Yesterday as my screen saver was flipping through random pictures from our lives, this picture popped up. As I looked at it, I realized, for the first time, just how bizarre and unreasonable this picture must seem to anyone who believes giving birth in a hospital is the right way to do it, and who thinks home birth is dangerous, crazy and just plain stupid.
So a brief explanation. Turner will be one year old this Saturday, the 21st, and I have his full birth story available here and pictures here. He was born, very peacefully and beautifully, at home, in our farm house in Missouri. His birth was attended by 3 amazing midwives, Rachel, Cheryl and Lisa.
The picture shows me still on the floor holding my minutes-old baby son, and my very-pregnant (she gave birth just 2 days later, although I don't believe she was due for 3 more weeks) midwife starting to clean up, as well as the environment in which I gave birth. Yes, I gave birth on our living room floor, which was how and where I wanted to be. You look around, you see a space heater on the floor to warm the room for the baby (it was a warm spring day, but got chilly at night, and we wanted to have it nice and warm for the baby's arrival). You see a toy box full of Guthrie's toys against one wall. You see a futon right there, a nice comfy soft place where I could have given birth had I chosen.
Our society firmly believes that babies need to be born in hospitals, attended by specialists, with all the bells and whistles and the machine that goes "ping." I won't go into the politics surrounding birth, and how bogus this whole idea is for the vast majority of women, and how it is the hospital environment itself which causes so many of the complications which now occur in birth and especially the shamefully high c-section rate, because there's just not enough room here, and I doubt it would accomplish much anyway.
Giving birth at home, in my own space, with access to all of my own belongings, my own bathroom, my own food, was an absolutely incredible experience. My first child was born in a hospital, nearly 12 years ago, and my second was born in a freestanding birth center (a home birth in someone else's home, in many ways). If we have any more children, which is still a distinct possibility, they will be born in whatever home we are in at the time.
It now seems as bizarre to me - as strange as this image must seem to most of the American population - to think of going into labor and immediately packing things up to go to a hospital. To imagine being tethered to a bed, to not be able to go into the kitchen and eat a bowl of Frosted Flakes (as I did at 3 a.m. when I realized a baby would be coming soon), to not be able to turn up the iPod and belly dance through contractions to the Culture Club and Duran Duran and Prince and The Cure, and to not be able to leave your sleeping children asleep in their own beds as long as possible, seems so unnatural, so inconvenient, and just so wrong. To be poked and prodded, and on someone else's time frame for delivery, and to be surrounded by rotating shifts of strangers is not something I can imagine anyone ever choosing, if they knew the options available.
Within minutes of Turner's birth, I was drinking a cup of coffee, eating a pb&j, and having some of the cookies Eric made while I was in labor. Turner was only separated from me for brief moments while I used the bathroom. He nursed immediately, we lay together in our own comfy bed, and we had visitors come to our house to see the new arrival. Turner was welcomed by his family - his parents, siblings, and his grandmother - and later we all lay together in bed and napped peacefully together, and life was just life, as it should be, as it has been. Bizarre only in a society that sees birth as a medical event, as a disaster waiting to happen, as something women are not capable of doing on their own.