Steve – We were well prepared that we would not deliver on our due date; however, even with plans to deliver at home, Jodi felt it was important to maintain a discussion with the maternity floor at the local hospital since our replacement doctor had ordered daily non-stress tests3 until the induction. The daily non-stress tests were part of the ‘deal’ to allow Jodi to avoid induction until the 10-day mark, as the doctor was eager to have her in for induction sooner. We avoided the non stress tests only because we had the care of our traditional birth attendant, we knew being overdue was common and we knew everything was fine. There was nothing indicating the contrary. However, during all of this I was starting to have moments of feeling anxious that we may have to have our baby in the hospital, which by this point, was outside my realm of comfort. Luckily, he had other plans.
Jodi – I called the replacement doctor back on Friday May 27, 2011, she said she would be fine with me waiting a few more days for induction if I went for a non stress test that night since we had not gone in once. Therefore, we went to the hospital and as expected, everything was great. I had an amazing nurse and left feeling reassured that if my labour did not start over the weekend that the hospital would be there to support me. As Steve noted early I felt it was important to maintain a relationship with the maternity floor, because frankly I was anxious that if I did not work to preserve this relationship and ended up at the hospital for induction or delivery that I would not be treated fairly. If it came to that (induction/hospital delivery), I knew I would already be disappointed and scared of delivering at the hospital so at the very least I wanted to be on an equal playing field with the staff. I should add that I was the only one worried about this – our birth attendant, Steve, Meranda, and Nicole all knew it would turn out the way it did.
So when Saturday came and went, I began to feel defeated. Then Sunday May 29th at 5:00 am, my labour began! I awoke with discomfort, got up, walked around, played scrabble on the iPad, and then after about an hour, I started to experience diarrhea. On my third or so trip to the bathroom, I woke Steve up to let him know I was certain my labour had begun! As I moved around the house getting the last of things in order and pulling out frozen meals, we realized it was probably time to contact our birth attendant and friends.
Steve – When our birth attendant arrived (around 8:30 am) Jodi had gone back to bed. She examined her and determined she was a few centimeters dilated and the contractions were about 7 minutes apart – not long after, her water broke while she was lying in bed.
Jodi – Meranda arrived around 10:00 am; I had showered and was moving back and forth over the dresser in our bedroom, which was the perfect height. I had tried to eat a power bar but halfway through I had a contraction and that threw me off, so I never had another bite. I felt grounded, I felt safe and ready, but I also felt anxious to remember all of the things I had read about the breathing, the pushing, etc. Steve, Meranda, and our birth attendant began preparing the birth pool, which had been set up in our spare room. My labour seemed to be progressing so fast. My friend Nicole was coming from Edmonton so I was not sure when she would arrive. I went into the pool around 11:00 am; and the next several hours went by somewhat as a blur for me! I was relaxing (as much as you can while in labour) in the pool even falling asleep between my contractions.
Steve – Our baby was coming. Today. Although I found the morning very low key and relaxing in some sense of the word, the time between when Jodi’s water broke, and when our birth attendant turned to me and said, “you better get that pool filled up” seemed to fly by. Even though I was very happy to be given a tangible task to perform, I was excited and elated that I was going to be meeting our baby very soon.
Jodi – There was a point in the afternoon that I never thought my labour would end, I was consumed with managing my labour sensations and looking back I feel I didn’t focus enough on pushing the baby out! I started pushing around 2:00 pm, but over the afternoon, my contractions were losing strength, as was I. At one point, our birth attendant used black and blue cohosh to increase the strength and durations of my contractions, which seemed to do the trick4. Another hour or so of pushing, and finally Henry Neil Schollaardt was born at home and in water at 4:55 pm, weighing 9 pounds 7.5 ounces! It was an amazing and euphoric feeling to lie back in the water with my son on my chest. I think there was a collective sigh in the room as it had been a long day for everyone.
