E/E

Leggo My Preggo! (Natural Childbirth Is Possible, But Also in Suburbia)


It’s not infrequent to dream an impending babe, foreshadow-style. It also happens that an intuitive, clairvoyant psyche may predict your news in a blind streak of extrasensory fate, matter-of-factly revealing the presence of a babe you may or may not have known would grace you in three quarters of a year. In our case, it was both. I had the dream; the psyche was Hawk’s; together we formed an auspicious duo destined for parenthood.

I woke by Hawk one morning during our wonderful courtship with a strange dream riding the cusp. Its surreal tendrils spread into the new day and saturated my awake-ness. In this other dimension, we’d had a child. He was this smiley, blonde son laughing his ass off sitting on top of a pet goat. We named him Chicken Hawk. He was just the happiest kid. For some reason, when I told Hawk, instead of feeling weird or too-soon, we both thought it was so funny. It also felt important. We turned together to look down the long road of our future, perhaps for the first time.

Later that morning, we let ourselves out of the house where we’d been staying and walked toward my car. In my friend’s driveway, beneath a low-hanging pine right next to the path, was a small statue. My eyes drifted immediately to the figure nestled into ivy and leaves. Mixed within the overgrowth, the clay ornament stood tall, proudly boasting distinct features of both a chicken and a hawk. We laughed incredulously. Thus, our joking references to “Chicken Hawk” were born – long before “Chicken Hawk” was actually born.

Fast forward – but you don’t have to hold the button down for long. We’d signed a six-month lease for an apartment down the street from Hawk’s family’s business. Our intention was to work for his folks, save a little money, then jump back on the road. I was headed to Minneapolis to play a show for the weekend. When I returned, we’d be moving in! We couldn’t have been more excited to begin cohabitation. We had a million plans for our new place (such as, we’d turn the WHOLE APARTMENT into a blanket fort!). I started feeling pretty weird right before I left town, like I was swimming through honey with headphones on. What people were saying didn’t make sense – almost as if they were speaking another language. “It’s okay,” Hawk said when I went to say goodbye, suddenly unable to leave him for two days and tearing up. He touched my stomach, leaving his hand there. “You just have a chicken hawk inside you. We’ll talk about it when you get home.”

Later he would say this statement flew out of his mouth without warning. He doesn’t remember thinking before speaking. I never shook that strange feeling in Minneapolis. And a week later, crowded over pregnancy tests in an estrogen-fueled haze in our new apartment bathroom, we figured out he’d been right all along. Even our dog knew! For days, he wouldn’t come near me, cowering behind Hawk any time I entered a room. With his amazing sixth sense, he understood that our lives were about to be forever changed.

The thing is, I’d always pictured myself barefoot and pregnant in the mountains, giving birth in juniper foothills in a bed of fresh mint under a waxing moon, or some such homage to days and cultures gone by. I thought I’d have a baby in a century-old squatted farmhouse with one outlet. Something remarkable. Something weird. I didn’t want to have a kid in the suburbs! I didn’t want to be pregnant in an apartment complex! I’m a cross-bred hippy/punk rock girl. People like me just don’t raise families within walking distance of McDonalds. Not only was there no wilderness nearby – you couldn’t even really see the stars at night. Suddenly, this place that was meant to be a short layover gained a mounting list of long-term problems. My inclination was to grab my partner’s hand and run, literally, for the hills.

But we stayed. For one, we lived just a couple blocks from Hawk’s mom, who is one of my favorite people on earth and who was more than ecstatic to be sharing the experience of welcoming her first blood grandkid into the world. We had employment, we had the lease, and we had Hawk’s family on the sidelines, cheering us on. Really, what more could we ask for? As much maternity leave as I wanted? Check. Built in, next-door baby-care for when I went back to work? Check. A freaking-out grandma who would exclaim, “How’s my grand-baby mama?!” Every time I came within eyesight? Yup. Instead of breaking free for the wild, we nested further into our new (albeit unexpected) community.

But I woke up in disbelief for weeks, maybe months. I fought with the stability of the ground-floor ranch-style apartment where we lived. I furrowed my eyebrows at the dishwasher, the lack of a wood stove – hell, the lack of woods. I thought about all the other places I’d lived where having a child would have been more peaceful – or so I told myself. In short, though I knew we’d be staying, and understood the practicality and general awesomeness of our choice, there was a part of me that regretted it because it wasn’t “me.”

It wasn’t until a phone conversation with my dear aunt Faye in the midst of a recording session that I truly recognized and appreciated our situation. I was still grappling with what I thought was me giving up my ideals. My aunt gently, eloquently prodded (in a way that truly only she can) that perhaps this wasn’t about me – but about the baby. Suddenly, everything clicked into place! Of course. After years of living in electricity-less houses, out of my car, and in backyard tool sheds – places where it would’ve been extremely difficult to have a baby – I now had a stable abode. What better time to have a child? We’d already planned on staying for at least six months. What were a few more months? And after even more years of living far from any relation, we now had Hawk’s family literally right down the street. It was about them, too – about them knowing their new relative. Not only did our employment with them make way for a great maternity schedule and built-in babysitting, but we would actually be a family, through and through.

