I have not felt more called to write on a topic, and yet the words to speak about my experience have not been forthcoming.
This is a strange experience for me. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I never struggle to find words to put down on paper. But there is something about this, about pregnancy, about birth, that holds me back.
Perhaps it is this knowing in me that there is still so much yet to know, to learn, and to unlearn.
And for this reason I plan for this to be just one of a series of posts on this topic. I could wait til I learn “it all,” but I know that day will never come. As I learn more I will write more!
I am currently 25 weeks pregnant, due around the end of February, and so excited to meet our new little one! I am so excited most days I can hardly bring myself to think about anything else. As I enter the third trimester, preparing for my third baby’s birth has become nothing less than an obsession. Which is of course, completely normal.
“During each trimester of pregnancy, the expectant mother has a particular psychological focus: In the first, it is on herself; in the second, on the baby; and in the third, on the birth.” – Orgasmic Birth, p. 168-169
Unlike most mamas-to-be however, I am not spending all my nesting hours curating a Pinterest-polished nursery down the hall, or going to prenatal care appointments. In fact I consider both activities to be a complete waste of time.
and falling completely in love with it
Let me start a little bit further back so that you can all get the gist of where I am coming from, and how I ended up in this nest with all my “radical” ideas.
Early on in my pregnancy, I was only about 6 weeks along but miserably sick, and finding it difficult to move around and get exercise. I wanted to do the best thing for my body and my baby, even if I felt sick and tired. So I found a prenatal yoga class and began attending every week.
At my first class, after hearing that my last baby was born at a birth center, the instructor asked me if I was going to have a home birth. I replied with a nonchalance that surprised even myself, “I guess so.” She asked me if I had vetted my midwives yet or had any idea who I’d like to interview. I said no, and added that I honestly wasn’t excited about doing all that.
No offense at all to midwives, but I don’t know any personally, so they are all strangers to me. The thought of having a stranger at my birth just made my stomach churn. And that wasn’t the morning sickness.
After class, a woman approached me and asked if I had ever heard of freebirth. No I had not! I was intrigued. She told me to go on the FreeBirth Society website and listen to some podcasts. Later that week, I did just that, and I was instantly immersed in a birth culture I knew was the right choice for me.
I discovered that freebirth is when a woman chooses to birth not in captivity, but in the safety and comfort of her own home space. Or maybe in nature if mama and the weather are into it!
Not only is freebirth home birth, it is birth unassisted, although as Yolanda Clark of freebirth.ca points out, the term “unassisted” is a bit of a misnomer. We can have freebirths assisted by as many attendants as we choose to be present at our birthing. While many women do feel comforted by having a few trusted attendants, it is rare for her to feel comfortable in a crowded room.
In her Bauhauswife podcast Episode #9 My Upcoming Freebirth, Yolanda says:
“We are mammals. The basic, biological requirements for an optimal, safe birth for every mammal is for the mother to be in a familiar, comfortable environment, to be in a space that’s quiet and dark, absent of strangers and not to be subjected to any invasion of her space, her privacy, or her body.”
I am in a unique position where my dear friends and loved ones already assume that I am crazy, so they don’t blink an eye at any of the so-called “radical” things I announce I am going to do.
Many other women, however, experience resistance to their decision to freebirth. Never mind that it is her body, her baby, and her autonomy. Never mind that no one really has the right to blink an eye. But such is the pernicious ignorance of our society that we deem it proper to say we are putting a baby’s wellbeing over that of the mother. As if they were not one and the same.
“The choice to forgo all of that [prenatal care, etc.] and to give birth without the presence of another person who’s there in a professional capacity is often misunderstood or misinterpreted as irresponsibility when in fact the women who decide to take full responsibility for their birth processes and who prepare themselves for birth at home are making a very responsible, legitimate decision, and one that is often made precisely in order to preserve a state of safety and peace with the recognition that birth itself is fundamentally safe and that the state of safety is compromised by the addition of other human beings, technology, procedures, lights, cameras, etc. rather than the other way around.” – Yolanda Clark
According to the Freebirth Society website:
“Contrary to the belief that freebirth is a self-indulgent, irresponsible decision, it is in fact a legitimate choice, and one that is based not only on ancient wisdom, but the most current scientific evidence of the physiology of birth.”
Vindicated and validated, I Xed out of my first Podcast listen victorious. Freebirth meant that I could birth alone, the way I wanted. Freebirth meant I didn’t have to pay a stranger midwife exorbitant amounts of money I would much rather spend on adorable squishy cloth diapers. Freebirth meant that I could birth freely, in my own home, on my own terms.
I Don’t Just Do Things, I Go To Their Depths
Since then, I have become increasingly more excited about freebirthing in February (or March!!). And something else. Something much more surprising to me. I have become interested in advocating for birth.
