The questions that defined my daughter’s birth

Guest post by Dori Mondon

You guys may remember Dori’s previous contribution to Offbeat Mama — Why I almost decided to have an unassisted birth. She’s followed up with her birth story!

Question mark made of puzzle pieces Three questions defined my birth.

The last midwife, the one we eventually chose to help us birth our baby, the one who’d caught over 1200 babies, asked me the first two. “Why do you want to have a home birth?” and “Do you trust your own body?”

The first was asked when we met for the first time. “Well, we’re ‘do it yourself’ kind of people,” my boyfriend responded. The second question she asked was in response to the way I’d been handling the rare occasions of nausea and heartburn throughout my pregnancy. She didn’t approve of my particular method, despite its sanctioning by a previous Certified Nurse Midwife I’d worked with in New Mexico during the first half of my pregnancy.

Eventually, we couldn’t come to a compromise and she left the picture, saying that she didn’t believe she had the time to “develop a relationship with me.” It was two weeks before my due date, and given that we WERE “do it yourself” types of people and that I did “trust my own body” I looked at my boyfriend and asked him, “What did we think we needed a midwife for anyway?”

We purchased all the supplies ourselves. We had a birthing pool. We’d been studying, researching, watching videos, reading books, asking questions, making contacts. We decided to, yep, just do it ourselves, and formulated a backup plan that involved the local women’s hospital in case anything went wrong.

Paloma’s due date came and went. Nine days later I got my bloody show, and within 30 minutes, full-on labor had begun. I got in the pool. I was biting on a towel, begging for ice cubes and asking for as little other stimulation as possible. I couldn’t be touched. I didn’t want to be talked to. My poor boyfriend was trying to keep it together but was beside himself.

A little while later, I said to him, “I’m not sure there should be this much blood just yet.” My body had begun to push on its own, but I was lightheaded, weak, and something didn’t feel right. And for all my studying and research, there was no way to transform these sensations into anything remotely resembling “orgasmic” or “pain-free.” We raced to the hospital.

In an emergency room, I begged to be taken to an actual birthing room. I let everyone know there was a birth plan in the folder my boyfriend was holding, and no one looked at it. Somehow or another, I screamed out my demands while my baby began to crown.

Five hours after labor began I was almost too weak to keep pushing. The doctor was trying his hardest to stretch me wide enough to get her head out. “Please just let me stand up,” I begged him, but they didn’t allow it, and so on my back I remained with nurses encouraging me to push and the doctor, telling me one small snip and he’d have her out of me. In the end I acquiesced — though my birth plan stated that I’d rather tear, I’d already torn to the third degree and still, she would not exit. One small snip, not quite an episiotomy, and she came flying out of me, this giant baby no one expected to be this big. The doctor had a look of surprise on his face as she landed in his hands and immediately began to cry. She was placed on my stomach, and then I reached down and brought her to my breast.

Thanks to the most amazing labor and delivery nurse on the planet, Paloma learned how to breastfeed properly on first latch, and her father was allowed to cut the cord after it had stopped pulsing. As I breastfed my baby for the first time, my placenta slipped out of me and she collected it in a bowl. As they began the process of cleaning and stitching me up, the nurse picked up my placenta and walked us through it all, showing us where Paloma had resided for the past nine months. Then she sent it along to the freezer so we could collect it on our way out.

The third question came from someone on Facebook — one of those “pain-free unassisted-homebirth” folks I’d used as a resource. All she had to say when I made my birth announcement was “So what happened to the homebirth?” There were no congratulations from her.

I’d failed in my birthing bad-assness, apparently, by seeking the assistance of medical professionals. While the hospital was a less-than desirable experience for me, when I start counting the fat rolls on this delicious little babe of mine and know that we’re both alive because I made a decision not to be so much of a badass, well… you’d have to do a LOT of convincing to tell me that I’d failed at anything.

Comments on The questions that defined my daughter’s birth

  1. are you KIDDING? you are freakin amazing, and congratu-effing-lations! you followed your gut, you were not intimidated by judgmental, condescending arses, and everyone is safe and living in love! that’s a screaming success, i had a VERY hard time dealing with everyone else’s opinions clouding my trust in my own judgment. i’ve loved everything you’ve shared here, and dammit you made me cry *again*.

  2. Thanks – a really intelligent and non-judgemental view on the choices people have to make during birth. I really hope lots of folks will see this and it will help people feel confident to make safe decisions if problems arise.

  3. You trusted your body and when you felt that something wasn’t quite right, you sought help. That is the essence of trusting body and listening to your body. There are never any guarantees that things will go smoothly if you do everything “right”.

