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Love Letter

In my email today. Just in time, too.

"Hi, Barb.  You don’t know me. We’ve only communicated a couple of times, and by email or blog comments at that.  But you changed my life. 

I had a hospital birth with my first child – a great hospital birth, honestly, even knowing what I know now.  At the time, I chose family practice OB care and a hospital delivery as not just the safest option, but the ONLY safe option for delivering my baby.  Through a combination of lucky factors, I ended up with a low-intervention OB (who had apprenticed with midwives!), a baby-friendly hospital, and a quick labor with few interventions outside of an epidural, IV, and continuous fetal monitoring. But when my sister-in-law chose to deliver her first child at home, I knew I had only two choices; I could either get on board with her decision, or I could remove myself emotionally from her pregnancy and birth. It’s not OK to be constantly dogging someone’s pregnancy with doubts and fears, and I wasn’t going to do that. 

In my homebirth research, I found your blog, and I read it avidly, and I started to question some of my assumptions.  Between your blog and lots of other research, I learned that the incidence of birth complications that can’t be resolved outside of a hospital AND that come on very quickly with no warning is, actually, incredibly low. Like, you’re probably at a greater risk when you drive to the hospital.  (Further research and some NTSC number-crunching showed that yes, for the majority of Americans, you take on a greater risk of substantial complications by driving to the hospital for a low-risk delivery than you do by delivering at home; the likelihood that you’ll get into an accident while driving distracted for 20+ miles is higher than the risk of a problem developing at home that can’t be fixed by a transfer.)  I emailed you and told you my birth story, and you said “Oh hell yes, when you asked for the epidural, you were in transition, 4 cm or no 4 cm.  You were right there. You could have done it.”  And after talking to my husband and realizing the degree to which he HATES hospitals, I decided that if I could ever get pregnant again, I would deliver at a birth center, with midwives. 

I did get pregnant again.  (After two more miscarriages, totaling four.)  My pregnancy was completely textbook and uncomplicated, modulo a couple of borderlike GDM screens and some preterm contractions that were stopped pretty easily.  At 39w2d, my prodromal labor started amping up and regulating, and after some discussions with the midwife, we decided it was time to head to the birth center. . . 

. . . and then I got the call.  For the first time ever in my midwives’ practicing history? The birth center was full. FULL.  No room at the inn.  We could either drive to another birth center 40 minutes away, with strengthening contractions that I was feeling largely in my sacroiliac joints and a history of precipitous labor, or we could do this at home.  After some quick discussion, we decided to convert to homebirth.  My husband and my doula scrubbed out our giant tub and tidied the hell out of my master bedroom, my mother bought plastic tablecloths and triple-wrapped the mattress, the neighbors brought over a plate of sandwiches, and we sent my daughter over to her best friend’s house. 

I am so glad we didn’t go to the birth center.  My contractions were kinda strong but irregular, and the midwives advised amniotomy (I was having a LOT of ligament pain and couldn’t really walk or change position very easily, and the thought of doing that for hours was very exhausting).  They broke my water at 6 cm, which threw me basically instantly into transition; after 25 minutes I got in the tub, where I instantly began to feel pushy, but my midwives didn’t want me to deliver in the water because I’m heavy enough that in the case of a dystocia or other emergency they couldn’t lift me without risking their own health, so I tried to hide it. (HA.)  But after 20 or 30 minutes in the tub, I had a contraction that I just took a deep breath and bellowed through for 90 unbroken seconds without changing pitch or tone, or pausing, or taking a breath, and they said “Yeah that’s your last contraction in the tub.” I said “I will fucking CUT you if you make me get out of this tub” but they did anyway – my doula had to count me down like a recalcitrant toddler – and got me onto the bed to push.  That was at 3 PM.  My son was born at 3:08, after I just hollered him out of my body. 6 lbs 12 oz of amazing miracle; 78 minutes since the amniotomy. 

It was so lovely. It was so peaceful.  When we were done, we were home. . . he was born in the same bed where he was conceived.  I had very little blood loss, no tearing, and his apgars were 8 and 10.  I’m still not in love with unmedicated labor, but it was worth it to stay out of the hospital.  And my GOD I felt good afterwards. 

Without your blog, without your passionate advocacy, would I have had the courage to deliver at home? Maybe. Probably, even; I had a lot of other resources on the web.  But it was definitely an easier decision to make having read your accumulated wisdom, in large part because you tell it like it is and don’t shy away from the risks.  

My son is ten days old, sleeping on my shoulder as I type this, tummy full of milk.  He’s been out of the house a handful of times already, but every time, it was by my choice. I could have kept him here, at home, in my arms, since the instant he was born.  He is my second and last baby. . . I am so grateful to have had this gift of having him at home.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. 


Thank YOU, Kathryn! You were the salve I needed today. Bless you and your family. Enjoy your BabyMoon.

