“We need to get this baby out now. OK. Regina, I need you to push.” Kate’s knowledge and her calming sureness, saved Adam’s life, I believe. She was there for my second homebirth, the day after Fourth of July in Metro Washington, D.C. “It’s great that he waited until today. Yesterday, I would not have been able to get here with all the holiday traffic.”
Adam, who didn’t get his name until his third day out of the womb, was arriving fast. Three hours before, I was in a swimming pool feeling mild contractions, but enjoying how the water was relaxing me. I probably lingered too long because by the time I got home and realized that my baby was being born that day, my calls to the midwife, Kate, and assistant, Julie, didn’t give them much time to get there. And when they did, the birth was well underway.
As soon as she arrived, she knew the birth was imminent and got right to work monitoring me and the baby. That’s how she knew that the baby was under stress with a low heartbeat and needed outside air. The womb was not supporting him anymore. With firmness and not panic, she guided me to quickly push him out. Moments later we celebrated our second child’s birth.
Today, I’m celebrating my gratitude for all the women, and a couple of men, who helped me have three healthy and safe home births. The first was the midwife at my sister’s second birth at home. My husband and I had traveled to the back woods of northern Idaho to help out around the house for a few weeks around the birth. We had been talking about having our own children, having been married for a couple of years.
We were sitting with the midwife, sipping tea, saying, “We’ll probably have our first baby in the hospital, just to be safe.” Her instant response was, “Why sacrifice your first one? That might be all you have!” That question stuck in our minds, and exactly one year later, we had our first child at home. Kate was there for that one too.
My assistant for that birth was Laura, who had become a dear friend during the six months we had lived in Arlington before the birth. I don’t remember how I met her. Perhaps it was through the midwife team of Joyce, Alice, and Kate who monitored my pregnancy. They may have suggested Laura’s prenatal classes which John and I took enthusiastically. Between classes, I would visit Laura and her own children, grateful for her companionship in my new home. She came when David was born, helping from before dawn until he was born later that day, with massage and breathing.
Three years later, our third child was due to be born in Evansville, Indiana. I was eager to find a midwife right away because we had moved there in my fourth month of pregnancy. The first person John had met in Evansville was Danny Knight, who had invited John over to his house during their first conversation about the vegetarian community in Evansville. I was impressed with how friendly and welcoming he had been! His wife, Missie, told us about Linda and Karen, the local midwives.
They were equally warm, confident, and professional as Joyce, Alice, and Kate had been in Arlington. I was doing well and everything looked good for the late March birth. Politics, however, interfered with our plan!
Two weeks before my due date, Linda and Karen assisted at a birth which required transport of the baby to the hospital. The baby needed medical assistance. They even loaned the medics their newborn oxygen mask and tank because they didn’t have one. The baby was fine.
The county prosecutor, however, threatened to indict them because in the State of Indiana, midwifery is not legally recognized. Linda and Karen were being indicted for practicing medicine without a license. They were scared to get arrested.
Linda called and told me that they didn’t feel safe to assist me at the upcoming birth. I was stuck! I had not been seeing a doctor because the midwives had been monitoring me. John and I went to the nearest hospital, to set up a last minute doctor visit. When asked about our reason for waiting until a week before the baby was born to seek medical assistance, John brilliantly said in his reporter’s voice, “You don’t want to hear our whole story. We’re here today. Can we come here to have this baby?” The doctor agreed.
John focused on the juiciness of this story of midwife meets prosecutor. I went home disheartened about having a hospital birth. I meditated, prayed, and rested, going inward to be open to the best experience for me and the baby, trusting in God to guide us. Having a home birth was really important to me, spiritually. I didn’t want to give up that easily!
My prayer was answered, and a few days later, Linda and Karen called to say that they felt called to be there at the birth. “We can’t just abandon you like this! We have been called to serve as midwives and trust that we will be cared for.”
The birth day started early, just as John was leaving for work. “I think this is the day, so maybe you should stay home,” I requested. He called Linda, and she arrived a few hours later. Missie, our new friend, came too, having said that she could help in Linda and Karen’s place. She had assisted at births in India years before and knew that she could help. Danny, her husband, was there too with his professional photography skills.
Simon’s birth was a wonderfully spiritual experience. The day unfolded peacefully, then powerfully when the birth occurred in the mid-afternoon. I think everyone there – John, Danny, Missie, Linda, and Karen all took turns supporting me as I let my body take over and birth the baby. Ten minutes after he finally popped out, a thunderstorm and deluge rocked the city. I felt safe and blessed inside my own room at home, astounded at the miracle of birth.
So, today, I open my heart in gratitude to these women who give themselves over to the wonder of birth, risking their own political safety to providing women, babies, and families with safe and spiritual home births.
Joyce, Alice, Kate, Laura, Julie, Linda, Karen, and Missie, I thank you! And John and Danny too, men who aren’t afraid of womens’ sacred work!