mater mea - Celebrating Motherhood and Women of Color

Why Having A Home Birth Was The Best Decision For My Family

The author with her two children after giving birth at home.

The author with her two children after giving birth at home.

Why Having A Home Birth Was The Best Decision For My Family

Words: Angela Johnson

A painful hospital birth made this mom consider other options the second time around.

 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve fantasized about becoming a mom. I envisioned pregnancy as a blissful nine months filled with prenatal yoga classes and eating ice cream without guilt. Unfortunately my reality was far less romantic.

In the fall of 2009, my husband and I were delighted to learn that we were having a baby girl. But just as we started picking out names and strollers, we received some startling news four months into my pregnancy: I was diagnosed with an “incompetent cervix.” My OB warned me that I might not be able to carry my little girl to term and ordered me to spend the rest of my pregnancy on bed rest. I was afraid even the slightest movement would have dangerous consequences for my baby; I decided to leave nothing to chance, and complied with my doctor’s suggestion to stay put.

Confined to my bedroom, I read, watched a lot of television, and even taught myself how to knit, but mostly I lived in fear that I would lose my baby. After months of tests and confusing “doctor talk,” a routine ultrasound revealed a low level of amniotic fluid; two weeks before my due date, I endured a painful labor induction. The only thing worse than the Pitocin-induced contractions was the fact that the epidural did almost nothing to help ease the pain. And as if that weren’t bad enough, my parents and my OB missed out on the entire thing. At the end of the ordeal, we were blessed to have a beautifully healthy baby girl, but I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed what it took to bring her into the world.

I lived in fear that I would lose my baby...

A year and a half later, when my husband and I learned that baby number two was on the way, I was terrified. The pain of my first pregnancy was still extremely raw. I didn’t want to relive that experience, but I had no idea how I could avoid it. Once an incompetent cervix, always an incompetent cervix, right?

After watching The Business of Being Born, a documentary about home birth, my husband and I decided to consider alternatives to another hospital birth. This time, we wanted more control over our birth experience: He didn’t want to be confined to visiting hours and hospital policies, and I wanted the freedom to eat, move around, and dress as I pleased (no more hideous hospital gowns and ice chips for me!). For us, home was the best place to make all of our childbirth dreams come true.

But as excited as we were, my husband and I had a hard time finding others who shared our enthusiasm (“Is it safe?” and “Are you crazy?” were the most common reactions we got from friends and family when we shared our news). We tried to reassure everyone that women have been having babies at home for centuries and that midwives were more than capable of handling emergencies, but there was also a little part of me that was uneasy. Could I, the woman who could barely tolerate a paper cut, handle natural childbirth?

It didn’t take long for us to find a pair of local midwives who made us feel comfortable. Both had a gentle demeanor, and were mothers who had experienced home birth firsthand. Their cozy office walls were lined with photos of women holding their beautiful, healthy babies—all born at home. They reviewed my medical records and gave me the green light to maintain my normal routine, encouraging me to allow my body to be in control of the pregnancy. As far as they were concerned, I’d already proven I could carry a baby to term.

“Is it safe?” and “Are you crazy?” were the most common reactions we got from friends and family...

For the next nine months,  I looked forward to my monthly appointments, which were more like therapy sessions than medical checkups. I used the hour to vent about everything from piles of dirty laundry to painful hemorrhoids. The midwives even helped me find a doula who worked with me on natural pain management techniques to use during my labor.

With our team in place, there was nothing left for us to do but wait and wait. My due date came and went with little more than a flutter in my belly. My midwives monitored me closely, but resolved to rely on my body to decide when the baby should be born. “The baby will come on his birthday,” one of them joked. I tried every natural labor-inducing tactic out there—spicy food, long walks, acupuncture—but my little guy chose to stay inside and cook.

Angela Johnson with her doula on the big day.

Angela Johnson with her doula on the big day.

At the end of week 42, the big day finally arrived—with a little help from a castor oil and orange juice cocktail. My husband and mother-in-law eagerly transformed our one-bedroom apartment into a first-class birthing center. We filled a kiddie pool in the middle of our living room, sliced fruit, and cranked up our favorite music. As my midwives monitored the baby’s heart rate, my doula coached me through each contraction, encouraging me to move towards the pain rather than away from it. I was surprisingly calm, as I clutched the side of my birth pool and envisioned myself climbing a mountain, just as we had practiced. I was encouraged to change positions often. In true dramatic fashion, Baby Aiden made his debut in the middle of my favorite quiet place at home.

The kiddie pool was set up in the family's living room.

The kiddie pool was set up in the family's living room.

Angela's superhero birthing team helped bring baby Aiden into the world.

Angela's superhero birthing team helped bring baby Aiden into the world.

Angela's husband holding baby Aiden.

Angela's husband holding baby Aiden.

Aiden hanging out with his big sister.

Aiden hanging out with his big sister.

My team of birthing superheroes hung around to clean up and help my son and I enjoy our first meal together. By the time my little guy had been cleaned and weighed, I was chowing down on a delicious homemade breakfast and a long-awaited cup of coffee. My 2-year-old daughter, who had slept peacefully though most of the excitement, managed to tear herself away from Sesame Street long enough to meet her new baby brother.

I’m so thankful that women have so many childbirth options available to them, and have the freedom to make the best decision for their families. I never imagined I’d give birth in my one-bedroom apartment on purpose, but I’m so proud of my family for having the courage to make Aiden’s birth what we wanted. Today, we have two healthy children who are as unique as the conditions that brought them into the world.

"Today, we have two healthy children who are as unique as the conditions that brought them into the world."

"Today, we have two healthy children who are as unique as the conditions that brought them into the world."

 

Did you have a home birth, a hospital birth, or both? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

 

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