On September 4th at 8:41am after 6 hours of intense labor, Austin and I welcomed our baby girl, Aurora Theodora, into this world. I brought her earthside in the water without any medication and she was born in her very own room at home. My dream birth plan had been honored. All the months spent gathering supplies, watching home birth videos, and practicing yoga in her room had really paid off.
I couldn’t imagine a better first experience of life for her or a way I could feel more empowered through the birthing process. Since announcing her arrival, I’ve gotten a lot of interest from people wondering how it went and what it’s like to have a water birth at home. Now that we’ve made it through our six weeks with our newborn, I’m ready to share our story. I hope this helps anyone considering an at-home birth or laboring in the water. It really was the most amazing experience of my life, and it gets me emotional just thinking about it every time because I want every birth I have to happen like this.
Deciding on a Home Birth & Finding a Midwife
Ever since I could remember, I had always wanted to be a mom when I grew up. Women in my family and friends circles became mothers over the years around me, always birthing in a hospital setting and never at home. I had wanted to be like them but believe it or not, my greatest fear was actually going through the labor & delivery process myself. I had heard horror stories from just about every mom I knew and had been convinced for so long that birth was going to be extremely long, unbelievably painful, and downright traumatic for me.
It wasn’t until I got older and into my childbearing years that I did more research to learn that didn’t have to be part of my story. Once I found out I was pregnant last year, I made the conscious decision to continue my plant based lifestyle to ensure my baby & I had a nutrient dense diet. You can read more about that in What It’s Like to Be Pregnant as a Vegan. I also did a lot of research into all things related to pregnancy and birth, which led me to discovering the wonders of midwifery & natural home birthing. I was instantly convinced that this was the way I was supposed to give birth.
When we made the decision to have a natural water birth at home, I had full support from Austin’s family members and a few of mine told me that I was brave (even some admitting that they wished they had been able to do it themselves). I got some great advice from his sister-in-law who had two previous home births and other moms who were like-minded in the natural birthing process along the way too which was very encouraging.
A few months into our pregnancy, we hired a team of two fully licensed midwives named Kayti & Marli and a student finishing up her clinical hours named Ashley from Birth Local Midwifery. As soon as I spoke with Ashley on the phone last year, we immediately hit it off and I knew they were going to be the people I would be giving birth with. We couldn’t have done it without the help of Austin’s parents for whom we are eternally grateful. From that point on, we committed to doing all the prep work we could to make our water birth at home happen.
Preparing for Labor
I feel like I wouldn’t do Aurora’s birth story justice without sharing the steps I took to prepare for labor. There are so many “old wives’ tales” that people swear by and I’d nearly tried them all! I feel like I could do an entire post on the benefits of everything I tried, so I’ll stick to the basics for now. We we got some great tips from our midwife team at Birth Local like Spinning Babies exercises to do daily. These included a forward leaning inversion, side-lying release, “The Booty Jiggle” and pelvic tilt exercises.
They also shared the proper way to sit during your last few months of pregnancy with pillows under the bottom, leaning forward, and belly hanging down like a hammock between your legs. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but I feel like that really helped keep her in the optimal position while she was still in the womb.They cleared me to start drinking red raspberry leaf tea around 36 weeks, so I initially did 2 cups per day until I hit 38 weeks and increased that to 4 cups per day until the end of my pregnancy.
By the time I was 41 weeks, I was steeping the tea overnight (per another homebirth mom’s advice) to get the full cervix softening & anti-hemorrhaging effects. At 38 weeks, I also started eating 3 large Medjool dates per day to further the cervix softening. I tried my best to remain active during pregnancy with daily walks & prenatal yoga sessions along with standing pelvic tilts and bouncing on a birthing ball whenever I could. On top of that, I dove further into my meditation practice using a Muse headband for guided sessions and hypnobirthing tracks for free form relaxation in Aurora’s room. It really helped me stay calm when I was so anxious to meet her and mentally prepare for her labor & delivery.
Natural Labor Induction
When we passed our due date, I started trying other methods to naturally induce labor like curb-walking & evening primrose oil capsules. At 41 weeks, our midwife team offered additional some more mechanical labor induction methods to get things moving along. I was a little hesitant at first, but we trusted our team to help us make our home birth happen and keep us drug-free without causing my water to break prematurely. I truly felt the risk was greater having her in a hospital setting and wanted her to come before the 42 week mark, while she was still thriving.
