Birthing

Saturday night in my living room, I was surrounded by the parents of the children in my daughter’s kindergarten class. I had boldly offered to host a parent social. We were playing Two Truths and a Lie, one of my favorite icebreakers. My turn had come, and I shared three statements. One of my truths was that my daughters were intentionally born at home. Immediately everyone declared this as the lie, joking that I asked for an epidural as soon as I arrived at the hospital. I understood that no one knew me, yet I was thrown by this gross misunderstanding of who I am and the deliberate choices that I make.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I could not conceive of walking out of my house as two people and then returning home as three. As a family physician who practiced obstetrics, I was well-acquainted with the ups and downs of hospital births. I had seen intervention beget further intervention. I resented the television mindlessly blaring while a woman was laboring. I cringed at hospital staff who would chitchat as if the birthing woman was invisible. Once I learned about the improved outcomes for low-risk home births relative to hospital births, I decided home was best for me.

It was difficult to reveal my plans to family and colleagues. Somehow it felt incongruent to them that a doctor would make this choice. My grandmother proclaimed in her Brooklyn accent, “Pammy, don’t you know there’s technology?” Even after I shared precautions taken by the midwives to get ahead of possible complications, people seemed unconvinced and remained firmly attached to their opinions. Stories of difficult labors with successful births were projected onto my decision, somehow validating the storyteller’s choice to have a hospital birth. People questioned me about how the midwives would handle different complications, as my choice became about them.

Fortunately I had a great team supporting me, and I was stubborn enough to endure a three-day labor with my first child. After that, my twelve-hour labor with my second child feel like a breeze. One of my joys as a mother is telling my daughters various iterations of their birth stories on their birthdays. My home births were amazing and defining events in my life. They taught me a great deal about myself, and for this I feel profoundly grateful.

Pamela Adelstein
Newton Center, Massachusetts

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2 thoughts on “Birthing”

  1. Pamela,

    Thank you for telling your story.

    Many years ago, I knew a woman also who chose to have
    her child at home.

    We were pregnant at the same time, and I
    envied her courage,

    I had my baby at Yale New-Haven hospital (a very
    good hospital).

    But it was a horrible experience.

    They induced labor (probably that wasn’t necessary)
    and this caused me to go from stage 1 labor to stage 3 or 4, very. very quickly.

    Since the drug used to induce labor is a hallucinogenic,
    I began to hallucinate–for many hours.

    I believed that I was dying of cancer, and that all of the tubes that they had put in me (to monitor the baby) were
    monitoring the cancer.

    I vomited repeatedly and fiercely, until there was nothing
    left in my stomach.

    My husband, who couldn’t bear to see all of this, declared
    that he had to check the meter on his car, and left for 4 or 5
    hours.
    (I should add that he is now my ex-husband. But I don’t
    really blame him for being appalled by watching his normally very strong wife lose her mind.)

    After the delivery, I wept, because I didn’t know how I would
    ever be able to have a second child. And I very much wanted two children

    Mercifully, as many women know, after a couple of weeks, the memory of what happened during delivery disappears.

    So, I was able to have a second child. But I do know other
    women who went through a terrible delivery in a hospital
    and never tried to have a child again.

    Meanwhile, what happened to my friend who delivered at
    home?

    She didn’t have an easy time. Few of us do with a first
    birth. But she was surrounded by loved ones, and a medical professional who she had chosen.
    A few days later, she remembered the experience happily.
    And she went on to have another child.

    Her name was Kathleen Kennedy, daughter of Robert
    Kennedy, a wise, brave woman who made an excellent
    choice.

    Finally, delivering at home is not for everyone.
    It depends on any known risks, whether you live in a city close to a hospital (so that you could get there quickly if
    something unexpected happens), whether your mate
    is on board with the idea (you will need his emotional
    support.)

    But if you can, it strikes me as well worthing considering.

    Again, thanks for your story.

  2. Beautiful! Good for you Pam!
    As a certified RN RM from India, I have assisted many births at home and it is a different feel than the hospital with the lack of meaningful engagement—!

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