Saturday, August 15, 2009


With the birth of Piper, the nurse asked me if I wanted a mirror. I was confused: "Why?" She looked at me a bit surprised (maybe because I already proved our alternativeness by asking for the lights dimmed...asking if it was okay to play music, etc). She answered: "Well some women like to see the birth." I decided I wasn't one of those woman. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I would want to see the children being pushed out of my vagina. In fact, it freaked me out a bit. I wasn't sure if seeing what was happening was going to be might send me into a panic. Because I knew that something really big was coming out of something small. And that something was my vagina.

But H has been through all three births. He's watched each of this children slip into the world. Has held them when they were still wet from the womb, and even cut the cord on one of them (the other two were whisked away from us). With Piper, he was the one who told the nurses "Ummm....I think that's the baby's head." Unlike many men though he doesn't have any funny stories about being horrified. He's always seemed very moved, and has never had any problems returning to sex afterwards. No repulsion, etc.

When we watched "The Business of Birth" I found myself cringing at the scenes of birth. They were often quite graphic. But after the first couple, I started to marvel at that moment when the women's bodies just opened up and brought forth a living creature. I knew it wasn't a simple opening. It was an opening that came through waves of pain, pushing and work. But I also knew that moment felt like ecstasy. It was like the world blew apart the moment your child came out into the world. And I wondered why I had been squeamish about seeing my body do this amazing feat.

H said something last night that I think answered my query. He pointed out that with the creation of hospitals as the norm, we've sanitized our lives. We've put our sick away. We've covered the bloody guts of life. We go there to be born and to die. We go there to be sick. People who visit us, often see the cleaned up sick us. They're not going to see the Dr. sawing an arm off, or cutting opening the chest (although the advent of the surgical theaters for civilians may be changing this). There is a part of me that welcomes this sanitation. After all, I do not want my family to see the insides of my body during surgery. That seems like an intimacy that perhaps is too deep. Nor do we necessarily wish our families to see our suffering.

On the other hand, we have taken a way a part of life. Suffering is not something that is always visible. And not only that but we've turned rites of life into something no longer shared and I'm not sure if this is such a great thing. By moving birth and death to the hospital, we've denied ourselves and our children the face of these two important moments of life. The movement to bring these passages back into the home strikes me as a potentially good thing. Perhaps death is not so frightening if we leave in the comfort of what we know surrounded by those who love us. And for those watching, we get to see a model of our own future.

With that said, H and I are strongly considering a homebirth. There are a few reasons for this. First, we feel more comfortable here in our space. I suspect that this comfort would make birth a bit easier. Second, I do not want to be forced into medical situations that make me uncomfortable or those that go against my wishes. Third, I want the other beasties there. I want them to welcome their new sibling into the world. I want them to see birth as something beautiful and natural. And I think they can handle it. When we watched the documentary, they were enthralled. They watched birth after birth with rapt attention. They were not scared or grossed out. Just utterly amazed at the process. They haven't yet learned to see this as something horrific, unnatural, or sanitized.

And yes there will be a mirror at this birth.


Fatlady said...

A mirror is wonderful!!! I highly recommend it. They brought me a mirror with Ondine and it was a surprisingly wonderful and helpful thing.

Thanks to the mirror, I got to see just the top of her head before the big push, and as the doctor place his hand on her head, her hair, curling around his fingers. For some reason, that first image of my first child - seeing her curly hair, is one of my all time favorite memories.

Also, because I had been talked into having an epidural, in someways I felt disconnected from my body and what was happening. The mirror reconnected me.

I could see what my body was doing, and I could control my body better because I could see. When the nurse told me to push like I was having a bowel movement, I could see that that was not working, and adjust my pushing so it was more effective.

Of course you won't have to worry about an epidural with a home birth. I'm so excited for you.

And I agree that our lives are probably too sanitized and the realities of life and death are too far away from us.

John B-R said...

We had both our kids at home. It worked out great. The midwife we used was part of a homebirthing clinic which had a doctor in charge. That doctor was on staff at several local hospitals. That way, we would have had instant admits to all the lifesaving crap they have in hospitals had anything gone awry. That was reassuring, just in case. Nothing did go wrong. Sam was asleep when Rose was born - it was 4 in the morning. But we woke him right away so he could meet his sister. The next morning, as Kathy nursed Rose, he lay in bed next to her and nursed his teddybear.

Momma said...

Did you see the article in the NY Times about foregoing funeral homes and taking care of the deceased at home? That really moved me; I would definitely consider it. I agree that we've become separated from so many normal and usual biological events in our lives.

Still, some things shouldn't be seen by family members--my mom watched Ezra's c-section from the observation area and it traumatized her. On the other hand, I didn't emotionally heal from my 2 sections until I watched one on the Discovery Channel. I had so wanted to do things with as little intervention as possible; turns out I'm one of the few who really did a section. But it wasn't until I watched one on tv that I understood that a baby *is* "born" during a section and not just "taken."

Best wishes for a safe and healthy home birth!