Mama Birth Blog wrote a great post last Friday about why she has her babies at home. It brought tears to my eyes–especially the link to a video of typical newborn procedures for babies born in hospitals, which was just plain disturbing.
Now, I don’t think that home birth is for everyone. I know lots of people who would be terrified to birth at home, and if you’re scared during labor then your labor is less likely to go well. I do believe that drug-free birth is healthiest for both mom and baby, and I know it’s much easier to achieve a natural birth if you’re in an environment where no one is going to suggest that maybe you really want an epidural. The options for birth places where your attendants are less likely to suggest drugs are, fortunately, growing in Atlanta. However, for me, home is still the place where I feel most confident that I can birth without drugs or interventions.
But my real reason for home birth didn’t lie in my desire for a natural labor. Like Mama Birth, it lay in my concern about newborn procedures. I was terrifed at the thought of my baby being separated from me for even a minute–much less for the hour or more that’s common in many (though not all) Atlanta hospitals. I hated the idea of anyone else touching or holding my baby in those precious minutes right after birth.
And really, few experiences could be more beautiful and natural–more “organic” in the slang sense of something that develops characteristically and naturally–than the home birth of my daughter. I labored for 36 hours, mostly in water; when she was born, I caught her. My midwife reached across the pool to put a hat on her and wrap her in a towel, but no one touched her but me for a good thirty minutes after the birth. After the placenta was born, my husband cut the cord. About two hours after the birth, my daughter and I took a bath together. It wasn’t until after that–when she was perhaps three hours old–that my midwife performed the newborn exam. I lay in bed watching, and all the newborn procedures were done at the foot of the bed, very gently and carefully. I don’t remember any crying. After they finished, my midwife swaddled her and lay her in bed next to me, and we all (my daughter, husband, and I) fell peacefully asleep.
My daughter was never out of my sight during those hours after she was born–in fact, she was weeks old before I ever stepped into the next room away from her. There was one moment, after our joint bath, when I sat on the toilet to try to pee while my midwife held my daughter for me. The midwife started to walk away, and I said sharply, “Where are you going?”
“I was going to give you some privacy to pee,” she said.
I had to laugh at how ludicrous that was. “You just watched me give birth,” I told her. “I’ve been walking around naked in front of you for hours. I don’t need privacy from you to pee! I need to be able to see my baby!”
My midwife smiled and stayed in the bathroom.
Now, I realize there’s controversy about the importance of postpartum bonding. Frankly, for me, that doesn’t really make a difference. I don’t care if having uninterrupted contact with my baby doesn’t really make me more likely to succeed at breastfeeding or more likely to feel attached and connected with my newborn. I don’t care if my baby won’t remember the stress of separation at birth. Even if she’ll forget, I will remember. It matters to me. That uninterrupted time, that connection–it gave me confidence as a mother. It helped me trust my instincts and believe that I know how to comfort my baby, that I understand her. And for families want to parent in an organic, natural, connected way, nothing is more important than that.