I’m not writing this article for praise, opinions or debate. I’m not suggesting there’s any right way to give birth, because the truth is, in the end, the ONLY thing that matters is the health of the mother and child. Period. I’m writing it simply to share my experience, perhaps lend some insight to the curious, and shine a light on one of the why’s behind the choice to give birth at home. I say this, because I know how emotionally charged opinions of birth can be.
I was asked once to share my story in an online forum not too long ago (for natural parenting) and was met with a particularly harsh critic who indignantly commented and suggested that I might want give myself an award for my accomplishments (complete with a microphone for amplifying my message). It momentarily shocked and jarred me to have this type of harsh response, and so I reached out to her and asked why?
To my surprise, she quickly responded back to me with an honesty about her birth experience and the fact that it wasn’t her ideal. I wrote back to her and said that I was sorry for her experience, but that I was in no way suggesting that mine was the righteous way, because that’s what she read into the lines from me. That is, before she ended up apologizing to me by saying that there’s no space between us since I’m not preaching (I never was). But the whole experience tainted my willingness to share, because it’s was hurtful. For me it was hurtful, because I was misunderstood and attacked, and for her, because it opened fresh wounds about this white hot topic of birth.
So here’s my story…
When I was six months along in my pregnancy with my first child, there came a time when we needed to discuss where I was going to give birth. At the time, I was with a local OBGYN that had a midwife in the practice who I was comfortable with. She advised us to visit the local hospital birthing center that was used in the practice. So an appointment was scheduled and my husband and I took the tour of the hospitals facilities.
When we arrived at the hospital we were greeted by a friendly staff and were given a brief tour of the birthing center. The center consisted of room upon room of birthing suites. The nurse who was giving us the tour kept emphasizing the comforting environment they were trying to create in this less than familiar setting. It was fine. She couldn’t have been nicer about making me feel welcomed and at ‘home’.
I made it clear that I had a birth plan in place and wanted it to be honored. I didn’t want medical interventions or medicines offered to me. The nurse re-assured me that many people come in with birth plans, but then she went on to say that even though they did try to follow them, things change quickly in the birthing process and most women will ask for medical interventions through pain killers or drugs to speed up the process.
Call me a masochist, but I wanted my body to function without drugs, even if that meant pain. That was my choice. I needed support with my choice, not someone suggesting that I would be singing a different tune once I was there. She was certainly not speaking for me in that moment, and yet it felt like she was acting as my judge and jury with her less-than encouraging response about the way things typically go.
It wasn’t until I was in the viewing room where I was being re-assured about hospital security that my stomach and heart moved. Something in that moment let me know that this was not right for me. Maybe it was the discussion my husband and I had with her about opting out of pricking our son with a needle to give him a vaccine for an STD that I didn’t have (hepatitis B). Or maybe it was the less-than-comforting words from the nurse letting me know that my baby would not be away from me for very long. Why would he need to be away from me in the first place? Maybe it was the realization that mistakes are made. All I know is that my intuition was on high alert and, in that moment, I knew that I needed to step back from the situation and re-evaluate what I was doing.
I went home and got to work. I needed to know how women gave birth naturally – before hospitals. What about these stories of women giving birth in the back of a taxi cab and the baby and mother are fine. How does that happen if we need a hospital for this? What is the truth? I read. A lot.
My research led me to the name of a local woman who taught the Bradley Method of Birth, which is a very natural way to approach birth. So I called her and we spoke about the method and she invited my husband and me to her next class (which happened to be starting that week). It was good timing and I just knew it was right.
We went to the series of Bradley classes and learned about birthing. We learned that Dr. Bradley was really a veterinarian and first learned about birth from animals. I found this fascinating and felt right at home, because my own father raised me with the understanding of observing nature to explain the world around us. So even though it was a bit odd, it also felt oddly familiar. I know what some of you may be thinking, but stay with me here, animals have an instinct protecting them in situations of fear and uncertainty. There’s no reasoning with a wild animal. It’s pure instinct for them. And what I learned from the Bradley classes was fascinating, because animals instinctively know when to give birth. How do we know this? Because Dr. Bradley witnessed time and time again that if you transport an animal in the middle of labor to another venue for birth, more often than not the labor stops. Why does this happen? Because the comfort and safety of the animal was breeched.
Upon hearing and understanding the story of birth and the animal instinct, I thought, “Why not?” It makes sense. I had been reading about the many medical complications that can follow when labor stops. In story after story I read about emergency C sections as a result of labor stopping, because medical induction didn’t produce the desired results. Too many stories were the same. It went something like this: Expecting mother leaves for the hospital in full labor, arrives at the hospital and labor stops or stalls. Then drugs come into the picture to ‘help’ labor along to start the process again. Sometimes the drugs work, sometimes they don’t. Regardless, drugs are administered AND if you are pumped full of drugs and still not getting the desired results, then it’s going to move quickly towards the direction of a C- Section. It has to, because it’s too risky to let the health and safety of the mother and baby hang in limbo when complications arise.
I knew that I did not want any medical intervention unless it was life threatening. I also knew that I didn’t want to gamble on a non-complicated hospital birth experience for me. You see, I’m an introvert by nature, and I’m not comfortable with people doting around me in any way. I’m especially not comfortable being in a medical setting, because there are too many absolute opinions for my inquiring mind. I would never have the home court advantage and I could very easily be like one of those observed by Dr. Bradley, who moved to the birthing center only to have labor stall and stop. Of course, there’s also the matter of me being a contrarian (just born that way) I generally like life on the outside of the box, that’s why I question nearly everything I’m told. So for me, a hospital didn’t seem like a place to start questioning too much, and certainly not while in the position of labor. So YES, I could definitely see the writing on that proverbial wall – for me, it was plain as day – and so I listened to my gut and it said, “STAY HOME.”
My decision was made. I was going to find a midwife to assist in my labor at home and I did. She had an ethereal presence that soothed my probing soul. She was the perfect person to support the delivery of our son, and she did. It was beautiful.
His birthday was by far the hardest thing I’d ever encountered, but it was a different kind of hard. It was demanding of me and yet it was not in need of me. I can remember the chorus of profoundly raging hormones and emotions pumping uncontrollably through my body, taking me to a place where my mind just said “ENOUGH!!!” I was ready to throw in the towel with all the mental and physical exhaustion. IT WAS THEN that my midwife sensed my grief and said, “Even if you pass out and you do nothing else, your body will do it for you” I thought, “What!? Are you kidding me!?” To be in the throes of labor and to be told that if I pass out from the enormity of it all, that somehow my body will complete this process? I exhaled with a HUGE and trusting sigh of relief. It didn’t stop the pain, but somehow it comforted me enough to get through this bodily experience of birth.
I’m happy to say that all went well and we were celebrating the birth of our son at the end of my laboring work day of shortly before 9am to 5:31pm. I had champagne in hand slightly after 6pm, in my own bed, quietly and privately in serenity with my newborn son.
And just like that, all the pains of labor were forgotten. I no longer pained over any reminder of the event. I know that it happened, my mind told me so, but my heart said let the pain go. You’d do it all over again – and I did. We have three beautiful children and they were all brought into this world within the comfort of our home. Not because it was the righteous way, but because it was my chosen way. I’m grateful to have experienced the support that I needed for that to happen. Support that’s been passed down through a millennia of women within our vast maternal network of knowledge shared for the delivery of new born life.