Leah was my midwife for the birth of my third child and first homebirth. I was initially drawn to her as a midwife because of her attentive listening, compassionate understanding and professional knowledge-base. She always took the time to explain, in great detail, the answers to my many questions. She had a wonderful way of supporting me to make the decisions that affected me and my family; providing the needed information and then respecting me to make an informed decision. Prenatal appointments were always enjoyable and she always made an effort to connect with my older children, not to mention, always saying hello my baby in the womb. During my pregnancy, labor, and post-partum, I felt confident in Leah’s midwifery expertise and trusted her health advice. Her presence at my birth was perfectly balanced between allowing us space and privacy while also providing safety through her medical knowledge and vast experience with birth. During my birth she was an amazing support and I feel blessed that she was my midwife and continues to be a friend. The following is my birth story and general reflections on childbirth which was published in Midwifery Today in Fall, 2012.
Every birth experience has its own unique qualities and flavor. The particular details of location, timing, sensation, colors and scents give each experience its own style. Each of my three experiences of giving birth was unique—each one individually beautiful, miraculous and life-altering. My first two children were born in a hospital. The labor of my first daughter was long and arduous and fell into the cascade of interventions. My second daughter’s birth was natural, inspiring and enlightening. The birth of my son, however, was different in that it was completely my own style. The birth occurred just as I had envisioned it and expressed my earnest desires, personality and beliefs. The birth process was comfortable and enjoyable and brought an immense amount of satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy.
For me, pregnancy is a time for huge personal growth of the mind and soul. During my pregnancy, I read a profuse number of books about this mysterious event called birth. I was already convinced that natural childbirth was a better choice for so many reasons, but I began reading about the safety of birth within different locations. I was surprised to read the statistics comparing safety outcomes of births occurring in the hospital compared to homebirths. The more I read about homebirth, the more convinced I became that it was a safe and healthy choice. I allowed myself to imagine what birth could look like and what my ideal birth experience would be. I created a visual image of how and where I wanted it to happen. Although I trusted that my body could birth naturally, I had to overcome some subconscious and culturally ingrained fears about leaving the “safety” of the hospital environment. I had to confront my own perceptions and beliefs and look my fears straight in the face. It was a long journey, but I came to the decision that the best place for me to give birth was at home, in my own bedroom. It made sense to me that our child should enter the world in the same room in which he was conceived. I strongly believe that birth is a natural event that goes more smoothly with less intervention, and I wanted to put my beliefs into practice. I wanted to experience birth where it really belongs.
The last few months of my pregnancy were a time of preparation mentally, physically and spiritually. I embraced the importance of the birth experience and did everything I could to ensure a positive outcome for all of us. I received prenatal care from Leah, a homebirth midwife, which not only focused on the medical practice, but considered the emotional and spiritual impact as well. I was able to build a relationship with Leah; there was trust and understanding between us.
My contractions slowly started to build throughout the night; we called Leah and she arrived at our home around 3:00 am. We prepared our bedroom for our baby’s arrival and created an atmosphere with soft lighting, music, aromatherapy and a birth pool. My husband and I cuddled in our bed while Leah waited downstairs until I was ready. I was unsure if it was actually labor because contractions were coming few and far between. After checking my cervix, Leah confirmed that it was in fact labor and I was already 8 cm dilated. I was filled with so much excitement because I was actually in labor and my baby would be coming soon. I felt no fear or anxiety and was completely comfortable in my own space with people I loved and trusted. The final hour of my pregnancy was intense and powerful with wonderful breaks of relaxation between the squeezing surges.
I could feel my baby travel down my body as I was opening. I completely surrendered to the powerful force within me. I felt a primal strength deep in the cave of my being. There in my bedroom, in a pool, on my hands and knees, with my daughter by my side, my husband’s hands guided our son into the world (with Leah close beside helping). With only a few pushes, I could feel his round little head moving past my bones and out of my body, and with one more powerful push, his body slid out and I lifted him out of the water and onto my chest. We embraced as he took his first breath of air (6:00 am.).
Words cannot describe the overwhelming joy at the moment of birth. There is no other experience that can compare; it is like nothing else. No drug can compare to the natural high that is felt after you have pushed your baby into the world. It is complete and utter euphoria.
The added joy of giving birth to my son was that I was able to bring the power and mystery of new life into our bedroom, making it a place of incredible importance. Birth is an experience of love and the completion of making love—having privacy and intimacy involved in our birth experience gave it a very different feel than birthing in a hospital. The knowledge of how to give birth was deep inside me. At home, I didn’t have to fight against any protocols or agendas, and no one was questioning my innate ability to birth my baby. I was the center of the event. I felt encouraged and empowered.
It was very significant having my four-year-old daughter witness me giving birth. I can’t think of a better way to show my daughter the power and strength women possess and the beauty of our bodies. She was able to witness a profound life experience that is usually shrouded in fear or hidden inside hospitals. By reclaiming my power and ability to give birth naturally at home, I was able to demonstrate to my daughter the joy and pleasure of giving birth. I hope that in some way it created healing from her birth experience, which was tainted by unnecessary medical interventions.
I used to complain about the injustice women have to endure. I remember as a teenager complaining about how unfair monthly menstrual cycles are. My mom would tell me it is all worth it because we get the honor of having babies. Now, I believe her. I wouldn’t trade it for anything; we get to be part of the ultimate creative act. To grow life inside your body and push a baby into the world is such a profound miracle to me. I am in awe of what my body can do. Giving birth has given me strength and confidence to face any challenge. Not only was it an intense physical experience, but I also felt a deep spiritual connection to my own Creator.
Childbirth is power in its purest and most natural form—it is wild and uncontrollable and takes us on a journey of surrender. Birth is about so much more than babies being born. It is about a mother finding her inner strength at her most vulnerable and powerful moment, which begins her unique and lifelong journey of mothering that child.