“You’re having your baby where?”
This was always the first reaction I received when I told someone my plan for an at home birth in a birthing pool. Sometimes it would be followed with a “cool” or “interesting,” but more often than not, I was regaled with stories and facts on how terrible, painful, and horrifying birth actually is. But my decision had been made, and their words literally rolled off me.
Our son is a miracle himself. After being told by a fertility specialist that my husband, Patrick, and I would never be able to conceive without the help of fertility drugs or IVF, we thanked him for his time and resigned ourselves to adopting a child as soon as we had saved enough money. I will never forget the taste of those tears or the way they burned going down my cheeks on the ride home from the doctor, as Patrick tried to comfort me. My dream of carrying my own baby had been dashed against the rough carpeted floor in his office, and I felt that hurt completely.
A month later, I planned to see a homeopathic healer, and she called me a few hours before my appointment to say that she needed me to take a test to insure that I was not pregnant before she would administer her examinations. I thought, sure, I am an ace at producing negative results on those things. But this time, as I glanced over, knowing I would not be seeing a plus sign as I washed my hands, my breath caught. A positive result? I took four more tests to insure that this was it, the Holy Grail of conceiving, and it was confirmed! I tearfully called the healer back to say I would not be in that day as I was gestating my first child.
I had decided when Patrick and I first started trying for a baby that I wanted a home birth, with a midwife, in a birthing pool. I researched the pros and cons of birthing in the hospital versus birthing at home, and for me the answer was home. I viewed birth as a natural and instinctive moment and not necessarily an emergency type event as I had been led to believe my entire life. Others feel more comfortable being in the hospital, and if that is the case, they should birth there. Hospitals terrify me, and I wanted my birth experience to be relaxed and calm, full of love and laughter and joy.
I never openly shared where I would be birthing my baby, as I knew how controversial that topic could be, but somehow it always came to light. Someone would ask who my doctor was, or which hospital we were going to, and then a discussion would start on the safety and feasibility of having a baby at home. One guy, a friend of a friend during a party, went on a rant about how Patrick and I would regret this decision if our baby died, and that I should just go to the hospital and get the epidural like every other intelligent woman in this modern world. His words cut, but I trusted my research. I knew the risks of a home birth, but I also knew that the hospital was not without risks itself. More than anything, I wanted to prove that an intelligent modern woman could choose to birth at home.
Our families were, for the most part, very supportive. Patrick’s mother was a nurse and had her doubts, but after speaking with our midwife, she felt so much more at ease. My own mother joked with her friends that her first grandchild was to be born in the bathtub or maybe a watering trough. And I smiled along with her, because I had read of women giving birth in both of those places. I had read about women giving birth on their beds, in fields, in hospital beds, in the ocean, outside their homes, in the middle of their living rooms, in cabs… I wondered if there was anywhere that some woman, somewhere, had not given birth in or on.
I found solace in like-minded pregnant women during my birthing class. I chose Hypno-babies, a class that taught everything from nutrition and exercise to every stage of birthing, and even infant care, while encouraging pain control with self-hypnosis. We even went through the motions with a mock birth during the last class and concentrated on visualizing each step of our own births every day. This visualization was key for me, and really kept me calm and focused.
My midwife eased my mind and kept me calm as well. Each visit with her lasted at least an hour, in which she would check my weight, urine, and blood pressure. She measured my belly and checked the position of our baby, the sex of whom we had decided not to discover. She went with me to my ultrasound and monitored my blood glucose and edema, neither of which I had. But most importantly, I really got to know her, the woman who would be “catching” my child during delivery. She rejoiced with me each week as I drew closer to my due date, and I trusted her completely. She worked with a doctor, an emergency plan in place, and it would be to him we would go during birth if something were to go wrong. She even came with me to visit him in my seventh month of pregnancy, where he checked all the things my midwife normally did and pronounced me healthy enough to birth at home.
The day finally came, five days after my due date, and I went into labor. I had a quick and easy birth, starting at 6:00 in the evening. Waylon was born in the water, in our home, at 2:54 in the morning. I could not stop staring at this little person that I knew so well from the kicks and pokes and tumbles inside of me, but that I had never seen. He was beautiful. Every mother says that, and I thought it was just something you say. But my heart screamed it out. My son was radiant with love. The entire experience was exactly what I wanted. Full of laughter and joy. And the love. The love filled that room in such a way that we were all smiling and crying and saying his name and His name.
A month into motherhood, nursing my son, sitting with my own mother, three generations in my living room, she looked at me and said something I was not expecting.
“I really did not think you could do this, have your baby at home, without drugs. I would never have said that to you before, but it’s what I thought. You never were good with pain. But you were so brave and strong, even when people were telling you the worst that could happen. I wish I had the knowledge and courage you did when I was having you and your brother.”
It was a simple statement of fact, but it meant so much to me. I did not see choosing a home birth as brave or courageous. It was just the best choice for me at that moment, one that made me feel secure each time I thought of it. Like it had already happened, and I was just following a path already laid out for me. It felt good to hear someone cheering on my personal choice instead of berating it.
Everyone woman deserves that same consideration. No matter where or how you choose to birth your baby, you deserve consideration, love, support, and respect. I always want to be the gentle voice encouraging and telling women they were made to do this. Telling them they have the right decisions in their heart. Telling them their birth experience is important. Telling them to follow their own path with confidence and courage.