I never even knew that having a baby at home was an option. Like most Americans, I assumed that all babies were born in the hospital unless you lived way out in the sticks too far away from civilization to really care. So when my wife told me that she was interested in having a home birth for our first pregnancy I was kind of stunned. I’m pretty sure I asked if that was even legal (thank God that it is).
You see, we had already visited a doctor’s office for our first ultrasound and check up after we knew we were going to have a baby and we both felt a bit nonplussed by the whole experience. It’s not that anyone or anything at the office was wrong, it just felt cold, unsympathetic and clinical, and that’s not how my wife and I wanted to feel during every visit for the next nine months.
On a whim, my wife started looking into midwives and home birthing as an alternative to the textbook hospital birth we’ve all come to understand as ‘just how it’s done’ today.
Maybe it’s our love of peace, quiet and privacy, maybe it’s our need to feel in control of our environment, or maybe it was just the fear that we’d end up like another whacky Hollywood movie depiction of labor and delivery; the one where the befuddled husband (that’s me) stands around with a confused look on his face while his wife hurls insults at the doctors for not understanding how much pain she’s in. Whatever the reason, after consulting a few midwife practices, we decided on the one that would best meet our needs (I’ll happily tell you who we went with if you want to ask me) and for the next 8 months we got some of the best medical care, advice and yes, even friendship, that we’ve ever had.
I can tell you that I never knew how ignorant I was about so many things having to with pregnancy, labor, pre-labor, women’s reproductive health and baby physiology but I found real soon. I can’t say enough about the great lengths that our midwives went to to make sure that we understood every aspect of our pregnancy and were more than informed about each decision we had to make during it.
But all of that time with the midwives can only prepare you for an idea of what your actual labor and home birth is going to be like. My wife and I both had fantasies of dancing together by full moon light as our new baby eased her way painlessly through my wife’s birth canal, her perfect and beautiful head crowning as “Crash Into Me” by The Dave Matthews Band crescendoed in the background.
Instead what we got was me watching my wife writhe in pain as wave after wave of contractions hit her for 22 hours on Christmas Day. I’ve never in all my life wished I could make someone else’s pain go away so badly as I did that night, the worst part being that I knew it was going to get much worse before it got better. But because we had discussed and planned and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we wanted to have this baby in our home, my wife fought through the pain, never once taking any kind of drug or pain relief medication and at 2:33 a.m. on December 26, in a home birthing tub now full of blood, mucus and God knows what else, my wife gave birth to our first daughter, Florence.
And through it all, our midwives never left our side. They were there from the moment my wife went into labor to the moment we went to bed with our new daughter. They coached us, they strengthened us, they encouraged us and they made us feel like we could do this even when I know, deep down, that we did not.
So now, looking back, I’m glad that we took the path that we did even if it’s not for everybody. Not too long ago even I would have said a home birth is something only hippies and people in Deliverence would do, but now I’m proud to say that I would only want to have a home birth from now on.