After quick phone calls to our parents, Steve was able to cut the cord while we were still in the pool, then wrap up our son, and took him into our nursery while I showered and crawled into bed. I began breastfeeding our baby immediately. At this time, my friend Nicole arrived, which was actually perfect timing so the others could go and rest. She warmed up meals (I ate like I had just ran a half marathon), served tea, gave me nursing tips, and was able to help me move around. She also began the process for encapsulating my placenta, an easy decision Steve and I had made early in our pregnancy after reading about the benefits5. Once we were settled she left around 9:00 pm and we were on our own at home with our son.
The birth was perfect, it was exactly what we had dreamed of – lying in bed with our first child, our son. I feel we were absolutely blessed in all aspects of my pregnancy, labour, and delivery.
Steve – Wow. There are no words to describe this experience. Although my lovely wife may have done the lion’s share of the work, I like to take some credit for my perfect son. In retrospect, a home birth was the only option for our family. Being in the comfort of our own home, with friends and family enabled us to bond immediately with our new baby. I will never forget the moment Henry entered this world, I feel that day my heart was filled in a way that cannot be compared.
Steve and Jodi – We strongly believe that homebirth promotes all the thing’s new parents should experience; early closeness and bonding with their child, comfort and calmness throughout labour and delivery, and a much more profound sense of peace. We have no reservations about following the same path with any of our future babies.
Jodi Schollaardt is a social worker and is currently completing her Masters of Social Work and her husband Steve works in the oil and gas industry. They live in Grande Prairie and enjoy spending time together as a family and traveling. Jodi remains active with running and completed her first half marathon in Edmonton, AB, last summer.
1. Traditional birth attendants are not registered midwives but have been supporting families in childbirth for centuries. Some are educated in obstetrics and others are merely women with childbirth experience. Traditionally they have been working in rural areas where registered midwives are unavailable or as traditional attendants in aboriginal communities. There is often an understanding among rural nurses and doctors, who are supportive of home birth, that a traditional birth attendant may be an option. These birth attendants are often well-respected in their areas as their service is often a vocation. With the recognition of midwifery as a registered profession, there have been some tensions as to what their role is and if they are practicing medicine without a license. The authors of this story wanted the readers to know that they felt they had the best possible support and that their attendant was highly professional, skilled and ethical. Keeping in mind her reputation and track-record, the authors of this story felt this was a safe option for them. There are no registered midwives in Grande Prairie.
2. An induction is when your labour is artificially started with a gel and an oxytocin drip, it is always at the hospital. Reasons are multifold and should be thoroughly explained and weighed. Some have reported that this artificially produced contraction pattern in strong. Some women cope well but most will end up asking for an epidural. Some babies find this contraction pattern too strong and may have trouble coping over the long term, which can lead to a cesarean. This is why some professionals argue that routine inductions, ones that are not done because baby or mom are compromised, are an over management of labour. If your caregiver recommends an induction although your baby is not in distress, remember that the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) recommends a wait-and-see approach or to consider it 10 days after the due date.
3. Non stress tests (NST) is a simple non-invasive monitoring at the hospital. The test is named “non-stress” because no stress is placed on the baby during the test. It is not a stress test, which would be giving a woman oxytocin to trigger some contractions to see how baby reacts. NST involves attaching one belt to the mother’s abdomen to measure fetal heart rate and another belt to measure contractions. Movement, heart rate and “reactivity” of heart rate to movement are measured for 20-30 minutes. If the baby does not move, it does not necessarily indicate that there is a problem; the baby could just be asleep. It may be performed if you sense that the baby is not moving as frequently as usual, if your placenta is not functioning adequately, or you are past your due date. Although fetal risks are still very low, the SOGC recommends regular NST after 41 weeks pregnancy to make sure baby’s oxygenation is optimal.
4. Black and blue cohosh are plant-based products used to induce or augment labour, bring placenta out, as well as to protect a woman from postpartum bleeding. They increase uterine contractions and are often used in lieu of the synthetic forms of drugs available at the hospital (e.g. oxytocin, pitocin, syntocinon, etc.).
5. Placenta encapsulation is when a woman has her placenta dehydrated and then put into capsules. Some research has shown that women who may be at risk of postpartum depression or weepiness may benefit from the hormones within the placenta. The capsules are ingested on a schedule like any natural medicines.