Whenever someone asks where my children were born I always answer that it was a planned home birth. Mostly this question comes up when filling out forms in the doctor’s office. Next to number of live births is where child was born. I wonder what other parents answer. Do they say, the hospital or Sharp Hospital? Only 4% of births in America are done outside of hospitals, at home – planned. At the time of my first pregnancy I had only known two other moms who had home births. One turned out great and the other transferred to the hospital but those 50/50 odds never deterred me. I was fearless. The midwives reassured me that a home birth is successful over 80% of the time, without any complications. For me the thought of doctors and medical procedures was far scarier than birthing a baby, which is something my body was made to do.
A series of life events led me to my decision to have my kids naturally at home.
1. One of my earliest memories is when I was in kindergarten and our class was sent to the library to find a book about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I asked the librarian what kind of doctor delivers babies. She went to the dictionary and helped me look up “obstetrician.” Later I found out that blood makes me faint. It all worked out in the end though because now I have a career writing about all things baby related.
2. My mom had three kids all via cesarean section. Later in her life she had to deal with some major health issues because of this. When I was 18 and had just gone off to college she ended up in the hospital with a fibroid tumor the size of a grapefruit. When the surgeon went in to remove the tumor he found that her uterus was covered with so much scar tissue (from being cut into three times) that he had to remove it entirely. It was then discovered that her uterus was fused to her bladder with even more scar tissue and it took 30 minutes to pry them apart. Avoiding a c-section became my top priority during my pregnancy.
3. All during college I was a nanny for a family of 5 kids. Their last 3 were planned home births. I had the honor and privilege of being there for the birth of their fifth baby. I was only 19 at the time and had no idea how this would end up affecting me on a really deep level until I was pregnant years later. Here is a recap of that experience. I got a call at 10:00 am on a Saturday from the mom I nanny for. She said, “Something definitely feels different today. You can come over now.” I came to keep an eye on the other kids while she did her magic with a team of five people including: a lay midwife, nurse midwife, doula, hypno birth coach and husband. Dad was working in his home office almost the entire time and literally showed up in the last ten minutes to see the kid pop out and cut the cord. While the other kids and grandparents were watching a movie in the other room I could not help but sneak a peak. This is what I saw – mom lying on her side in bed completely calm looking at her hypno birth coaches finger while enduring a contraction. Two hours after I arrived I hear a baby crying. Dad brings him out for the rest of us to see, holding him up like a trophy, the poor white thing blinded by the light of day. Amazing. She made it look easy.
4. The documentary “The Business of Being Born” as well as Sarah Buckley’s book “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” were my doctrines when I was pregnant. They gave me the knowledge and understanding of exactly what my body would be going through, which gave me courage and strength to labor without medication. I don’t think I could have done it without them.
And now for my planed home birth story.
For some this life event can bring tears of joy, jubilant elation and even screams of excitement. For others it can be more of an out of body experience seeing a pink or blue or even alien white, slimy, cone headed being like our daughter was. I never cried or fussed like I thought I would the first time I held her. I remember feeling calm and collected and in awe of what I had just accomplished. I felt extremely present and in the moment. Sarah Buckley writes in her book, “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” that natural childbirth is the equivalent of meditating for seven years. I can definitely see how closing my eyes and focusing on my breath for that twelve hours of labor changed who I am as a person on a very deep level.
Our daughter was born just after noon on a Monday after laboring through the night. It went by like a dream and I had no concept of time. She had the most vernix the midwives had ever seen on a nearly full term baby in the past ten collective years of delivering babies. My husband guided her up from out of the water (while the midwife guided his hands because he was afraid of “hurting” the baby.) The picture of those four strong hands carefully bringing her out from under me and onto my chest stays with me forever. I held her close to me and said “Hi.” I waited for her to squirm around and nuzzle her face until she found my nipple and started nursing like I had seen on a YouTube video of “infant led latching after birth.” She calmly looked around. She never cried and her apgar scores were all nines. The midwives asked if she could go to dad so they could “check her out.” Then I realized that there was still a cord dangling out of me. I wouldn’t hold her again until nearly two hours later when my placenta finally decided to come out. “Now I can nurse my baby!” I thought. She had spent over an hour sucking on dads little finger, patiently awaiting the real thing. The sweetest first pictures we have of her are sucking his pinky lying skin to skin on his hairy chest. Once the nursing finally began, so did the mutilation of my nipples. After only three days we started referring to them as being completely annihilated. It took nearly fourteen days before we discovered that she was tongue-tied.
So that was my home birth. Lizzy, as we now call her, went from a warm, dark, watery womb to a bright, warm, watery pool to mommy’s soft, squishy tummy to daddy’s warm, hairy, shirtless chest. Dad even got to hold her while the midwives did their newborn exam (most of it.) Then back to mommy in a warm cozy bed where she began her destruction of my breast. Aside from the placenta hold up it was a nearly perfect supervised and carefully planned, home birth. Even though Lizzy didn’t cooperate with the self initiated latching that could have helped my uterus contract and eject the placenta easily, we still had a good birth experience. Most importantly, our daughter had a good first experience entering into this world, starting with her very first moments.