Thursday, March 27, 2008
It has already been a week since Elly was born. I've spent the vast majority of that week on the couch in my living room, just taking it easy and bonding with my sweet little girl. Not having to worry about laundry, cleaning, and cooking has given me a lot of time to think about Elly's birth, and how it has changed me. Some of those feelings, I really can't put into words. I realized when I had Kaylee three years ago that low-intervention, un-medicated birth is a powerful experience. I had a wonderful midwife who made it possible for us to have a great birth experience in a hospital setting. Kaylee's birth was very empowering, and very healing for me. After she was born, I knew that if I had any more children, I wanted them to be born at home. I had already done a lot of research during Kaylee's pregnancy, and part of me wanted to have her at home, but our family at the time wasn't quite ready. But there was no doubt in my mind about where I wanted future children to join our family. Dave and I had many discussions on the topic, and we agreed that our 4th child should be born at home. A couple of years passed, and I got pregnant with Elly. I was somewhat shocked, but excited at the same time. I was excited about the prospect of finding a midwife, and planning a birth at home. Then I started bleeding. A lot. I thought for sure I was going to lose this baby. At 7 weeks, I decided to go back to one of the CNM's I had seen during Kaylee's pregnancy. She did a quick ultrasound to see what was going on, and to my relief found a little bean with a good strong heartbeat. The ultrasound showed, however, that the placenta was partially covering my cervix, and that there was a bloodclot under the placenta. She also saw what she thought may be a fibroid. I had a range of emotions that day, being happy about the baby being alive, but beginning to mourn what I thought was the loss of my option to birth at home. I went for a follow-up ultrasound two weeks later, and the placenta was still covering my cervix, the blood clot was still there. I knew it was still early, and that things could change, but I started to slowly get used to the idea of another hospital birth. Possibly even a c-section, if my placenta ended up being stubborn and staying on top of my cervix. I continued going to my appointments, and seeing my CNM. Then, at the end of October, the hospital's new Women's Center opened. I decided to go to the open house, and going into how I felt walking through this brand new building would take another post altogether. Let's just say I came out feeling that no way on earth did I want to be there to give birth to my child. The whole place screamed intervention and managed labor. When I asked about rooms with a jacuzzi, I was told that there was just one bathroom in the hallway that had one, since the majority of women wanted epidurals, anyway, so there was no need for big tubs. At the end of the tour, people were standing in line for free formula samples. Everything inside of me just wanted to scream and run out of the place. I came home wanting to cry. Of course, I would do whatever I had to do to make sure the baby could be born safely, but deep inside I just had this feeling of wanting to run. A few days later, we had our 19 week ultrasound. I was so nervous going into it. And I made sure to ask the technician all the important questions. The placenta had moved off my cervix, and was just where it should be. There was no blood clot. There wasn't a fibroid anywhere in sight. Check, check, check. I was so excited! I knew I wouldn't be keeping my next appointment with the CNM there. Instead, I called Chris and asked to meet with her. She came up a couple weeks later, and spent an hour (at least, maybe more) talking with Dave and I. We made the decision to hire her as our midwife, and never looked back. The next few months just flew by, and the pregnancy progressed without any problems at all. As the day of Elly's birth drew closer, I started getting more and more excited. People would ask me if I was nervous about giving birth soon, or getting anxious, but I had none of those feelings. I was really looking forward to the day of her birth. When that day finally came, I felt so calm and peaceful inside. It was such an incredible experience to just be me. To do what my body told me to do. To follow my instincts. There was nobody wanting to strap me to a bed so they could monitor my labor. Instead, Chris just quietly checked Elly's heartbeat with the doppler every so often. Nobody told me what to do. Everyone who was at the birth just waited with me. They kept me entertained between contractions, and just left me alone and let me do what I needed to do to cope when the waves were coming stronger. It was amazing to be able to follow my body's lead. As labor progressed, I realized that things had a tendency to slow down if I stayed in the same position for too long. So whenever that happened, I moved. I stood up, I walked around, I leaned on the washer, I leaned on the couch, I leaned on the kitchen counter. I sat on my birthing ball, and I spent quite a bit of time kneeling on the floor, with my upper body draped over the ball. I even spent some time hanging onto the door frame, which felt surprisingly good. :o) I moaned and groaned through contractions, which was a wonderful way to release tension. And when transition hit, my birth partners were there to support me. They recognized when I truly needed them, and helped direct my focus on the task ahead. They knew how to help a woman roaring while pushing a baby out. There was no panic, just quiet support. And when Elly was born, and I felt so much relief, everyone watched quietly as I exclaimed, over and over, "I did it!" There was no hustle and bustle, no instant cord cutting, no rubbing down the baby, no pokes. We all were able to just be. It was beautiful, serene. We all marveled over the miracle that had just occurred. And I felt so in touch with myself, and with Elly. It all was so natural. It was intense, powerful, and yes, even painful for a little while. But I would do it all over again. Having such an intensely physical and emotional experience really made me realize why women choose to birth at home. Birth is such a raw, physical process that can happen in many settings. But it's also an extremely emotional process, and being at home really accommodated that aspect. I have come to believe that while, in the end, it's a healthy baby that matters, the way we give birth is extremely important, as well. And for me, personally, having the option of giving birth at home has really enabled me to get in touch with myself in a way that I have never experienced before. There is an aspect of respect for the body, of dignity, that all too often gets lost in a hospital setting. You're not a patient, but a mom giving birth to a miracle. You're not a number, hooked up to a monitor to be watched, but a human being going through a process that will forever change who you are. Instead of frequent cervical checks, the midwife just watches the woman to see where she's at. There is no coached pushing, the mom just follows her body's lead. You get to fully experience what your body is capable of doing, and you're in charge. You have people patiently watching over you, making sure you and your baby are safe, without intruding in a process that is so intricate and intense. I think that's what I loved about having Elly at home. I felt safe, protected, watched over - without being interfered with. I was able to do what I needed to do to bring her into this world - in an environment that was physically and emotionally safe for both of us.