I haven’t always been a hippy. In fact, I’d hardly consider myself one now if not for the recent home birth endeavor. For most of my life I thought that I would have a c-section merely because that’s the way I was born. I heard bits and pieces about “being stuck” during an excruciatingly long labor and I assumed that since my Mom and I have a similar small frame that a cesarean would be the only way to extract a baby. It seemed much simpler to envision a small cut that produced a baby than to contemplate hours of pushing and pain. Plus, I was a wuss when pain was involved with anything.
I walked into my first prenatal visit with Hannah practically ready to schedule my c-section. However, the nurse put that plan on hold by letting me know that all women and all pregnancies are different. I left with my fears slightly eased since I knew that the c-section recovery was not something to look forward to. That was the kickoff of my quest for knowledge about how to give birth and become a super Mom. I started to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but quickly swapped over to books about baby care because I couldn’t stomach the birth stories with my morning sickness. Over the Holidays a series of events unfolded that got me thinking.
First, 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 was beginning to look into cloth diapering because I found out it could save us thousands of dollars. All of a sudden, I was learning about the benefits of avoiding modern conveniences and natural childbirth kept popping up.
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. A huge needle to the back that doesn’t always work. It could result in a longer birth and I’d have to decide when to get it. Trying to figure out the magic point at which I would ask for an epidural was mind boggling. 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 five weeks before our expected due date. I’m so happy to have made that choice because an early baby is a fearful experience to begin with. 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.