The week Aurora arrived truthfully was a taxing one for me because it seemed like we were trying something new every day. My body was tired and sore after every appointment, but I knew it would be worth it to bring her here safely, so I never lost hope, no matter how frustrated I got. We started with a membrane sweep on a Monday and even though my cervix was soft, it still took a while for our midwife, Marli, to reach it because of how far back it was. Austin rubbed my forehead as I took deep breaths and tried to relax knowing this was what we decided was best for our baby.
I felt like this was a preview of how he would take care of me in labor and sat comfortable with that thought. After a few minutes of Marli trying, Aurora decided to move her head and she was able to reach my cervix. She let me know I was only about 1 cm dilated, 50% effaced had the start of the classic “bloody show” … a telltale sign that labor is approaching soon. We went home and waited for more signs, excited at the thought of meeting our baby soon. After about 24 hours, not much had seemed to change other than some heavier cramping in my pelvis and a few false labor contractions.
The midwife team offered to do another membrane sweep a couple of days later. I was about 1.5 cm dilated this time around, which was encouraging because it showed that my body had made some more progress. Before I even left their office, I could see what looked like my mucus plug mixed with bloody show after using the restroom. This had me thinking it really could be anytime at that point because it was much more than before. Before we left the office this time, Marli gave us root bark cotton per to use during a pumping session that evening for 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off to rest over the span of an hour if I wasn’t feeling much after this sweep.
Austin also did an acupressure massage on me after to see what it would do. Once again, I had a few more contractions after these methods, but nothing regular enough to tell that it was really time. We went back in the following day to try the next step on our induction journey which was the foley balloon method. Much like the membrane sweeps, it wasn’t easy or fast to finish this procedure. After 3 attempts, a pep talk, and everyone in the room sweating… Austin and Marli were able to successfully place the tube and fill the balloon at the opening of my cervix.
At first, I just felt a little awkward walking around with a tube tied to my leg and sore from the placement and I laid down as much as I could after getting home. A few hours in, I told Austin that the tube had started to look dark about halfway down from blood running down it. We agreed to keep an eye on it and call the midwives if it got any worse. Another hour or two had passed and when I went to the bathroom, I noticed the blood had made its way to the end of the tube, starting to drip down the bottom.
I asked Austin to come in to take a look and we frantically called the midwife after sending photos of what we were seeing. Thankfully, she said it looked normal and that if it did get worse or we were worried, she would come to the house to check on us. We tied a tissue around the end and were glad to see it had stopped dripping fairly quickly after our call had ended. Around 12 hours after the foley balloon was placed, it fell out in the toilet and I felt immediate relief and excitement! This told me I was at least around 3-4 cm dilated and I felt great about that progress telling me it was worth it to try a method I was so unsure about at the beginning of the week.
I continued to have “bloody show” and pieces of my mucus plug coming throughout the night and into the next day. I thought after all these changes with my cervix that something would happen, but it didn’t quite send me into active labor that night like I had hoped. That’s when our midwife team suggested their “last resort” induction method of drinking castor oil. They asked me to start Friday morning taking 2 oz three times every 2 hours. Knowing this has a laxative effect worried me because I didn’t want to risk our baby going into distress or passing her first bowel movement, meconium, and putting her in danger of inhaling it in utero. I leaned into the trust I have for our midwives and had Austin stop at the store to get me a bottle that evening. The next morning, about an hour after I took the first dose, I was in the bathroom with a slight cramping in my pelvis. I started having more frequent, but irregular contractions so I decided to start timing them in case they became more intense.
As the bathroom trips got closer together, the cramping got less uncomfortable and more painful. My contractions weren’t unbearable yet and could easily be confused with stomach upset so I had no reason to believe this was true labor. I knew some moms could go a full 24 hours with their first baby, so I was ready to be on standby for a while. I watched Disney movies all day trying to nap whenever I could. Around 6pm that night, we got a call from our midwife Kayti to offer a few more suggestions including more pelvic tilts, crawling around on all fours, and holding a runner’s lunge.