    The hospital could have been more open minded with birthing positions, but they did help. They served their purpose.

    There is nothing about this that is a failure. You are awesome. Congratulations 🙂

  4. Congratulations! What a rude Facebook commenter — of course we can make a birth plan but in the end birth takes it’s own path and isn’t something one can control. Kudos for doing it your own way and flexibly adjusting to the changing circumstances.

  5. Rule #1 of parenting: Do what you gotta do to make it work.

    I think you did brilliantly by making decisions based off of instinct and what the right choices were for YOU as your experience progressed. Many huge congrats on becoming a mama!

  6. Any birth that results in healthy baby and healthy mom is just fine with me. I’ve done natural w no drugs AND c section, both in hospitals, thankfully. After an unremarkable first pregnancy, the birth was a nightmare and I’m soo thankful I was NOT at home. And he’s 17 today! Yay for you!

  7. That Facebook commenter can just STFU. I’m as much of a birthing badass and the next crunchy granola homebirther and I would never be so presumptuous or rude as to question someone else’s instincts. You did GREAT!!

  8. I think you’re reading more into the comment than is necessarily there at least I don’t know them and I don’t see such judgement. What’s with all this vitriol against homebirthers on this website anyway? Not in the article but in the comments.

    • it’s not vitriol against homebirthers, at least none i’ve seen. if there is vitriol it’s toward judgment or dogma, regardless of from whom it spews forth. it’s pretty standard that the appropriate response to a birth announcement is “congratulations!” no matter how it was executed. of course a first response questioning the method of baby’s arrival is going to be met with a bit of an open jaw, *especially* when mom had a rough go of it and had to abandon her “agenda”. that’s a big “duh” for *anyone* really, and an especially *huge* duh for anyone worth their weight in salt in the birthing business, regardless of paradigm.

    • I don’t think anyone here has any problem at all with homebirthers, they just have problems with homebirth-advocates who regard a hospital birth as “unnatural” or a “failure,” implying that someone had less of a “real” birth because she either chose or ended up having to go to a hospital.

      I guess I can kind of see what you’re talking about re: the facebook comment, insofar as I think that it’s a valid question for someone to ask what changed if they know a homebirth was planned but didn’t happen. It’s pretty clear from the story, though, that comment wasn’t in the spirit of “congratulations, so glad everyone’s safe, though if you don’t mind my asking, did you end up deciding against a homebirth or did something happen during the birth?”

  9. Yes I love this! I have a hard time not getting upset with people who are all “hospitals are evil bla bla bla” ultimately it’s all about YOU and YOUR BABY and there is no “wrong” way to have a baby. To me that just sounds ridiculous. If you are both healthy then everything has gone perfectly right! Good for you for being well informed about all of your options and for trusting your instincts. Congratulations on a wonderful birth and a beautiful baby!

  10. I don’t think this is anti home birth at all. I thinks it’s very pro all kinds of birth. It’s one of the things I like about this site. There are home, birth centre and hospital births featured, water births and just about any other kind of birth you can imagine. I like that OBM is generally accepting of all of them! 🙂

  11. I have a friend that has an unfortunate way of making me feel badly for my decisions regarding my daughter’s birth. She doesn’t mean to do it, I know this, but she always finds a way to say “I wouldn’t have done that” or “I didn’t know if I should question your choices” or whatever. After her recent birth the comments run along the lines of “I didn’t want pitocin to touch MY body”..because I’d had to be induced when my due date came and went and there was no sign of change at 41 weeks. I love the friend. I hate the “I’m better than you because I’m organic, free-range, homemade, medical intervention free..and you aren’t” attitude.

  12. Congratulations!! Because you listened your instincts, you and your baby are alive and healthy. When I got pregnant, I was planning a homebirth and was all about the “trust your body” thing. Then, my body tried to kill me and my kid. (Hello, pre-eclampsia!) We are alive today because of my health care providers. THEY are who I now trust.

  13. Congratulations!

    I have to admit that I am terribly curious what you’re referring to in this passage:

    “the way I’d been handling the rare occasions of nausea and heartburn throughout my pregnancy. She didn’t approve of my particular method, despite its sanctioning by a previous Certified Nurse Midwife I’d worked with in New Mexico during the first half of my pregnancy.”

    I know a lot of crunchy types pooh-pooh medications during pregnancy, but I needed my Zantac to get through the day.

  14. This is great. There’s no such thing as an “unnatural” birth! I felt a lot of disappointment that I ended up having a c-section, particularly when people made comments to me afterward about how the c-section rate is way too high in the U.S. (which it is, but I don’t particularly like being blamed for it). I mean, my baby was a surprise breach after 7 hours of labor… should I just have let her get stuck in the birth canal and suffocate? Any way your baby gets here healthy is the right way. Good for you for knowing what the right decision was!

