Though I haven’t had an operating-room birth or an unassisted road-side birth, I have given birth in just about every other location with just about every type of birth attendant. For those who may want to know how my births compared, I thought I’d give my pros and cons for each scenario. Before I do, however, I’d like to emphasize that I don’t think birth location is as important as who you choose for birth attendants. I believe most women can have a positive birth experience in any location as long as the people they are surrounded by are kind, supportive, and capable. See my post on this topic here. Keep in mind that these were my personal experiences, and I do not intend to imply that my experiences would be expected to occur in every hospital, birth center, or home birth.
I should be working on my Yoga Teacher Training exam and certification packet, but instead I’ve been looking at homes online. And now here I am blogging. We found out that we’ll have to move this summer. 2015 just keeps getting more and more interesting. I feel like everything about my world right now is “in transition.”
I’m finishing up teacher training. Hallelujah. I’m adjusting to a surprise pregnancy. I’m transitioning through some unwelcome anxiety flare-ups and medication dosage adaptations. I’m remembering to take my own advice about minimizing morning sickness (thank you, cucumbers and magnesium). We’re getting geared-up to move. And I’m transitioning to a new prenatal care provider.
Yeah… switching to a new midwife. With my anxiety struggles and the minor chance of difficulties for the baby because of my medication, I had a strong feeling that I couldn’t do another home birth. If only for my anxiety’s sake, I felt it was best to know I would be much closer to a hospital. Instead, I have chosen to give birth at Blossom Birth Center, located across the street from Phoenix Children’s Hospital and five minutes down the street from St. Joseph’s Hospital. In addition, one of the care providers on staff is an OB, and hospital transfers are smooth and seamless because of their strong relationships with doctors and hospital staff. Also, I’ve done hospital births and home births, but I’ve never done a birth center… might as well give it a try.
On April Fool’s Day of 2009, I gave birth to my third child (my only son) at home (10:55 pm, 7 lbs 8 oz, 19 3/4″ long). After two smooth and low-risk pregnancies and births, losing our maternity insurance, and lots of prayer, we knew home birth was the right path for our third (and fourth) pregnancies.
It was a near-perfect birth from start to finish. My water broke in the afternoon, I relaxed at home, contractions started a couple of hours after membranes ruptured, I ate dinner, my birth support team arrived, labor picked-up, I hung out in the birth pool during the most intense contractions, I pushed for five minutes, baby boy was born on my bed. You can read all the details HERE.
It was magical. And I’m so glad I had my friend Cassie and my sister-in-law Brooke there as my doulas/photographers. I created a slideshow with my birth photos that you can view HERE. But I realized yesterday that I’ve never shared the photos themselves in a blogpost. Here are some of my favorites, taken by Cassie (and Brooke) at the end of my pregnancy, during labor, and afterward:
Midwives have been saving mothers and babies for thousands of years. Long before the words “hospital” and “obstetrician” even existed, midwives were passing down the skills and wisdom of their wise women, nurturing mothers and babies into life.
In one of humanity’s oldest and most well-read stories, midwives were saving lives. The first chapter of Exodus tells of two midwives (Puah and Shiphrah) who saved countless lives through their courage and compassion. When Pharaoh demanded that they kill all the male babies born to the Hebrew women in slavery, Puah and Shiphrah saved the boys instead. It is likely thanks to them that anyone knows and reveres the name of Moses. Midwives save lives.
My own faith’s history claims many brave midwives. In the late 1800’s, Emma Andersen Liljenquist attended a course in midwifery after Mormon church president Brigham Young had urged many women to receive medical training to meet the needs of the Utah’s growing families. (You can read more about Utah’s midwifery history here.) Emma recorded these experiences from her years as a midwife among Utah’s early settlers:
“Some of the best birth footage out there–a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in the subject.” -Ceridwen Morris, CCE, childbirth educator, and co-author of From The Hips
When I received an email last week asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the film Birth Story on my blog, I immediately responded, “Yes!” I received my copy of the film over the weekend. My husband watched some of it with me, in between doing the dishes. I was impressed at how much it didn’t seem to freak him out. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. He’s been married to me for almost twelve years, after all.
