Home Childbirth: A Triumph of Faith and Knowledge
by Boniface Okezuo, Nigeria
Surulere, December 24, 2000 at 10.30 pm, my first baby was delivered of my wife at home, not in a hospital and quite unassisted by medical birth professionals, but aided by me, empowered firstly by Divine Assistance and secondly by the information I got from books and the Internet. I used to hear that certain knowledgeable women would deliver their babies at home, without knowing that my very powerful and capable wife could make such a good material for home child delivery.
After becoming pregnant, my wife, Ugochi, a woman of God and daughter of late Mr. Marcellus Emeana of Ubomiri in Imo State told me she was having a feeling that God would allow us to have our baby at home. The agreement made us not to register her at any maternity centre or hospital for prenatal programme. The idea and practice of home childbirth has not yet been popular. We would just answer in the affirmative to any person that asked us if we had registered with a hospital, to wade off faith distracting arguments.
Remarkably, my MD, apprehensive after complications undergone by wife of a staff in my office advised me to take my wife to LUTH, a teaching hospital in Lagos for antenatal programme registration. I did not want to enter into arguments with him, except that I could remember inquiring why the rampant cases of birth complications in recent times especially at specialist hospitals. Nevertheless, because of our total trust in God, the conviction and its commitment, we neither registered with any hospital for antenatal exercise nor took any medical drugs throughout and after the nine months’ period of pregnancy. The normal symptoms of pregnancy experienced by my wife were taken as such. From the information and definition of normal symptoms of pregnancy and childbirth we got from books, she did not have any abnormal health symptoms that should warrant hospitalisation.
To empower me in order accept that I could handle a home childbirth, my wife requested me to get some information from the Internet. After some searches from a web portal, Yahoo!, I was able to find a material from a website, UnassistedChildbirth.com. In addition, I bought some books on women gynaecology issues. The website gave ample information on unassisted home childbirth as promoted by Laura Kaplan Shanley of the United States. The books I bought and consulted included Everywoman by Derek Llewellyn-Jones, The Joy of Being a Woman and What a Man Can Do by Ingrid Trobisch, the American Medical Association (AMA) Guide to Family Symptoms and a magazine, the Christian Women Mirror, July 2000 edition of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry.
Laura Shanley in her website wrote that hospital environment and personnel were not necessary for the delivery of babies. Childbirth is supposed to be a natural act as done by lower mammals, or better still like other human acts for example making love or passing stool. She argued that God who took care of the seed of conception through its development in the foetus would not immediately abandon it when it was time for it to come out. Childbirth is not inherently dangerous or a disease as to warrant going to the hospital. She maintained that the “what if” complications were not the reason for hospitalisations during child delivery, as childbirth is never a disease. Hospitals, in fact constitute complications because of unnecessary sophistication. As a form of phychoprophylasis, she writes that the pain associated with labour is due to the fear unconsciously burnt in women’s mind.
Phychoprophylasis is a method of prepared childbirth, based on the fact that fear and anxiety lead to conditioned reflex that manifests as pain. This form of birth tries to eliminate the painful conditioned reflex and to replace the negative image of childbirth with a more positive one. The exercises are pain-disassociating or distracting involving deep breathing and counting. Deep breathing and the air filling were not strange to my wife because each time we prayed in the house, we try to feel the Holy Spirit’s anointing. This was always filling and invigorating.
Three things make home childbirth more convenient and recommended. They are the partner support of the husband or an intimate relative or friend, the home environment and of course the pain distraction. These provide the needed, familiar and personal support to the expectant mother and these atmosphere elements are evidently just lacking in our technical hospitals.
Ingrid Trobisch, author of The Joy of Being a Woman and What a Man Can Do wrote from a Christian perspective. She described her experience as a mother, not specifically on home child delivery but generally on women’s experience. Issues she covered included the man-woman sexuality, fertility, conception and control, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause, maturity and how knowledge of these enhances a woman’s spirituality.
Derek Llewellyn-Jones in Everywoman wrote on the medical and gynaecological facts of pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, illness and after surgery issues.
The magazine, July 2000 edition of Christian Women Mirror of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry’s cover stories is a ‘Mother and Child Special’, with such topics as ‘Motherhood, an Experience to Treasure’, ‘Pregnancy’, ‘The D-day Expectations’. Covered and analysed are the various labour stages and necessary preparations for the expectant mother and father.
A book, The American Medical Association (AMA) Guide to Family Symptoms is a ready reference material to enable the reader to understand how his or her body, whether a child, woman or man works and to determine whether something has actually gone wrong and what to do about it. The book gives an informed understanding of symptoms and provides medically approved answers to everyday health questions.
Each piece of information from those books and the website is further digested with the word of God. The word of God is knowledge of the truth, power over nature, authority to claim God’s blessing for the child of God through Jesus Christ, the saviour. The information is taken with faith and prayer to have been the actual position of things in the man’s world, which is possible with my family’s case. I continue to express gratitude to God on His truth and wisdom, while offering any observed suffering to Him in prayer and sacrifice. If a person’s wishes in prayer were not yet answered, my belief would be that it was not yet God’s will and time, which are the best and should be sacrificially accepted as such.
At a time, I wanted to confirm my wife’s conviction and to appease me, she just wanted to register with a birth centre. She went to a local church parish clinic, but was refused registration. That was about the seventh month of the pregnancy. She told me of it and we laughed at them since we have had our home birth tools intact – one, faith in God that she was going to birth at home and, two, the truth that she can actually have her baby at home based on the basic knowledge from the various nature and spiritual literatures.
