It is funny what you end up talking about at parties, isn’t it? You see, today, at a Superbowl party, where, I am sure, the expected conversation is about stats and Archie Manning and what an upset the Saints just caused, Hubby and I ended up at the kitchen table talking about homebirth versus hospital birth and why we made that choice. Until I lived here, in the land of the status quo, I didn’t realize that my choices were counter-cultural, and that, to some, they are seen as radical / fundamentalist or just plain mental; and that to talk about them makes me an advocate, an activist, someone whose opinion can be seen as marred in some way by their belief that it is right… as if to have an opinion makes you somehow unqualified to share that same opinion.
The thing is, I passionately believe that home birth / birth center birth is by far the best choice a mother can make for herself and her baby. And believe me, I realize that, if anyone is actually reading this blog, I will get multitudinous comments on safety and high risk etc etc. We are all entitled to our opinion, and, since this is my blog, I get to share mine here.
My boys were both born at home, in a birthing tub, in vastly different circumstances. Their births could not have been more different from one another; one was long and laborious, the other short and intense; one was peaceful and worry free, the other came with a chaser of anxiety; one was early, the other late; but the similarities far outweigh the differences.
From the moment I found out I was expecting, I knew I would have a home delivery, at this point, mind you, I did not know what that would look like, I just knew that I didn’t trust a medical system so adept at malpractice and MRSA infections to make the best choices for me and my baby. Like most home birthing families, we came upon our convictions gradually but with increasing force.
The more I learned about birth the American way, the more I became convinced that I, like thousands of women for thousands of years before me, could do this with out the interventions of malpractice-insurance-shy doctors and hospital administrators. We developed an almost insatiable thirst for knowledge of the God-given design of my body; the amazing way that all the systems of a woman’s body come together during a natural birth to relieve pain, transfer nutrition, take care of the infant through every stage. The more I learned how I was designed to bring life into the world, the more I became convinced that doctors don’t have the best interests of mothers and babies at heart, they have only their procedures and risk-mitigation-strategies.
Natural birth has been labeled “granola”, it is associated with commune-dwelling hippies and old ladies with a kettle of hot water and some towels. The reality is so far from that as to be unrecognizable. I received the highest level of prenatal care, far more visits than my hospital-delivering friends; we were educated to the point of confidence in any eventuality, we were encouraged to believe that this wonderful thing called birth was not only positive but part of created purpose, that I was, in fact, more than able to meet this labor head on… pun totally intended;)
Our first son was born after 20 hours of labor, hard labor by all accounts, labor that was in and out of water, in my flat, with my husband and doula (mothers’ birthing assistant), attended by the most loving and experienced midwife. I ate and drank and rested, it was dark and we had music playing; when my labor stalled after 12 hours, my midwife suggested I move around a bit, so we danced (well, really I shuffled while my hubby held me up). When transition came and I became convinced that I could do nothing more, they reminded me that I could, that this was expected, that he was on his way and that my lack of confidence was to be embraced as my body took over and my mind relinquished the control that it thought would spare me but was actually causing pain. And when, finally, he was born, I brought him out and up to my chest with such joy and delight and pride and relief that I can scarcely believe, even now 6 years later, that I did it. And then he opened his eyes and it was love at first blink. The damp dark quiet was not interrupted by screams, water-birthed babies often don’t cry, such is the gentleness of their transition; I held him as the placenta finished pumping the rest of his nutrient rich blood, and then nursed him as I delivered it. As I stood in my own shower contemplating the sweetness of my bed, he lay in his daddy’s arms as he was gently measured and tested.
The next morning, after all three of us had a full night’s sleep in our bed, he awoke hungry and with very specific desires in that regard.. he took to nursing like he had the night before, and I stared in awe at the little human who 24 hours ago was still on his way out. Birth, to me, will always be a miraculous process, a joyful participation in creation. It matters to me how he came into the world, it matters to me how I felt about his birth and I will always advocate for others to not have to accept that, “the end justifies the means,all that really matters is that your baby is here and healthy.” Yes, that is paramount and the result of a birth should always be a healthy baby, but not just baby, surely the mother deserves the same, a safe and healthy delivery, free from narcotics and surgeries and synthetic hormones that your body would produce on its own if you just gave it time. OK, I have ranted for long enough…
For now, Good Night,
I remain, yours
The Reluctant Suburbanite