Joy One and Joy Two

Anne Miller first called me in the wintertime of 2011. I assumed initially she was Amish, as a vast expanse of my clients were named Miller. That year alone I’d serve eight Miller famlies, with a remarkable many sharing first names. This made the midnight calls interesting, you may be sure. “You’re calling about Maggie? Um… what road does this Maggie live on?” And that didn’t even always work, now that I think of it. “Whose Maggie? Please, who are YOU?”

Goodness.

But Anne called and I answered and, soon enough, I learned she was NOT actually Amish. Though I didn’t know it then, Anne, with her soulful eyes and her honey golden hair and her warmest of hearts and her ever attentive ears, was to become, not only one of my clients, but one of my treasured friends.

Join me as Anne tells the stories of her two homebirths!

Anne Miller

Hi, my name is Anne Miller, and I have been blessed with an amazing husband, Noah, and two kids who were born at home.  I am writing my memories while a very active five-year old, Elijah, and our three-year old, Naomi, talk and play with each other.  I realize the exact details of their homebirths is dim – until I begin looking at the pictures.

Looking at the pictures brings back all the “firsts” with our son – the insecurities, joys, challenges (both physical and emotional), and the wonder and amazement of how God created life to come to be.  For me as a woman, a coming of age in a completely new way – becoming a mom.  For us as a couple, becoming a family of three – experiencing the highs and lows of the first few months of adjusting.  Taking all of those experiences and growing in them through our second birth – the birth of our daughter, and seeing how to take the good, how to grow from the painful struggles, and to see the fulfillment of hopes and dreams worked out in a more peaceful confidence.

At the middle of all of that is the simple, but crucial decision we made to birth at home.

A homebirth doesn’t start with contractions.  For us, our journey started shortly after finding out we were expecting our first child.  We were ecstatic!  I have several friends who’d had homebirths, and to me it was a logical, natural choice.  To my husband and both our families, it was not.  To me, I hoped I would be able to cope, and we were close enough to major medical care (forty-five minutes maximum) that I didn’t see any issues with it. Before we even announced that we were expecting, I got in touch with my friend, Sarah Donahue, to ask for the telephone number of her midwife.  After talking it over with my husband, Noah, we decided to call and set up that first appointment to see if we’d be a candidate for homebirth.  I am a bigger woman, and I honestly didn’t know if Kim would take us because of that, but she didn’t see it as a hindrance.  As with any other pregnancy, we monitored the baby’s health and mine, and there were no complications.

Those visits became a growing and learning time.  Kim was not only our midwife, but a woman who became a friend and mentor in so many ways.  Sometimes it was just Kim, other times her daughter, Hannah (now also a midwife herself), also came, and sometimes another of Kim’s apprentices came along, too.  We had visits that lasted over an hour, and I looked forward to each one!

Kim never pushed her personal views on us – she would present the facts from her wealth of experience, answer the unending questions we had, and, from that, I always felt empowered to make a decision.  Kim was even so kind as to have a meeting with my mother-in-law to answer her many questions – concerns for our safety – and Kim helped her to process the journey with us.  Regarding health, nutrition, preparation, all the “IS THIS NORMAL?!?!???” questions, Kim was selflessly there.  That’s why my homebirth story does not start with the actual birth day.  The “due date” was shifted forward by a week or so as the pregnancy moved along, and we ended up giving birth closer to the adjusted date.  I wasn’t too concerned about the actual due date.  I saw it more as “give or take a couple weeks.”

The days and months went by and, in hindsight, they flew, until the days drew to a close and it was TIME.  It was the very last day of August.  That morning was normal enough, and then I felt some small cramp-like twinges through the day.  At one point, I looked at Noah and said something to the effect of “do you want to be a dad today?” but not knowing if it was the real thing, because I was really expecting my water to break to signal the start of labor.

It was a Wednesday. We had church that night, and I called Kim and shared what I was feeling.  She was pretty sure it was it, and encouraged me to get some rest, but we were in church ministry, and had a visit to make after service.  As we sat there through the visit, I could see a clock.  I was having the occasional contraction, but nothing I could track with regularity.  We got home late, but I had my husband help me make the bed in preparation and get our totes of birth supplies out, and then things began to move with an intensity that truly took me off guard.

Regular contractions began right around midnight, and I let them go for an hour or so before I had Noah call Kim.  I had no clue how long things would take, or how far I was into laboring, and was relieved when Kim, Hannah, and Luanne showed up.   Most of the laboring was done up in our bedroom, but the bathroom was downstairs.  We had borrowed a commode, but I still went downstairs to use the bathroom.  I’ll never forget trying to work through a couple contractions I had down there, as well as those I had while trying to get back up the seventeen steps to the second floor!  I was more comfortable on the bed.

And so the night continued through the early morning, when I got to the textbook reaction of “I don’t think I can do this.”  I was afraid of not doing birth well – laboring to bring my first child into the world hit me to the depth of my core emotionally with the weight of responsibility.  That’s when having Kim there as my friend as well as my midwife was huge.  We share the same faith in Jesus, and she was able to gently remind me of what I needed in that moment.  Noah was also there through it all, and his presence was a strong support.  We were not even to our first anniversary, and it was hard for him seeing me in pain at times.

