Having a home birth is unique in ways that may not always be possible in a hospital. Hegen Mum, Wu Jiezhen, followed her dream of bringing her baby into the world, in its own pace and time while being in the home environment with people she loved. This is her personal birth story.
Hello Jiezhen! Can you tell us about yourself and how you came to the decision to do a home birth?
I am a first time mom. I live in the United States together with my husband, Jared. I had my baby girl, Juniper Joy Wu-Kong (@dearjuniperjoy), at home. It was such a transformative and magical experience - I never knew birth could be so beautiful.
We actually started with regular OBGYN care in a large hospital network here for the first 20 weeks of the pregnancy, but felt it quite transactional. I also wanted to avoid unnecessary medical intervention as much as possible – which unfortunately happens quite often in the US. Furthermore, because of Covid-19 safety restrictions, Jared was not allowed in any of my appointments at the clinic. This meant he had to video call me during all our appointments, including the moment we heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time, even though he was just outside the building. Being pregnant in a pandemic also made the choice even more clear to avoid exposure to hospitals as much as possible - especially being in California where case numbers were very high. Once I found out my pregnancy was low-risk and received the green light from the doctor for a home birth, we switched over to midwifery care, chose our birthing team, and didn’t look back.
We are very excited to hear about your home birth story. Please share with us how it all happened.
I woke up at 1am with small cramps and felt rather uncomfortable but it still felt early so I tried to go back to sleep. I woke up again 2 hours later because the cramping started getting stronger. I started making audible sounds and couldn’t ignore them anymore. Soon the surges started building and my sounds eventually woke Jared up.
As each surge started to build, I felt my body tightening. Then I remembered what we learnt in our birthing class: to soften, open, release. Jared helped me apply counter pressure on my lower back and he started timing the contractions and surges using the Full Term app. I would feel relaxed and completely normal in between surges but as they got longer and stronger, I got on all fours on the bed and nuzzled my face into the pillow, leaning forward and riding each wave.
Jared updated our birth team and informed all work commitments. He put on my birthing music playlist to set the mood for the birthing space and prepared all my snacks and drinks. I couldn’t keep any food down but took lots of sips of my homemade Labour-Aid, coconut water and fresh water! We learnt in our birthing class that it was important to stay hydrated during early labour, so Jared would make sure to offer me something to drink in between.
My doula suggested getting into the shower with the birth ball to freshen up and shift positions. I wrapped myself up in my bathrobe after and laid on the bed with a hot water bottle and warm sock filled with rice to help manage the surges. We learnt in birthing class that each contraction and surge will only last for at most 90 seconds at a time - so I knew that I just had to ride the wave for 90 seconds. And I reminded myself that I knew I could do anything for 90 seconds. All through early labour, our doula supported us via our WhatsApp until it was time for her to arrive. Her calming presence, reassurance and love were so essential to helping Jared and me feel safe and supported.
By this time, I had been labouring for about 7 hours already, and I was starting to get tired. I remembered the birth affirmation on our wall and asked Jared to read it to me. My birth mantra was “Meet the magic in the moment,” and I had decorated the wall in our bedroom with messages from my friends and family, and words I wanted to remember on this journey to bring Juniper into the world. As Jared read the birth affirmation, I began to surrender, and suddenly each wave - while still intense, was much less draining.
Embracing the Unconventional
Our doula arrived around noon. She worked with Jared to massage my lower back with an amazing massage oil that helped me relax. She suggested I sit on the toilet to labour. Never would I have imagined labouring on the toilet. I had seen pictures of people doing that and thought - that seems unsanitary. But when you’re in the middle of birth-land you’ll do whatever you need to do to help baby arrive. So into the bathroom I went with my pillow and straddled the toilet. And WOW did it help bring baby down!
My midwife and her assistant arrived 2 hours later, and upon arrival they checked my vitals and baby’s heartbeat. Typically they wouldn’t do any cervical checks unless requested. But I wanted to know how far along I was and whether I was ready to get into the tub so I asked my midwife to check. My midwife wouldn’t tell me how dilated I was but just told me I was ready to get into the tub if I would like. I later learnt I was about 8cm at this time. I felt the urge to push and decided I wanted to get in. My midwife started filling the tub as I laboured through more surges. It felt so close yet so far - and I started feeling frustrated that the birth tub was taking some time to fill up! I wanted to get in so badly because I knew it would provide me with some relief.
