I’d always imagined a natural birth. In our 20s my cousin, Christina, and I would joke and laugh about squatting in the shade of a tree to have our babies—and we were just joking…but not completely.
Through my 30s I watched not one or two, but almost all my friends enthusiastically enter the hospital in labor, having claimed for nine months that they would have a natural birth, and saw them come out 2-10 days later having been induced, forced to labor on their back, drugged, cut, observed by countless strangers, having had their babies taken from them immediately after birth, having nursing problems, and having been given food I would call “toxic”.
If you’d asked them ahead of time if that would have been their story, none of them would have said yes. And these were fit, health conscious women. I wondered what was going on after they entered those doors of the L&D that all of them were checking out with dramatically changed birth stories.
That question led me to do a lot of research and I discovered many things I’d never known.
Growing up in the States, we are hardly surrounded by the images of natural motherhood such as: home birth, breast-only feeding until weening on homemade solids, mothers cared for and nurtured for a traditional 40 days postpartum. And we definitely don’t see many examples of women over 35 choosing home birth. If we desire to have an experience out of what is now the norm (as outlined above), we have to figure it out for ourselves. And so I did.
I read dozens of books, studied birthing and postpartum care methods from around the world, watched every DVD produced on home birth, went through several doctors and midwives until I found my match, and I came to the conclusion that so many other home birth mothers do:
Birth is completely natural. My body and my baby know what to do. We will do our best to prepare, to have strength, and then we will let nature do her thing!
Ah, Mother Nature. Just because she knows what to do and will take charge doesn’t mean that it won’t be incredibly difficult. My throat (among other things) was so sore from grunting and growling in labor that I could barely speak the next day. However, in the big picture, that was over in the blink of an eye, and the reward for my baby and me will last for a lifetime.
If it had just been for me, perhaps I would have been tempted to use painkillers despite knowing the multiple benefits of natural birth for the mother. But I also wanted my baby to experience her birth and first few days out of the womb with bright eyes and a clear mind.
I’d watched the movie Orgasmic Birth a dozen times for fun and inspiration, and though I did actually believe that it could happen that way, no, crowning did not feel like an orgasm. But I was prepared ahead of time for the fact that it must be incredibly painful–otherwise how could all of my strong friends have chosen drugs and surgery when they were so opposed originally?
There was only one way to make my dream of a blissful, sacred birth happen…and that was to give myself no choice. If I stayed at home, when push came to shove (!), I would have no way to do it but go through it.
Just like swimming in the surf.
All lovers of the ocean know that to reach the open water, you need the courage to leave the shore and swim through the breakwater. And in using this metaphor, we should not let our minds drift to the warm ankle-slapping waves of the Caribbean. We’re talking about Mavericks and Waimea Bay here! When the waves between the shore and the open water are huge, you must dive right into them and let them roll over you. It can be terrifying, but with solid resolve, you reap the reward of an experience few people have.
My original reason for pursuing home birth was just to be able to preserve my goal for a natural, drug-free birth. As I studied more and more, I found that a home birth in every way offered the opportunity for a deeply sacred experience, which it was.
When I first spoke to my midwife, I asked if she thought I were “high-risk” for home birth. She looked surprised.
“High-risk? Why? Are you sick? Do you have a problem?”
“No,” I answered. “But I had two first-trimester miscarriages.”
“So?” she replied. “That is a terribly painful experience, but there are millions of miscarriages before babies are born. If it were three or four, we’d have to do further consideration, but two doesn’t necessarily make you high-risk.”
“And I have fibroids, but my OB-GYN said they were small and not positioned in a way that would cause a problem.”
“OK, that’s good. What else?”
“Well, I’m 42 years old.”
“Women have always had babies in their 40s. Nothing new there. Are you fit?”, she asked.
“Do you eat well?”
“Is this what you want?”
“Then of course you can have a home birth,” was her conclusion.
I asked her to explain the differences in experience and risk for a home birth vs. a birthing center.
She said that the only difference was that (given my home was equal distance from an excellent hospital as the birth center) at the birth center, I would not be alone with my husband in my own peaceful environment, and four hours after delivery I would have to pack up, walk to the car with my baby and drive home. If at home, four hours after delivery she and her team would have tucked my husband, baby, and me warmly in our bed, would have fed us, cleaned up, and would leave quietly.
My husband and I looked at each other, smiled, and both shouted, “Home birth!”
And so it happened. Eight hours after we realized I was in labor, my baby was born in a tub in our family room. The lights were dim; the room was warm; my husband had a fire going in our wood burning oven; he put on a traditional Japanese flute CD I love; and he served as my “squat chair” in the tub. Surrounded by our midwife and three doulas who stood back until they knew they were needed, my husband and I joked, kissed, and played together right until the intense pushing started. One hour later my baby was born, and I was lying on my yoga mat, pushing out the placenta while my baby crawled her way from my abdomen to my breast and started nursing.
And just as they’d said, four hours later we were tucked in bed, the midwives had cleaned the house, and the three of us fell asleep in an ocean of bliss.
This is not intended to encourage women who want a hospital birth to change their minds. Women need to give birth where they feel the most comfortable and safe. This is intended to be a story that a woman committed to her home birth decision can enjoy, as I enjoyed so many home birth stories before my baby arrived.
Allie Chee is a certified Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutritionist
Copyright (2011) Allie Chee
About Allie Chee
Allie is a certified TCM Nutritionist and author of New Mother: Using a Doula, Midwife, Postpartum Doula, Maid, Cook, or Nanny to Support Healing, Bonding, and Growth