When I was about to give birth to my first child, I remember my OB walking into the delivery room, crossing her arms over her chest magnanimously and announcing, “Ok. I’m here. Now you can have this baby!” Then she stretched out her arms so the nurse could slip on her gown and tie the mask to her face like she was James Brown or something. All she needed was a nurse to dab her sweat.
Meanwhile, I was lying there spread-eagled, my feet up in the stirrups with a baby practically dangling from my lady parts. Not the most dignified of positions.
I told myself I would never allow that to happen again. But it did, 15 months later. I was in the hospital, getting ready to deliver my second son. This time, the nurse peeked under the sheet to see what all the fuss was about after she heard me panting like a wild boar.
“I have to push, now!”
“Honey, you have to wait until the doctor gets here. Don’t make me deliver this baby!”
So we spent the next fifteen minutes or so with me doing my wild boar impersonation and the nurse holding my baby’s head between my legs until the doctor walked in and my baby shot out like a rocket. That is when I started researching homebirth in earnest.
I didn’t have movies like The Business of Being Born and More Business of Being Born to help me form my opinion, or to educate me with statistics about how safe homebirth was, or how harmful unnecessary medical intervention was. It was little old me, the library, various search engines,Barbara Harper’s Gentle Birth Choices, my raggedy copies of The Compleat Mother, my heartfelt convictions, my dreams of a natural childbirth (preferably in the water)—and the knowledge that my grandmother and my great-grandmother before her gave birth to all of their children at home.
THE HOMEBIRTHING TREND
People just didn’t have homebirths. And if you did, you were on the fringe of society. I did not know one other soul who had a homebirth. Since then, U.S. home births increased by 29% from 2004 to 2009. More and more people are open to the idea of giving birth at home.
But at the time, people thought I was crazy. I wasn’t crazy. I was finally making sense.
My main motivation was to seek proper care, for both my unborn child and myself. Childbirth is not a medical event. A woman’s body is designed to grow a child, and then to birth it, pitocin drip be damned. I was healthy, and I wasn’t high risk so there was no reason why I couldn’t try to have a baby at home. I found a midwife and I was so excited, like a child with a special secret. I could do this and no one—not even my OB—could tell me otherwise.
A PEACEFUL ENTRY
It was simple. I wanted to give my unborn baby an unhurried, peaceful entry into this world. No bright lights, no nurses barking orders, no strangers putting their hands on them, no unnecessary drops in their eyes, no needles and heel pricks, no isolation, no warming lights and no plastic bassinet. Just birthing into warm water, soft breasts, silky skin, gentle kisses on their forehead, teary-eyed greetings from loved ones and sheer happiness.
VICTIM OF A STEREOTYPE?
It’s been six years since I’ve had a baby. For so long I’ve championed homebirth because my experience in the hospital was so terrible. It never occurred to me that my mistreatment had something to do with the fact that I was a young Latina. Perhaps I was treated so brusquely by the OB/GYN and the nurses who looked down on me because I appeared to be just another unmarried, uneducated Latina having a baby with the state of California picking up the tab. To them, perhaps I was another statistic. Little did they know I was fresh out of college (I’d graduated college just three months earlier), newly married (we had one of those sweet “oops, the bride is already pregnant” weddings), and I was just a few weeks shy of being able to enjoy my new husband’s medical benefits. Needless to say, I never wanted to be treated like that again. It was the catalyst that sent me in the direction of birth freedom.
BIRTHING ON OUR OWN TERMS
My experience with hospital births can’t take away the deep sense of accomplishment I have from having four healthy children at home. I truly believe I made the best choice for my family. Powerful, raw, triumphant, womanly, beautiful—this is how I felt after my homebirths took place. I’ve never regretted the decision, and I’m proud to say that my babies were born at home, in peace and on our own terms.