On early Wednesday morning, at 12:41am, I had the privilege of welcoming a new baby into the world. Unlike my previous births that I attended as a doula, there was something especially unique about this one. Mama had chosen to birth her baby at home instead of a hospital.
While there are benefits and drawbacks to having a baby at home instead of a medical setting, I’ll save my opinions for another time. What matters more is that each woman has the freedom to choose what work for her. As a doula, I support all births in any location because my main focus is always the comfort and support of the woman having a positive and empowering birth experience.
With that said, I very much enjoyed the home birth experience. Mama alerted me late Tuesday morning that labor was picking up and by 3pm, I made my way to Brooklyn. Upon arrival, I immediately got comfy – shoes and socks off, green juice placed in fridge, iPhone plugged in. I felt at ease and at home, comfortable and ready for the adventure ahead.
Mama was handling each contraction really well with gentle movements and breath. She was able to have conversations about life, fears, her pregnancy experience and hopes around her birth. We sat on the couch and talked about music, my old boxing days, our mutual hometown of Staten Island and a slue of other topics. For a while, it felt like I was visiting with old friends, until of course a contraction came and I would either massage her back, remind her to breath or offer words of praise and purpose.
During these early phases of labor, we did some projects to distract and help Mama. I hung up greetings cards from her baby shower as a reminder of all the people who love and support her. We organized birth supplies and prepared the bed for delivery. I even helped Dad blow up the birthing pool in preparation for Mama to use as a comfort measure when labor intensified.
Aside from being at home, there was another aspect that was really special. We were fortunate to not only have the father/partner present but also Mama’s 16 year old son. He made store runs to pick up his mom’s favorite tea, created a playlist for the entire birth experience, offered encouragement during challenging times and even slow danced her through intense contractions. It was so sweet and endearing to see this young, teenage boy rise to the occasion and become a pillar of strength for his mom to lean on. So brave and with so much courage. Many times, he reminded her that he was “living proof” that she was able to birth a baby.
As labor progressed, day turned into night. Contractions were coming closer together and with greater intensity. Most conversations stopped and now me, dad and son were all working together to soothe and support Mama. I used a rolling pin on her back to massage and ease the pain. We tried changes of position to find the best way for Mama to ride each rush. The midwife and her assistant arrived around 9pm offering more support and guidance. Mama got into the tub and used the warm water to help with discomfort. Wading around and feeling buoyant definitely eased the strong sensations. (This was so cool for me to witness as I always wanted to see how a birth tub could help laboring women.)
At this point, Mama had been in labor for hours and was totally exhausted. She asked if we could help her get into bed so that she could rest. We did but within minutes of that happening, a huge contraction came and BOOM, her water broke. Midwife rushed in and not long after, beautiful baby girl was born. In the moment, the ecstatic joy of life was palpable and as with all my previous births, I felt a wave of emotion come over me. It is the closest thing to pure joy that I have ever experienced.
Life is amazing.
I am happy to report that the baby was perfect – totally calm, at ease and alert. She barely cried and snuggled right up onto her mother’s chest. Mama was a true champ; I witnessed her surrender to the birth process and let her primal self take over. Out of her head and completely in her body. It was powerful, thrilling and so very inspiring. Once again, in total awe of the female, able to birth new life into the world.
Hello baby girl !!!
As I reflect on this experience, I recognize that it was extremely positive – so much so that even the midwife was surprised at the ease of the birth. Luckily, there was no emergency and everything went according to plan. (We were all prepared to adjust in case the unexpected happened). Together, we formed an incredible team, each offering something unique to help Mama. After the birth, everyone felt thoroughly satisfied with the experience. I even got to hold the new baby who peeked it’s eyes open at me. I swear she gave me a little wink, a gentle reminder of a job well done.
In summary, this is what I observed from having birth at home: Labor is a natural (not medical) event, one that doesn’t need to be augmented or interfered with unless the mother chooses to do so or unless under emergency situations. However, time and extreme patience is required because birthing a baby can be a slow process. It doesn’t happen in a upward, steady progression but rather peaks and valleys, slow starts, fast transitions and everything in between. In addition, having a baby at home means there is no beeping machines, constant maternal checks or influx of doctors/residents/nurses coming in and out of the room. In reality, there is no outside interference whatsoever. Full trust is given to the mother that she is fully capable of having a baby.
Having witness only a few births so far, what struck me the most was how the baby joined this world. She didn’t cry and was extremely calm and serene. Uninterrupted time for Mama and baby to bond was the utmost importance. After an brief, initial check while laying on the mom’s belly, baby wasn’t ever taken away from the mother during the initial hours after birth. They were given space and time to connect, to share this most profound moment.
I have to admit, I am a big fan.
I am extremely thankful to Mama, partner, son and new baby girl for giving me this incredible opportunity to witness and be a part of my first ever home birth. And also for giving me permission to share my experience. I hope it is the first of many home births.
Cheers to new life and to all females who birth babies into this world!