11 Things I Learned From my Home Birth & What They Could Mean for You
Our home birth experience was nothing short of phenomenal. I learned so much along the journey (you can read about our home birth story here) about myself, women's bodies, and the societal norms of pregnancy and childbirth. Here are 11 of these lessons:
1) We hold more power within than we can even imagine.
Women's bodies are powerful. We can withstand extreme levels of pain and pressure for extended periods of time and grow an entire human within... then proceed to keep it alive from the food we make from this same body! I mean, how superhero-ish is that?! Yet our body is only one third of the triad that holds such incredible power. The power of our mind and spirit is even greater. At the very end of my long labor my body could have easily given up. It was showing many signs of doing just that. The fact that I'd built a mental toughness and strength of spirit to embody made it possible to continue on.
Your power as a woman is not tied to your physical abilities, nor your status or wealth. It is determined by your belief in yourself and living this belief fully in body, mind, and spirit. We can do so much more than we often limit ourselves to, and reconnecting to this power that flows through us from a Divine source is life changing.
2) Trust is essential.
So much of this journey was about trust. Trust in myself and these "unconventional" decisions I was guided to make. Trust in my own body and my connection with it. My husband trusting that while he had plenty of reservations, this was what his wife knew she needed. Trusting my close friends and family to keep any negative thoughts or energy they may have surrounding this decision to themselves. Trust in my baby, that he was growing well and would dance with me through this labor and delivery experience. Trust in my knowledgeable midwives, that they would support my vision while providing the kindest and most professional care possible.
Do you feel you hold trust in your life? Being able to trust yourself and those closest to you is essential in feeling safe and secure in your environment. And feeling safe and secure within your environment leads to the fullest expression of yourself and your capabilities.
3) Your intuition is the most qualified medical professional you know.
While medical professionals can be incredibly wise and knowledgeable individuals who care deeply about your health and well-being, they are also human. They will have moments where they may miss something, gaps in their own knowledge base, and days where they're just tired and off... perhaps from being up all night with their own kiddos! Much like the "white coat syndrome" can cause some people's blood pressure to be higher simply because they're at the doctor's office, there is another white coat phenomenon that often occurs. There is this understanding that if the individual in the white coat said it, it must be truth. This is why there are stories upon stories of women especially, going in to be checked out because something feels "not right" only to be told there is nothing wrong or given a generic diagnosis. Then later it is discovered that there truly WAS something off. I'm grateful my intuition kept me in close connection with my body and the little one growing inside, and grateful my midwives trusted ME to trust MY BODY above all else.
While medical professionals know a lot, they are not living within your body. They cannot experience those gut feelings or intuitive nudges with you. You must advocate for yourself and sometimes seek alternative solutions when the professional care you're receiving doesn't match the guidance your intuition providing.
4) Our endocrine and nervous systems must be honored throughout labor and birth (and beyond).
We are mammals and we birth like mammals. If you've ever seen a mammal prepare for birth (in person or on a wildlife documentary) you know the drill. They find a peaceful and secluded spot safe from predators or that which makes them feel fearful. Typically these places are warm, cozy, protected, familiar, and dark. Let's consider the typical hospital environment. Cold, sterile, and unfamiliar, a place we associate with illness and death, with bright and fluorescent lighting, full of people we likely don't know. Even in the best of circumstances, this environment doesn't support the natural progression of labor which can lead to the "need" for intervention.
Our hormones go through a very specific cycle during labor and birth, and when this cycle is disrupted it can lead to undesired outcomes. Our nervous system needs to keep us calm, balanced, and feeling completely safe in order for our labor to progress as it should instead of launching into fight, flight, or freeze mode.
5) While caregivers may have our best interests in mind, the systems they work for may not.
You may have the best OB or team of hospital midwives and nurses caring for you, and still not receive care that holds you (and/or your baby) at the center. These incredible professionals are more often than not, loving and passionate individuals who are seeking to do their job well and make you feel taken care of. Yet they frequently work within systems that have protocols in place that do not honor a woman's natural processes.
At the end of the day, hospitals and medical centers in the United States are businesses. They must protect themselves from liabilities and be profitable in order to sustain. There are times these (intentionally or unintentionally) come before the best interests of the patient.
6) A VBAC and a Homebirth VBAC is not only possible, but can be a very healing and empowering experience.
If you've had a cesarean birth before, planned or unplanned, and are feeling called to a vaginal birth, it is possible! There are some exceptions to every case and cesarean births can be empowering as well. But too often, cesareans are called due to a lack of respect for women's natural birthing abilities, improper testing or lack of retesting, to avoid complications, or even just for the convenience of providers. Too many women have been told a cesarean is the only option when it was not medically necessary.
The c-section rate in the US is 31.8% according to March of Dimes, which is more than 10% higher than the global average. If you are seeking a VBAC and have been told it is not an option, be sure to get a second or third opinion before making your decision.
7) Your mental, emotional, and spiritual health matters as much as your physical.
The biggest shift between our daughter's traumatic birth experience four and a half years ago and our son's home birth was not my physical well-being. It was everything else. During her pregnancy and birth experience I was emotionally all over the place, having just gone through the roller coaster of a miscarriage months before. While I was excited and grateful to have my dreams of becoming a mother realized, there was much about my being that remained unhealed. Our marriage was going through a rough time, I was silently suffering from anxiety and depression, and I'd yet to peel back the layers of who I felt I "should be" to discover the beauty and strength of my true self. I didn't know what I was capable of and still suffered from the all-too-common victim mentality and the"need to be saved".
