For those of you wondering about what happens in the brain of an attorney when she becomes a mother, here’s a glimpse. For me, it was life changing. Saying I had a baptism by fire in birth rights, motherhood, and even in just being a woman, is an understatement. My eyes were opened to the injustice of maternity care in America and beyond. I gained first hand knowledge of how the female role in society and family has been distorted. I now understand why Lady Justice wields a sword.
Here are the top ten reasons why this attorney chose a home birth
#1: I want to know who’s hanging out by my lady parts
I was turned off by the idea of not knowing who would be on-call when I went into labor, and seeing a different provider each time I went to the OB/GYN. How can a relationship based on trust be fostered like that? Bringing a child into this world is a journey. I wanted to know my guide. I had simultaneous care with an OB for about six months before I finally admitted it was an exercise in futility for a healthy pregnancy, and stopped going. It took my rational brain some time to shake off the fear-based-script about pregnancy to embrace what my heart and body already knew.
#2: I believe pregnancy is not a disease
In the illness dynamic, the doc is at the top of the totem pole and the patient is powerless. Even the most assertive women can fall prey to fear and abdicate autonomy at an OB’s office. Pregnancy can be really scary, and we seek comfort in authority. But a healthy pregnancy is a state of wellness. Birth is such a natural process, women can do it in their sleep. Okay, maybe not exactly, but seriously, birth on its own is no reason to go to the hospital. Our neighbors across the Pond have even begun encouraging healthy moms-to-be to stay home . Owning my health and wellness during pregnancy lead me to healthy choices and empowered me during a time when I could have easily let fear take control.
#3: I can maximize health for me and my baby
“I know this isn’t good for my baby, but…”—SAID NO MOTHER EVER! No matter what you’ve heard about “selfish” moms having “opinions” about their own health care, don’t believe the hype. Those selfish moms are as real as the boogeyman. And for the record, there is no such thing as a “maternal fetal conflict.” Moms love their babies and make choices to maximize their health and wellness. It just so happens they can maximize their own at the same time. Health for mom and health for baby are not mutually exclusive concepts. I know, I said this wasn’t a post about safety. It’s not. Do your own homework. I had a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. I worked to keep it that way through nutrition, hydration, exercise, and lots of questions about what my body was doing. I knew that I would be less stressed planning birth at home than at a hospital. Let’s be logical about this: less stress means less chance of unnecessary interventions and less chance of complications.
#4: It’s the economy, stupid
To follow that Rabbit down the Logic Hole — fewer interventions and complications also mean less expense. In a home birth, there are fewer people involved, less equipment, fewer chances for costly intervention, and no facility fee. Home birth is the least expensive birth option. Some may even say it could increase birth outcomes overall by increasing access to care, especially in rural areas where it’s harder to get to a hospital, but I digress.
#5: My man doesn’t belong in the waiting room
I get the heebie-jeebies when people say “we” are pregnant, but I still believe it takes two to tango. Neither of us wanted my partner to be suddenly invisible. It was such a joy to have him attend appointments with the midwife. He asked questions and participated in the journey, even if his transformation to Father was different than mine to Mother. It set the tone for our new family life together. And some of my most beautiful memories of birth are how he supported me during labor.
#6: This type-A woman will not be silenced
I ask questions. I won’t take your word for it, I want to know why. It drives people nuts sometimes, but it works when I’m wearing my lawyer hat. My midwife answered every question I had during our hour-long appointments. When I asked the OB about nutrition, I was told I could buy some books. When I asked how it made sense to fast then shock my system with glucose while growing a human, I was told “well, don’t do it if you don’t want to.” It must have been stressful for my doctors to know their patient was a lawyer who was going to give birth at home. I was surprised they took me in to begin with.
#7: I want to feel the pain
Okay, I didn’t really want pain, but I did want to be present in the pain and joy of the moment. I wanted to let my body do its job. Our bodies are amazing machines. I wanted to avoid stifling the natural hormones released during labor that help with pain relief and after-birth bonding. People told me they thought I was brave for having a natural birth. Honestly, I think anyone who can face an epidural needle is much more courageous!
#8: I assume my baby wouldn’t like the polar plunge
Picture this, you’re floating in a warm bath, the lights are dim, every whim instantly fulfilled, barely a sound, you may even be in that sleepy dream state…then BAM! Lights on and you’re yanked out naked, cold, and shivering. People are yelling but you don’t know who they are or what they are saying. All you want is back in that space. Home birth was a gift I could give my baby to ease his transition into this world. I controlled the lighting, the noise, the thermostat, the company, and everything else. My baby greeted the world without crying and was immediately on my chest. I believe peace on earth begins with birth.
#9: A momma is being born, too
We all know the caricature of the hysterical pregnant woman. We mock mothers-to-be through sitcoms and movies and jokes. Pregnancy in America is a time when a woman is irrational, self-indulgent, demanding, and birth is portrayed as an ordeal that is frequently an emergency best left to experts by a screaming, terrified, pain-ridden woman. Through a filter of fears, we trivialize and ignore the rite of passage that is birth. Our culture does not recognize a woman goes through a transition when she becomes a mother. You’d think in the “Land of the Free” Market at least Hallmark would jump on this and sell some cards for a Mother-to-Be. There is not enough support and women suffer. Midwifery care and home birth were the best ways for me to acknowledge and honor my transition to motherhood.
#10: Because I can
I believe the best birth is a person’s safest and most stress-free choice. You may choose a hospital or birth center, or free birth. You have that right and I commend you for exercising it responsibly.
Maybe it’s because I’m an attorney that my rights in pregnancy were a part of my decision-making; or maybe I’m an attorney because I think about rights. I wanted to move at will, wear (or not wear) what I wanted, and take the time my body needed. I expected to freely exercise medical autonomy. The thought that my rights would be challenged was the furthest thing from my mind.
This is America! Home birth empowers a woman through encouraging self-education and personal responsibility for healthy pregnancies. Home birth and midwifery care have become rare in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, but it seems pretty damn American to me. Parenting is a fundamental right. Where and how I gave birth were the first decisions I made as a mother.
Valerie Borek, Esq., focuses her career on empowering parents and strengthening the family. She is proud to be a founding member of the Birth Rights Bar Association. Valerie became involved in birthing rights in 2012 through the encouragement of the midwives that attended her son’s home birth. Check out her blog post here to learn more about what inspired and motivated her to use her legal training to affect positive change in maternity care in the U.S. She lives in Pennsylvania with her partner and their young son.
Photo Credit: Heather Elbert Photography