by Jen Asselstine
Choice. It’s a right that we exercise each day. We choose what to wear in the morning and what to eat for breakfast. We choose the type of car to drive and what profession to pursue. We choose whether to make a good, moral decision or a bad one. We choose a mate, where to live, how to cut our hair, when to begin a family and so on and so on. My husband, Jason, and I chose to have our baby at home. It was an informed choice that we made; to bring our child into this world in the comfort and peacefulness of our bedroom. While few couples make this choice, it is one that we never second-guessed. Thankfully, I had a picture perfect pregnancy. Good diet, regular exercise, a positive mental outlook and, of course, genetics all played a part in my enjoying this special time of life. As my due date drew nearer, Jason and I busied ourselves preparing the baby’s room, buying tiny outfits, and stocking up on diapers. The exciting moment finally arrived on the evening of April 28. My twinges became stronger and more routine, progressing into full-fledged contractions during the night. Jason called Abby to give her a heads up about my labor and we tried to get some sleep. The next morning Abby arrived to check my progress. Good news! I was at 3 cm and the contractions were continuing nicely. Again that night, Abby checked me but, to my disappointment, I was still at 3 cm. Since I had been eating throughout the day and drinking lots of water I decided to continue laboring at home. That night was one of pain and sleeplessness. The only somewhat comfortable position was a half-sitting up/lying down recline on my couch. But, come morning, I was full of energy and ready to get this baby out. Dressed in sweats and sneakers, Jason and I proceeded to walk around our neighborhood stopping every few minutes to breathe through each contraction. When we returned home I was sure that I had progressed and so we called Abby. This time I had progressed to 5 cm and was 90% effaced. It looked like we were going to have a baby soon! Abby continued to check both the baby and me. To her dismay, she found that the baby’s heartbeat was dropping during each of my contractions. No matter what position I was in, the heartbeat kept dropping and so Abby felt that it would be best for me to go straight to the hospital. Without any hesitation, I got dressed and we all drove down to the hospital (about 8 minutes away). Needless to say, I am not a hospital type of person, but with Jason, Abby and Kelley beside me I felt that I was in good hands and that the baby would be well cared for in the manner that I had hoped. Quickly, I was strapped onto the fetal monitor and given a “once over” by the nurse. As we waited for the doctor, we watched the monitor with anticipation as each contraction came and went. To our amazement, the baby’s heartbeat was just fine. Once the doctor arrived, he looked at the monitor readout and declared that the baby’s heartbeat looked great. It was surmised that the baby had been sitting on or grabbing the umbilical cord during the contractions and that the movement involved in my getting to the hospital had “freed” the cord (which made even more sense after the birth when the cord was over 4 ft long-the average is 18 inches!). I asked the doctor to check my progress and was thrilled to hear that I was at about 8 cm. Now a decision had to be made. Did I stay in the hospital and have my baby in the triage room since all of the birthing suites were full or return home? To everyone’s surprise, I opted to go home. As I waddled out of the emergency room doors, I’ll never forget the station attendant saying, “What, she’s going home?” Two hours and many strong contractions later, I was ready to push. I had always been told to “push from my belly like I had never pushed before” and so I put my all into it and 20 minutes later, I reached down and touched my child’s head. Jason, teary eyed and shaking, caught him and placed him on my belly. A few minutes later, he declared “It’s a boy!” Daniel began nursing right away, while Jason, who had heard a commotion in the courtyard of our apartment complex, announced the baby’s arrival from our second story window. In much the same fashion as the cheering at a baseball game, a roar of congratulations arose from below as our friends and neighbors had been praying during my long labor. This again brought tears to everyone’s eyes as we witnessed the miracle of life and love. After delivering the placenta, Jason, Daniel and I spent almost two hours enjoying each other. The room was warm and familiar, the lights were low and we were enthralled with our new son. Our birth experience is not like most, but it is ours. It is the one that we chose. It could have been easier and without the stress of having to go to the hospital, but it wasn’t. From the very beginning, we knew that this was not in our hands. Whether we had our child at home, in a birthing center or in the hospital was not the real issue. The health and safety of our unborn son was our focus. For us, to birth at home meant to be in a familiar place, one where we were loved and cared for by competent, skilled midwives. For our family, a home birth was the best option and I’m grateful to have had the choice to make this decision.