Susannah and her husband spent months planning & preparing for a homebirth. they hired a homebirth midwife, hired me as their doula, took natural childbirth classes, ordered a birth kit, and got their house ready for the birth and the baby. then, in her third trimester, the almighty dollar sign reared its ugly head, and they realized that their homebirth would be financially impossible.
if they went to the hospital to give birth, Susannah’s health insurance would pay all of the $10,000+ bill, whereas a homebirth would be less expensive ($3,000) but they’d have to pay the entire bill themselves. Susannah grieved the loss of her fantasy homebirth, but had to quickly move on and embrace a new fantasy of the perfect hospital birth with homebirth-style care.
when her baby’s birth-day finally came, Susannah’s fantasy came true. she labored beautifully at home late into the night, until transition, often the most difficult part of labor. most women rush themselves frantically to the hospital long before this advanced stage of labor, but instead Susannah and her mother and i sat quietly in the darkness of her home, massaging and reassuring and hydrating and timing, for hours as her body prepared her to meet her baby.
it was beautiful to watch her disappear inside her mind with each surge of pressure & pain, and then re-awaken to our voices as the contraction passed. Susannah’s mother held her tightly, loving being needed, and Susannah loving being cared for. we created a quiet, calm, and safe space for the mother inside Susannah to begin to emerge, and we waited. when Susannah’s body began to tense and shake with each contraction, we knew we had held off as long as we could to head to the hospital.
when we arrived at the hospital, Susannah slid right into the hot tub and right back into the relaxed state of mind we’d worked so hard to create all night long at home. i turned the lights down low, and her husband, mother, sister and i took turns rubbing her, reassuring her, and loving her. for hours she lay in the water, focused entirely inside herself, on her baby and his journey. yes, she wavered sometimes, questioning herself and her confidence in her body, but she knew she had everything she needed right around her.
morning came and went, and we waited and worked into the day. when Susannah finally felt the urge to push, there was such a change in the day’s energy. the midwife and nurses had interfered very little with this family while they labored together so far; the midwife’s presence was almost constant, as she stayed in the room almost all day long, but without being overbearing, directive, or even affecting the space much at all–acknowledging that Susannah and her family and i were laboring well together.
but now Susannah had to try to make the shift from relaxing every muscle and surrendering to her contractions, to engaging every muscle and using them to slowly guide her baby out. it was not an easy change for her, but finally after trying and trying and trying again, her pushes were slowly bringing her baby’s tiny head into the open air for the first time. she held nothing back and had no reservations, contorting her body in every way her baby demanded as he emerged.
after a time of intense work, emotion, and anticipation, baby Royal was born into his mama and papa’s arms, wiggling around with his eyes wide open but his lungs silent, almost as a continuation of the peaceful quiet that his mother had labored in for so many hours. when his cord finished pulsating, it was clamped and cut, and he moved on to the waiting army of attendants who would prepare him for his mama. Royal’s new family followed his every move, while i stayed by Susannah’s side as she finished her delivery. within minutes her placenta entered the world too, intact and healthy, as a sign of the success and finality of her transition to becoming a mother.
as exhilarating as it was to experience Susannah’s labor and birth along with her, now that the placenta had been born i found myself with a new set of thoughts, somewhere along the lines of, “uhm, now i’m supposed to take this thing home and cook it up, cut it up, and powder it up?” i had volunteered to help her process her placenta into placenta pills, which she could ingest in the pursuit of a whole mess of health benefits. all of a sudden, the project had become a little overwhelming, and seemed a little foreign.
family & friends celebrated baby Royal and congratulated the new mama & papa. i gathered up their placenta and headed home, taking with me a sense of amazement that i had witnessed a hospital birth with all the peace and empowerment of a home birth. congratulations, new family!
This birth story originally appeared in the CUNTastic Zine #1.