She also recommended things that produced more oxytocin like cuddling, kissing and sex because that could help stimulate some more consistent contractions. Shortly after I hung up the phone with her, I dug out my knee pads from when I was training for roller derby. I rejoiced at the thought of being able to skate again soon and went in Aurora’s room to crawl around for about 10 minutes. After that, I did some pelvic tilts and held the runner’s lunge with the top half of my body on the birthing ball for about 10 minutes on each side.
I finished around 10pm and felt so tired when I was done, but it felt like this helped open my pelvis more than anything I had tried before so I left the room feeling very accomplished. Austin told me that shortly after doing this, he could tell I would be going into labor that night just based on the way I was looking. I still wasn’t sure myself yet because while it all seemed to bring on more contractions, they still weren’t painful yet.
Going Into Labor
We continued to time them and finally decided to call his mom, Kim, when they jumped to two minutes apart and lasting a minute long around 1am. When Kim arrived, we decided it would be best for Austin & I to try to get some sleep just in case I went into labor that night. Our midwives had advised us that conserving energy is important before and during the early stages of labor. I hadn’t gotten much rest because of all the stomach upset from taking castor oil and the anticipation of labor being right around the corner. Kim sat with me in our living room while I laid on the couch and Austin tried sleeping in the bed.
I started to doze off & on between making trips to the bathroom. I felt more intense cramping each time, but nothing I couldn’t manage yet. After doing this for a while, I finally hit a point around 2am after laying back down where I closed my eyes and felt a powerful surge run through my body before I said to Kim, “There is no way I can sleep through this”. She woke Austin up and they both asked me what I needed in that moment. My first instinctive thought was that I wanted to lean over the back of the couch and rock my hips back & forth as the waves came over my body.
They rubbed my back for a little bit while I did that until I decided that I needed to be in our bed instead. They both walked me to our bedroom and helped me up onto the bed where I instantly turned to lay on my side with a body pillow between my legs. I squeezed it as I took deep breaths through each sting of pain. They took turns holding my hand, timing my contractions, and offering me things like applesauce or coconut water to help me keep up my stamina. I got on all fours at one point when they had a midwife on the phone to gauge how far into labor I was. At that point, I was barely able to talk through my contractions, so our midwife team knew it was time to head our way for delivery.
I started to get tired. Not only had it already been a rough day on my body with the castor oil and exercises I was also dealing with contractions getting more frequent & painful. I dozed off during rest periods between them, trying to save what little energy I felt that I had left. Austin left the room briefly and brought back the most recent ultrasound photo we had of our baby into bed to remind me of the little face I was laboring for. That gave me another spark to keep going so I continued to breathe through the pains before getting nauseous and asking for a bowl to have on standby in case I threw up.
I started dry heaving but ended up using it to spit in which made me feel better. I think at that point, I had nothing left in my body anyway. After we got a call from our midwife team letting us know Marli was on her way, I asked Austin to inflate our birth pool so it would be ready to fill with water when she got to our house. His mom stayed with me and talked me through each wave as it came on. She would say things like, “You’re doing so great!” and “Each contraction is bringing you closer to meeting your baby, you got this!”.
When Marli arrived, she offered a cervical check which I agreed to. I had been wondering how far I had progressed at this point and hoped to see a decent amount of change since the induction methods and start of labor. She let me know I as a solid 4cm dilated and about halfway there which helped me see that everything I was doing was working. She asked if she could listen to our baby through the fetal doppler during a contraction to see how she was handling labor so far and I agreed. When she told me that Aurora was doing just fine, I asked if I was able to be in the tub.
I wasn’t in excruciating pain, but I was definitely ready for some relief. She & Austin both worked to control the water temperature as it got ready and took turns checking back in on me to see how things were progressing. Kim stayed by my side again, this time managing the contractions with the heating pad on my back. There was a time Austin came back in and touched my thigh just as the shock from a contraction was radiating through it and I turned away leaving him wondering what he did wrong. They both quickly shifted gears, switching between offering me water, applying back pressure, holding my hand, and timing the contractions. I couldn’t always say what I needed or what was bothering me, but somehow, they just knew what to do.