Jared got in with me. His arms around me made me feel strong, safe and supported, just as I had intended. The warm water felt amazing and I immediately relaxed. My midwife told me to take a break and reach down and feel my baby’s head. I felt it and it was the most amazing feeling! To know Juniper was so close - that she was real and that she was there, gave me a deep source of strength.
Going for a walk outside 14 hours into labour
I started getting frustrated that Juniper wasn’t coming down faster. I got out of the tub and tried the birthing stool - basically a metal chair without a seat. Still, it felt like I wasn’t progressing and my birth team suggested maybe I should go for a walk outside. I knew I always felt better after going on a walk – I’ve just never gone on a walk 14 hours into labour before. Jared held me close as we walked down the stairs. Every few steps, I would feel another wave coming on and would have to stop and breathe through it as I leaned into Jared. I walked incredibly slowly and my doula fed me spoons of soup between contractions.
We took a few steps onto the street when I asked my doula what I should do. She smiled and said, “Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to this version of yourself - release her free and go get your baby. It’s time to become a mother.” And something in me shifted. This was my moment of transition. I opened my eyes and looked up at the vast blue sky. I said out loud with tears in my eyes, “Lucky Charm, we’re ready for you. There’s so much of this wonderful world I want you to see - so many adventures we want to take you on.” And in that moment, I found a deep well of strength, power and motivation.
I stepped back into our house with a newfound sense of determination. I went straight to the toilet and sat on it. The walk brought the surges back and they were so intense. Jared sat in front of me, holding my hands - tears welling up in his eyes with a kind of love and admiration I hadn’t seen before.
This time, I knew I was ready to get back in the birthing tub to push. My midwife reminded me “Connect with your baby. Talk to her. Communicate what you need and work together.” My doula helped to light a candle in our room that I had been saving for the birth and put on some birthing affirmations. I told Juniper that I was ready and every time the intense wave came, I said, “Hi Baby, Hi Baby, Hi Baby,” reminding myself that it was Juniper moving through me and that each one was bringing me closer to having her in my arms.
After 2 hours of pushing and changing positions multiple times in the birthing tub, I told my birthing team I was getting onto the birthing stool. I had initially thought I would give birth to Juniper in the water - but I knew I needed to feel the groundedness of the earth under my feet for our little Lucky Charm to arrive earthside.
My midwife guided me through the pushing and she applied a warm towel on my perineum.
I remember Jared sitting with his arms around me, and looking at my birthing team holding space as I brought our daughter into the world. I pushed in this position for about 30 minutes. I was laser focused, using my breath to bring baby down – there was nothing holding me back now. Soon I felt her head emerge and on the next push our midwife said, “Here comes your baby!” And caught Juniper and put her in our arms. She was so beautiful and Jared started crying and we both kept saying, “Hi Baby!”
Would you do home birth again?
Definitely. I felt so empowered through the process, and learnt to trust my body to do what it was designed to do. Birth can be such a beautiful process, if we allow it to be. It only happens a few times in our lives – I didn’t want miss the magic of full experience of birthing a life.
I’m so glad I chose to have a home birth - it was exactly how I imagined bringing Juniper into the world: in a space filled with love, courage and support. It was incredible that Jared was able to be there and involved the entire time, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually - he never left my side. Having a home birth allowed me to go by how my body felt–I just followed my instincts and my birthing team trusted me and listened to me - and I knew I could trust them to keep me safe, which made me feel supported.
What surprised me was that at no point did I think “I can’t do this.” It was definitely one of the most intense experiences of my life. I wouldn’t describe it as painful but knowing each intense sensation was purposeful made it all worthwhile. Juniper gave me the strength I never knew I had, the willingness to lean into discomfort, change and uncertainty, and letting go of plans and fixed ideas (like having her arrive in the birthing tub). And each day, she reminds me to stay flexible and flow with her - because each day together is only our best adventure yet.
I am truly grateful to my doula Stacey Blackwell @modernladoula, Blyss Young, my midwife @birthingblyss and Kim B, assistant midwife @firstlovemidwifery for journeying with me.
Welcome to the world, Juniper!
Juniper is now 10 months old and is truly a bundle of joy. She’s crawling and cruising around and learning how to walk and loves pulling herself to stand. Juniper continues to be our greatest teacher and we are so grateful for her being in our lives and giving us this gift of becoming her parents.
If you’d like more information on resources that Jiezhen used for her home birth preparation, feel free to get in touch with her @jiezhen on Instagram.
Photo credits: Stacey Blackwell @modernladoula
Today, there are many types of childbirth and delivery methods available. Birth methods are individual choices. Always seek your local obstetrician-gynecologist’s advice before making your choice.