Ever watched yourself being born? As fascinating as it is, it’s even better backward.
I was born at home. My father filmed the event and it was a rollicking good time with one midwife, one grandmother, two siblings in ice skates, and several friends lounging around the bedroom. My parents later wrote The Home Birth Book, so you’d think I would have gotten it: our family likes home birth. But I wasn’t ready. Although I interviewed midwives when I was pregnant, my husband and I wanted to try the hospital way.
I lay on my back for my son’s arrival and struggled until I was falling asleep between contractions and my husband leaned in to check that I was breathing. I researched and wrote a birth plan but still felt on guard against protocol and unnecessary intervention. Rather than routine care, I wanted to be one patient with my own needs.
Two years later, I had my daughter at home. I was tempted to lie back for the second birth, but I thought, “Since time began, women have stood and birthed babies, and I will, too.” Squat may be a word that describes itself too well: low down, open, messy. Nevertheless, I squatted, and my baby girl loved it! Four minutes later Clara arrived, calling hello to the world.
I believe in the human continuum. I believe that nature has developed purpose over the eons and that I may not understand it, but it exists. I can choose to play with nature, and, game on, nature will play back.
Clara was born “in the caul,” historically considered an omen that the child would go on to accomplish great things. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in respecting a baby’s arrival. During labor, the midwife left Clara’s amniotic sac intact and then, before clamping the umbilical cord, let it transfer all of the blood to the baby. She discussed and followed my decisions on eye ointment, a vitamin K shot, and the hepatitis B vaccine.
My husband says, “Thank goodness for western medicine,” and I agree. But many times I’ve witnessed yesterday’s gold standard of care become today’s reckoning. Newborns have low levels of vitamin K, a factor associated with blood clotting: is that nature’s colossal mistake or perfect solution? Breast milk may fight cancer, and it holds other secrets that formula makers have yet to crack. I believe in searching with common sense. And in valuing what I already have.
Being a new parent has made me examine my deepest beliefs. During this wild ride, I seek the purpose that nature has developed one cell at a time. Even the crazy-looking parts – the hammerhead shark and the kangaroo – the human being – came about for a reason.
I am proud to come from a long line of humans. I look back in order to move forward.
I reverse the film of my birth and disappear into my mother’s womb, and then I press play and am born.
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