It’s a question I’m asked a lot. And it’s an answer I love to share.
All my life I knew I wanted to deliver my babies naturally. I wanted to fully experience childbirth and I did not want to be numb. This was the extent to which I thought about it until I became pregnant with Miles. I then began reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, The Birth Partner and other empowering articles and stories of women who had delivered at home, birth centers or with midwives at the hospital. Unfortunately, we were due to have Miles within days of a pending move. We didn’t know whether we’d be living in Seattle or Bainbridge Island when I’d go into labor. So a homebirth just wasn’t realistic. After spending the first few months of pregnancy receiving care from an OB/GYN group in Seattle, I decided it was not the care I wanted. It’s not always the best idea to change caregivers mid-pregnancy, but I knew I wanted and needed more personal care than what I was receiving. So I switched over to a midwives group in Ballard (who treated us like gold) and planned on delivering with them at Swedish Hospital in Ballard. We moved to Bainbridge Island on a Saturday and the following Tuesday morning (12:30) my water broke. Contractions came very quickly and because the ferries weren’t running at that hour, I knew we’d be delivering on the freeway if we tried to drive to Ballard from Bainbridge. I was right. We ended up heading to Harrison in Silverdale and delivered Miles there. After putting up a few fights at the hospital, we were able to have the birth we wanted. But it didn’t come without quite a bit of pushing.
When we found out we were pregnant again, I knew that if everything checked out and it was another low risk pregnancy that I would want to receive prenatal care from a midwife and deliver our baby with her at our home. The difference in prenatal care from an OB and a Midwife is huge. When I went to my OB appointments, I felt like another number. I peed in a cup, they took my temp and blood pressure, asked if everything seemed fine and sent me on my way. 15 minute appointments, tops. When I went to my Midwife appointments, I spent about an hour with her discussing everything pregnancy, listening to the baby, asking questions of all sorts. She observed me as a whole person. Asked questions about tight muscles and posture. We covered everything the docs would have times 5. She cared about me and the baby and how our family was doing. This is the care I wanted. This is the care pregnant women and families deserve.
Thankfully my pregnancy continued to be low risk so we were able to confidently deliver at home. I knew I wanted our Midwife, Chris, Sydney, Miles and my mom at the birth. I ended up so lucky to have our Midwife, another Midwife on the Island, a student-midwife, Chris, Sydney, Miles and my mom all in attendance. My mom hung out with Sydney and Miles downstairs while I labored upstairs. Aside from the periodic monitoring of the baby, my labor was completely uninterrupted. I was able to move around the house, brace myself on whatever I found most comfortable, ask for the support of those there to help me when needed and accept advice from them when they thought I might want it. The mood was a combination of excited, calm, confident and loving. In contrast to the anxious, nervous, cold and interrupted feelings you get in a hospital. I felt safe. I knew my baby would enter the world in relaxed loving hands. And most of all, at home. She wasn’t sick, nor was I. Aren’t hospitals for sick people? My family joined us in the room immediately following her birth. In fact, I wasn’t technically even done laboring since the placenta was still inside me when they came in the room. We held her for as long as we wanted before the Midwives cleaned her up. She was able to receive all the cord blood because there was no urgency to cut her cord. I got to lay in my bed and snuggle with my entire family. I got food from my kitchen. I was able to learn to breastfeed my new baby in the comforts of my home with however many pillows I wanted. We slept. Without staff coming into our room every hour disturbing our sleep or researchers coming in to run some new test.
In the days following her birth, our Midwife and the other Midwife who was in attendance stopped by to pay a visit and checkup on us. Again, in the comforts of our home. We talked about breastfeeding and labor after pains, how Elle was growing, etc.
At the end of the day, we got the family experience we wanted. We were treated as parents, the caregivers of our baby. We were asked permission for every step of their job. If it was a good time to weigh the baby, if we wanted to wait a bit. I wasn’t under pressure to deliver a baby the way the hospital staff is used to just because that’s what they see all the time. I was encouraged to deliver our baby the way that felt the most natural and comfortable. Our decisions were supported by our caregivers. Decisions weren’t made for us by our caregivers. Our family was put at the top of the priority list for a small bit of time. And we welcomed a healthy baby into our family and home all at the same time.