Since I got pregnant in September John and I have had to make some decisions about what kind of parents we want to be, what kind of family we want to have, and how we want to bring our child into the world and raise her. Talk about pressure! These are such enormous concepts for me and they have some major consequences. What if we don’t know what we want to do when we need to do it? What if we realize later that there was a better way? What if we aren’t strong enough to do the “right” thing by our kid? What if it doesn’t work? There are so many ways this thing could go down. So, early on I made a decision about the kind of mom I want to be: I need to make the choices that I feel I can live with. Regardless of what those choices may mean, for better or worse, I have to do only what I know I have peace about because at the end of the day I have to live with it. The result of that thinking has been that much of this pregnancy is pretty go-with-the-flow (not actually very Courtney of me)—I have been trying to live in the moments through each stage of growing this baby and tackle decision making as the need arises. This is actually why I haven’t been writing about my pregnancy—rather than analyze and regurgitate it, I’m just trying to experience it.
But, as present as I want to be there are some things that need to be sorted out before she gets here. Preparing mentally, emotionally, and physically for a child has John and I reflecting on what kind of people we are, and some things either need to be figured out or just naturally come up as we imagine the future. And some of those things get the raised eyebrow treatment. What’s funny about “unpopular parenting” is that everything anyone does is “unpopular” with someone. I’m discovering that everyone thinks there is a way things are “supposed” to be done, and even though they all tell you that “everyone is different” and “nothing is set in stone” they still give you the looks, or ask probing questions under the guise of “seeking to understand”. I do it. I see stuff, or hear stuff, and turn to John and say, “That shit is crazy. We’re not doing that”. It’s not that anything I am doing, or planning to do, or want to do is truly unpopular—it’s just different than doing it another way, but I can’t help but feel the heat of judgement sometimes and I bet if you have children you know what I’m talking about. Here is some of the “Unpopular Parenting” we’re doing:
Planned Homebirth: You’ve heard the pendulum analogy, right? It works for everything in life. Human beings swing too far to one side then overcorrect by swinging way back the other way. The goal is balance. It seems like the birth pendulum swung waaaaaay over to Westernized medicine sometime in the middle of the twentieth century and now a lot of people are pulling it back to a more “natural” experience. I say “natural” because if you talk to 20 people you’ll get 21 answers about how babies should be born:
On what timeline (can a baby be “late”? what’s in a due date anyway?)???
In how many hours (5? 12? 24? 36? 42?)???
In what environment (Hospital? Birth center? Home? Bed? Water? Field of daisies?)???
And then what do you do with the baby after its out? (Cut the cord? Give it to mom? Make it cry or let it come-to on its own? Clean it? Give it drugs? Take blood?)???
There’s a lot involved people. A LOT!
Even before pregnancy was the next life-stage for me I was interested in childbirth. I just felt like no one had ever really told me about where babies come from, and being a person with the parts that make a baby (define: woman) I felt I should know. I got into a weird birth obsessed phase a couple of years ago where I watched a ton of live birth videos (and made John watch along), absorbed blogs and documentaries, and ultimately decided that when and if the day ever came the hospital was NOT THE PLACE FOR ME. **Sidenote: I know everyone says this, but truly there is no judgement here if you want to have a planned C-Section in the hospital. The one thing I feel sure about is that the woman carrying the child is the only person with the right to decide where, when, and how she wants to do it.** In the depths of labor when my baby and I are only a hair’s breadth between the most intimately connected two people can be and physically separated for the first time, I really believe the only people actually involved in that moment will be me, baby, and God—everyone else is just witnessing.
I have not made an uneducated decision under the impression that I am somehow an expert simply by being this baby’s mother. I have talked to doctors and nurses, midwives and doulas, friends and peers who have had babies, older women with varied birth stories, and I have read much information. I’ve allowed the horror stories and the miracle stories to seep into my consciousness and affect me, and the decision I feel I can live with is one to pursue a planned homebirth with a licensed and experienced midwife. This option is becoming more common but is still so far from the mainstream norm in childbirth that I have found it is the number one eyebrow raiser.
It would take pages to fully and thoughtfully explain away each concern and justify my choice, but I don’t need to do that. I want to be in my home when I go into labor, I want to move freely in my own space while I labor, I want to have access to my own personal life while I am working through the hardest experience I may ever have. I want my babe to be born in her home with her family (which includes Mom and Dad, her 20 year old uncle, two cats, and one very young and needy puppy). I want John, baby, and I to lie down in our own bed and rest in our own space as we all get to know each other for the first time. I want to have my things and my baby’s things close at hand, and most importantly I don’t want to be pushed, forced, or bullied. After seeing multiple women and finally meeting the one who would be my midwife I told her this: I do not want my birth to be treated like an emergency unless it is one. At the heart of all my birth planning and wishing that is my motivation. I needed to find someone who agreed with me philosophically on the fact that babies coming out of vaginas is supposed to happen, and after attending over 6,000 births I’m confident that she feels pretty strongly that birth is not an injury or ailment. She knows how this should go and she knows what to do if it doesn’t go that way. I trust that, and I trust that I am supposed to have this baby.
If someone dies during my birth I do not believe it will be because I was four blocks away from the hospital in a safe environment with an experienced professional and her medical equipment. I know that sometimes people do not survive birth whether its momma, baby, or both. I know that is a real option no matter where I am at and I am choosing to believe that any signs indicating an emergency will present themselves in due time—I will submit to the best possible care available to me which is all anyone can do. In addition to concerns about safety, the biggest controversy I hear when I talk about birthing at home is the epidural. Dun, dun, duh! What a delicate subject. Women talk about the epidural like it is literally unicorn tears being injected directly into their uteruses. I can’t bash the epidural because I’ve never had one. I also see where the epidural can be useful and even necessary. I have the friends who didn’t get one and say they would next time, or who had both experiences and preferred the epidural. I see you. I hear you. I believe you. TRULY, NO SHADE. You want that epidural? You get it gurl! But fundamentally we disagree and no amount of pointing out what I don’t know from personal experience is going to change my mind.
Only an anesthesiologist can administer an epidural. Anesthesiologists work in hospitals. As long as I am not in the hospital an epidural is not an option. The. End. But aren’t you scared of the pain? What if you decide you DO want one? Of course I am scared of the pain, are you crazy?! A human being the size of a watermelon is going to be forcefully ejected from my body by way of my not-watermelon-sized vagina, but I believe this is supposed to happen. The assumption I choose not to believe is that the pain associated with childbirth is akin to the pain of something broken. It’s supposed to hurt. My midwife called giving birth “hard work” and that has been a helpful way for me to consider the impending pain. People hurt themselves for good reasons all the time! For example I think marathon runners are stupid but they would fundamentally disagree with me. Look, I believe women when they tell me it is harder than I think it will be. I believe them when they say that they legitimately thought that they were going to die. I believe that it will hurt. I’m just not convinced that drug intervention is going to stop birth from being birth, or that as a woman I am inherently too weak to bear the burden of pain that is naturally mine being that I am the only person in this family who can physically give birth to this baby. I believe that God made women’s bodies. I believe that He said we would bear forth children in pain (Gen 3:16). I believe that He made smart people who make medicine. It’s all intentional. It’s all good, but this choice is the one I can live with.