When I tell people I’m having a homebirth, one of the most common reaction is, “You’re so brave!”
(When we told one of Ryan’s co-workers, a young single man, his eyes bugged out of his head and he asked incredulously, “Can you do that?” I smiled. As though a hospital room somehow is a necessary part of a woman giving birth!)
Brave? Perhaps. Crazy, maybe. I’ll let you know when it’s all said and done.
But the idea of having a homebirth is hardly daunting to me, thanks again to my mother, who had three.
These are the impressions I was left with after being a part of those three births:
When Jamie was born, I was only 5. I watched, but don’t remember a thing except that he was big, a bit purple, and had only two little specks of blood on his shoulder. I also remember that Mom got a beautiful new nightgown and matching robe, which she put on after he was born, and that she got to eat New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream in the dining room, where we all gathered to celebrate his birth. (She’d not been allowed sugar during that pregnancy, so when the grocery run was made, ice cream was on the menu!) It was the first time I’d ever tried Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Homebirths were all right with me!
With Louissa, I was 7 — old enough to be much more aware. I half watched, half hid behind Mrs. Tallo, who was there for the show as well. She assured my sisters and I that Mom wasn’t angry, just uncomfortable. She had to say that, because Mom was yelling at the friend who was trying to coach her through pushing. I still remember seeing Mom grit her teeth, get in Lauren’s face and growl, “I am pushing!!!” Louissa was born the day before my birthday, and I thought that was as special as it got. That evening, after everyone was in bed, I snuck downstairs to my parents’ bedroom. I climbed into bed between them and held my brand spankin’ new baby sister. Her eyes were dark, and she stared right at me. Another homebirth homerun.
Julia came along when I was 10. She was, unfortunately, born very early in the morning, and came a bit faster than my parents anticipated. The entire birthing team was assembled to help, and all of the siblings were woken to watch, but my mom ended up having her in the bathroom, which was only big enough for my dad. The rest of us had to be content with the nosebleed seats, trying to peak in the door around everyone else who was peaking in. Julia was round and chubby, and Mrs. Colbert called her Butterball until she had a real name. Mrs. Colbert also was in charge of cleaning her up and dressing her, because Mom and Dad had rushed to the hospital when Mom wouldn’t stop bleeding. That episode, unfortunately, put an end to homebirths for my mom. Still, for the next two babies, she made it a point to stay at home as long as possible, and to get back home sooner than possible. I say sooner, because it took me 24 hours to get those nurses MOVING after Jameson was born, but Mom was always in her own bed within several hours of delivery. I suspect that she must have been doing softshoe on the hospital beds or something in order to convince them to let her out.
At any rate, homebirths to me don’t necessarily mean “brave” or “crazy”. What comes to mind, rather, is “relaxed,” “comfortable,” and “celebratory.” It’s birth the way you see it in the old movies, when Mama and baby are wrapped snugly in their own bed, and the rest of the family showers them with love and jubilation.
And the part before that? The actual pushing? Well, that’s pretty much not a cakewalk no matter where you do it, and I’d rather be doing it in my own bedroom, thankyouverymuch.