I’ve become quite the birth junkie over the last few years. It seems that our community is right in the thick of the childbearing years, and it’s been a joy and a privilege to be a part of the special and sacred experience.
Most types of births I had seen already – the textbook hospital births, the crash c-section birth, the cranked-up epidural birth and the natural water birth. What I hadn’t seen yet was a home birth. I joined the ranks of crunchy moms who were first inspired by Ricki Lake’s Business of Being Born and wondered if anyone I knew would take the plunge.
Then, one of my closest friends decided that she was going to do it. She was pregnant with her third, and her previous births had been fast and uncomplicated – one in the water, one just outside the tub. But they were both at hospital birth centers. This time, though, because they her husband had started a small business and they didn’t have insurance yet, they decided to pay cash up front and she began researching our area for the best and most experienced midwife.
We’re fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, and there are a lot of home births, water births, and midwives around these parts. It’s wonderful. She found a midwife who had delivered over 2,000 babes with a very low transport rate (as they usually have) and began prenatal care.
One night, at about forty weeks, my friend sent me a text. I think this might be it. I’m calling the midwife, you can come now or you can wait to see what she says.
I’m coming, I typed back.
I did a quick dream-feed for my own twin daughters, hopped in the car and drove twenty minutes to her house. Her sister-in-law and I beat the midwife there, so we started coordinating who would be taking pictures and video and Could we get the mama anything? She was on the exercise ball in the shower, breathing through her contractions as the hot water eased her back pain.
The midwife and her nurse arrived and set up shop. My friend called from the shower to ask if she could get into the tub; she felt like pushing.
We looked around and read each others’ thoughts: This might be quick.
My friend eased into the tub, her husband started the soft music and lit the candles, and twenty minutes later, her little daughter eased out of her body and into the bath water.
What a beautiful moment. She was a gorgeous baby girl, quiet and alert and taking in everything around her. “Is she OK?” my friend kept asking, because the new baby didn’t cry, she just cuddled there on her mama’s chest. The midwife smiled and kept reassuring her that she was just perfect. And she was.
When it was time to get out of the tub, my friend slid under fresh sheets in her own bed, while we brought her a huge platter of food. Her mom, sister-in-law, and I all kept commenting how wonderful an experience it was and how this was truly the way to do it – your own stuff, your own bed, your own food, and one-on-one care.
We all sat around her bedroom taking in the new baby, toasting each other, and snacking off the platter of fresh fruits, veggies, cheese and bread. They woke up her son and daughter to come in and peek at their new sister, and it was a precious family moment with lots of pictures, video, and laughter.
I left their house at midnight, my heart full, knowing in the back of my mind that not all births at home were that quick and smooth, and thankful that I was there to witness it.
My own birth experience was quite different. I had my girls five weeks early, at the hospital, in the OR, and while it was a vaginal birth (yay!), I still longed for the quiet setting of a birth center or my own home, away from the blinking lights and beeping monitors.
My friend’s birth not only brought me joy for their family, it also gave me hope for my next birth, and re-ignited the desire within me to experience the sacred event without all the gizmos and gadgets of a busy hospital setting. Birth was a process, not a diagnosis. There are no guarantees, of course. But I’m hoping still the same.
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