I haven't always been an advocate of natural childbirth.
In fact, my views on birth used to be very much in harmony with the status quo. Use an obstetrician, birth in a hospital, go with the flow. Why not?
When I became pregnant with my first child, I was seeing an OBGYN. And so, seeing no reason to change that, I continued to make my appointments with the same office. I liked the doctor; she was energetic and personable.
Jeff and I signed up for a class which taught the Bradley Method for childbirth. We knew someone who had spoken well of the Bradley Method, and we decided to check it out. As it would turn out, that decision changed everything for us.
The class was taught by a nice woman, about our own age. She had two children, and taught the classes in her home. Her first baby had been born in a hospital: the second in a freestanding waterbirth center. We took in that information, but it wasn't until a few weeks later that we ever really started to entertain the idea of not birthing in a hospital. We learned so much from that class: about how a woman's body functions before, during, and after labor, and about a slew of interventions commonly pushed on birthing mothers.
I was 7 months along. Jeff joined me for my prenatal appointment, as he always did. I remember that it was my birthday. We had come to the doctor's office with a few new questions this time. What did she think of routine fetal monitoring and IV use in labor? What was her position on episiotomies? Was there a time limit for the pushing stage of labor? These are just a few of the questions we brought to the table that day. In retrospect, we may have put her on the defensive just a bit. Two earnest, eager parents-to-be, wanting some answers. We did get answers, but they were not the ones we had hoped to hear.
It was a beautiful autumn day. We walked out of the office building that day with the distinct sense that we would have to argue for what we wanted all through the childbirth process. We would have to be constantly questioning, reminding, being on guard. We stood there under the fall leaves, in the dappled sunshine, and we both knew that this wasn't how we wanted to bring our child into the world.
I believe that it in that moment when Jeff's thoughts turned toward the waterbirth center. I was a bit slower than he was, still thinking of finding another OB. But the more we talked, the more I liked the idea of visiting the birth center. We could at least check it out. Besides, if we were going to fire our OB at 7 months into a pregnancy, we had better examine all of our options.
So we went. The birth center was 45 minutes away from our house, but as we made our way inside the door for the first time, it felt almost like a homecoming. Everything was lovely, comfortable, and relaxed. We were ushered into a room called the "Lavender Room," where we spoke with a midwife named Desiree for more than an hour.
We'd brought our list of questions again. I remember being nervous as they were pulled out, but with each answer we heard, Jeff and I relaxed more and more. No routine episiotomies? No electronic fetal monitoring or standard IV use? I could push as long as I wanted to, as long as everyone was doing well? Really? We were thrilled. And all the while we talked, Desiree had a little smile on her face, as if to say, "Of course."
I've heard it said this way: most obstetricians consider birth to be complicated, until proven otherwise. Midwives consider birth to be a normal, usually healthy process, until proven otherwise. For many doctors, "normal childbirth is a retrospective diagnosis." (from Babycatcher by Peggy Vincent, pg. 58)
And so, in a way we had come home. Home to the place where our first child would come into the world. Home to the very room where we would spend the first night after his birth. And home to a view of childbirth which would change the way our family grew, forever.