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.
About a year later, I became pregnant myself. First step: find a care provider. Despite feeling drawn to midwifery care, I was afraid to venture into the unknown, so I chose to see an obstetrician like everyone else in my family had done.
I spent much of my pregnancy reading my way through the library’s birth books. They opened my eyes to the documented risks associated with birth drugs and interventions. I have never been a risk-taker, and I was determined to minimize all the risks I could with my baby. I read countless birth stories, and the drug-free tales spoke to my core, captivating me. I wanted to experience what they described. I wanted to feel my birth and bring my child forth as my ancestors and ancient sisters had done. As my due date drew nearer, I thought often about how my body was designed by God to give birth, and how I just needed to relax, trust God, and trust the birth process.
Two days shy of 39 weeks I gave birth to my first baby after less than six hours of empowering, unmedicated labor, with the unwavering support of my husband and the help of a wonderful doula-like nurse. The on-call doctor arrived a few minutes after the delivery, so my daughter was caught by a resident. Unfortunately, the delivery left me with several painful perineal and vaginal wall tears. Despite my physical pain, I was thrilled to have achieved my goal of giving birth without medication. It had been the most physically challenging yet empowering experience in my life to that point.
I know that unmedicated birth isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I know that there are times when epidurals and medical intervention are huge blessings and even life-savers. I never would have imagined I’d be someone who would choose to give birth without drugs, on purpose. I never would have imagined I’d ever give birth at home, on purpose. There are actually a lot of things I’ve now done in my life that I never would have imagined I’d do (…live in the blazing hot desert, buy a Chevrolet vehicle, take anti-depressants, yell at my children, write stuff and share it on this crazy-cool thing called the Internet and have people actually want to read it… I could go on and on).
You really never know where life will take you. What a wild ride.