From that day on, everything changed. I no longer looked at our apartment as a purgatory. I now saw our tenure as another form of destiny. After all – what were the odds? When I made peace with our lot, it suddenly seemed like a perfectly orchestrated puzzle designed to give us the most comfortable, satisfying pregnancy we could’ve asked for.

Hurray.

Now that I had that sorta figured out, it was time to get something else in order: the birth!

There are as many birth stories as there are babies and moms. Not every laboring mother will thrive in a situation where no one is ever going to tell her how dilated she is, or offer any kind of alternative to the good ol’ wait n’ push. I enjoy intuitive-led processes and independence, and I wanted my labor and birth to be unrestricted. I wanted to learn what it felt like to push out a baby. I wanted a natural home birth. We’d only lived in our new place for a short time, but it didn’t strike me as a land of alternatives. For instance, there was not a single natural birthing class offered in the area. I made an ungodly number of phone calls, but no one had any information on home births. All I heard was that it wasn’t done. Was a hospital birth eminent?

The first prenatal care I received was from a group of midwives operating out of small clinic that worked in conjunction with a hospital. (At this point, just the word ‘midwife’ was enough to get me though the door.) These midwives didn’t attend home births, so you still had to have your baby in a hospital. The idea was that you’d see each operating midwife at least once during pregnancy, then whoever was on duty would assist you during labor. Although this wasn’t what I wanted, the clinic kept telling us there was no one in the area who did home births. We didn’t know what else to do.

The clinic was clearly in transition. The waiting room was always empty. We saw the same midwife three times before we saw someone else, and then she wasn’t even part of the midwifery staff – just filling in. Several of our experiences made us wary of having a couple of the midwifes attend the birth. For instance, one of the midwives we saw shook my hand, but not Hawk’s. She then sat facing me with her back to him, not acknowledging him at all. When he asked her a couple questions, she didn’t even turn around and answered them facing me. I sensed some serious man-hating. What if she was on duty when it was time to deliver? This just wasn’t adding up. It didn’t feel right.

A tour of the local hospital was the decisive factor. The Brave-New-World-inspired facility turned my legs turn into immediate jell-o. I almost passed out. Like, really. I asked about cord clamping procedures, if I’d be allowed to get up and walk around the whole place while in labor, or if I’d be confined to my room, where Hawk would sleep (a tiny, hard bench they said could turn into a sofa), if the baby could stay in our room every single moment, if you’d absolutely have to have an IV – stuff like that. Only one other mom asked anything at all, and it was if the hospital had a house formula, or if she was supposed to bring her own.

I remember walking out of the hospital, saying to Hawk, “I don’t think I can do this.” It seemed to go against everything that made me feel natural, peaceful, and simple. Although he’d been quietly rooting for a midwife-assisted hospital birth, after seeing the hospital setting, he agreed. Sensitive to energy and atmosphere, with the feeling that a newborn would be a hundred times more so, neither of us felt like this was the first place we wanted our son to be.

By some grace of god, we discovered we had a friend whose sister-in-law had just had her baby at home. She lived an hour away. We called her and set up a meeting immediately. Her name was Maya, and she came to our house. It turned out there actually were alternative birthing resources in the region – you just had to know where to look. After talking for a couple hours, she mentioned she would be willing to be our doula. (Um, Yeah!) She put us in touch with the midwife who had helped her deliver her own baby at home, whose office, it turned out, was only twenty minutes away. (Double-triple-quadruple YEAH!) This was the only licensed home birth midwife in the state who accepted our insurance. Wow. A little nervous, and with our options slimming as quickly as my abdomen was expanding, I called and made an appointment.

As soon as we met our midwife – and I mean that second – we both knew we’d scored gold. Sheryl was tough but kind, firm but flexible, and very passionate about her work to help women perform spontaneous births. She sat with us for as long as we wanted for our first visit, and for each subsequent visit. She was relaxed, focused on us, ready to talk, and happy to share her experiences. She explained whatever we asked in real language, with no frills or mysterious, litigation-free subtext. We loved that she wasn’t clung to the wall in one direction or another. She had practical views on having and raising kids. We knew she was the right one to usher our little majesty into the world because of her strong, confident demeanor and all-encompassing perspectives – and because of the way she small-talked about the newborn lambs on her farm while we waited for some paperwork to be faxed. Holy lamb, was this ever the woman for us. She served as birthing class instructor, nurse, midwife, lactation consultant, literature recommender, pediatrician, and more, all rolled into one. (High-five, Sheryl!)

After years of traveling, it was an unrelenting shock to think of being pregnant in a flat, landlocked suburb. By the time I came to terms with our living situation, it seemed like the kind of birth we wanted might not be possible. But as it turned out, I was able to have a legitimately mindful, natural birthing experience at home thanks to a few incredible people and some amazingly well-timed advice.

What I learned? There’s probably a set of alternatives in every community, waiting to be discovered.

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3 Comments»

  Renee Mackey wrote @

I loved reading this. Thank you so much for sharing. I look forward to meeting that adorable chicken hawk (and his papa) someday.
Renee

  clickclackgorilla wrote @

Wohoooooo! I for one am so glad that everything turned out to beautifully. Next up…

  Our home birth story. « the golden hearts wrote @

[…] finally realized a home birth was possible (you can read about our experience choosing a home birth here), the details all fell into place. Having our baby at home rooted us to the birth experience in […]


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