Birth – The Ultimate Experience
by Katie Chaffee
Looking back, I wonder how the idea of a home birth ever came to me. Our first daughter was born in a small town hospital in 1970. My husband, Kirk, was the first father ever “allowed” into the delivery room there, where now it is standard practice! Because the baby was six weeks early, I was given no anesthetic, but I did receive a hypo that I neither needed or wanted. This of course slowed my labor down and when it wore off the baby was born too fast. They took her away to the nursery and would not return her for 12 hours, at which time she was given a bottle of glucose and water to feed her and was not allowed to nurse. I was miserable and unhappy, and went home after four days with an infection, courtesy of the hospital.
In 1972, I was working in a large, big city hospital in the newborn nursery. I guess that is when I decided, after seeing just what kind of care was given to helpless newborns, that when I became pregnant again, I would never go to a hospital!
In the fall of 1978, I was pregnant again. When I brought up the idea of a home birth, Kirk became understandably nervous about the whole idea. After all, he pointed out, it would be he, not I, who would bear the brunt of medical and even legal displeasure if everything did not go smoothly. I promptly went to the library and took home a huge stack of books on pregnancy, childbirth, midwifery and home delivery. I think it reassured him that books were actually being published on the subject. Over the next several months I read to him every night about the new freedom we were about to encounter.
I had been seeing a family doctor for my prenatal care, but in my fifth month he informed me that I would have to find a “baby doctor” as he did not do deliveries. Since by then I was firmly committed to a home birth and did not feel good about lying to a doctor, I abandoned prenatal care. The weeks went by, and I felt terrific. I did not really change my lifestyle at all. I am not a natural foods person as such, but I tried to feed myself and my baby well. I walked a lot, but did not go into “training” as many people seem to feel is essential. I knew that home birth could be for average, non-righteous people, too!
We prepared mentally for the possibility of disaster, and we stocked up on such essentials as shoe laces and scissors. Anna was born on a hot night in August, after six hours of labor and 45 minutes of transition. She was beautiful, her eyes huge in the dim light. She breathed immediately, needing no help to nurse. She grabbed right on to life and has been enthusiastic ever since. We woke our older daughter for a birth party at 3 A.M., and a little later snuggled into bed with our new baby. It was a world away from our previous unhappy hospital experience.
What came as a surprise to us was the sexual aspect of this unexpected intimacy. We shared with each other the ultimate experience, not given it away to a doctor and hospital staff. And we were anxious to do it again.
In 1981, our son, Luke, was born at home. We had moved to my home town where my father is a doctor. This new twist pushed us in the direction of another hospital birth, where, I was assured, I could have it any way I wanted. I went into the hospital at one A.M., and left again in the morning with no baby. I had been in active labor when I got there, but soon quit having effective contractions. If I had stayed, I probably would have had a C-section for “failure to progress”. We went home tired out and firmly convinced that the hospital was not the place to have a baby.
So Luke was born at our house on a beautiful spring day, when new life was apparent everywhere. Once again I had a very short (4 hour) labor. When his head appeared, he had the cord wrapped around his neck. I didn’t wait for the next contraction, but just pushed him out. He was a slow starter, and needed a little coaxing to breathe. He was a laid-back baby and is still the same way. Even new babies seem to have their own personalities!
Our family now seems to be strongly bonded. Despite difficulties we have remained together. I’m sure our childbirth experiences have cemented us one to the other, and I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps our modern approach to this most precious thing is not the direct cause of the epidemic of divorce and child abuse/neglect that our society is currently experiencing.