Last August, I gave birth to my second daughter. Like all mothers, I wanted to give birth to a healthy baby. Unlike most other mothers in the US, I chose to give birth at home. Making that choice wasn’t easy, but it should have been. Giving birth is a perfectly natural process and our bodies are designed perfectly to give birth. If all it takes to have confidence in that fact is hearing from others that homebirths are happening, I’ll start by saying I did it.
I didn’t expect to have an easy delivery with my first baby because my Mother had a c-section. I was wrong in thinking that genetics have anything to do with how a birth progresses. Sadly, I was even more wrong to grow up thinking that I wouldn’t be able to push a baby naturally. The best advice that I can give any pregnant woman is to believe that your body will open to let out your baby. Ultimately, I discovered that after a series of events that helped me choose to give birth naturally, without drugs or interventions, to my first daughter.
Early in pregnancy, I sat next to a Father of 3 on a flight who tolerated my frequent use of the sick bag and eased my nausea by sharing his wife’s birth stories. I listened in shock about the hospital birth, then unmedicated birth, and finally their birth at home. The man reminded me a little too much of my husband, especially when he started to equate the home birth to a challenge like climbing Everest. I began to realize that the baby I carried was just as much my husband’s child and I could hardly imagine that if given the opportunity to have a baby he would take the challenge lying down.
Coincidentally, I spent the vacation lying down reading. After racing through my baby books, I raided my Mother-In-Law’s bookshelf and read a book about a young pioneer woman who gave birth on her own in the kitchen. It blew my mind and when I brought it up I was surprised to find out that Moms I knew (including my husband’s) had also had natural deliveries.
When I reached the second trimester, my renewed energy allowed me to exercise, eat well, and connect with my baby by being healthy. I began to feel Hannah’s strong kicks and I quickly realized how much she would be like my husband. I wanted to do everything to help her be strong and energetic throughout her life.
I finally rented a video (Laugh and Learn about Childbirth) to help decide our birth plan. I loved the nurse’s suggestion to relax in between the contractions. I had no idea that you got breaks in the pain, so birth seemed totally manageable if I could just breathe through the hard parts and then rest. After all, I’d been a yoga devotee for years and they weren’t asking me to last through a contraction any longer than some of the poses in class. However, the information about the epidural was a total turn-off. Trying to figure out the magic point at which I would ask for an epidural was mind boggling since it could easily result in a longer birth or lead to complications. Plus, what if I couldn’t get to the hospital in time or it didn’t work? How was I going to get that baby out?
I tried to encourage my husband’s participation in the birth by getting him the book Husband Coached Childbirth by Dr. Bradley. He didn’t read too much of it, but I pored through it. For the first time, I was enjoying reading birth stories. The birth methods made sense and many of the preparations leading up to birth were things I was already doing. When I read that swimmers have a strong advantage during birth, I knew that with my husband’s help, that would be the best way for me to have Hannah. I let him coach me on swimming for the final months of the pregnancy and entered the hospital with the courage to have a natural birth. I’m so happy to have made that choice because it eased my fears about an early delivery. Knowing that she would not be impacted by any medications made it much easier to welcome her into my arms.
Still, it wasn’t a “perfect birth” and there were things about being in the hospital that just didn’t seem right. After all, the cardinal rules of a healthy pregnancy are to avoid lying on your back, hydrate, eat healthy foods, and don’t use drugs. Why was a place that inhibited all those rules the “best” place to give birth? I learned that it is just as safe for a healthy mother to have a healthy baby under the care of a midwife and chose that for Audrey’s birth. If you read “There’s No Place Like Home,” then you already know it was the best choice I ever made.