There was never a question in my mind that I wanted to do a home birth and that I wanted to do it naturally. Not only did I always intuitively feel that it was the best thing for both my child and I, but I had also read so much on the benefits of a natural home birth and the risks and negatives of a hospital birth. I envisioned myself going through the pain and the waves of labor in the safety and calmness of my home environment, my husband holding my naked body supporting me. I could picture the intense pushing, the moaning, the agony even, of birthing my baby vaginally, her head crowning, being able to feel every ounce of pain and joy, being able to reach down and touch her head as she began her journey into the outside world. I imagined pulling her out with my own hands, and bringing her slimy warm body onto my naked chest. I was so excited to see her open and aware eyes for the first time, within those first seconds of life, to bond with her as she slowly discovered her new environment- one without bright fluorescent hospital lights, one without strangers poking her and prodding her and plopping her down on some cold sterile metal table. It would be her new home, warm, with fresh air, blankets, and naked bodies- just like her own, with the smells of mom and dad, with special music playing. She would not leave my body, except to the warmth and security of her Daddy’s naked chest to smell him and hear his voice and heart beat. I knew she would want to finish her tough journey to the breast where she would be rewarded with the familiar smell of her mother, the sweet taste of my milk, and the sound of my heart. She would have some sense of accomplishment to have done her part in the birthing experience and she would feel tired but not a drugged grogginess. She would be clear headed and awake, until she comfortably fell asleep in the safety of my arms, knowing she was in exactly the place she should be. I knew that the labor would be long and hard, but that I would be strong and capable. I had no doubt that I would bring her into this world naturally no matter how hard I had to work at it.
I even wrote a 12 page letter to my insurance company
explaining to them why they should cover part, if not all, of the costs of my
home birth. In it I explained that, “my
research has shown that home-births are just as safe as hospital births. Indeed, the
well-known Cochrane Database, after reviewing the published literature,
concluded that ‘no empirical evidence
supports the claim that hospital births are a safer option than planned
Study after study also shows that
midwife-attended births result in better outcomes than those attended by
doctors, such as the Journal of Health
Politics, Policy & Law which concluded that ‘low- to moderate-risk home births attended by direct-entry midwives
are at least as safe as hospital births attended by either physicians or
midwives.’” [ii] I also argued
that, “as a low risk pregnancy it is safer and healthier to have a home
birth because a hospital birth can lead to unwanted and unnecessary
interventions that can slow down or even halt the birthing process, leading to
necessary interventions…” I included
research that supported the safety of homebirths and the positives of using
midwives. I also included the statement
made by the former governor of
This was the first time in my life that I had really taken the time to try to change the system, to go out of my way to research and write in order to try to change something that I knew was well built into our society. People think that doctors know everything, are never wrong, and that we need them to birth our children. The power has been taken away from women who really should be able to birth their children however they feel is best. Not surprisingly, I was denied support from my insurance company, but that didn’t faze me. In my mind, using midwives during my pregnancy and birth was well worth the cost out of pocket. I received excellent care from them during my pregnancy- far superior to the care I received from my local, insurance-covered OBGYN doctors, who saw me 3 times for a total of 15 minutes each during the nine months, and never asked my about my birth plan, my nutrition, my emotions, my family history, what kind of support I was receiving, or how I was taking care of my body. All they did was pressure me to take tests! I opted out of many of them, like the diabetes test, because I didn’t feel it was necessary. I did do the ultrasound, but I spent 15 minutes in the bathroom talking to my unborn child, warning her that she would hear a loud noise, apologizing for the intrusion, and explaining that I was doing this because I wanted to make sure she was doing okay in there.
I stayed clear of any medications during my pregnancy for headaches or nausea, ate mostly organic fresh foods, didn’t drink coffee or alcohol except for a glass of wine a couple of times, exercised, meditated, did yoga, took my vitamins, drank tons of water, and limited the simple carbohydrates and sugars from my diet. Both my husband and I sang and talked to our baby and developed a strong bond with her while she was in the womb. I felt great about my pregnancy, in spite of its challenges.
