It just occured to me this morning, as I was waking up. On my new DIY housewife blog, hadn’t I better post about homebirth?!?! How much more DIY can you get than creating and giving birth to a new soul in the world?
Nothing on this earth is like birthing a baby. Nothing else is half so hard, or half so beautiful, or a quarter so rewarding. And when a woman is in charge of her own birth, and does the work herself, nothing is so empowering.
Before I get started, I have to insert a defense of hospitals, and women who choose to birth in them. My only beef with the homebirth crowd is that they can sometimes be incredibly judgemental and make women feel guilty for choosing a hospital birth, or make homebirth women feel scared of the possibility of “transfer.” It’s always hard in life to get excited about one option without making the people who choose the other option feel judged. Birth is a personal thing, and no one should make you feel guilty about your choices, not a doctor or a midwife. And the title of this post is not meant to be limiting, loads of women have DIY births at hospitals. And even if you have a C-section, remember that the making of the baby was still strictly you (and your man). The growing of that baby? All you. Good job!
And if the need for transfer arises in a homebirth setting, then that is precisely the time to praise and appreciate the modern medical field!
(Our midwife here in New Orleans was not like that at all, by the way. She has a great relationship with her back-up doctor, and stays at the hospital with mamas who do transfer)
That said, I think I am a great spokeswoman for homebirth. Both of our babies were born at home, and I myself was a homebirth back in the 70’s when it was a revival. But my births were not easy. The first especially was extremely long (3 1/2 days from first contraction to baby! 14 hours of “active” labor). This time around was way faster, only 5 hours of active labor preceded by about 24 hours of “early labor” contractions. Even shorter as it was, the pain was still truly and profoundly mind-blowing. I guess there are plenty of women who do not experience this extreme level of pain in childbirth, but I am surely not one! To be truthful, part of why I chose a homebirth again was because of the pain, because I remember the first time thinking, ‘if I were at the hospital right now, would I be capable of doing this without drugs?’ I honestly don’t know. There is something to be said for having no choice, for just having to push through the ‘I can’t do it’ barrier because you simply must do it. And then finding out you could do it, after all.
Not having the option of drugs, and therefore the possibility of a domino effect of interventions, is a lot of ‘why homebirth?’ for me. Being forced (by my own decision) to accomplish something so far beyond the limits of what I think I can do, is unbelievably empowering. A rite of passage that makes me finally truly feel like a Woman (up till giving birth, I always sort of felt like a little girl dressed up in lady clothes…)
But I think the most important part, for me, is less straightforward. Birth is an intimate thing, maybe the most intimate thing we do in our lives. To labor in your own home is good. To bring a tiny new soul, formed from the love between two people out into the world in the intimate setting of Home, is profoundly wonderful. In that elated moment after the baby gushes out, when the midwife hands her into my arms, to be able to lay back on my own bed, in my own home and see for the first time the new little person who’s been kicking and hiccuping in my belly… Home is a warm, wonderful place to be able to spend that moment.
And then the first few hours after birth, when your body pumps you with enough oxytocin to feel so incredibly awake and emotionally energized (after so many hours or days without sleep, doing the hardest work humans ever do!). Your baby’s first few hours in the world, and your first few hours with him– they only happen once, ever. These few hours are the most precious hours of my entire life, any woman’s life I daresay. To be able to spend them in my own bed, with gentle and understanding midwives who quietly check that all is well and safe, then bow out of the room as much as they can has been, for me, a beautiful gift, a small miracle.
If you are considering a homebirth, check out this page on the Citizens For Midwifery site. It answers a lot of the basic, first questions and gives a list of internet directories for midwives.