Happy Endings and Beautiful Beginnings
by Janice DaSilva
On Monday, June 4th, I gave birth to my second son.
My first birth left me feeling depressed and I did not bond with my baby until after 7 weeks. During those 7 weeks postpartum, I fought off 2 bouts of mastitis (a breast infection) and severe depression. I could not communicate with my doctors as I didn’t trust them. They had treated me badly during my pregnancy and in the hospital during the birth where they performed an emergency c-section. They wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say about my prenatal care or desired birth.
During my pregnancy with my 2nd child, I realized no doctor wanted to hear my story. I wanted a homebirth and a doctor who would accept me as a patient even though I would not have any blood tests nor would I expose myself and my unborn child to any ultrasounds. I even sought the support from a pair of midwives who said they firmly believed in the body’s natural ability to give birth unassisted by medical procedures or anyone else’s presence besides the birth mother. After they took $300 towards their customary $2000 fee, they released me from their care. They realized I could not be scared into thinking that I needed them at the birth “just in case.” They painted sad pictures of all the possible negative outcomes and tried to shake my faith in myself. I wouldn’t be talked out of an unassisted birth.
In the end…it was a happy ending and a beautiful beginning all at the same time. My pregnancy ended calmly in my dimmed bedroom with only the sound of my own breathing. The baby was was born into my own hands with no one else’s assistance. The baby’s first sound heard outside the womb was my voice. His first touch felt was from my hand. The first faces he saw were those of his mom and dad. There were no bright lights, there was no chaos, we had no needles nor cold instruments. Newborn Dylan was only surrounded by his confident and loving parents.
It was the most gentle birth I could have imagined. Contractions started at 5am on June 3rd. I got the bed ready by covering it with a new shower curtain liner I had bought just for this reason. On top of the liner I laid down waterproof pads that we kept changing as labor progressed. I found that in early labor I felt most comfortable sitting on the toilet during a contraction. Towards the afternoon, the contractions came more frequently and I passed the time lying on my bed in any position I wanted. I never monitored my baby’s heartbeat, I never checked my cervix for dilation…I just let things progress naturally. The final few contractions were very intense and required all my concentration. I supported the baby’s head gently with my hand as it emerged and then disappeared again. When the head emerged for the last time and the little body followed…it was all in my own hands. I remember thinking I have to do this again.
The baby’s body was limp but the color was good. The umbilical cord which reminded me of a rubber hose was looped around the baby’s neck once. I unlooped the cord and kept the baby near me. Danny told me we had a boy. That was a great surprise…as I hadn’t had an ultrasound. The baby gurgled and clear fluid ran out of his mouth. I noticed meconium on my leg…this was the result of the baby’s first bowel movement. He followed that ‘first’ with another…his first urine all over my leg.
An hour hadn’t yet passed when the baby started to nurse. 7 hours later, we cut the cord with a pair of sterilized scissors. 8 hours after the birth, I started to have contractions again and this time, I delivered the placenta into the toilet.
From the beginning the baby has been thriving on my milk. I experienced an instantaneous bond with him that is nearly inexplicable. The baby was born at 1:20am on June 4th. Big brother Tyler was asleep the whole time. My friend, Rhonda, was asleep on the couch in the living room. She took care of Tyler for us while I labored throughout the day. Rhonda fixed the both of us (Danny and I) a high protein breakfast that morning. I felt re-energized after that and I cleaned the bathroom, the bedroom and I did the laundry, too. Even though the actual birth was unassisted…I didn’t do it all on my own. I had the support from Danny and my dear friend Rhonda throughout my pregnancy as well as the e-mail support group for unassisted childbirth called c-birth.
It was an amazing event yet ordinary all at the same time. I don’t feel particularly courageous or strong for doing it. I think determination and faith were a couple of the key elements to giving birth in the manner I chose. Fear and doubt were the biggest obstacles I had to overcome.
Homebirth is something I hope I get another chance to experience. Once is just not enough. I *still” feel so invigorated and emotionally renewed.