Needless to say, when the day my labor began, I was extremely excited, a little nervous, but feeling strong and confident in my decisions. I began latent labor at 7am on a Sunday morning. I rested, drank water and tried to eat some healthy carbohydrates for energy. I walked around, making breakfast and getting the house ready. At 3pm the midwife stopped by, checked my dilation, the heart rates, and the position of the baby. At that point we thought that she was angled slightly in a diagonal position, but we were pretty sure that she would turn when the labor began. The midwife said to call her when active labor began. She said I would know because I wouldn’t be laughing and talking anymore. I said, “hey maybe this is just going to be the way I am during labor” and she just smiled and said, “Call me.”
Active labor began at 4pm and I knew right away…I got up off the couch and headed to my bed, where I laid down and closed my eyes, breathing and moaning. I could smell the fresh vegetable soup that my dad had made in my kitchen, I could sense the presence of other people as the midwives showed up and my parents walked around, I could feel my husbands hands on my face and body, massaging and speaking comforting words, but I was not really there anymore- I was in some other world where just my baby and I existed. I remember walking in the hallway past my mom and she said, “hey, baby, are we losing you?” And I opened my eyes slightly, and nodded, yes…I was gone, into the sacred world of birthing where only goddesses exist, time has no meaning, and even the pain seemed distant although very present. It is an experience that no one can imagine or explain until you are there yourself. It is similar to floating on the ocean waves except the incredible strength of the waves go through you instead of under you and you can feel them ripping through your body. You really have no control over when they come or how you respond, you just feel it and try to go with it rather than fight it, using its strength to push you forward, to move you to the next wave. I remember my voice wanted to be high and whiney because of the intense pain and the midwife said, “Deshna you are wasting all your energy by letting it come upward out of you, take that same energy and push it down, moan, low and deep into yourself.” Once I started doing that it got easier in a way and more natural, like the animal in me was taking over. Later, my neighbors told me that it sounded like a wild animal giving birth.
I squatted and walked and did yoga poses to open my pelvis. I got in the birth tub when the pain came into my back, my husband in there with me, holding me as the pain rippled through me. I started pushing around 8pm and by midnight I was almost 10 centimeters dilated. I thought I was coming to the end. The only problem was that Kaila’s head was still at a diagonal, so that the longest part of her head- from front to back-was trying to come out my narrow opening. From the pressure, my cervix lip got swollen, and that didn’t make things any easier. The midwife tried everything she could, putting her hand inside me with every contraction to turn the head. As a team, we tried everything imaginable—special tea, massaging with oils, squatting, yanking my leg behind me, herbs, walking, sitting on the birthing stool, the birth tub, kneeling. You name it, we tried it…and still she was stuck. I pushed from 8 pm until 3 am at home- 7 hours! Finally, as I was near fainting from exhaustion, we decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I had three contractions just getting to the car and a number of them on the way there and in the waiting room. Once I finally got to my room it was 4 am. At that point, the nurse suggested an epidural. She said, you need to rest, otherwise you won’t have the strength to keep trying. I believed her and I still do. My strength was gone, all I wanted to do was go to sleep and never wake up- not a good thought in the middle of a birth. I decided to take their advice which the midwives also recommended.
When the epidural kicked in, I was in heaven for a short time. My pain was gone, I felt happy, giddy even. I was telling jokes, doing yoga on the table…I remember thinking, “Wow! Why didn’t I do this earlier? This is great!” However, my elation only briefly lasted…I had to get back to work. Unfortunately, because I had taken the epidural, my contractions had slowed down, so they had to give me Pitocin to get them back up to a stronger level. My arguments to the insurance company were accurate! One intervention did lead to another. Then they asked if I still wanted to try to birth my daughter vaginally. I stoically said, “of course! I have come this far, I am not giving up now.” Then I looked at my midwife and asked her if she thought it was still possible. She nodded yes, but I could see the worry in her eyes. I felt as if she knew something that I didn’t. In fact, that was what I felt the whole time in the hospital, that they all knew something that they weren’t telling me. Here I am, the one giving birth, the one doing all the work, the one feeling all the pain, and I am in the dark about what is going on with my body. And then I realized why…I couldn’t feel my body! When they asked me to push, I pushed so hard that I was literally scared that my eyes were going to pop out of my head. I pushed so hard that I broke blood vessels in my neck and face. But I couldn’t feel my lower body. I had no idea where I was pushing. It was horrible! I wasn’t in control anymore, I was barely even present. The drugs, doctors and machines had taken over. The machine now told me when I was having a contraction. The nurse now told me when to push, not my body. The drugs told me that I was fine, that this was easy, when I wasn’t. Labor is hard for a reason, your body needs to feel the pain to know when and how hard to push. As a woman, we need to know that we are strong, that we can handle anything- labor teaches us that. But what lesson do you learn if you don’t make it through labor? What lesson did I learn?