My expectant wife was active, doing her normal daily chores. We got the baby and mother things. Two of us actually went shopping a day before the delivery. We got our list from the Christian Women Mirror. Things we bought were breastfeeding brassieres, shawl, baby bathe tub and accessories, diapers, towel, bibs, nappies, sponges, cot sheet, soap, lotion, comb and powder. Others were flask, methylated spirit, mentholated powder, petroleum jelly, and olive oil. Of course, we provided a pair of scissors and thread, which were the only gynaecology gadgets prescribed by the Laura Shanley on her website and in her book Unassisted Childbirth.
Laura Shanley, the promoter of home childbirth defines unassisted childbirth as a birth, which takes place outside of a hospital, and does not involve doctors or midwives. She believes that nearly all women are capable of achieving this provided they work with themselves during their pregnancies to understand the true causes of the problems in labour. She opines that the problems are the interference both from within in form of fear, shame, and guilt, and from without – constant checking, monitoring, and drugs. Childbirth, she writes is a natural bodily function and does not require assistance any more than going to the bathroom does. Arguing that the same loving intelligence, God that knows how to grow a seed into a human being, knows how to get that human being out. God does not suddenly abandon us when it comes time to give birth. The problem is, most people do not trust that consciousness. Nor do they trust themselves.
So, on the d-day, when the labour intensified and being a Sunday and a non-working day, I was at home with Ugochi to encourage her. It was quite laborious for me. Fears would crop up in my mind about the risk we were taking and I would dismiss them outright. My strength lay in our faith in God. The cramps came; the contractions came, followed by the relaxations.
December 24th was Ugochi’s birthday anniversary and we talked about how she was celebrating it in pains. She told me that she actually celebrated the previous year’s birthday, 1999 all-day indoors praying. Three years before that, 1996 December 24th was the day thieves took her personal effects after burgling the house of a Claretian priest, Reverend Father Patrick. Father wanted to give a lift to her, then a corps member going home for Christmas from Ogbomosho, her place of primary assignment. The burglers removed the belongings she was travelling with, including choice dresses and a uniform traditional attire she made for herself and a yet-to-be-met husband, all her educational credentials and the NYSC discharge certificate. The evil men also took away with them a tabernacle containing Blessed Sacrament from the chapel in the father’s house. After her prayer to God for allowing the enemies to take away the Eucharist and her important documents, some of the loot were seen. Items seen were the tabernacle and her NYSC document, with her belt head stuck to the holy vessel, which was then taken to a welder to separate them. The Claretian priest remarked this her faith in that incident.
The chat was a good distraction but it did not last. At a stage, she started to go about the sitting room, bathroom and bedroom. When she felt like going to toilet, I would ask her to use the floor, in fear that the thing might fall inside. I remember her getting amused by that. I also asked her to use and lie down on the baby’s mackintosh rubber on the more aerated and spacious sitting room floor. She said that she preferred going about, which I later saw as ideal in one of the consultant books we were using.
I would cleverly attend to visitors to our house at those agonizing hours. If they asked after her, I would just answer that she was sleeping. As soon as they left, I would rush to the bathroom to encourage her in that her chosen manger.
By 8 pm, my niece left the house for Christmas vigil mass, not knowing that the family would have an additional inmate on her coming back a few hours later. The regularity and intensity of the contractions became pronounced. Sounds from Lagos Christmas firecrackers were bombarding from all corners. The expectant mother was not hearing them. To her, they were not distracting enough! The pains and contractions must be significant. She would stand up and sit down almost at the same time. It was a crossroad. It was a decisive moment. Many had gone at such times. My elder sister, Florence was a victim and died at her third birthing in a hospital in the East.
Ugochi told me that she was getting tired. I retorted and assured her that God was fully there with her. Observing the advent climax hour and joining those on Christmas eve mass, I started singing the ‘Gloria’ to praise God for his presence in that birthplace and the 2000th year of Christ’s coming into the world.
The expectant mother was using a plastic chair and was comfortable with it. The chair made a good tool. Some fluid had already started coming out. We were not sure whether it was the ‘show’ or the water from the sac. After some time, we started to see a protrusion but were not sure what it was. It was not black like head of a baby. It was small and round. I asked her to be pushing. She supported her hands with the arms of the chair and was pushing. She told me the pushing was unconscious like it was done by the Spirit, as she used to experience being exercised by the Holy Spirit periodically before and all through the period of pregnancy.
God is great! The milk-coloured round object continued to come out. I could not have called it a head. Nevertheless, I put my hands to collect it. Behold it has the shape of a baby. I saw the hairs of the head. Very soon, I held it,,being supported by the flat of the chair. That’s the baby! Blood gushed out on the chair. We brought up the baby to further examine it. It was at that time I observed that there was a covering. I removed the partially torn coat with my thumb. The shape became complete and the baby did not waste time crying. It also passed faeces. Her mouth and tongue were active and actually licked some blood. Goodness, it was not up to two minutes, the latest mother told me that the placenta had started to come out. It made a good mass being combined with fluid and blood. The chair and the bathroom floor were just appropriate. The sitting room could not have contained all that.
While Ugochi held the baby, I went for the prepared scissors and thread. I tied the umbilical cord some four inches from the baby and cut it. Ugochi wanted to help but she nearly slipped and I had to support her. She went to the sitting room to lie down with the baby. It was at that time that I went to break the news to a neighbouring woman, who instantly came around. She asked if the baby had been bathed. We told her that it would be done the following day. We read in the AMA Guide that the vernix, a skin covering was protective to the baby and that it should not removed immediately.
Call it a coincidence, Chiabiala, the baby’s name meaning “God has come” also came at such a holy hour as the nativity child in the manger.