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Reader Comments (15)

what a great story! you have such a positive impact on people myself included.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily Weaver Brown

Oh, awesome! Brings a tear to my eye! I want that! But I had awesome hospital births, in the only hospital in NJ that will have baby-friendly certification in a few months!! The only way it could be better is if my lovely midwife did homebirths. ;)

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen B


November 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchingona

fantastic, thanks for sharing. big congrats to Kathryn!

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Such a cool story. I just found out that I am pregnant, and I want to have a home birth as well. This really helps strengthen my resolve.

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!! This story made my eyes leak!!!

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Love it, knowledge is such power.

Not to be a wet rag but Barb, what is your opinion on the whole "too heavy for waterbirth, dystocia, emergency," thing? I'm an apprenticing midwife and have seen a lot of larger mamas have beautiful water and land births. On one hand I see the point. On the other, I'm all for informed consent or refusal. Plus a laboring mama can be a superwoman if you tell her she NEEDS to do something for her baby.

The midwife I work with has a great story about a skinny little dad lifting his at least 250lb wife out of the tub when something wasn't quite right. She said he looked like he could have picked up a refrigerator and got it out of there.

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

Just thought of a post I'd like to see, if you're open to suggestions. You talk a lot about stereotypes and prejudices from midwife to client but what about the other way? Have you ever had issues with women because of your weight (i.e. not taking nutrition advice) or being lesbian (i.e. uncomfortable with exams, touching, etc.) or any other fun, controversial crap?

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

I love it, what an awesome story!

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Katy: Will address the making her get out of the water thing, but wanted to gently share that this sentence:

"The midwife I work with has a great story about a skinny little dad lifting his at least 250lb wife out of the tub when something wasn't quite right."

...isn't the most size-friendly (to me).

First, 250 pounds is hardly huge, in fact, puh-LENTy of women are 250# at term. And if a woman isn't 250#, the likelihood of her being between 225#-250# is pretty great, too.

Secondly, even though I *know* you didn't mean it, but saying the man could lift his wife and that he could lift a refrigerator were a skosh uncomfortable. I'm suspecting he didn't fireman lift her, but that he *helped* her out of the tub, yes?

(I am getting picky, aren't I. Hmmm. See the chinks in my armor?)

The topics you suggest are FABulous. Will add them to my ever-increasingly long list. :)

November 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

As a rule, the harder I try to keep my foot out of my mouth, the more apt it is to end up there. So sorry for offending...

Unfortunately, the dad in the story did lift her clear out. She was just asked to "lift up out of the water," and sit on the side. He panicked, thinking it was an emergency, and completely picked her up before anyone had a chance to react. Again sorry, not the right context I suppose.

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

Such a beautiful letter. So glad she found the space to have such a wonderful birth. So glad you helped her. I dream of a homebirth, and should there ever be another little one in our future, this letter will be on the top of my list to help convince my husband.

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshleigh Miller

I keep feeling temped to chime in about home birth and risk. I guess today's my day :) I truly believe that birth is a natural process, that no intervention is risk free, and that in our country, we do a huge disservice to women and infants with the overmanagement of birth. Hell, birth doesn't even really need management when everything's going as it should. I would have opted for a home birth, but in my state, home births are effectively not allowed. I was fortunate enough to have an essentially zero-intervention hospital birth (really: no IV, intermittent monitoring after the initial strip, no one counting or telling me how to push, maybe 2 vaginal exams total, it was beautiful). So I had a completely normal pregnancy, an easy and fast delivery - less than three hours and three pushes. But then 45 minutes after my son was born, I hemorrhaged suddenly and seriously. When the doctors couldn't stop the bleeding in the LDRP room, I had surgery in my small community hospital, then transferred to a larger facility with an interventional radiology department. I understand, of course, that I was probably more likely to get in a a traffic accident than to have a major and sudden complication. But I DID have that sudden, severe complication, and I was so glad that I was in a hospital and not at home like I might have been. I'm sure that if I had been at home, at the very least I would have lost my uterus, I almost lost it in the hospital with immediate OR access. So I guess I'm not sure what my point is. I know it's rare, and my story isn't anyone else's, but it does happen, is I guess what I'm saying. That said, I'm still low intervention at heart, and I'm happily pregnant again and planning to deliver intervention-free at my same community hospital. I'll take a saline lock, this time, though...

November 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

It is true you are an amazing inspiration to others in everything you do. We are lucky to have such a plethora of knowledge a keyboard away. I want you to know that reading your blogs, lessons, experiences, and opinions makes me so grateful to be a woman, a mom, and a friend. We love you Barbara,
Monica and Brianna

November 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonica Saenz

Very hectic. My wife had to have a c-section for medical reason. In retrospect, I think its a lot easier.

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlove letter

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