I remember my first homebirth. I was working at a busy birth center as an assistant to a group of CNMs and also working at another slower birth center, both in Orlando. I’d already attended over 200 hospital births, so the baby coming out of the vagina wasn’t the overall lesson of the experience, although it is always miraculous and wonderful. I’d been invited to attend this homebirth by a lovely CNM who wore a flower behind her ear anytime she left the house. I was asked to come along to help her if she needed it, but I ended up sitting quietly, watching all that went on with this mom’s labor.
The atmosphere was calm and quiet, despite there being her husband, a couple of friends and her first child, a toddler, running around the house. No desperation, no rush to do a vaginal exam when we arrived, no asking her to move here, or scoot there; the midwife met the woman where she was and shifted herself around the labor. I was pleasantly surprised.
Compared to the hospital, the energy in the room moved as if through thick, syrup-y air, a sort of slow motion, purposeful, advancements of arms and legs. Words, too, wafted around the room like sweet smelling smoke, curling it’s drifts… rising, then falling… eventually evaporating, but leaving the scent of intense focus, both from the mother as well as the midwife. I remember thinking everyone had that shimmery glow we see on the road during a baking summer car trip, trails of color that followed anyone that moved.
We arrived well into labor and after an initial lull when we arrived, it picked up again quickly, bringing her to delivery a couple of hours after our arrival. The baby tumbled out and into the midwife’s hands, which immediately brought him to where he’d just been, but this time, on the outside of mom’s body. His mother elatedly embraced him, a look I’d seen many, many times before, but this time it was… quieter? More peaceful? The midwife didn’t push a stethoscope to the baby’s chest or back, even under the blanket, but casually felt the cord and saw the baby doing just fine, leaving mom, dad and baby to get high within their own bubble of joy.
The rest of my time as a guest in this family’s home, I drifted in and out of my own ponderings of the difference between hospital, birth center and home births. They were distinctly different, each holding their own importance, but I wondered how anything outside the home could possibly mimic what I’d experienced that night.
So far, nothing has.