When I was a young girl, I went with my grandmother to visit a woman who lived in a tiny white house behind our family fruit orchard. She had added another newborn to her growing flock of little ones. We peeked at the baby, sleeping calmly amid the hubbub of the other children. This experience would likely have receded into the annals of forgotten experiences if it were not for one detail that blazed it into my memory. This woman had delivered her baby at home, on purpose. I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but I was old enough to know that babies were supposed to be born at the hospital. And, besides, why would anyone want to experience that pain?
Not long after I got married, I had a brief conversation with a young woman we knew. She was pregnant with her first child and carrying a stack of birth-related books from the library. The books prompted our conversation, and she mentioned that she was planning to give birth without drugs. I responded, in shock, “I didn’t know people still did that?!” She answered me with two sentences that changed my life forever: “My mom had all her babies that way. There are actually a lot of benefits.” In sincere curiosity and ignorance, I spent a few minutes drilling her about the benefits of natural childbirth. I’m pretty sure she mentioned the Bradley method and midwives in there somewhere. And then the conversation ended. I have since forgotten her name, but I will be forever grateful to this young woman for opening my mind to a path I never would have found or chosen on my own.
I mentioned on my facebook page that I recently turned our bedroom into a sort-of tribute to bellies, babies, birth, and life-giving. And people wanted pics!
I’ve been taking what we already had (with the addition of a few cheap Goodwill frames) to decorate with. So that means we finally hung up lots of things I’ve been planning to hang up for ages, including many of our birth and pregnancy photos (most of them taken by my talented doula friend, Cassie). And lots of trees, green things, life, love, and growth.
I think this is the first time we’ve ever really had stuff hanging in our bedroom. I really like how everything looks!
Now for the pics…
Saturday was my birthday, and I was given a wonderful gift at the end of the day. I received an email from one of my readers, sharing how my essay “Unity with Providers of Care” (in the Unity chapter of our book) had a positive impact on her. She also shared a beautiful spiritual experience she had after reading my essay. With her permission, I share it today. -Lani/Busca
I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and have been making my way through The Gift of Giving Life, and I wanted to tell you how much your book has helped me.
Long story short, I was very unhappy with the hospital care I received with my 3rd child. While I like the Ob/Gyn I normally see, they have about twenty doctors that rotate at the hospital. With my 3rd child, I played Russian roulette with this system and ended up with two very horrid doctors who threatened and yelled at me for giving birth the way I wanted to. So I have been hoping to find—and not have to pay for—a better option for my 4th child.
Yesterday I had a very important meeting with the head OB for the insurance provider we have to discuss whether or not I could get a referral to a birthing center. I’d been waiting for a month for this appointment and was very keyed up about the whole thing, so I went to bed the night before knowing that I probably wouldn’t be sleeping well…
Read the rest of the post HERE.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. We were at a baby shower, and somehow we got on the subject of belly buttons. I mentioned that my son had a kind of funky belly button (’cause he sort of did at the time), and this friend said something like, “Could that be because of the home birth?” I was very perplexed and said, “What do you mean?” She asked, “What do they do with the umbilical cord?” Then I explained that they use the same umbilical cord clamps hospitals use, and cut the cord with sterile scissors, just like they do in the hospital.
As much as I was stunned by this conversation, I have to cut my friend some slack. Home birth really is so foreign to most people. So there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it’s like and about midwives also. Toward the end of my last pregnancy, I decided I’d bring my camera along and document the visit, partly for memory’s sake and partly so I could do a little bit of demystifying about midwives and home birth.