When Leo came along, I had a deeper level of self-awareness. Healing work had been done in abundance (soooo muchhh healing work). I knew my needs and boundaries and how to advocate for them. I grew a connection with the Divine in my own way... what felt true to my heart and soul. I meditated and journaled regularly and was in a better place of mind, body, and spirit. I had grown a connection to the power I held within, that which kept me going when a prior version of myself would have given in.
Our society often seems focused most on our physical health. Give your mental, emotional, and spiritual health equal care and attention. The healing and shifts that occur within are the most powerful.
8) Women deserve better holistic healthcare and support.
In sharing my story, I've had the honor of hearing many women share theirs. Women who were forbidden from laboring in positions their body instinctively knew to move into. Women who experienced "care" without consent, even being cut for an episiotomy without giving permission. Women who experienced the classic cascade of intervention, resulting in a potentially unnecessary emergency c-section. Women induced because their OB was about to leave for vacation. Women bullied into medication, testing, or intervention that was not needed for fear of not being a good mother. Women whose emotional needs were overlooked as though they did not matter. Women dismissed emotionally having just lost their pregnancy or newborn child. Women who were told they couldn't have children, without definitive proof. Women who were put on birth control pills as a female ailment cure-all. Women whose legs were physically held shut to keep the baby in until the doctor arrived. Women who weren't aware they were giving their power away because "this is just the way it's done". Women unaware that they are still carrying trauma from their healthcare experiences years later.
And so much more. We deserve better.
Connect with your own body. Do your own research. Understand your rights, your risks, your boundaries and advocate for them. If you fear being unable to advocate firmly, bring someone along who can and will after informing them of your desires. Do not be afraid to change providers if your intuition leads you to do so and seek care from those you can trust.
9) We can educate our children that women's bodies are to be respected and empowered, not feared.
Our daughter was in our home the entire lengthy home birth experience. She came with me to every prenatal appointment, got to help measure my tummy and listen to baby's heartbeat, and got to meet her brother within hours of his birth. She knows the names of female and male reproductive organs and proudly proclaimed that "U is for Uterus!" when working on letter sounds together. As she grows and matures she will be taught of the beauty, power, and responsibility of a women's amazing body and all that it can do. That being in this body is an honor, not something to ever feel shame for. That even pooping while birthing is something to celebrate, as it means baby's head is descending!
I remember being taught (intentionally or unintentionally) as a young girl that our periods are gross, embarrassing and something to hide. That our bodies should be covered up and hidden. That birth is scary, painful, and dramatic. We have the power to shape the perceptions of the next generation, and that starts with open and loving communication.
Have you thought about how you think and talk about yourself and other women's bodies? About our cycles, pregnancy, and childbirth? Consider what shaped these views and how you'd like to help inspire young women and men to feel about women's bodies. How can we change the narrative?
10) Being served exactly what you'd like to eat after sinking into your own bed in your own PJ's with your newborn is an experience like none other.
Home birth midwives are walking, talking, baby-catching love. Of course, as in any field, there may be some exceptions... but I believe I was blessed with the best. Brenda and Emily provided the most nurturing and informative care that was centered around how I wanted things to go, not around a certain checklist of standards to be met. Then Dawn and Emily going above and beyond for about 17 hours straight to support my labor, delivery, and post-partum care. My daughter was gently invited to be a part of the process, husband's needs respected, and even our highly energetic dog's antics were met with love and receptivity. It was as I'd always envisioned, being cared for in a homey and comfortable way as close to family love as could be received from someone not within the family. My after-care was equally wonderful, as I was checked in on in ways beyond my physical healing.
Seek out and give gratitude to the women reshaping how women's care looks within our society. The women coming back home to the fundamentals of truly listening, advocating for, and respecting their fellow women's needs. And if you are struggling to find these women neaby... perhaps it's a call to become one.
11) We are far more connected to souls beyond our physical perception than we realize.
My son's soul made its presence known to me before having even been conceived. I felt his connection with my grandpa who had passed (an incredible story yet to come), and connected with him spiritually throughout pregnancy. We're made to feel that there's a stark line of beginning and end... birth and death. Yet our souls experience so much beyond this line of physicality. We are connected to those yet to be birthed and those who've died in a very real way, we simply need to tune into their spiritual wavelength in order to see/feel/hear/sense them.
Remember that you are surrounded by loved ones, even when you feel alone. Your spirit team of ancestors, guides, saints, and teachers are always making their presence known in subtle little ways that can be easy to overlook unless we allow ourselves to pay attention. Take the time to feel their love and the beautiful messages they share with you.
Home birth isn't for everyone. There are some conditions and risks that are better monitored at a hospital or clinic for the safety of mom and baby, and some women truly feel safer there. Every birth experience has beautiful lessons within, and no birth is greater than or less than! I hope you've gained something from the lessons shared here.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about our emergency c-section with Hallie or our home birth experience with Leo along your own life journey, or simply share your story with someone who cares... please reach out. I'd love to connect and support you.
Love & Healing,