[You can read the first part of this series here: https://totouchtheearth.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/the-beginning-of-you/ ]
You were our blank slate. Starting from scratch, we eschewed all assumptions, temporarily ignoring even our practical constraints. In this fertile in-between, two essential commitments emerged: to live off the land and to birth you at home.
My dear, I stared fear in the face when my body relinquished your body. Conceptually, birth has always horrified me. I can still vividly recall the alien-like contortionist act I was forced to witness in seventh grade health class (a birth video). I did not find it beautiful or inspirational, just nauseating. As I grew and friends began to reproduce, I found excuses to avoid hearing the gory details of their birth stories. Try as I might to evade the subject altogether, words and phrases found their way in, only magnifying my trepidation: felt like I was going to die, hardest thing I’ve ever done, popped blood vessels in my eye, tore from my vagina to my rectum, pooped a little when I pushed. And then there was the petrifying terminology: mucus plug, for instance. It was all so bodily, carnal, animalistic. Heaving, panting bodies expelling tender, shell-shocked bodies. The decision to birth you at home, therefore, felt like a lapse of sanity. I shirked the idea, stonewalled it, denied and hid from it as it persistently poked, prodded and wrestled with my brain. I could not shake free of it.
This was my dilemma. I do not like hospitals, never have. I am a proponent of natural health. I cherished the idea of giving birth in the comforts of my home, surrounded only by those I loved and trusted. But could I do it? Could I bear the pain? Did I have it in me? Was I strong enough? That’s never how I’ve seen myself.
S T R O N G.
All of this was further complicated by the inescapable violation I sensed when my body was reluctantly surveyed by authoritarian hands. It was all just too similar, too reminiscent of past wrongs. I couldn’t escape the familiar sentiment: Spread open your legs, let us do the work. We’ll take it from here. It’s as if each visit conditioned my body to surrender control to the man in the white coat standing up. I knew my comfort was integral if I had any chance at a natural birth and I simply could not conceive of relaxation in the sterile, medicated corridors of the hospital. Rushed along by doctors who knew my name only by glancing at a chart, who rolled their eyes when I requested a female practitioner and sensitivity as they inserted their hands into my vagina, whose expertise was apparently indispensable in sampling my pee, determining my blood pressure and gauging my weight…paying ten dollars for parking, waiting forty minutes for a fifteen minute appointment. This in addition to the atrocious bedside manner we received at our 20-week ultrasound scare.*
So we chose home birth. Home. Birth. To relocate the messy bodily functions of life’s beginnings in the messiness of our daily inhabitance. To not extract or isolate the start from the middle. Rather to invite it all into our home.
Home. A vital component of the home birth.
Hot and sticky Georgia JULY. I was six months pregnant. Time was encroaching upon us; our apartment lease up at the end of the Summer. But now we had dreams and visions to deal with: our “dirt and seed home,” wilderness for our son to explore, land-based ethics. We conspired to house-sit for a friend through August, subletting to save money for a down payment while we scavenged the globe (rural Georgia) for our idyllic home birth home.
Renovated antique farmhouse on 2.5 acres. Original hardwood flooring, multiple fireplaces, a turquoise kitchen!!! A pantry big enough to sleep in, a vintage bathtub (with FEET), and, as it was in the middle of nowhere, dirt cheap to boot.
It would be a stretch. We’d have to relocate our business, build new clientele. But we decided to take the plunge. It was all so fortuitous. We negotiated; our unstable self-employed income not lending itself to home ownership, we persuaded the owner into a rent-to-own arrangement. We would travel to sign the papers in a week and move in the following week. The timing was sublime. End of August.
Days before papers were to be signed and less than a week before our move-in date, we received a call from the property manager. An offer had been made on our home. The owner accepted it.
In five days our friend would return from her trip and we would be homeless. One month before my due date, before our home birth.
Homebirth–without a home.
We had many generous offers to stay with friends. We were not destitute, but our uprooting was taking an emotional toll on me and my nesting instincts railed against our migration. We were
While friends in their first trimester were posting pictures of freshly decorated nurseries, I, at 9-months pregnant, slept in an extended stay hotel. I clung to the knowledge that women give birth in all kinds of circumstances every day around the world: in refugee camps, cars and ambulances, while incarcerated, in extreme poverty, and without the support of a spouse or loved ones. I didn’t need a nursery. A huge room for a little baby was an American idea. Not a need. I tried to remember how little we actually needed. I looked to my Burundi friends as my role models, my guides. These women gave birth in refugee camps and in route to the hospital. They mothered countless children in one bedroom apartments. They were fierce, tender, grounded; the kind of mother I wanted to be.
I was being stripped down, undone. Brought to a place of trust and surrender. Confronted with all I could not control, I could only let go.
And in the midst of this, I was fortified, sustained, kept sane by your father. You cannot know, love, how tirelessly he toiled to make arrangements for your arrival, to make money for your birth, to strategically load and unload all of our belongings into our borrowed vehicle, moving truck, temporary storage, friend’s home, extended stay hotel. How he reassured me night after night that it would be okay, all would be well, we would figure it out. And how we reminded one another over and over again that we already had all we needed: we had it all in each other and you. These were the essential makings of home. And we’d whisper to each other in our fear and uncertainty: “Home is wherever I’m with you.”
You see, son, you were all kinds of miracle. The amount of rearranging, shaping, shifting, carving, releasing, forming, that had to take place… all to make space in this world for you. To create your home, inside and all around us.
You were so grandly contrived.
*I am not making a statement for or against hospital birth, merely speaking from my experience. I know many women who have had very pleasant hospital births. I am an advocate of women-centered birth, meaning the woman should choose how and where she feels most comfortable giving birth, knowing all of her options.