One of my clearest memories from the day my son was born is of my midwife Anna, in her lavender blouse, laughing as she peered through the bathroom door. I was sitting on the toilet, alternating between moaning, deep breathing, and debating the latest ‘American Idol’ elimination with my sister and my husband. We were all pretty relaxed considering in just two hours my second child would be born.
I decided to have my babies at home because I believe it matters how babies are born. Birth is a magical passage – one that each of us experiences only once. I believe that many parents choose a medical path for childbirth because they do not realize that, in most cases, the mother’s body will know just what to do. We are all bombarded with ideas and images that the pain is sure to be too much, planting seeds of fear within every woman of childbearing age – even though babies are born without medication or intervention throughout the world at every moment.
When I chose to give birth at home, friends and colleagues reacted with everything from skepticism to judgment. Many people thought my choice was irresponsible, even though Westernized countries that practice home birth regularly have lower infant mortality rates and significantly lower c-section rates than the United States. People seemed surprised that an educated woman would choose the hard way to bring a baby into the world. But I knew that with a qualified nurse-midwife team at home and a hospital just minutes away, the baby and I would be okay if complications arose.
I believe that routine interventions in the birth process rob the mother of an unparalleled experience in this world: the knowledge that she is powerful enough to trust her body to do what it was made to do. And I believe that hospitals are for sick people, not for healthy babies and mothers.
Having babies is hard work. That’s why it’s called labor. But the pain of labor is not the worst pain I have ever known, and the hard work I put into birthing is nothing compared to the hard work of being a consistent, loving presence to my sons each and every day. I believe that experiencing my labor without medication taught me to trust myself and prepared me in unimaginable ways for the journey of motherhood.
My labors were joyful, scary, funny, painful, powerful, amazing experiences. I am not a religious person, but they were some of the most spiritual moments in my life.
I believe my boys are gentle, present people in part because their entry into the world was peaceful. They were born into the familiar sounds of the household they knew from inside the womb. With each of their births, I continued on with the business of my day until they forced me to stop, focus on them, and help them as they emerged into the next stage of their little lives. Just as they do every moment, every day.
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