Laboring in the Water
As soon as I got in the tub, the tension I had been holding in my body immediately melted away and I was wrapped in the warm embrace of the water. I was naked past my bra and still felt some sense of coverage being in the water under the low lights. My body felt totally relaxed to the point where it took me a few seconds to realize that I started peeing as soon as I leaned back. I could already tell that not having to get up to use the restroom was going to be extremely helpful because there was no way I was getting out of this tub anytime soon with how good it felt! I mentally prepared and told myself “This is really it, it’s happening!”.
Instead of stress or fear, I let the wave of calm ride over me, allowing me to take time to appreciate the things in her nursery from her toys to her ultrasound photos we recently hung up on the wall to remember her growth through each trimester. This was everything I had wanted, and I was so grateful that my birth plan was being honored. I knew I had a rock-solid team ready to help me through what I was about to do, and I felt completely at peace knowing that it was finally time to meet the baby I had carried in my womb for over nine months. I knew it was happening very soon but I wasn’t sure exactly when, so I mentally prepared myself to labor for a good while.
Austin put on the hypnobirthing tracks playlist that I had been meditating to over the past couple of weeks while Marli prepared to take notes on her computer and Kim offered water & snacks to help keep my energy levels up. I was resting between contractions remembering not to overexert myself until the time to push came. Marli offered another cervical check in the water before doing a quick doppler reading on Aurora. I was about 6 cm at this point, but my water still hadn’t broken yet. She said she could feel the amniotic sac and offered me to do the same if I wanted to know what it felt like. I reached down and felt a jelly-like bubble very easily, telling me I was getting closer to the finish line.
It wasn’t long after that when midwife Ashley came in and I said “hi” happily after coming down from a contraction. I was so happy to have both Marli & Ashley there because of the trust we’ve built over the past few months during prenatal visits. So, in a way, it felt like another friend was joining the party. As Marli continued to track things on her computer, Ashley observed me while labored down for a little bit longer before she jumped in in to hold my hand. They all took turns for a couple more hours offering more water, applesauce (since that seemed to be the only snack I was in the mood for) and taking quick breaks outside the room for fresh air and rest.
When My Water Broke
Around 4am, it was just Austin & me in the room. He held my hand as I closed my eyes and took deeper breaths through each contraction. During breaks between them, we talked about how close we were to meeting our precious baby and he kept reminding me of how amazing I was doing. We held our foreheads together and rubbed hands as we talked softly to one another. It was nice to have a private moment to ourselves through all of this to be able really appreciate how beautiful it was. Many times, he would ask what I needed, and another contraction would come before I could answer. I started to change positions again from sitting in the back in the pool to leaning on the side with my arms gripping the outside handles.
I could feel the pressure down below intensify as I rode through a particularly painful contraction followed by something that felt like a “pop”. I opened my eyes, looked down and told Austin, “Babe, my water just broke!”. He said, “Really?”. We both looked in the pool and agreed that it looked like a tiny smoke bomb had gone off in the tub. The water was still mostly clear, but you could definitely tell it was getting cloudier. We were laughing and sighing in relief because we had been on watch for my water to break for over month at that point. Neither of us had thought it would happen while I was in the pool or have the opportunity to watch it happen ourselves!
Marli, Ashley & Kim came back in the room shortly after and we all prepared for delivery to be anytime between a matter of hours or minutes. Once my water broke, the contractions started to get as predictable as they were painful. I thought back to my friend Ellie giving me advice during our baby shower for Aurora saying, “Don’t be afraid to get loud!”. It’s hard to explain but it really did help me channel all of my inner strength screaming at the top of my lungs. I didn’t want any more food offered to me, but I took sips of water when I could get little breaks.
I didn’t talk much at all after this besides replying if I wanted more hot water added to the tub. No one told me just how nice that part would feel. There wasn’t a single time that I declined the offer for more water. It felt like my body did a little reset on my pain threshold each time they did it. The midwives coupled this hot therapy with cold washcloths on the back of my neck & forehead which they would swap out after a few contractions had passed. This helped distract me from the pain below and offered me some relief up top from sweating.
