Thursday, February 7, 2008

Birth, in another life

I might have had a homebirth, in another life. When I lived in Vermont, many of the people I knew with children had their babies at home. Of course it seemed more natural and more right. I had always had in my mind that my body was made to give birth, and that this was something that seemed bizarre to do in a place for sick people. Then we moved to Massachusetts, and while the community that we now live in also has a relatively large population of homebirthers compared to national standards, I didn't really know any of them. I can remember when I was first pregnant with Charlotte, I got this book out that was a directory of all the birth services in our area. It just felt like the kind of thing I would do. But then, strangely, it never became what I did. As I became really pregnant, as being pregnant progressed from the little line on the stick to actually feeling sick and telling people, something began to pull at me. This is a direct quote from my brain, the same brain that once before had wanted to have a homebirth. "I want to have a baby at home, but if I have the baby at home and something happens, I could never forgive myself because I would always wonder if it would be different if I had the baby in the hospital."
A few thoughts about this quote. "Something happens". This is my favorite. What is something? I can remember thinking this in the car, on the way to the hospital, when Charlotte wasn't moving. "I hope something isn't wrong." What is something? What lies between everything's fine and the baby's dead? Sometimes it seems like the line is pretty fine. So when I say this, "Something happens," what I really mean is, the baby dies. Of course this is what ended up happening. So that's a little strange for me, this idea that I wondered if something might go terribly wrong. and how I would try to place blame on myself if that were possible. Of course even under the circumstances I did feel that it was my fault, somehow, of course. If anyone could have known her struggles, it would be her mother, no?
Back to my memory, my quote, of why I couldn't have a homebirth. Did I want someone else to blame? Did I just want to feel as if I had covered my bases? I don't know. I think I just didn't have anyone to trust outside of the medical community except for myself, I didn't have an excellent homebirth midwife recommended by 9 friends, I didn't have any trust in that community, so I felt like I had to "fall back" on the second choice.
And now, how different I feel for myself. For myself. I seethe with pure, unadultrated, envy for all those fortunate, lucky, fabulous, people out there who are blessed with the opportunity to push out their babies, their live, breathing babies, in their homes. What I would not give for this opportunity. To me, this would be the ultimate in beauty. To have my birth at home in my bed. I now know the sacred beauty of birth, and to have it in my own surroundings seems nothing but perfect. Sadly, I know that if I ever do get a homebirth, it will only be if I have already learned that my baby had died. The only thing I might change about Charlotte's birth? If I could do it all over again? I think once I learned she had died, I might get back in my car, drive home, and have her in my bed. I would bring my baby home. I would hold her in my arms in the bed where she lay with me for 9 months and where she was supposed to wake up and nurse and I would have her there with me.
But another baby? One that is alive, that needs to be RESCUED from my womb? Sad, but true. This is how it feels to be pregnant when you have lost a baby, I think particularly, maybe, one that has died unexplicably at term. You must get the baby out. Fast, now, and with as much monitoring as possible. Even though I knew with complete clarity that planning a hospital birth HAD NOT saved my daughter, who died while I was laboring at home, and even though I try to convince myself that even HAD I been in the hospital when her little heart stopped for good they never could have saved her, this does not change my quest for all possible technology in future births. And by this, I don't really mean drugs. I just mean monitoring, and easy access to anesthesia (if readily available) and scalpels. I just want to know that the baby can be saved. I need to know that the baby can be saved.
I remember a hormonal burst about two years ago this month. "You are not the one walking around with this ticking time bomb in your belly," I cried to Greg, envious that it might be possible for him to go to work and forget for 5 minutes that a second, living baby might be born to him soon, while I tiptoed around the house, adreniline rushing, searching for constant movement, perpetually afraid that this would be the day. With both of my subsequent children, I felt sure, absolutely sure, that this day would come.
It did not. They both emerged with life. This seemed like more of a miracle than I ever could have hoped for. I wonder what it will be like when I take this plunge again, in a year, or maybe half a year, and another life comes to me. Will it feel the same? Will I be so afraid? Will my two living, confident, so vibrantly alive children bring me more confidence?
Meanwhile, there are people right now, and I mean right this minute, at a birthing group, all preparing for their homebirths. There is a part of me that wants to burst into their meeting, to push apart the doors and shout, "Your baby could die, you know. Maybe you should consider some kind of backup plan? A rental home next door to the hospital?" But I know that this is silly. Not even the hospital can always save a baby that might die. What I really feel is sadness for myself, sadness that I could never experience this beauty of a birth at home, envy that they will birth a live baby and keep him or her forever, because that's usually what happens. I feel defeated and defensive. I would have loved to have a baby at home. But what I love more? Having a baby present in my home. That is so much more important to me. I want my babies to be here. In full form, living, pulsing creatures for me to hold and love. My images of birth in my own bed will gladly be cast aside for the hope that someday my body can do it again, that it will push out another crying baby, and that I won't care one bit about whether it took monitoring, or drugs, or c-sections, or what it took to get that baby out alive. What could be more important?


Birdie said...

oh how i agree with you dearest.
the risk is simply not worth's just not worth it. I have so much self blame because of the choice we made, i cannot help that. Even though we knew there were risks either way, the risks were simply to great and fatal in the end....our homebirth was a nightmare in the making. I struggle with the selfishness that it took to make the final decision, to think and almost convince myself that homebirth would be "perfect" and beautiful. It only proved to be horrific and deadly for the very person whom I carried those long and beautiful 9 months and some days. I wish that I would have weighed the risks more and with more seriousness. I have gone from being a homebirth advocate, to a hospital birth cheerleader.

charmedgirl said...

i was supposed to have a vbac homebirth with p@ige, but she died while i was waiting to go into labor. i lay awake at night thinking about how much more horrible it would be if she died while i was laboring at home; i think about whether i could live with that.

i dreamt of homebirth since i was in college, and after years of infertility, i had to have a c-sec with the triplets. i mourned that birth for a long time...until my single baby died.

we are now thinking of trying again, and it is the strangest imagine the planned c-section. and i don't care. because the baby, in my imagination, will be alive.

i still grieve the vaginal birth, i probably always will. i grieve my belief that birth is safe and everything will be fine and all that. but mostly, of course, i grieve for my baby, who might be here if i had planned a c-sec for her.