Published on August 28th, 2013 | by Shoshana von Blanckensee11
SHOSHANA VON BLANCKENSEE Gets Birthy With It
My first kid was born on the living room floor, my second, in bed.
There are plenty of things in life I have no desire to do. I will never go sky diving and I don’t feel bad about it in the least. So, when people immediately go in search of an epidural with the first contraction, I get it, and I’m behind them 100%. Trying to convince somebody to have a homebirth would be like them trying to convince me to go trekking in Antarctica. No thank you, you just go ahead without me.
I was drawn to homebirth for lots of reasons. As a queer with an unruly menstrual cycle and low progesterone, getting pregnant was about as romantic as a monthly dental cleaning. I came out of each conception like a rebellious teenager sick of being told what to do, absolutely certain I didn’t want to head back to the hospital for more.
I am also just plain old interested in what my body can and can’t do.
Can I still do the splits? (No) Can I climb a pole? (Awkwardly) Can I complete an entire Zumba aerobics video in my underwear by myself in the living room while my toddler naps upstairs? (Yes) Can I push an entire human through my cervix and out of my vagina? (Yes) Can I do it again? (Yes)
And then there is the biggest reason of all. I’m a nurse, and as a nurse I know that 96% of your care is done with your safety, your sanity, your body, your life, and your humanity in mind. However, there is the other 4% that is at best rude behind your back and at worst reckless and unsafe. I didn’t want to give birth in a hospital because I didn’t want that anesthesiologist on her 20th hour at work sticking a big friggin’ needle in my back. I didn’t want a nurse who might break sterility while inserting my urinary catheter. I didn’t want the Pitocin or the C-Section I may or may not have needed. I didn’t want to be called ‘high maintenance’ in a whisper in the hallway if it took me an hour to make a decision or if I needed a third bucket of ice. And I didn’t want to be the breakroom story about the woman who screamed “I’m going to shit all over you!” – which, by the way, I did. I yelled it at my midwife Ami who replied calmly, “Okay, bring it.” And then of course there is the other issue I have with hospitals: they feel like a place to go to work, not a place to take your clothes off and make goat noises.
So, I am a homebirthy kind of birther, but I am not a die-hard homebirther. It would have taken only one word from my midwives to get myself into a car and head to the nearest hospital. I leave that die-hard homebirthiness to the Christian homeschooling homebirthers. But I am pretty darn committed.
Was it a beautiful experience? Not at all.
I have often thought that people who claim that birth is beautiful must be talking about the abstract beauty – like, ‘Isn’t it incredible that you grew a human inside of your body and then pushed it out into the world?’ Or they are talking about the aftermath, which truly feels euphoric – like when you have had your head in the toilet bowl for 24 hours and you finally lift it out, have a swig of ginger ale and stare dumbstruck out the window. The lack of pain is the new feeling, and it feels so fucking good. And then there is the baby, which you have been programmed to scoop into your arms. Even if it is covered in feta with a head shaped like a football, you will scoop it up and well up with a love that could fuel a rocket to the moon and back. That is all beautiful. But beauty isn’t the right word for excruciating, mind-altering pain, and it’s not the right word for barfing, shitting, and vagina-ripping.
I don’t have the right words for it. What I can say is that my two births were different, but both spun my brain right out of my braininess, turned me werewolf, let me loose in the house to destroy any plans we had planned. It turned my body into a house in which I could get utterly lost in the dark. It took the word pain and threw it out the window like a cigarette butt. I was the RV meth lab exploding repeatedly, and no massage music could have changed that. My teeth could have taken a chunk out of your surfboard, and I could have ripped you limb to limb without even noticing.
Is that beautiful? Not really, but it is an absolutely stunning thing to know about myself.
My first kid was born on the living room floor. If during this labor you had told me that I had died and this was my dying dream, I would have believed you. I realized during this labor that I had spent my life relatively pain free, and here I was fighting as hard as I could to survive and I was absolutely alone, only the distant sounds of Laurel (my love) and our midwives talking in a language I couldn’t decipher. But then all of the sudden it stopped, and my body was silent. My first actual thought in six hours was: Am I done? I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! I couldn’t see or hear anything until I came back into myself and my eyes focused and I looked down into my arms at the brown tuft of hair on top of her head and her squashed, old-man’s face. Now I was choking snot and tears and whispering, “Hi beautiful . . . Oh my god . . .Hi baby.” And I turned and realized Laurel was right there crying with me, and I hadn’t seen her in years until this moment when we were unwrapping the most incredible present together.
In between my first and second birth, I begged Laurel to take over with her perfectly healthy uterus. I thought I had gained some headway when in a moment of feminist studies ruminations she said, “I know it’s not your job to make our babies.” But at the end of the day, the thought of all that bustiness and birthing brought her to such a hand-wringing, white knuckled panic, I just couldn’t push it.
My second kid was born on the bed. This time I was trying to rip the hairs on the back of Laurel’s neck out when she kindly moved my hand to the top of her head, where there were more to pull. This time, I was more present and pissed off, although I can’t recall many of the details. I do remember the midwives said I was “vocalizing well. “ Laurel told me later that “vocalizing well” actually meant I was making an insane goat sound, which I believe because my throat was raw for a week. I also had an unexplained dreadlock in the shape of a bird’s nest on the very top of my head. This time I was immediately euphoric when I pulled her onto my chest sputtering. This time she had black hair, a little square nose, and deep blue eyes that blinked and looked right into mine. I was so euphoric I told the midwives that I was entirely pain free and was certain I didn’t tear, so they needn’t bother checking me. Turns out I had two second degree tears that needed stitching, and I had to lay around on my back with my legs open while a needle and thread dipped and lifted into some altered-universe vagina I hadn’t been introduced to yet.
So as I said, if you want the epidural I totally get it. At the end of the day, you hopefully got yourself knocked up to step into the insanity of parenting for a lifetime, not the fleeting wilderness of birth. But to anyone thinking about a homebirth I say put your thinker away and get closer, because this is some wonderful, terrible, crazy shit.