I realize that prenatal appointments are going to vary considerably depending upon who your midwife is. Some midwives come to your home for check-ups. Some have their offices in their own homes. Some have their own offices, like my midwives. I don’t presume to believe that this is the way all midwives practice. But I still thought it might be helpful to show what a typical visit is like with a home birth midwife like mine (Mary at Beyond Conception Midwifery).
So, here’s a photo tour of a February 2011 prenatal appointment with my midwives…
[Trigger warning: This post contains loss.]
Almost five years ago, four friends went fishing in a small motorboat on a cool November morning. Kimball and Steven were brothers. Steven brought his wife, Catheryn. The other was a friend. At first, the lake water was like a sheet of glass, calm and serene. After a few hours, however, the wind picked up and so did the waves. The fish started biting like crazy. One after another, they brought fish in, not realizing that the waves were slowly filling the boat. Suddenly, just as they noticed the too-deep pool of frigid water in the bottom of the boat, it sunk out from under them.
Based on the low temperature of the water and the distance to the lake shore, none of them should have survived. All of them were praying their hearts out. First they swam together toward the marina, crying out for help as loudly as they could. Then Kimball realized that they were swimming against the current and needed to turn around and swim the other way. He swam ahead to tell Steven, who said, “You think?” Steven swam ahead to where Catheryn was.
Kimball thought that he was telling her the change of plans and that they would quickly follow. He turned in the direction of the current with his friend, looking back repeatedly as the current carried him further and further from where his brother had been, unable to see them any longer, wondering whether they might have chosen to keep heading toward the marina to look for help in that direction. As he swam, he heard these words over and over in his head: “Just keep swimming… just keep swimming… just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
Half of them made it miraculously to shore and survived, half of them moved on to the world of spirits.
With my three previous births, the transition from 7 to 10 centimeters took me deeper and deeper into the inner recesses of my consciousness. As I pulled further and further into myself, I would dig for any reserves of strength and endurance. Simultaneously I would be taken up and outside of myself to distant spaces somewhere between earth and heaven, almost completely oblivious to my actual physical surroundings and anyone in them. Between contractions, I was typically extremely relaxed and motionless with my eyes closed. Basically, during transition, I’m usually simultaneously high and sedated from the influence of massive amounts of natural opiates (endorphins).
But there I was… nine centimeters with baby #4… and my head was still firmly on this planet? I’d never experienced anything like this before.
After checking my cervix, Mary suggested that I get up on my knees, leaning over my birth ball, to encourage the baby to descend, and do some nipple stimulation to get some good “mean” contractions coming. In retrospect, I can tell you how wise and merciful it was for her to encourage those “mean” contractions. Endorphins are an important part of the birth process, and they’re released in response to pain. Minimal pain, in my case, translated to minimal endorphin release—not the ideal way to prepare for a mini-person to squeeze through my lady parts. Pushing has always been the easiest part of childbirth for me because I’m usually swimming in natural opiates. This time, Mary could tell (and I could tell) that I was most definitely not swimming in opiates. So, nipple stim we did. That’s when my doula arrived with her camera and started snapping pictures.
Knowing how soon the birth would be upon us, we also called for my five-year-old daughter to come upstairs. Before I even became pregnant, she told me she wanted to be my doula the next time I had a baby. She’s my little “birth junkie” and could watch birth YouTube videos with me all day long.
I needed to take my time writing this birth journey. In part, because it felt like writing it down was placing it squarely in the past, and I didn’t want it to be totally over. But also because it has taken me all this time to process the experience, and yet I’m still processing it as we speak. Birth is unpredictable, raw, and real. Sometimes it can be just as traumatic as it is beautiful. How do we convey all that complexity of experience with words? How can we describe it? These words in a blog comment from Kassandra were so spot-on:
There are so many layers to your birth story because there are so many different parts of yourself experiencing it.