When I was pregnant and birthed my older daughters, I was excited for my births. I looked forward to them not only because I was excited to meet my babies, but for the sake of birth itself. I had always known intuitively that birth is a magical, once-in-a-lifetime event that I would relish in all its messy manifestations.
But I did not feel the same level of anger, or passion, that I am experiencing now surrounding birth. I did not feel like I needed to advocate for it.
When I had my girls, I went all-natural, did hypnobirthing, went to a birth center, “the whole nine yards” of what it means to have a natural childbirth. Or so I thought.
I had no idea.
I knew as soon as I got pregnant with this baby that this time was going to be different. This time, I wanted to go much deeper. But I had no idea how deep I could go. And I have a feeling I still have no idea. Birth in her divine power will sweep me off my feet and teach me things I didn’t even know I needed to know. As she does.
Please Leave Me Alone
aka Leave Me The Fuck Alone
In the meantime, I am placating myself by consuming as much media as I possibly can surrounding the topic of natural childbirth. Most exciting to me is the knowledge that birth can be orgasmic, and it can be transcendent. The latter is what I am truly fascinated by, and I will be delving deeper into the blood mystery that is birth in a subsequent post, as I simply do not have space for it here.
Orgasmic births can be achieved by some women while attended, but as I know my own body’s innate modesty (or inherent shame), I doubt that would be possible for me. Transcendent births however, seem to truly require a woman to sojourn into the realm of birth alone.
Through extensive research, I have come to understand that if I wish to have a transcendent birth, one which allows all my birth hormones free reign of not only my body, but my mind, I must be alone. I must be alone because I must be free from distraction.
Even if my goal weren’t to achieve transcendence, I still believe that I will want to labor alone for at least some if not most of my labor. I believe this because there is precedent for it.
Each time I birth, birth seems to ask me to be alone. I am one of those crazies who does not like strangers, or even people I sort of know, massaging me or rubbing my feet while I am in labor. And I certainly do not like them sticking their hands anywhere near my vagina. Thank you very much.
I know plenty of women who prefer to be surrounded by other women while they are birthing. Who want their family or their tribe to witness with them. I am not one of those women.
Birth to me is a very private event. In my pregnancy announcement post, I said that asking a woman to birth in a room full of strangers is like asking her to have sex in a room full of strangers. It is no wonder so many women “fail to progress” in hospitals.
“Virtually all mammals slow or stop labor if observed.” – Orgasmic Birth, p. 10
“Maybe it was because there were so many people in the room, but all of a sudden I said to myself, I’m going to go to the bathroom. Karen later remarked that at births with many attendants, the mom usually heads off to the bathroom to have her baby.” – Orgasmic Birth, p. 237
And for this reason, I plan to birth in blissful solitude for most of my birthing this time. I haven’t decided yet if I will be okay with my husband or mother or daughters being present for the birth itself or at any point. I would like for my daughters to witness the birth itself, but in the case that they do not get to see it because some need for privacy supersedes that wish, I will not be disappointed.
In the moment I may change my mind and want them all to hold my hands and be with me the whole time. And that won’t mean I am weak or fickle. It will just mean that birth asks something different from me this time.
I really won’t know until the time comes, and that is part of the beauty of birth. She always surprises us. She comes in a different form every time.
She Called Me Brave
I have been talking about my decision to freebirth since early on in my pregnancy, and whenever I mention it, I get told I am “brave.” Several people have used this word so far and I do not doubt that more will continue to do so. I still don’t know how to respond to it in conversation, but I know that that word doesn’t feel right to me at all. Because I don’t feel brave.
Brave would require there to be something I am afraid of before me, to be brave enough to overcome. Birthing at home presents no such fear. Going to the hospital and putting myself and my baby in danger would be a brave thing for me to do. Staying home, to anyone educated on this subject, is just common sense.
The more books and birth stories I read and the more podcasts I hear, the more I am galvanized to become an advocate for freebirth. The angrier I become. The more I cry. And the more I fear the hospital. I will not go to the hospital unless we are literally dying. The risks of putting myself in a medical situation far outweigh any possible benefits. In fact I see zero benefits.
I do not need to concern myself with medical tests and rigamarole. Rather, the more I read the more I learn that pregnancy and birth is a sacred time that begs, almost requires us to do some soul-searching. We are asked to go deep within our selves and our psyches to uncover truths and demons we didn’t even know we had.
I am struck by the power of birth. To undo us and to build us up to our greatest selves. When we become pregnant, we are called to birth.
People are going to call me “brave” and “radical,” because in this society we are so far removed from what is normal and sane. From where I stand, I am the normal one. Everything outside of natural childbirth feels far more radical to me.
As I progress in this pregnancy and prepare for my baby’s birth, I will share more of what I learn and experience. Documenting this is important to me, and I would like to hear more women sharing their experiences with freebirth. If you have any personal experiences or thoughts on this topic, please share!