I remember asking them what time it was and when they told me it was around 5 am, I had guessed that our baby would be born around 9 am. I’m not sure why I came to this conclusion but at that point I thought that was about how much longer I had to go. Either way, I didn’t mention this to anyone for fear that I would jinx myself and have an extremely long labor. I continued to do deep breathing throughout all of this happening and tried to bring my body into its deepest state of relaxation. I knew that I took about ten breaths during a contraction before it passed, so I just kept on counting through them as they came on.
While the pain was great, I didn’t regret my choice to decline a hospital setting and epidural. I was completely at peace in the comfort of my own home giving birth without any fear. I silently recited mantras to myself leading up to the peak of each surge that came through my body like “I am strong, my body is strong. I am strong, my baby is strong.” and “I can do this. I am doing this!”. After every few contractions, I would alternate between positions from sitting back on the seat of the tub with my arms on either side of the pool to kneeling down in the middle or leaning on either of my sides with a leg propped up.
When I was on my side, Marli would check our baby’s vitals to see how she was handling labor. Each time she did this, my contractions felt worse because I tensed up wondering if she was doing okay through the surges I was feeling. When I was able to get back to my deep breathing, things were more manageable. It also helped that I always had a hand to squeeze between Austin, Kim, Marli & Ashley taking turns. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have done it without them making sure there was someone to grab onto as I reached out each time.
Delivering the Baby Underwater
During one check, the midwives told me they could see our baby’s head. They said I could reach down and feel it myself like I did with my water bag. I remember smiling, looking up and telling Austin, “Oh my God babe, I can feel our baby’s head and she has so much hair!”. I knew we were so close to meeting her, so I continued to talk to her as I did throughout labor saying “Come on baby” as I looked at her ultrasound photos hanging on the wall beside us. These strong urges to push started to come over me. They felt involuntary, like my body was going to push whether I wanted it to or not.
I started to pant, and everyone cheered me on. Then, I totally surrendered to them and used each contraction to push. I gripped Austin’s hand tighter as the surges got deeper inside my body. The longer this went on, the harder it became to breathe between them. I could feel her head getting closer with every contraction, giving me that last bit of momentum I needed to get to the finish line. I changed positions a few more times before deciding that leaning over the edge of the tub worked best. As I pushed, I could feel that I needed to give just a little bit more effort when the next contraction hit.
There was no stopping at this point. I felt my baby and had to meet her. I paced my breath to use every last bit of energy I had left for each push. Each one felt like I needed to try just a little harder and I’d be there. As I took deeper breaths, I would make more progress as time went along. I remember feeling the last contraction come on and I could just tell that this was the push that would help me birth our baby. I took a deep breath and gave it all my effort. When I could feel that I had pushed her head through and I shouted, “Her head is out… what do I do?!”. What was only a matter of seconds seemed like an eternity…
Midwife Ashley told me everything was going to be okay and to keep pushing because she was going to catch the baby and pass her back to me underneath the water. Everyone cheered me on as I quickly gave another little push that propelled our baby out and into Ashley’s arms. She passed her back up to me between my legs and as I grabbed her, Marli pulled off the amniotic sac around her. As soon as her face emerged from the water, I realized that she was everything I had ever imagined and so much more! When I had her in my arms, I leaned back on the wall of the tub with Austin behind us and we both cried together. All I could feel was love for them both and relief that. My little family was together at last.
Aurora was the most alert I had ever seen a newborn. She didn’t cry immediately but was wide-eyed and soaking in all her surroundings as I held her. She finally let out a wail after the midwives rubbed her back & feet. The first thing I said to her was “hi baby!” (I still do when I wake her up for the day). I stroked her arms & back as I kissed her head over and over. I was overcome with so many emotions but mostly just joy for finally holding the precious girl we had been dreaming about all these months. She was finally here; she was healthy and everything about her was perfect!
Just as I had predicted, she had dark eyes, long legs, and a head full of hair. I was pleasantly surprised to see she was also covered in vernix, the coating babies have in the womb to protect their skin from the amniotic fluid, because it moisturizes them on the outside. Probably the most shocking thing to me was how small she was for an “overdue” baby. That goes to show you how inaccurate ultrasounds can be at measuring babies in the womb! I could feel her so calm and at peace in my arms. She didn’t fuss so long as I held her close. She looked up at her dad and “Glammy” who were behind me with so much wonder.
