I have experienced the most organic form of childbirth possible!
Childbirth for me the second time around was the ultimate gateway experience intoremembering the ways of the Great Mother. Below is an article written in 2003 describing my surprise unassisted birth at home.
THE FIRST TIME AROUND...
It is no secret to those who know me that I feel that the home is the safest and most fulfilling environment in which to give birth to a baby. So, when I found out I was pregnant with both my sons, my natural inclination was to find a homebirth midwife and make plans for delivery at home.
Well, there was this little issue of getting my husband to agree with me. Both times, he was adamant that he did not want the baby delivered at home for fear that something could go wrong.
With my first son, I was not confident enough to deliver at home without my husband's support. So, I selected a hospital, obstetrician and childbirth educator who would help me achieve my goal of naturalchildbirth.
I believe that by most people's standards in this culture, I had an awesome birth. From, start to finish my labor lasted about 15 hours, which is about average for a first time mother. The nurses at the hospital were supportive and my obstetrician was good. However, the hospital environment took away from what I felt like was a sacred event. I was offered an epidural although I did not ask for one. The staff insisted that I stay connected to the electronic fetal monitor considerably more than I wanted, which prevented me from walking.
My obstetrician even had his doubts that I would make it naturally after about the fourteenth hour. But, I accomplished my goal of natural childbirth despite, and began my life as a new mother.
THE SECOND TIME AROUND AIN'T LIKE THE FIRST ONE...I HAD TO GET REAL!
Almost exactly 2 years after my first birth, my husband and I found ourselves surprised with a positive pregnancy test. Little did I know what was in store for me.
By this time, I had completed my certification as a natural childbirth educator and had taught severalcouples what they needed to know to achieve their goal of natural childbirth. I knew that this time I would choose a midwife and hope that my husband would agree to a homebirth. He was just as adamant this time as he was the first so I found a happy medium and decided to deliver at a nearby birth center, a freestanding out-of-hospital birthing facility. The birth center is a homelike facility run by midwives with very little medical technology. It was a good compromise for my husband and I.
Throughout my pregnancy, I began to think about exactly what kind of birth experience I was seeking. In my classes, I had emphasized the sacredness of the birth experience as a rite of passage into motherhood. For me, this was most certainly not a medical experience, rather one that was spiritual and a normal part of a woman's life.
However, I cannot lie. Despite being a natural childbirth educator, I had to confront my conditionings and move past my fear of not giving birth the traditional American way: at a hospital with an obstetrician. I realized that I finally had to practice what I had been preaching in my classes.
INSPIRATION FOR THE FEARFUL IS FOUND....
Two pivotal events occurred that helped me move past my fear. First, my good friend, Tasneem, became pregnant with her first baby. Second, I discovered two childbirth books that confirmed my feelings and desires.
Tasneem's pregnancy was six weeks ahead of mine, so by the time I found out I was pregnant, she and her husband were well on their way to planning her midwife assisted home birth. Considering that she was a first time mother, her confidence was shocking and inspirational to me.
She was enthusiastic and looking forward to giving birth at home. Also, she introduced me to a website calledFreebirth.com, which contained many stories of women who trusted the process enough to give birth without an attending medical professional. This was radical even for me, but it gave me the confidence I needed to trust my decision to give birth outside a hospital.
After moving past my fear, I then began to seek the information I needed to gain clarity on making my birth the spiritual experience that I wanted it to be. Two books were pivotal: Birthing From Within by England and Horowitz and Ina May's Guide to Natural Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, a world renowned Tennessee based midwife.
What I learned from Birthing From Within is that the process of becoming a mother is actually a rite of passage into womanhood and that a woman could make profound and lasting changes in her life through her birth experience.
Ina May's Guide to Natural Childbirth contained story after story of women who had successfully given birth naturallywith the midwives at The Farm in Summertown, TN. This book reminded me that the process of birth is safe and given a supportive and loving environment, the majority of women, like our ancient ancestors, can deliver with little to no medical intervention.
MY SURPRISE UNASSISSTED BIRTH...
So, when I went into labor at midnight on June 10, 2003, I was ready. Don't get me wrong, I was a little shocked because I was only 37 weeks pregnant, but I was ready none-the-less. I did not know how long I would be in labor, so I did not wake my husband initially. Instead, I called my good friends Erika and Tasneem, whose baby was 4 weeksold at the time, and told them that I suspected I was in labor.
To my surprise, the contractions were substantially stronger than I remembered with my first labor. I had trouble relaxing and after about two hours, I felt so overwhelmed that I awoke my husband. We called our midwife who told usto come down whenever I felt ready.
My goal at this point was to labor at home as long as possible. I continued trying to cope with the contractions despite feeling like I was not doing a good job of relaxing. I ran a tub of water and labored in it for a while. I honestly began to have doubts that I was going to be able to handle this labor as well as I did with my first son.
I began to feel nauseated and had a general feeling of malaise when suddenly a thought flashed through my head, "IT'S TIME!"
I told my husband that it was time to go. He called my father-in-law to come and pick up our son and then began loading the car. Dad was at hour home in about 5 minutes. While my husband walked our son out to the car, I had the most painful contraction that I had ever felt, followed by another one that was even more painful.
I cried out to my husband, who came immediately. In the next instant, I felt the urge to push followed by another,then another. With each contraction, I would bare down as I squatted on the side of my bathtub. It was the third push that my second born, a beautiful and healthy baby boy, came out.
It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. Words cannot truly express what I felt.
It was truly sacred and the perfect beginning to a life long relationship with our baby. In that moment, I was changed. I felt a connection to the Goddess and all the ancient mothers who viewed birth as a normal part of a woman's life and as a sacred rite of initiation into womanhood.
More than that, I realized a power within me, one that erased the fear of childbirth and fear in my life in general. In that moment, I moved one step closer to my authentic self.
Although I do not promote unassisted childbirth for everyone, I do advocate women and men taking responsibility for their birth experience. It is not as simple as being pregnant for nine months, giving birth and then happily going home with a new bundle of joy.
And although the birth experience is a tiny sliver on the continuum of a child's life, it can dictate so much of how the script of that child's life is written. Also, the birth experience can dictate how a woman views herself as a mother and a man views himself as a father.
This is why I not only teach parents about the process of birth, but I also emphasize the natural course of birth is safe and that women can use birth to empower themselves in all areas of their lives. They can do this by choosing a care provider who will assist them in achieving an optimal an safe birth experience, by learning about birth and by working through their fears and issues during pregnancy.
My son is now 6 months old. Because of our birth experience, I am a better mother, wife, childbirth educator, La Leche League Leader and person in general.
Oftentimes, we hear about the gift of life we give to our children. I thought I was giving my son the gift of life. But, now I realize that he has given me the supreme gift- the gift of Self. This is my wish for all mothers.