Michael James Swims into the World
Jennifer and Robert
proudly announce that
was born at home
October 30, 2002 at 3:52pm
8 pounds 12 oz, 20.5 inches
I have always been a woman who did what I wanted, and did it well. When people have told me over the years that I couldn’t do something, I’d laugh. My response has always been, “The only thing that stops you, is you. Nothing else.”
So, here I was, 27 years old and three months from finishing grad school…after eight years of college in a male-dominated profession, and I find out I’m pregnant. I had all the signs, but dismissed them as other physiological variants for whatever reason. I was in shock. (I am usually very in tune with my body, but this sure side-swiped me.) My husband of eight months was thrilled, as he was 34, but all I could do was cry. I looked at him and said, “I’m not ready to have a baby.” His response, with a huge hug was, “That’s why they give you nine months.” I laughed through the tears.
We sat on the couch for 30 minutes, as I stared into my future and saw all my dreams dying. Most women dream of their wedding day and having children. Not me. I wanted to go to Las Vegas when we got married and I never dreamed of having children. I wanted a nice home, in a quiet neighborhood, with nice cars, lots of spontaneous travel and elegant dinners out without the hassle of babysitters, diapers and other child-oriented issues. My husband really wanted a family and I figured one day, after I was set in my career and had a few of the things I wanted, I’d probably change my mind and desire a family….but now was too soon. Or was it?
I guessed that I was about a month along when we found out I was pregnant. I never spoke that I was upset I was pregnant. I know that the baby feels everything the mother feels, so I desperately tried to make this a happy experience. I bought a leather journal and started writing to the baby almost everyday. It helped make it more real that I had a baby growing inside me and helped me with feelings I encountered. Later that month, we backpacked through Europe for two weeks and I still wrote to the baby everyday…but I wasn’t about to cancel a trip we had planned just because I was pregnant, despite the fact that everyone said I should. (If it ever happens again, I’d cancel it.)
Rob and I had already discussed that we wanted our children (someday) born at home. My brother and I were both born at home without a midwife or doctor…and I was a frank breech, so I figured if my mom could do it, so could I. At 27, I’ve never had a prescription or recreational drug in my life, and I didn’t want my child born with any drugs in his or her system. We also think that technology is a wonderful thing, but not when it comes to a healthy, normal physiological process like childbirth. We wanted no part of the cascade of interventions done in the hospital, nor did I want the resistance to our decisions for not wanting a PKU test, eye ointment, vaccines, circumcision, etc. We wanted this to be a wonderful and loving/trusting experience. I figured if worse came to worse, I’d end up at the hospital like everyone else.
I weighed myself every month, mainly out of curiosity. I had my blood pressure checked every month by a friend and then later, by my husband. Once in a while I peed on ketone strips to check for diabetes. I was viewed as irresponsible for not seeing a doctor by many accounts. I would say, “Well, I see no reason for throwing my money away. Everything I would let an OB/GYN do, I’m doing at home.” And what about the ultrasounds? “Why would I get one? They ‘appear’ to be safe, just like Thalidimide and fetal x-rays have been touted as safe in the past. There’s no reason I need an ultrasound….there’s nothing any doctor can do IF there are any developmental problems, except abortion and that’s out of the question for us. Not to mention all the false positives they get.”
I went on my merry way and took care of myself the way I knew how. I was adjusted regularly by a chiropractor, ate well, took my vitamins, read lots of books, Rob and I took a Bradley class so we would be on the same page, and of course, in my studies I’ve taken obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics. I felt really good about our decision to have an unassisted birth at home.
I calculated the due date to be November 1, 2002 and on October 29th my water broke at 11:10am. My contractions really started at about 4:30pm. By midnight it was clear this child was not going to be born until later….so my husband and I opted for some sleep. At 2:20am, my contractions were waking me up so much that we just got up and took a walk around the block….again. By about 3am, I needed some pain relief, so I hopped (figuratively) into the birthing tub we rented. I figured this baby would be born by 6am with as much pain as I was in. Well, 6am passed and so did noon. By this point, I kept thinking the pain couldn’t get any more intense, but then I was wrong….and it certainly did. I lost my focus and I was exhausted. I asked for the oxygen and it really helped counteract the exhaustion. My dad came in and helped support me, along with Rob, since it was obvious we were both exhausted.
Around 3:40pm, I thought this baby was never coming, but then I reached up and felt the baby’s head descending. I suddenly got a second wind….and my baby was born at 3:52pm on October 30th. (Not a bad guesstimation without all that technology to inform me when the baby was due, huh?) The cord was wrapped around his neck once, which isn’t really a big deal, except that the cord was only 13 inches long and that certainly didn’t help the baby’s descent. My mom saw the cord and unlooped it with a tight snap…and with the next contraction, his body rotated and slid right out into the water. My mom retrieved a baby boy from the water and handed him to me. I cried so deeply. I was filled with so many emotions. It was the most surreal moment of my life…I was someone’s mother.
I wanted to breastfeed Michael right away to help expel the placenta, as well as for bonding, but I was in so much pain and so tired, that I kept sinking into the water and I couldn’t keep his face out of the water on my own. Once the cord stopped pulsating, Rob cut it and I handed Michael over to him while I dealt with the placenta. An hour and 15 minutes later, the placenta was delivered, but still hanging on by a small portion. I took Michael and fed him. Before I knew it, the placenta was just sitting there completely unattached. I was extremely shaky and sore when I got out of the tub. I got myself upstairs to shower, put some clothes on, and returned downstairs to feed Michael…and myself.
About 4 hours after Michael was born, I had my mom and dad (who are both chiropractors) check him for any misalignments. Only one vertebra needed to be adjusted in his mid back. His neck was completely aligned…I guess since no one had yanked on it to force him out. Then a few hours later, we weighed him at 8 pounds 12 oz and he measured 20.5 inches.
Three days later I felt almost myself again. Then, in the middle of the night, I began to hemorrhage. I got a little worried, but took some uterine supporting supplements and vitamin K for clotting and I went back to bed. By morning, the bleeding had almost completely stopped. I realized that I had overdone it that day, since I was feeling so good and I didn’t have a belly to carry around anymore.
I did think I’d be more Zen-like through the whole process, like so many of the stories I read at Bornfree and Waterbirth.org. I was calm, for the first 17 hours, but the last few hours, I was scared. I was scared that everyone was right. Scared that Rob and I had made a wrong decision. I never uttered a word of it. I never said the word “hospital,” as I knew they would take me there without question….and that prospect scared me even more than where I was. I had to trust and let go of all control to allow a wonderful birth to occur.
Both of my parents were there, my brother, my paternal grandmother, my best friend, who took all the incredible pictures and my rock, my husband, Rob. He never left my side in 29 hours and kept me hydrated and supported (body, mind and spirit) the entire time. Each time he saw any fear in my eyes, he’d look at me and say, “You can do this. That’s my girl.”
So, here I sit, writing this only 2 weeks after Michael’s birth and I can honestly say that having a child is the most miraculous thing in the world. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, yet the most rewarding. Eight years of college seems like a breeze after this childbirth thing. What’s funny, is that I don’t even want a career right now. All I want to do is stare at him and watch his funny faces, watch him sleep, and listen to him breathe as I hold him against my chest. No one could have prepared me for the little miracle that put my life into perspective about what is truly important.