A Home Birthing Story

I’m pretty sure it never occurred to me I’d ever give birth at home. The first time around, I headed straight to the hospital, hooked up to the epidural, pushed her out and breathed a sigh of relief.

After researching homebirth extensively while co-writing my book, my perspective on birthing began to shift. Birthing was not a medical event in most situations, I realized. It was a life cycle event that belonged to the realm of the family, and it could be meaningful and loving and powerful.

Eight days ago, I gave birth to my second child at home in my bedroom. My three-year-old was watching raptly, making me laugh, bringing me presents and playing with the midwife’s birthing stool. My husband and two midwives rounded out my team of supporters, helping me to move through resistance and bring a beautiful new soul into the world.

homebirth baby

When my midwives came by the day after the birth to check on us, one remarked that my labor was a million births in one. What did she mean by that, I asked, having only been present at two myself. It had its boring parts, she said, like when she showed up and I was laboring in the tub. It had its intense parts, like when we were all shouting “yes!” in unison as I was pushing the baby out. It had its restful parts, like when I fell asleep between contractions during transition. It had its calm parts and its fearful parts and its dramatic parts–like when the baby’s head was out and he began kicking his body visibly inside me, trying to work his way out, something my midwife had never seen in her 35 years of practice. It had its funny parts, like when I initiated a round of laughter yoga and my midwife joined in. It had its romantic parts, like when I asked my husband to kiss me as I pushed the baby out.

For me, though, the birth came down to a tremendous physical and psychological challenge–overcoming my fear of the intense sensations I was feeling and finding my way through them using tools that shifted with each contraction. One contraction could be mitigated through rhythmic breathing, another through back massage, another through hugging my husband tightly. I was afraid, not of what could happen to me, but of what was happening to me, of why I was unable to mitigate the sensation through relaxation as I have been able to in yoga. My midwife wisely explained to me that my goal wasn’t to relax my uterus, which actually needed to be clenching and tightening in order to push that baby out.

When I finally pushed and then pulled my baby out and held him on my chest, I felt a huge sense of relief, as if I’d conquered a physical challenge akin to a marathon or massive mountain climb. I felt humbled by the experience yet elated by the magnitude of what I’d achieved.

Everything about birthing in my home environment was perfect: being available to my 3-year-old, even nursing her back to sleep while I was in active labor; having free range of my house, including bed and bathtub; having access to my clothing, blankets, pillows and food; being surrounded by skilled caretakers who followed my lead and contributed helpful suggestions when needed; and not needing to go anywhere when it was over.

My birth experience was challenging, it was exhilarating, and it was memorable. I’m glad that I had the courage to stick with it while living a society which has been trained to think of birth as a medical event fraught with danger. I’ve added birthing to my personal list of mothering experiences that I’ve been able to reclaim as my own.

Choosing Midwifery Care

Long before I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have midwifery care. It was the first decision I made in preparation for pregnancy and birth. Now, looking back as the mother of a 5 1/2-year-old and a 2-year-old, I’m glad that I made that decision. I’ve had two midwife-attended births, and I would choose to have another if I became pregnant again.

I made the choice to seek midwifery care for a few reasons. I wanted to get to know my health care provider, and choosing a midwife team allowed that. My midwives worked in pairs, and I became well-acquainted with both of them through prenatal visits. When I gave birth, it was with someone I knew and trusted. I had a goal of giving birth without medications, and with few or no interventions, and my midwives supported that. And I wanted to be involved in my own care. My midwives’ policy of informed consent, coupled with their hour-long prenatal appointments, ensured that I was able to make my voice heard.

More conclusive results

When I wanted to know more about routine newborn procedures, my midwives took the time to answer my questions, and help me make the decision that was best for me. When I decided to forgo certain tests, and request others, they worked with me. I felt that I was part of a team, working together to ensure not only that my baby and I were healthy, but that we were really cared for.

