Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mourn and Release: Homebirth

I wrote a precursor to this post here.  If you didn't read that yet all of this melodrama will not make much sense.

*I'm pretty sure my repeated use of disclaimers means I'm not communicating my thoughts clearly enough, but I never professed to be a "real" writer.  Birth is a sensitive subject for many women and I want to make it clear that while I have strong feelings about Maternity Care in America the point of this post is that I'm nuts and it doesn't matter as much as my deluded head thinks it does.  This is meant to be a judgment on MY attitudes toward birthing practices and not on anyone else's birth choices.  This is about ME BEING A SELF RIGHTEOUS NUT JOB.

True dat, Ryan.  TRUE DAT.  (HT:

We had 4 of our babies in hospitals, one with an OB, the others with Midwives.  Our last birth was a homebirth with a wonderful midwife.  You could say I'm a bit of a connoisseur of maternity care. I would give anything for this birth to be a homebirth as well.  I know, there are a BUNCH of you right now who are like: "Girrrrl! You're upset about not having a baby in your house with no drugs?!?!?!?  Bullet dodged.  Move on.".  There are others probably thinking: "Should she be allowed to have a baby if she thinks it's a good idea to have her baby anywhere but a hospital?".  I'm not going to get into the particulars of why or how home birth is a great choice.  Remember my husband the scientist?  There is no way he'd allow his wife or child to be put in danger for some crazy hippy stuff.  Home birth is a safe, ideal choice for low risk mothers.  It was an ideal choice for us.  WAS.

I'm not a low risk mother anymore.  I don't really feel comfortable with the idea that I'm a high risk mother, unless it connotes something like: "You are at high risk if you mess with that mother."--but this time around, I have to accept that title.  So far, our sweet girl is doing beautifully.  She is by far our most photographed child in utero and she is looking just gorgeous both physiologically and aesthetically if I may take some maternal license thank you very much.  Her heart and lungs and important parts are all just right, her growth is right on, and she is progressing as if nothing was going on out of the ordinary.  I'm doing great, all things considered.  My blood counts do take a hit after treatment but I'm not bottoming out by any metric so far.  My blood is one reason for my high risk status.  My germ fighters and clotters and oxygenators aren't where they should be.  I have to be in a place where there is extra blood and medicine laying around just in case.

The other complication in my situation is that I have to be induced. I have to be induced because I have to time my labor and delivery with my treatment.  I get chemo every 2 weeks and the negative impact of the chemo on my blood counts is least right at the end of the 2 weeks, just before I go back for another dose.  I need my clotters and germ fighters and oxygenators to be able to give birth, so we need to make sure I give birth 2 weeks after my chemo.  I need to give birth as soon as possible (at 36 weeks) because until I do, we can't actually know exactly how much cancer I have, but I can't give birth too early because that would be bad for the baby.  THEN, I need to recover from the birth as quickly as possible so that, God willing, I can start my treatment again 15 days after my daughter is born.  If I have to wait too long between the birth and the treatment, important progress that has been made in killing my cancer could be lost.  Whew.  So OF COURSE thank God they can induce me.  Thank God we can time things in a way that is best for me and for our daughter.

So why is this induction so hard to accept?  Because it goes against my ideals.  Can you believe I used to think I wasn't one of those militant homebirthers? EARTH TO NELLA:  Cancer is not ideal.  Chemo during pregnancy is not ideal.  But a safe, healthy, Mama and baby are the only real ideal.  That might seem like a "DUH!" thing to say, but in standard maternity care it is often used to treat mothers very poorly so it's like a trigger to me.  The idea of safety is often twisted to trump very real concerns on the part of the mother and baby and very often equate more to the convenience of the medical staff than the well being of the patients, both big and small.  Standard maternity care can be terribly dismissive of the power of a woman's body, and in many ways is systemically misogynistic and it makes me SO MAD.  But I can't focus on that now.  I can't focus on standing up to the standard of care and how it is less than ideal for low risk mothers and babies.

In the end, I have to accept that I am in a less than ideal situation, and I am blessed to have access to interventions that I will truly need.  I have spent a lot of years standing up for myself and my babies to the standard of care.  It's weird and humbling to switch gears and accept that this time standing up for us means embracing so much of what I've previously rejected.  I have to come to a place of gratitude that these technologies exist and that I have access to them.  It's hard because I feel like utilizing those resources is reinforcing and legitimizing a system I believe is deeply flawed--and it is. But so am I.  

Every time I go to an appointment at the hospital, with an OB/GYN instead of a midwife I want to tell everyone I see that I really need this this time, but many women don't even though you make them think they do, and don't think for one second I'm not on to you.  What can I say?  I'm a delight.  GET OVER YOURSELF NELLA!!!! I feel like a musician who is being led in another direction in her work and is afraid of being accused of “selling out”.  I never really understood this idea of not wanting to “sell out”.  I thought: “Hey crazy pants!  Lighten up!  Things change!  You can’t be so stuck in your habits or choices that you can’t make the choices that will move you forward!”.  Easier said than done, uppity judgey Nella.  Here I am, in a position where the right path is very clear, but my pride is telling me that I’m selling out.  I believe so strongly that low risk American mothers deserve better maternity care, but if I’m being honest, I made it into an idol and I made myself the high priestess.  Ultimately, the fate of the maternity care system in this country is a lot bigger than lil ole me.  DOUBLE DUH.  It has many problems, but we natural birth types could stand to remind ourselves that it does a whole lot right that we can forget to see when we are safely ensconced in our little low risk bubbles.  I'm ashamed that I struggle so much to put aside my activism and my pride.  I'm ashamed that I struggle so much to have some genuine gratitude for the people and technologies that will benefit my baby and I in our time of need.  I need to get over myself.

