Friday, April 23, 2010

Birth #2: at home

In 1989 I found out I was pregnant again.  I immediately began talking to my friends who had had home births to find out how to go about having one.  I was happy with the birthing experience I'd had in the hospital, but in the meantime I'd become aware that there were other options which could work better for me and my family. 

At that time (and I believe still today), there was only one midwife in town who would attend home births.  She has a physician back up (she must by law) and is allowed to attend births in hospitals, but her primary practice is with women giving birth at home.

I went for my first check up with the Nurse Practitioner in the doctor's practice - standard procedure so she could screen me to make sure I was a good candidate for a  home birth - i.e. healthy, not high risk, aware of what was involved, etc.  The next month I met Nancy, the midwife.  I liked her immediately.  She was calm, sensitive, no-nonsense but very caring and kind.  She examined me thoroughly and explained to me what she was doing and what was going on in my body.  She gave me plenty of time to ask questions and to express any concerns I might be having.  I felt completely cared for and heard and safe.  She made sure that everything was going well physically - that's one of the things that makes home births so low risk - the midwives really know their patients and screen them for problems thoroughly each time they see them.  They won't allow the women to try to give birth at home if there is the slightest hint of a potential problem.  Of course, emergencies arise at times, and that is a risk that one takes when having a home birth.  I decided it was worth the risk.  I felt very confident that things would go well.  It was a gut feeling.  I was right.

On August 31, 1989, I woke up feeling good.  It was a beautiful, clear, cool day - quite the anomoly in Richmond, VA at the end of August!  I began feeling contractions fairly early so called Nancy to let her know.  She suggested I call her again when it got more intense  and I wanted her to come over.  I dressed in a very loose blue dress with nothing underneath.  I walked around the house then went out into the yard.  I sat on the porch steps in the backyard and meditated on the shadows sifting across the grass as the branches of the tree blew gently in the breeze.  My husband cut a fresh rose from our garden and brought it to me.  I contemplated the bud opening and imagined my cervix opening like the bud.  I felt the contractions, but I didn't perceive them as pain.  Instead they were simply helping my body do what it needed to do to help me bring my child into the world. 

The contractions began to get stronger so we called Nancy again and told her it might be a good idea for her to come over.  It was around 10:30, I think.  My mother had come over to get Andrew so he could have fun while we were otherwise engaged.  Nancy examined me when she got there and found I was at about 6 cm, shortly before transition when it gets very intense.  Because I'd been able to walk around and move as I wanted to the whole time, I hadn't felt more than mild discomfort at any point.  I felt an urge to sit on the toilet.  Since I was in my own home, that was what I did.  Nancy and my husband sat with me as I blew air out and let the contractions flow through me.  I imagined the rose opening up.  Nancy lightly ran her hands over my legs in a motion that was oddly helpful.  She told me I was getting close and asked if I wanted to give birth there.  I said no.  I had an image of giving birth squatting in the bedroom upstairs so we made our way up there, inbetween contractions (not on a guerney in the middle of a contraction like the previous time).  It was wonderful not having any pain medication this time.  I was able to use the time between contractions to relax and rest and calm myself to prepare for the next contraction.  I evoked the images I'd visualized for so many months to help me stay calm and peaceful.  I breathed deeply.  I moaned softly.

Once upstairs, I sat on the edge of the mattress on the floor.  When a contraction would come, I would squat and lean into Nancy - she must be very strong to have been able to take my weight.  I was at the pushing stage. I roared with power as I pushed.  The wave subsided.  I rested.  Nancy had me touch the baby's head as it was beginning to crown.  Another one.  I squatted and pushed into the pressure pushing into me.  Nancy reached in and widened my opening so I wouldn't tear very much.  I pushed again.  I tore some.  I roared somemore. The baby's head rushed out along with the rest of her body.  I pulled her out of me.  I was the first human being to touch her.  (12:16 PM) I lay back into the pillows and gazed into her eyes for what felt like eternity.  She latched onto my breast almost right away and nursed for at least a half an hour.  In the meantime, Nancy sewed me up and rubbed arnica and goldenseal on my vaginal tissues so I wouldn't be so sore.  (It worked - I felt fantastic as soon as 2 days later!  Quite a difference from the first time when the doctor told me he would sew me up nice and tight so my husband wouldn't even be able to tell I'd had a kid!  That made it hurt each time we made love for the three years between babies.  Not a holistic way to go.  But I digress...)  We had opted not to have the baby, Laura Anne, get shots or eye drops or any of the invasive things babies normally get in the hospital.  The only medical intervention we did was for me to get an antibody shot.  I am Rh negative, and I needed to get a shot in case Laura was Rh positive so I wouldn't build up antibodies against Rh positive blood - if I were to get pregnant again, that would cause issues with the next baby whose blood my body would try to reject. 