Where I live, midwives are licensed and regulated. They are covered under our public health care system, in the same way that doctors are. They attend home births or hospital births, and offer follow-up visits at your home in the days after birth. I realize that this is not the case for everyone, and that different medical systems may lead to different choices. But I feel fortunate that my midwifery care was covered in the same way that any other prenatal care would have been covered. I was free to choose my care provider based on what was best for me.

Looking pregnant at 24 weeks

Sometimes, complications arise that require midwives to refer their clients to an obstetrician. This happened during my first birth, when I went into labor at 34 weeks. But even in that high-risk situation, my midwives stayed with me as I gave birth, and provided follow-up care after my baby was born. They referred me, and I had an obstetrician, but they didn’t leave me. It meant so much to have them there to help me and advocate for me as I faced a very medicalized birth situation.

I am not sure where life will lead my children. But I know that they both got their starts with the help of some amazing midwives. I am so thankful to those women who stood with me, and guided me through my entry into motherhood.

Have you used midwifery care? Is it an option where you live? And what is important to you when you’re choosing a care provider for pregnancy and birth? I’d love to hear!

Trusting Birth

A few days ago I was putting together a letter for the 2010 Trust Birth Conference and it started me on a train of thought that culminated today as I was sitting having the second pedicure of my life at the local beauty school. Let me take you for a little ride.

Most of us know that your bond with your child starts at a very early age, pre-birth actually. They hear you and are able to sense1101712371_b76082939f many of your emotions. They can even detect some of your actions. A baby can sense when they are wanted and loved and when they are not.

From the very first moment I wanted my baby and everything to do with baby making to be healthy and holistic. Several people suggested I drink before my wedding night to make things “easier.” My thought was “Why? I want this to be the night that my husband and I become one, where we attach, where we form our life-long bond, why would I want to be anesthetized for something as amazing as this?”
Continue reading “Trusting Birth”

Community Baby

Our community is about to welcome another member in to its midst. One of our couples are expecting their first baby any day; at the moment they are a few days past her EDD. I think babies being “late” is a good introduction to being a parent and how a baby is going to turn your life upside down and how your schedule is about to be arranged, permanently. This baby will be welcomed in to the arms of his/her mom and dad and in to the arms of the whole community in the main community house.

The last baby that was born in that house was my niece. I have been wondering how this baby will be different. Honestly, I have never really liked other people’s kids. Well, it’s not that I don’t like them, it is just that I have never really been one of those types who enjoys everyone’s kids and who can always be found holding or playing with other people’s children. My niece is different. She is just a different kind of mine. My attachment to her is very different from the attachment I have with my son, but it is also very different from any other child I have been around; she is also mine.

This baby that is about to arrive is not mine at all, he/she is not my niece/nephew. I have no relation to this child but at the same time I feel invested in her/his life. I have been at all of the prenatal visits, I will be there when the baby is born, I will hold him/her. and I will watch as the baby grow with my child(ren), my nieces, and my nephews. This baby will be different because I will make a commitment to this child, I will choose to be attached and from the moment that child is born throughout its life I will need to be there.
Continue reading “Community Baby”

Natural Birth & Pain Management

ultrasoundI never expected to give birth naturally.  When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child’s birth in February 2009, I anticipated being in the hospital, an epidural in my spine.

In January 2009, I wept as we drove to our midwifery practice for a “Home Birth Information Night.”  It was my birthday.  I would rather have been going out to dinner.  I didn’t want to give birth at home, but our finances could not handle the cost of giving birth in a hospital if there were other options. With my hands clenched atop my swollen belly, feeling my daughter stretch within, I stared out of the window for the entire drive, angry at the government of Canada for not processing my residency and hence my free health care faster, angry at my husband for saying we should go to this information session, and most especially angry at the thought of having to deal with the pain of childbirth.

Pain.

It terrified me. Continue reading “Natural Birth & Pain Management”

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