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From Home/Birth.

I WAS ALWAYS MORE SCARED of an epidural--that long needle in the base of my spine and the subsequent half-paralysis--than of labor pain.

My son Abram doesn't like scarves or anything tight around his neck. I've always thought this was from his birth.

The rule of thumb, in the hospital, is no eating or drinking (in case the labor ends in a c-section), and fetal monitoring for at least 20 minutes of every hour.

I never said it would be easy.

aware, sensitive human beings at the time of birth

I was going to start a real doula business and call it Full Moon Labor Support and use a black and white photo of your pregnant belly as my logo. I had another baby instead. And now, after my homebirth, I'm not sure I'd make a good hospital doula anymore.

Why not?

The rule of thumb.

Tell me Erin's story again. How they did the manual maneuver--what's it called?

It's called a version and I've heard it hurts like hell. Real pain to turn a baby that big in a space so small.

a doula is here to help a woman discover she can help herself ... not take that responsibility for her here to help a woman learn to choose ... not to make it unnecessary for her to make difficult choices here to help women discover what they are feeling ... not to make the feelings go away

One midwife, Diane, who was direct-entry and apprenticed before she became a CNM, recently did a footling breech in the water, and a shoulder dystocia with the baby's cord wrapped around its neck. Things they don't teach in medical school. Things doctors don't even know anymore.


The term "lay midwife" has been used to designate an uncertified or unlicensed midwife who was educated through informal routes such as self-study or apprenticeship rather than through a formal program. This term does not necessarily mean a low level of education, just that the midwife either chose not to become certified or licensed, or there was no certification available for her type of education (as was the fact before the Certified Professional Midwife credential was available). Other similar terms to describe uncertified or unlicensed midwives are traditional midwife, traditional birth attendant, granny midwife and independent midwife.

Webster technique, external version, acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion.

Doctors used to know these things, when they worked in people's homes.

My homebirth was so normal it was almost boring.

I mean it was hard and hurt like hell and was just the birth I wanted.

Andrea is renting us her house with a woodstove in Maine so we can have this birth with Donna and Ellie, Morning star Midwifery. When Andrea asked why we were coming for two months in the winter, we were scared to tell her. Rob said, "Um, we're actually hoping to have our baby in your home," and Andrea said, "I can't think of a better use for my home than that."

A good homebirth midwife is the one who never touches the mother or the baby.

We haven't even begun to talk about waterbirth.

Deep in labor I asked my midwife, "Do you think there is a better position?" It felt like there might be a way to move that would make the pain disappear but I knew there wasn't and all I wanted was to be on hands and knees in the warm water with a cold washcloth on my forehead when the rushes came on strong.

Mother the mother. Hold the space.

Most of what they do in hospitals is because of liability, litigation. Like no eating or drinking in case you have to be put under anesthesia and in case while you are under you begin to vomit.

we have the inherent wisdom

The paper printout from a fetal monitor, for example, can be used as courtroom evidence.

Abby wanted a whole house full of kids.

Left to our own devices, we do the same things the animals do. Like other mammals, we can smell the birth, want to climb into a dark space, have low lights and only creatures we know around.

According to Michael Odent, monkeys who give birth by c-section do not acknowledge their babies.

Have you ever heard of a full lotus birth?

People ask, "Can you have medication at a homebirth?" And the answer, generally, is no. And the point is no, no medication.

Although sometimes, in special circumstances, midwives can get their hands on drugs if drugs are what is needed.

"No one asked if I wanted a lot of children."

But no drugs for a reason. That's what a lot of people don't get. It's not for pride. It's not for glory. It's because it is the safest, kindest, gentlest, healthiest way to birth a baby.

Claire told me: "I was so into the natural thing. The midwives said, 'visit L&D, think about it, be prepared,' but I didn't. And then I ended up with a c-section and had so much trouble breastfeeding. After one week at home I was back at the hospital with Aurora--so tiny--losing weight and they kept her in the NICU and right then 9/11 happened and I think so many of Aurora's issues go back to that time-separated from each other. I had no idea. I never thought that would be me."

Lotus birth is when you carry the placenta around with the baby still attached, like another little meat baby, wrapped up in cheesecloth. Not that I'm advocating for that.

On Sunday before Willa's birth I was four centimeters but could be stretched to eight.

My husband, Josh, said, "There are only ten minutes left on the videotape, should I change it?" And Miriam said, "No," and it was a happy moment: I would have my baby, this baby, and not the burning, in ten minutes or less.

Hold the space. Open, open, open, open. Low, baby, low.

Bumper sticker: Here I Go a-Doula-ing. (Which I imagine on the rear of a car, its headlights and heat blasting on at 3 a.m., a happy thought. Do you think you'll serve again?)

You said, "no blood for oil" days into your labor when you wanted something, anything bloody to show for all your work. I laughed hard.

Bag of waters. Pool of water. Tears, spit, puke, pee, poop, water.

You called me from your cell phone while standing in the middle of Manhattan on a Friday afternoon. You'd been wheeling your little suitcase around, so sure that I was going to need you to fly out right then. I could picture it in my head. I told you not to come yet. That night my water broke while we were watching Room with a View and eating sushi and the next morning you flew out. And we still had days to go.

Abby is a birth activist now. She has had three c-sections and an ectopic pregnancy.

Why would the baby get stuck? Get the mother off her back. Women's V-neck T-shirt: Support choice. Support homebirth midwives.

This time I knew: this is the head. I said, "I'm breaking," and Miriam said, "You're not." I pushed hard and the head came out and it was wonderful and quiet and for a moment I was a two-headed beast in a tub of water. And two women and my husband and my sons and their labor buddy were looking at my new head underwater and there was no pain until there was, again. "What is that?" I thought, and thought, "Oh god, the baby has two heads?" And I remember thinking, "Ohwell, I'd better get it out."

You were a little bit funny about your poop.

Why would a baby get stuck? Get the mother off her back. Once I was watching A Baby Story on the JetBlue in-seat TV and the woman sitting next to me was glaring at me and at my TV, as if I was watching something dirty, something disgusting.

I remember thinking, how stupid, that stuff about the bowling ball or the watermelon. It feels exactly like a baby's head coming out of my vagina.

It's gotten so none of it seems anything other than perfectly normal to me--the nakedness, the fluids, the discussion of pee and blood and vaginas. As it should be. This is life, after all. How we all came into it.

I thought, There is only one way out of this. Miriam said, "You can get out of this."

We haven't begun to talk about all the other parenting stuff that seems to flow out of homebirth: avoiding vaccination, avoiding circumcision, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding. Not that I'm advocating for any of that.

(Though I did it all.)

Some women have no choice.

It's important to be in your body. So you can do it. Also, so you can be there for the break over to the other side, the side where you become a mother to this baby.

At the Q&A, a postpartum nurse said she so admired the post-op moms limping down the halls, dragging their IVs, coming to try to nurse their babies. "It's heroic, really, and much harder than you might think."

There were two times when I got really discouraged: once on Sunday afternoon when nothing was happening and I looked at you very angrily and confused, and once on Tuesday evening after I took a nap and woke up feverish and feeling "toxic." Then Dr. Liz came and adjusted me and massaged my head and we walked around the house making low noises.

I said, "I'm going to break." Miriam said, "You're not."

Italicized passages are taken from journalistic and medical texts, found language, artifacts, slogans, and bumper stickers, among other sources.
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Author:Greenberg, Arielle; Zucker, Rachel
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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