This week is Anson "The Chief's" fourth birthday and I've always wanted to write a more vivid account of his birth story. At the time I was too scared to explain the entire story--no more! Here it is in four parts:
Years before God ever gave us babies I met a woman in church who birthed her children at home. She was the first homebirther I'd ever encountered and I listened to her philosophies with a surprisingly open heart. When she spoke about feeling safe at home as she labored and transitioned, birthed and bonded I was filled with hope. I always supposed I'd have my babies like all of those women before me, in the hospital, with an epidural and an army of nurses and doctors. This idea of homebirth was as shocking as it was comforting.
(I am a homebody, I feel the most safe and the most powerful inside the walls of my home. Like any animal in its kingdom, it seemed like a very natural choice to birth inside my own habitat. The relief that came from knowing there were other options for someone like me was completely relieving.)
I went home that evening to Chup where I told him I'd like to have a homebirth someday. And to my further astonishment he reacted nonchalantly. "Yeah? Cool."
But it took us many years before we were pregnant and in that time the philosophies behind homebirth had spread into my own family--my sister Stephanie had her babies at home in New Jersey and Arizona, and Page who had her youngest baby at home in her bathtub. This only increased my own desire for a homebirth and I waited and waited for the Lord to fulfill His promise to me: a baby.
Then one day, after five years of praying, trying, hurting, hoping, and battling a desire of unmatchable intensity, we were pregnant! Right away I started to think about how I would birth this little being into life. I remembered the words of my friend Lani--also a homebirther--who I had asked on one occasion if she would homebirth every time,
"I'd pray about it," she replied.
One morning I decided to pray about it.
I went to the walking trail--the marshy, willow-lined path that jetted out to by the lake and presented a western view of my entire town. This spot had become my personal temple as I honed the art of surviving infertility. It was here I had cried and begged, sometimes being privy to answers--great chunks of personal revelation.
I asked, "Where will I have this baby?"
And in my head the answer immediately responded, like a magic eight ball turned upside down.
"In a hospital."
This came with it a tiny sting of disappointment, but I had come to trust the inner workings of my spirit after years of listening and waiting for it to reveal truth to me. I was so desperately sad in the years of infertility, the only hope I ever felt were in the times of intimate communion with divinity. There were times when I could hear verses of my own personal scriptures, written in my head, telling me of power and strength I didn't know I possessed.
I went home immediately and called the obstetrician's office my family had used for generations.When they picked up the other end of the phone I said,
The first few visits I met with a nurse practitioner who treated me and my body like visiting royalty. When we heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time I cried and she cried with me. She used her right hand to hold the wand to my belly and the back of her left hand for wiping tears.
Chup made a video of this very moment:
But as my pregnancy progressed I grew really tired of the doctor's visits. My NP had moved on to a different office and I started to see the same doctor every visit. I felt really meaningless to him, he'd show up in the room, have no memory of me the month previous, say disparaging things about my weight, talk about all the complications that could arise due to my weight gain, shrug off anything I said about how I felt and in general treated me no better than he would if I were a pregnant dog and he was an over-scheduled vet.
In the course of infertility I had also battled my first real encounter with body acceptance. I had somehow resiliently battled body image all my life until it couldn't conceive. After a year of specialists and treatments with no positive results, I started to really resent my whole being. When uneducated family members started to suggest I was too over-weight to get pregnant (which was never remotely mentioned by my infertility specialists) I decided my only recourse was to punish my body into submission. It was so all-encompassing at some points, I'd say to Chup,
"I'd rather be thin than be pregnant."
So when I went to the doctor, having made peace with my body and its impending pregnant curves, and he told me I was gaining too much weight to have a successful birth ("Your baby is going to be too big for you to birth!") it triggered some things inside of me that felt awful. It wasn't enlightening or educating or safe. It was none of those things.
I hated those visit so much I stopped going at twenty-five weeks. And no one ever called to check up on me, to ask why I had stopped coming. I kept thinking dramatically, "What if I had died? They wouldn't even know."
We started looking around at other options, other doctors and midwives. We went to a few visits at other clinics to check things out. I waited to feel assurance somewhere, but nothing felt right.
One Sunday afternoon in our little blue nest on the west side, I was napping next to Christopher. I woke up with the prompting I should go to the computer and search birth options. The first result that showed up in Google was a video of a man and wife having a baby together alone at home.
This blew my mind.
And eased it as well.
This is what I wanted.