It is such an incredibly rich spiritual experience, a full on physical sensation and accomplishment, and an emotional rollercoaster changing from moment to moment, with a different focus depending on what part of it you are trying to convey. Is it about the outcome? Is it about the moments? Is it about how you felt during, or afterwards? It’s everything… and it will change depending on who you are telling and why.
This birth was, at once, the absolute easiest and the absolute most difficult of my children’s births. It was both gentle and jarring. As I mentioned in part 1, I was initially disappointed. There was no dreamy, on-another-planet, endorphin-filled build to a climax—something I’d become addicted to since my first birth. It felt sort of like I got cheated out of one of the best parts of giving birth unmedicated. Robert Louis Stevenson has said, “And the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets, to find where the joy resides, and give it voice, far beyond singing.” Coming to peace with this birth has been just such a poetic process… finding where the joy resides and figuring out how to give it voice and make it sing.
As I mentioned in part 1, much of the magic and spiritual richness of my daughter’s birth happened in the cushion of time surrounding the actual birth experience, particularly the weeks leading up to her birth. While all my other children came 5 to 10 days early, this baby chose to make her appearance 5 days “late.” As we waited, wondering when our baby would be born, we were once again called upon to “surrender.” I took comfort in reading the words of a wise and wonderful nursing professor, Lynn Callister:
Waiting denotes an active process . . . requires continual self-examination, constantly trying to become more worthy, and ever-deepening and progressive discipleship of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a yielded will and consecration of self. (“They That Wait Upon the Lord”)
And the words of my friend and book collaborator, Heather:
In Hebrew the word ‘wait’ is also the same word for ‘hope.’ . . . A woman waiting for a child . . . has a unique opportunity to put her faith and trust in the Lord and demonstrate her willingness to wait upon the Lord’s timing. When she learns to be patient and hopeful she opens herself up to receive miracles and great spiritual gifts.
Trying to get words on paper to describe my fourth baby’s birth has been a challenge. I’ve told the bare bones condensed version more times than I can remember now, but to find the words to infuse the story with all of its detail and intensity and emotion… every time I thought about making an attempt, I found myself paralyzed. My feelings about the experience seem to change daily as well. As I’ve relived it and processed it in my head over and over, the words and feelings associated with the experience have ranged across a broad spectrum—sometimes positive, sometimes negative, sometimes neutral. Fortunately, as the event recedes further into memory, my feelings about it grow more and more positive and peaceful.
Initially, in the first few days after giving birth this time, I felt a lot of nostalgic longing for my first home birth experience. It had been so magical and spiritual (especially in retrospect, I’m sure), and the weeks after that birth had been even more wonderful. This birth, however, was so utterly different than I ever expected or visualized. Before I even had a chance to wrap my mind around the fact that it was happening, it was already over! And, I must admit, those brief moments of “happening” were intense enough that I felt, for the first time after a birth, a bit traumatized. There also wasn’t time for so many of the things I had hoped to do during this birth experience—lots of private time with my husband, time in the shower, time visualizing and meditating on my baby, etc. I only got to wear my birthing necklace for what seemed like a few minutes, and I had envisioned spending hours with it draped on my neck as a reminder of the love and strength being lent to me. So this birth was initially a bit disappointing to me despite the fact that it all went “perfectly” in terms of health and clinical details. I feel so ungrateful now as I type those words, but I’m just keeping it real.
I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally written the first paragraph of my birth account. It felt almost like pulling teeth, but I did it. And here it is…
Trying to get words on paper to describe this birth has been a challenge. I’ve told the barebones condensed version more times than I can remember now, but to find the words to infuse the story with all of its detail and intensity and emotion… every time I thought about making an attempt, I found myself paralyzed. My feelings about the experience seem to change daily as well. As I’ve relived it and processed it in my head over and over, the words and feelings associated with the experience have ranged across a broad spectrum—sometimes positive, sometimes a little negative, sometimes neutral. Fortunately, as the event recedes further into memory, my feelings about it grow more and more positive and peaceful.