  15. Cheers to you!! Sounds like you had a very successful birth–you trusted your body, and it let you know very clearly when you needed to change environments. THAT should be the goal of every birthing advocate.

  16. thanks for the feedback, all! just for the record Paloma is now six months old (as of tomorrow, actually!) – and other than the fact that i am not losing baby weight yet (UGGGGGH) we are doing fantastic – and the doctor that stitched me up did a wonderful job. 🙂 everything’s all healed and mamahood is challenging but awesome.

  17. Thank you for this! I planned an unmedicated birth at a birth center, but ended up with an epidural and a c-section. I also had someone tell me that I “could have done it naturally.” I wanted to smack her. Part of having a successful birth experience is remaining open to all possibilities, because you simply don’t know what’s going to happen. I trusted my body, too – but my baby never dropped! 30 hours into labor and I was still at a -3 station. Sometimes the best laid plans fail, and at those times it’s so so SO wonderful that we have hospitals to help us!

  18. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!! I love that you had the guts to try it yourself. and the guts to listen to your body and get you and your baby what you needed! I agree with many of the women that OBM is in no way against home birth! If it wasn’t for OBM I would not have known there were sooooo many options out there! It is very hard for me to watch documentary’s, or read blogs that are sooooo negative to doctors/nurses because I come from a medical family. I know how much love and passion a nurse/doctor has for helping people. It also blows my mined when women talk about being ashamed about having to get a c-section epidural. Having my son was the most hardcore thing I have done and I’ll be damned to have some one tell me otherwise! 3 cheers for you and your new baby!

  19. Congratulations. Its important to remember that any birth is an accomplishment no matter where or how it happens. Sadly this post was disappointing in the way that a lot of DIY births turn out. There is a lot of dishonesty about unassisted birth. That it doesn’t “hurt” or that anyone can do it. Unassisted birth communities are full of wonderful people but the other half are judgmental and often filled with awful, unsafe advice. I hope that this post doesn’t turn people off of the idea of unassisted birth (I haven’t seen much of it here on OBM). It can be done safely under the right circumstances and guidance.

    I also kinda agree that the ending of this is a bit biased and no better than the person that left the mean comment on facebook. Birth in not about who did it better and until we all stop treating it that way this conundrum will continue. Don’t let people accuse you of failure.

    • ashley, let me just clarify a few things that apparently need to be clarified:

      1) OBM wants an 800 word article. thus i skipped the description of the amazing and wonderful community of unassisted birthers that i, personally, sought out for advice and guidance. all of them were educated and experienced (some of them midwives and doulas), and the particular group of women that i was in contact was big into the idea of ecstatic birth. my partner and i did a LOT of research and communicating, right up until i could NO LONGER TALK ON THE TELEPHONE. but seriously, that wasn’t really the point here, so it got cut short.

      2) you very obviously missed the “tongue in cheek” of the last paragraph. it’s okay – you’re in the minority there, and thankfully it appears most everyone else figured out what i was trying to get at. there are a LOT of us out there who planned that groovy home birth and wound up in the hospital. none of us should be shooting ourselves for it. we’re all badasses for doing this amazing thing, however we get it accomplished. THAT IS THE POINT.

  20. Congratulations! You listened to your body and did what you felt was right. Because of you, your daughter is here and she’s safe. That’s a WIN, not a failure.

  21. “Do you trust your own body?” Honestly? No, no I don’t. If humans were meant to give birth flawlessly, we wouldn’t have breech births, placentas wouldn’t form over the cervix, umbilical cords wouldn’t wrap around throats, and mothers wouldn’t bleed out after birth. But all those things happen. My water broke 6 days early, and the contractions came and went for half a day before they started me on the pitocin. They had to give me a LOT of it. Without it, I could have been in labor for days, exposing myself and my unprotected baby to all kinds of problems.

    Humans are *usually* capable of birthing their own offspring, but things go wrong. Like most animals, we’re built to have lots of children to compensate for the fact that, in the wild, we’d lose babies and mothers in births gone wrong. In the 19th century, the infant mortality rate was almost 10%.

    • I trust my body to let me know when things are going the way they should (muscle soreness after exercising) and when things are going the way they shouldn’t (torn ligament). Having medical interventions available is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and has saved countless lives. But I think in my ideal world, we’d all be familiar enough with how birthing feels that we could tell, like Dori, when “something doesn’t feel right” and go to a medical specialist. “In the wild” people used to die from colds, too, but that doesn’t mean we should go see a doctor every time we get a cold.

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