It's not just a sense of activism and "selling out to the man" that makes this so hard.  I just plain don’t want to go to the hospital because I don’t like giving birth there.   I'm just plain old sad and disappointed.  I'm sad because our homebirth was so peaceful, and respectful, and beautiful, and I can't have it like that again.  It is heartbreaking to give that up.  Being in the hospital takes away so much of the intimacy of birth.  It just does.  After having our son at home in our room, just Michael and I and a midwife who had the wisdom and humility to let nature take its course and to let Michael and I bring our child into the world--well, being in a hospital while we birth our baby will feel as profound a violation as if there was a medical team standing around while we made the baby.  I know that sounds melodramatic and weird but it's the truth.

At our homebirth nobody was bothering me or manhandling me.  It was just Michael and I.  It was quiet (until I wasn't Michael would want me to tell you lol).  It was private, which is much appreciated when you're half nudey patoots.  Nobody "checked" me (you feel me ladies?).  Not once.  Nobody was shouting counts of 10 in my face like some kind of horrible preschool boot camp.  Nobody but Michael or I said a single word until Adam was born.  It was amazing.  It was just Michael and I and the midwife WAY in the background.  Just me doing what I was designed to do, and Michael supporting me every step of the way.  It was just Michael and I working together to bring the child we helped create into this world.  It was such a blessing.

When you're in the hospital it becomes about everyone BUT you and the baby.  It just does.  They mean well, they mean for it to be about the Mama and baby, but it’s just not.  You're on everyone ELSE'S timetable.  You're inconveniencing everyone ELSE--you know, everyone who is not in the middle of what has been universally regarded through the ages as one of the single most mentally, emotionally, and physically intense human experiences?  So, yeah, I'd rather be at home.  I'd rather skip the physical comfort of the drugs to be at home.  I know that makes me seem crazy, but I've never hidden the fact that I'm nuts.  I’m sad I can’t have my baby in my home with my husband in all my crazy nuttiness.  But look at that sentence.  I, I, my, my, my, my what a lack of perspective we can cultivate when we make false idols.  Selflessness fail.

People are going to bug me and manhandle me while I'm in labor with this little girl.  People will be intruding on personal, intimate moments that I'd rather share only with my husband.  But those people will be there to protect me and our daughter from real dangers that could actually come.  I have to accept that.  I have to find a way when that moment comes to say thank you and mean it.  Not in my normal "you could poke me with something or cut me so I'll kiss your butt" kind of way that I generally thank medical professionals of a maternity care nature, but a real thank you.  Because I will mean it, and they will deserve it.  I have to let go of my pride, because in the end, they are helping me and they are helping my daughter and I am so blessed that they will be there.

That was too much and not enough all at once.  Huh.  I thought this would be the easiest one to write.  Oh well.  GET OVER YOURSELF NELLA!!!!  That's the point of this whole thing.  To lighten things up, here is a clip of one of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, about homebirth.  The home birth portion starts at 1:29 and ends around 4:11, or you could just watch the whole thing because he is really funny.

Oh, and you should know, when he says that "birth coach" is too generous a's not too generous a title for Michael.  He is the BEST doula a girl could ask for.


  1. NO COMMENTS?!?! NONE???? Come On folks, she just poured her heart out here.
    Nella, great post. I am sorry you have to go through this..I've never had a home birth, but they sound awesome and I am of the mind that you should do what works best for you and your family.
    Your feelings are all legit. I would totally feel the same way if I were you. I can so relate to the whole comfort zone kind of thing. I mean, who doesn't like their own space?! Especially when it comes to having a baby! It's like the most vulnerable, joyous, weepy, uncomfortable, amazing time...and who really wants to share that with people they don't even know? I'm always particularly thrilled when the nurses bust in my room at 4am, prowling around for my veins.
    But you know, it's so true. You can make an idol out of anything. I know I can. Oh I know I'm not Miss Organic or anything, but you should see my wooden toy addiction. It's cray. For while I could've used a support group/crack pipe. But my 7 yr old just got a PLASTIC bow and arrow for his brithday and I didn't even have to breathe into a bag this time! WINZ!!!!
    You are having to let go of so much right now, and I'm sure you're attitude doesn't always feel great, but man..God is doing an incredible work in you and I really think He is showering you with a ton of grace and showing His daughter off to the world.And I know anytime He's dragged me out of my comfort zone, I always imagine it will stink way more than it actually does.
    You are His witness, a light! You cain't be hidin under no bushel baskets Miss Burning Brightly!
    But it's gotta be hard, and I'm so sorry. Prayers for you, friend.
    damn this comment was long.

    1. Thank you so much Heather! First, you can write any length comment you want. Second, major WINZ on the plastic bow and arrows. The first time we took Owen to a birthday party and candy came out of the pinata I about lost my mind. Actually, the tailspin that resulted showed me I'd already lost it. What did I think was going to come out? Carrot sticks? Thanks for you prayers. And your blog. No pressure. :)

    2. In my dreams, carrots are what comes out of pinatas! deep thoughts over here but had to add my 2 cents :-)

    3. haha Kate! You must love that Hidden Valley Ranch commercial with the vegetable carnival!

  2. Oh my goodness, I just found your blog through a comment you left on Ashley Jones' blog. What an amazing story you have!! I'm a Catholic mom to 5 kids too, (not pregnant with #6...yet!), and I'm gonna go read all your posts as I eat my lunch :)

  3. Hi Colleen! Thank you so much for stopping by!


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