Amanda’s Story: A Home Birth
From Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 12: ‘Pregnancy and Birthing,’ this section is the one I referred to in my post last weekend.
Amanda’s Story: A Home Birth
“Bethany also attended a birth in which one of her patients went further into herself than either of us had known it was possible to go. Amanda’s first baby had been delivered by Bethany by cesarean section. ‘I thought we had done everything right,’ Bethany says. ‘She had been healthy, confident, and wanted a normal birth, including labor without anesthesia. She had labor support, family, and friends. Though it seemed perfect, the baby simply wouldn’t come. We did everything I knew to do, which at that time was not a lot. I finally did a cesarean.’
“With her second pregnancy Amanda returned to Bethany’s care and said, ‘I want to have a normal birth this time.’ Bethany agreed and told her that she thought that was entirely possible. The owmen who are most motivated to give birth normally are those who did not succeed in doing so with their first child but hadn’t lost the desire to try. Amanda also did not want to have her second baby the hospital, because she felt that the hospital environment had been part of the problem the first time. Instead, she would have it at home.
Strong Labour © Marcia May
“For years I’ve always had a special place in my heart for those women who choose home birth. The reason for this is that these women trust themselves more than doctors and hospitals. Though they sometimes make mistakes, they have something to teach us. My sister had a home birth, and I wish I had had at least one child at home. Though I left the hospital right after both my children were born and neither of them went to the nursery, I would still have liked the experience of waking up in labor and not having to get into the car and go someplace. Both times it felt like a very unnatural interruption of my process.
“Though Amanda wanted Bethany there, Bethany does not do home births. Finally they reached a compromise, Bethany would be there only as a labor support person, and Amanda herself would hire the best midwife she could find. For an OB/GYN to do a home birth is politically very unsafe. Many hospitals will not allow physicians who do home births to have hospital privileges, and most malpractice insurance companies won’t insure such physicians. (Many physicians even consider home birth to be “child abuse” because of the potential risks associated with childbirth.) But Amanda was determined to have Bethany present, and Bethany was interested in supporting her, as long as she wasn’t responsible for being the caregiver.
“Long discussions intervened, regarding risks, uterine rupture, fetal compromise, their liklihood, and what Bethany could and could not do if these problems happened at home. Ultimately, Amanda convinced Bethany that she herself was in charge of the safety of her baby and the integrity of her uterus, and that if she felt she could not do this job, she would let Bethany know and they would all go to the hospital.
“The day of Amanda’s deliver came. Her early labor was long and painful, but she didn’t call anyone. When she finally invited her caregivers to join her, they found Amanda in the rocker. ‘I feel so great,’ she said in one breath. And with the next she said, ‘The pain was so bad this afternoon, I thought I would die.’ Bethany later told me, ‘I didn’t know how to put those two statements together.’ As the birth neared, Amanda lay on her king-size bed on her side. ‘As we tried to keep up with her,’ Bethany told me, ‘she circled the bed. Her head remained in the center, and her feet made a full curcuit around the bed twice, a maneuver that I had not seen before in the hospital. It was very primitive. Though it was not clear to me what it represented, I trusted her need to move in this wa as part of her unique birth process.
“There was little talk. Amanda said nothing and made little noise. She pushed her baby out on hands and knees and then kneeled over her. She was somewhere else. We were all commenting on the baby, but she was not looking at her infant. Her body was in a pose of ecstasy. When spoken to, she did not respond. For a moment I was frightened that she might not come back from wherever she was. Then she looked down at her infant and slowly came back into her body – or was it back out of her body?
“Bethany took a picture of Amanda in that ecstatic state, and she showed it at a recent medical meeting in which we both lectured on women’s health. From this and from reading Vicki Noble’s Shakti Woman I learned that Amanda’s experience of exstasy is potentially available to all women at birth. Since then, I have talked at length with some of my patients who have had home births. One recently told me that during her home birth she ‘left her body’ and became an eagle flying high overhead. She experienced no pain. She had never told anyone about this. From that moment on, however, she trusted her body completely.
Radiance © Marcia May
“Women have learned collectively, though not necessarily consciously, to fear the birth experience, and from every obstacle has been put in our collective paths to keep us from experiencing this power. But as Bethany says, ‘This kind of birth is possible in many environments. It requires a mother who trusts her body and is connected to all of its parts. She must love and want her baby. She must understand that birth is a sexual event and be comfortable with her sexuality. She must feel safe. She needs to know that the people around her accept her body and the sexual nature of what she is doing and are not embarrassed by it and will not interfere with the process. She needs to know that she can go down inside nad come back safely. If she has never been there before, she needs the grounding love of family and friends who will, if needed, call her back.
“Those women who have already had babies in standard ways should understand that they are not responsible for what they didn’t know at the time. I was born drugged, as were all my brothers and sisters. Though we were breast-fed, we were still left in the hospital’s nursery for hours while my mother woke up. This isn’t the way she wanted it, but she didn’t know she had a choice.
“Remember that being responsible simply means ‘being able to respond.’ No one is guaranteed a perfect birth. In fact, the concept of a perfect birth is part of the perfectionism of the addictive system. Sometimes a baby needs to be observed in the nursery right after birth. Sometimes an emergency cesarean is necessary. When this happens, it is not a failure on the woman’s part. She is only one part of a complex and mysterious process. The baby herself (or himself) is also an active participant in the labor process. Each baby makes a unique contribution to her mother’s pregnancy, labor and delivery. We can always learn something from it and use the experience for personal growth. But whatever happens, parents should be involed as much as possible, at all stages of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They need to understand that their input is very important to their baby’s health.”
Images from sheilakitzinger.com