After some time had passed, the midwives helped us clamp her cord so Austin could cut it. You could just tell she knew who her dad was by the way she was looking at him. I gave her to him so I could focus on what I needed to do next. Then I asked our midwives how to deliver the placenta and they said to just give a little cough or push. I leaned over the side of the tub and did just that. In just a matter of seconds, I had delivered the placenta with minimal effort. I told them I could feel the umbilical cord wrapped up inside me and they said to stand up.
As soon as I got up, the cord and attached placenta fell out into the water below me. Without thinking, I quickly scooped it up and handed it to Marli & Ashley. They laughed at the fact that I had just delivered and handed them my own placenta like it was nothing. Instead of being grossed out by it, I was proud of how it was able to provide for my baby all these months until now and amazed at how big it had turned out to be.
Moments After the Birth
Marli & Ashley helped me out of the pool and helped me get my wet bra off before giving me pads to hold between my legs to absorb the blood from delivery and wrapping me in towels to dry off. They both helped me walk to the bedroom and up onto the bed where they had just replaced the sheets for us. I felt like I was doing a victory lap after all that labor. My body felt strong for what I had just done yet odd because my womb was now empty.
Even though I was exhausted from the work it took to get her here, I had a new energy as they placed Aurora into my arms once again and I breastfed her for the first time. Marli helped us get in a good position and she was a natural, eventually falling asleep at the boob (as I’m writing this one month later…she still likes to do this!). I felt nothing but bliss just feeding her and being together as a family in bed.
After giving us a little privacy in those first few moments, Marli & Ashley returned to the room to check on me & the baby. They weighed Aurora, measured her height, and screened her for jaundice. She weighed less than we expected but was healthy all around otherwise. In fact, she weighed just two more ounces than I did when I was born. They asked permission to examine me for tears and I agreed. Thankfully, I only had a slight tear, and they gave me a choice on whether to have stitches or not.I declined them knowing I could heal naturally with such a small tear.
They helped me to the bathroom for the first time and on my way off the bed, a gush of blood came down onto my legs and the floor. I had never felt so fragile, wondering what kind of damage had been done to my body through pushing. My heart sank and I thought this was going to be a complication, but they assured me that this was normal and that I actually had very minimal bleeding during & after delivery. They recommended I use the peri bottle while I was urinating to help ease the sting.
I heard this as I was midway through, but luckily it didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would. Ashley was familiar with the Frida Mom postpartum care line and helped me set up my first instant ice pad as I stepped into an adult diaper. By the time I made it back from the bed they had already cleaned up the mess by the bed and put fresh pads on the bed for me.
While Austin & I soaked in all those newborn snuggles, our midwives cleaned up Aurora’s room and reorganized our remaining supplies. They took care of everything from storing the placenta in the fridge for us so I could make an imprint later and threw out towels used in the birth. They even drained, deflated, and removed the pool without us even noticing!
They did everything they could to make sure everything was taken care of so we could just focus on our baby. I couldn’t be more thankful to have had Marli & Ashley as our midwives for Aurora’s birth. They helped give us the experience we were hoping for and only intervened when absolutely necessary allowing us to have a mostly undisturbed birth. I cannot express my gratitude for how hard they worked through the night and into the late morning. I remember at one point they asked if they could sit to eat and we were like, “yes!!!”. We all deserved a break after a night like that.
After the midwives left, Kim came in to check in on us and suggested that we all get some rest. Austin & I napped with Aurora on our bed for nearly four hours straight! We woke just to feed Aurora and ourselves. The exhaustion had finally caught up with us. None of that mattered though when we looked at our perfect little daughter. We were both so proud of her and grateful for how healthy she had turned out to be. I couldn’t have been happier with how our home birth happened without any issues. Our “Lil’ Sprout” had finally arrived and life was a whole lot better from that moment on.
Stay tuned for more articles on vegan pregnancy & parenting, homebirth and the experience of midwifery. Have a question or feedback about this story? Drop it in the comments section below!
As always, thanks for your love & support.
‘Til next time!
Follow me on Instagram @its_theplantbasedbae for more updates!
Follow The Plant Based Base via Email
Sign up to receive an email each time a new post is uploaded. Never miss another post again!