And then things transitioned again.  I was exhausted, but those last few moments were a good working pain – I knew it was accomplishing the right end result, and I welcomed it.  My body was doing exactly what God designed it to do, and it was because of all the talks Kim and I’d had about birth that helped me to have that kind of positive mindset when it mattered most.  The shakes and getting sick to my stomach were a surprise.  I remember Kim and Hannah massaging my legs with lavender essential oil and olive oil.  I remember working with the contractions, but more intuitively and not really consciously breathing a certain way or counting anything.  I was aware of action around me and all the encouraging words and hands helping to support me in a modified McRoberts position.  And then the water broke as the little head came out.  Kim asked me if I wanted to touch it, and that is one thing I wish I had done, but I felt I was too in the middle of it at the time to “enjoy” it.  A made a few strong pushes and took a huge deep breath.  We had not found out ahead of time what we were having, but a little after 6:00 am on the first of September, HE was here.

Then those quiet moments after – looking each other over – the awkward, completely natural, but “it doesn’t feel natural,” nursing in a peaceful bliss – our sighs of relief as light began to filter in the windows – waiting to clamp and cut the cord – almost passing out when trying to use the bathroom, and the not so pleasant moments of being sick, and the sting from a small tear.  But all was well – we had made it through, and emerged as a family with Kim and her team taking care of so many needs – cleaning, checking, feeding, caring for us as a family, examining our baby – all unobtrusively so that we could rest.  It was quiet.  There was a peaceful rest.

Had we been in the hospital, I know it could have been good, but it would not have been the same sacred experience.  As a couple, we experienced the sights, sounds, and moment-by-moment through the truly exhausting night welcoming our son.  What I saw and felt was different from my husband’s perspective, and we both had a lot to talk about and process after the birth.  The rawness of the beauty, and the intricacies that have to be experienced – there’s only so much preparation you can do for the first one!  How it shaped and molded us as individuals, as a couple, for our son and his health, and as a family was profound.

We grew as a family.  Learning to do everything differently – every aspect of life changed.  Those first few weeks were filled with MANY more questions and challenges.  I was so glad for the postnatal visits that I didn’t want them to end.

Time went by, and we found out we were expecting our second.  Kim was one of the first calls we made.  It turned out we had “scheduled” things (joking) during two vacations she had planned, and we weren’t sure she would be able to attend the birth.  As a couple, we didn’t want anyone else, so we did our prenatal care with Kim and Hannah, who had grown in her own skills as a midwife.  They assured us that one way or another we’d be covered.  They were staggering their vacations, and had arranged for a “back up” midwife, Jean Balm, the midwife Kim had apprenticed under.

The house we were living in was going to be remodeled, and we had to move out for what was supposed to be only a couple months, leaving us plenty of time to move back in and prepare for another homebirth.  Well, a couple months turned into five.  We ended up moving back in just about three weeks from the baby’s due date.  That was a huge hurdle that many friends helped with.

The due dates had always been an estimate to me, and I didn’t get too concerned when the first date came and went – again – we had adjusted the date a little bit into the pregnancy.  I was just relieved we were back in the house, except that every day brought us closer to Kim and Hannah’s vacations.  Kim had a new apprentice this time around, and we enjoyed getting to know Anna as she came to visits.  We made an appointment with Jean to meet her ahead of time, so it wouldn’t be an awkward 2:00 am phone call and “Nice to meet you, we’re laboring here…”   Kim worked things out so that Anna would be able to attend the birth with Jean, and it was a huge blessing to have them both there.  At the last visit we had with Kim, she checked things and thought the baby would come soon, but when she would be out of town.  Kim had loaned me a book about birth from a Christian perspective toward the end of the pregnancy that was a huge encouragement for me, and helped me prepare for the new one coming, in addition to all the other books, resources, and materials she provided.

I don’t remember the specifics of the day as much as with Elijah, but it was very similar.  We called Jean and let her know we thought it was probably starting.  Again we got the bed ready, and regular contractions hit right around midnight.  Noah made the call and Jean came in quietly.  Anna arrived, too.  This time around it was somewhat different in that both Noah and I knew better what to expect this time.  It was quieter, more peaceful and, if anything, more relaxed.  I dozed during the moments between contractions.  Jean suggested different positions and, again, I ended up laboring a lot on the bed, doing what I felt intuitively.  I was concerned about waking Elijah who was not yet two, but he slept through everything.  Again, it was right at the end when my water broke, and around 6:30 am, we welcoming our new little one here.

Elijah came into our room and welcomed his new baby sister after she was born, and we all settled in and enjoyed the light of dawn coming through the windows.  We shared smiles and wonder as we looked at Naomi.  We nursed, rested, delayed the cord clamping, and chose to use the placenta for the hormonal benefits this time around.  Nursing was a struggle with Elijah (because of both of us and some other challenges), but with Naomi, we were successful long term.  I’m so glad we tried breastfeeding again, and that I had done more research so we would be more successful.

Elijah and Naomi both had the exact same birth weights, almost the exact same times of active labor, and almost same times of birth, but their births were as unique as they are as individuals.  I am so glad we had the opportunity to have homebirths.  We were so blessed it was with women who cared for us in the most professional way, encouraged us, proved themselves completely trustworthy, and shared so much of themselves with us.  We wouldn’t trade our births for anything.

Some names have been changed upon request.

by Anne Miller

Photographs provided by the Miller family.

Thank you so much for the gift of your time!

If you enjoyed this article, let’s stay connected! And if you’d like to see my memoir of similar stories published and in your hands, then subscribe to my blog, and join in the conversation by commenting below!

And be sure to poke around here a bit, as there are lots more stories awaiting you.

Also, a book comprised of 17 of my informative articles, Nourish & Thrive, is available for sale at The Book Patch.

And keep a watch out for the publication of my memoir!

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