by Lauren Banta
My husband, Mark, and I were thrilled to see “positive pink” on my pregnancy test in June, 1997. My mind raced with hopeful thoughts concerning our first child. Was this tiny baby a boy or a girl? What would we name our little blessing? Regarding birth, I wanted to avoid an episiotomy which, as research revealed, meant pursuing the alternative, natural childbirth. We contacted every yellow pages entry under “midwives” and made our choice based on the practice our insurance would cover; thus, our pregnancy under the care of certified nurse-midwives began. Bradley Natural Childbirth classes proved to be extremely informative and practical; in addition, they helped me realize a difference between many expecting mothers and me. Most women desire to get pregnant, go to the hospital in nine months, and return home with a healthy baby. My expectations were higher than that! Months passed and I became increasingly frustrated with the constraints by which the nurse-midwives were bound. I returned to the phone book and called CHOICE, the Center for Humane Options In Childbirth Experiences, which specializes in natural childbirth at home. (I originally rejected the organization because our insurance company would not commit to fund a home birth.) One of the professional midwives, Abby, surprisingly granted me an appointment, despite the seven months of pregnancy behind me. Thankfully, I was healthy and low-risk for complications, which qualified me for her assistance. She confidently answered questions and, to my delight, assured me that my birth desires would be honored. Also, her statistics from hundreds of other women who had safely delivered their babies at home was encouraging. I was determined to be a happy, successful home birth statistic too. Mark, was skeptical initially, but an appointment with Abby and another midwife, Kelley, opened his mind to the possibility. We decided that a satisfying birth was worth the financial sacrifice and proceeded with the midwives. The nutritional counsel and teaching from the midwives more than adequately prepared me for giving birth. My labor began and I worked around our house between contractions until the pain became too great to concentrate on anything else. Sitting in the bathtub was helpful for awhile, and I eventually laid down, where I bicycled my legs to endure the acute pain. We called the midwives and requested their assistance around 1 a.m. and I was almost ready to push upon their arrival. Our bedroom was warm and dark and Abby and Kelley helped prepare my body with oil and hot compresses. I was supported by Mark’s arms for most of the pushing and sat on a birthing stool for the last one so he could catch our healthy little boy, Jacob. What a fabulous bonding time that was! The three of us snuggled on our bed for quite awhile and were so grateful I had nothing to recover from other than tiredness. This exhausting, yet exhilarating experience was birth at its best! Twenty six months later, I gave birth in our home underwater. We had not hesitated in asking the midwives to assist us with our second birth, as we owed our first joyful birth to their availability and expertise. I was excited about the buoyancy of water and the statistics on how few women tear while giving birth in the pool; therefore, we rented a Jacuzzi and assembled it downstairs. Once labor began, I climbed into the Jacuzzi as soon as I was uncomfortable. The 98.6 degree water felt hot but helped me bear the pain of the harsh contractions. The midwives arrived and our daughter, Ellen, was born about three hours later. Mark sat behind me in the water to hold me up and I caught her as she was born. One of the midwives monitored the pulsing of the umbilical cord and I held her underwater for 33 seconds, where she opened her eyes and moved her little arms. As Ellen emerged from the water, Jacob lovingly said, “Hey baby!” Our family of four cuddled on the sofa and experienced another precious bonding time. Once again, we had a healthy baby and I was merely tired. Presently, we are expecting our third child and are thrilled over the privilege of pursuing another home birth. We greatly cherish our relationships with Abby and Kelley and thank God for leading us to them. I not only achieved my goal of no episiotomies, but also cheerfully tell the stories of our first two births. It is a joy to have alert babies who readily nurse and do not have to sleep off drugs in their bodies. Meeting our next newborn baby will be the third miraculous chapter in our exciting home birth adventure!