Nancy drew a bath for me with a potful of wonderful herbs in it to help my body mend quickly.  I didn't want to let Laura go, but I went downstairs to take a bath and left the baby with her daddy so he could love on her like crazy.  That was when Nancy put her into a canvas sling and weighed her: 9 lb. 11 oz.  She was pretty darn big!  Laura began to cry and was difficult to soothe.  I got out of the tub and went back upstairs.  A short time after I got settled in, Mom and Andrew came bursting in the door to see the new arrival, bringing flowers they'd picked and arranged in a sweet vase.  Andrew came over to me and peeked in at Laura.  He was very sweet with her.  I don't remember his ever being jealous.

A couple of hours later, a friend came by and brought us some beef stew and Grands rolls that her husband had made for us.  It was the best food I'd ever eaten!  Made with so much love, so hearty, just perfect.  Friends brought us a series of meals for the next week or two so we could concentrate on just being with Laura and acclimating her to life with us. 

Giving birth to Laura the way I did, at home, without drugs, was the most empowering experience of my life.  I was completely conscious of what I was doing.  I had made clear choices about what I wanted and, thankfully, fate cooperated, and I was able to give birth at home with my husband and the midwife there, with complete privacy and freedom to do whatever felt natural and right to me.  There were no unnecessary interventions and Laura was born into a beautiful room in her own home.  We didn't have to be uprooted to go home.  We were home.  We were cared for wonderfully by Nancy and then by friends and family who made sure we were well taken care of. 

That birth changed my feelings about my body too.  When birthing Andrew, I hadn't felt like I was in charge.  The birth was done to me as much as I did it.  There were so many things involved I couldn't control.  With Laura's birth, I was in charge.  Not that I was in control - it would be foolhardy to suggest anyone is in control in a birth - but I was empowered to birth my baby the way millions of women before me had done.  I knew I could do it.  By myself.  Nancy supported me.  My husband was wonderfully present.  But I gave birth.

It's the way it should be.

I hope that women are beginning to take back their power in giving birth.  It is one of our fundamental rights, and it is a gift we give ourselves and especially our children to bring them into the world in this way.

My brother just sent me a message with his memories of Laura's birth.  It's fun to see it from another perspective.

And right after the birth, Mom called me in my classroom at Benedictine High School, where I was teaching a German lesson on the first day of the academic year. I had just started off speaking German to this beginners' class, drawing my family tree on the board and talking about my family. "And this is my sister," I said in German. Then I made a gesture with my hands to indicate a big belly and said she was pregnant. One of the 9th graders - who is now one of Obama's bodyguards - tried to interpret, "She's fat?"

Then the phone rang. They (WE!) thought it was eerie when the news came that Laura Anne, 9 lbs. 7 oz., had just been born. Three of the students in that class were on my soccer team, which had its first practice that afternoon. Between school and practice, I went to see Susan and Laura and got the necessary information (though I still don't understand why people don't ask, "How cute is she?" They always ask, "How much did she weigh?")

As we ran our laps around the soccer field, one of them - who is now a Registered Nurse! - started chanting, "Laura Ann, 9 pounds, 7 ounces" and everyone joined in.

Two months later, the day the Berlin Wall fell, Susan was celebrating her 30th birthday. I used that event as an opportunity to have the German students learn how to write a birthday card, which we then gave Laura Anne's mother. On it you could see: Paul DeTrana, 147 lbs., Brian Lambert, 132 lbs., David Dart, 97 lbs. Or did we translate everything into kilograms for her?

1 comment:

  1. Belle peinture moi qui vient très récemment (2jours) que je vais être grand-mère pour la première fois!