There was no question that if I was going to have a homebirth it was going to be with Karen Webster. I was a postpartum and birth doula, I also taught prenatal yoga, so I was involved in the birth community. I had met Karen a few times over the years and I knew people who had homebirths with her. Karen is the best of the best, the midwife that the midwives go to.
When I was pregnant with my first child I decided to go to a birth center. I thought I could get the same experience there as I would at home. I had my favorite midwives at the birth center, but some I did not feel comfortable with, and many I had never met. Wouldn’t it be great to know who was going to be at my birth?
During that first pregnancy, my water broke at 39 ½ weeks but since I was not in active labor by 24 hours, the birth center said I had to move over to the hospital. I didn't have a fever, was not GBS positive and there were no problems with the baby, but the birth center had to follow protocol, rules were rules. It was time to put on the hospital gown, ID bracelet and get the IVs flowing. During my long labor the midwives changed shifts leaving me with a midwife I had never met. Except for my terrified husband, concerned mother, and exhausted doula, who all felt like they had to stay out of the way, I was surrounded by strangers. I had no privacy. I wasn’t even allowed to go to the bathroom because they wanted to constantly monitor me. They put a portable toilet in middle of the room. When the pitocin wasn’t working fast enough, they suggested an epidural. The nurses warned us about the impatient doctor on duty that night and how he was “sharpening his knives in the hallway”. I hated how the epidural made me numb and had no connection with my body. I needed to wear an oxygen mask, which horrified my husband since his mom had just died of a lung disease months before. He thought I was going to die. When I got to 10 centimeters, I asked them to turn off the epidural and they forced me to push, even though I had no urge. The bright lights shone down on me as everyone watched. They wouldn’t let me close my legs between contractions. One medical intervention lead to another, episiotomy, third-degree tear, but after 4 hours of pushing my son was born. They took him from me to put him under the warming lights – something my body could have done better. We left the hospital as soon as we could.
Later one of the birth center midwives asked us to write a letter to the doctor, thanking him for “letting me have a vaginal birth”.
My husband and I were left with regrets, anger, sadness and symptoms of PTSD. As we planned the birth of our second child we couldn't forget all the medical interventions, which may have been unnecessary, during my first birth.
I liked the idea of a homebirth, it made sense to me since birth is normal and natural. I also didn’t feel comfortable being away from my son since I never had been gone overnight before. It was time to trust my instincts.
When we had our first meeting with Karen, we appreciated her sense of humor. We also cherished her honesty and wealth of knowledge. I trusted Karen Webster completely and loved the two student midwives, Wendy and Lauren, working with her. They made me feel safe and treated me with respect, two things I did not experience during the first birth. Karen trusted my body’s wisdom, which made me feel confident.
This time around 40 weeks, I started having cramps. Inconsistent, annoying cramps that kept me awake but didn’t get more intense or closer together. I visited the chiropractor and the acupuncturist, but still no relief. After about 24 hours of cramps, I was exhausted, frustrated, began to worry and get upset. I called Karen, who I had been texting regularly. She listened, gave some suggestions and sent her student Wendy over (who lived nearby) to check on me. Turns out I was in active labor! As soon as my mind knew my body had a plan, and that the last 24 hours of cramps were opening my cervix, things started rolling. I got a burst of energy! My contractions began to come on stronger and closer together. All my worries were gone and I was excited to have a baby! My son was asleep, my mom was helpful, my husband was busy with important birth-baby-prep tasks, and my cats were around. I was near my kitchen, my bathroom, I was free to move, comfortable, safe - I was home.
Karen arrived as my husband filled the birth tub and Wendy set up the supplies. After a couple hours upstairs, I moved downstairs because I was feeling a change. A few minutes later, with a contraction, I had the urge to push! Something I had never felt during the first birth. The exciting, primal, natural urge, where my body just did it without being forced, in fact it couldn’t be stopped! I got into the tub. This was when my husband stepped up to shine. He kneeled by the tub, holding my hands, looking into my eyes, supporting me physically and emotionally, giving me strength. He was my rock. I depended on him during pushing. He wasn’t scared like last time. We were both empowered, thanks to Karen. Nobody rushed my contractions, no one counted or shouted as I pushed. Karen gave me gentle, encouraging words when I needed guidance. Wendy gently checked the baby’s heart rate throughout the night. They were relaxed and patient, even reassuring me to take it slow. The four hours from the time I knew I was in active labor until my daughter was born went by so quickly. With that last push, my daughter swam out and into my arms. It was amazing.
My son woke up shortly after. It was about 4:00 AM. When he walked out of the bedroom and in to the hallway he saw his sister for the first time. He was so excited. His first words to her were, “I will love you forever”.
My homebirth was probably the best experience of my life. I wouldn’t have done it without Karen Webster.
Comments from Karen:
Heather, What a great and triumphant story, I love it and am so very happy we were able to help you create the space for you to realize your OWN power to give birth!! I’m grateful that we could be there to support and encourage you and to make sure things were staying normal, but I want you to know that that’s what we did for you - created and guarded your own birth space, and YOU did the work of birth!!
All I do is believe.