After pushing for three more hours, now a total of 12 hours, my doctor recommended I get a C-section. My heart dropped. It was exactly what I didn’t want to happen! All that I had imagined was obliterated in that moment. All I could think about was my baby and how I had failed her. She wasn’t going to get to finish her journey the natural way. Would it affect the rest of her life, her psychology even, as some people believed? Would it alter the process of our bonding? My guilt was already present in regards to the epidural, now I was faced with this decision. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have much of a choice. Neither one of us would have made it much longer if we didn’t get her out and
I felt that I had already done everything I could possibly do. So I had the C-section. 15 minutes later, my daughter was born. Amazing that I could work so hard for hours and 15 minutes was all it took for them to cut me open and pull her out. I remember the feeling of suction as they pulled her out, one minute I was full of her body, every inch taken up, then the next minute, I was empty, open and alone. It was so tragic to me while at the same time, so glorious to know she was alive and well. I was extremely grateful to be alive and too see her beautiful eyes when I first got to kiss her. I know that it is in large part because of modern medicine that I am alive to tell my story. However, I have a feeling of being blocked at my womb chakra, as if I was not done with my process and the energy could not move through. I wondered if she felt the same way, like she didn’t finish her journey. I was lucky, she breastfed a half an hour later and seemed clear headed and present, in spite of the drugs. I made every effort in the next few days and weeks to reverse whatever damage I had done by not having a natural birth. She slept on me, naked body next to naked body the whole time, breastfeeding when ever she wanted to. Although she was a happy baby, there was a pained look in her eyes those first couple of weeks and I knew that she too had to grieve the loss.
In reality, everything happened that I didn’t want to happen in my birth. So, I believe that life was trying to tell me something. Sometimes lessons are presented in pieces throughout your life and then, at a certain point, they all come together to form the entire message. It came to me one night when I was staring into my daughter’s gorgeous blue eyes, which have a depth to them that is unbelievable. It was as if she was trying to communicate the lesson to me through her intense look. “Let it go, mama, let it go. Let go of the expectations, let go of your false sense of control, let go of your fears, let go of your judgments, let go of your certainties, let go of your plans…just let it go.” It was a message that had been constantly presented to me along my journey, but one that I had not yet really learned. I had completely expected to have a natural birth at home. I said to my friends, “I am NOT going to the hospital, I would never have an epidural!” The lesson for me is that when I have expectations and make plans for the future, I am not living my life, I am spending my energy and wasting my moments on something that is not real. The only thing that is real is the moment that I am in now. As I look into my daughter’s eyes I realize that nothing I could have planned or expected could compare to what I have. The reality is so much better! I would go through a hundred C-sections to have my daughter. That is not to say that it isn’t important to put an intention out there in regards to your future, especially something as important as a birth. But to spend time and energy that is so precious focusing on something that is not real and not going to happen (because nothing is ever as you imagine it) is really wasted time. Not only that but I realized the main reason I plan so much and think about the future is because of my fear of not being in control. A fear that when you really meditate on it, you realize is so ridiculous. We are never in control. The only thing we have control over is the way we respond to the reality that occurs in each moment. Looking back, I think that my birth happened exactly as it was supposed to, each moment I did whatever it took to bring my baby into this world. Now, maybe I can finally let go. Maybe it took such an intense, life-changing experience to learn such a challenging lesson. Let go of the fear…just let it go.