Every birth is different, and so is every woman’s approach to how she wants to deliver. Bringing a baby into this world is a cause for celebration and joy. It’s a much-anticipated occasion, and not just because we’re all generally ready to not be pregnant (although that’s definitely a plus!), but because you finally get to meet the new person you’ve been busy building for the past 10 months. After three-quarters of a year, my prize was a person — someone my family would welcome into our house, our home, and our family; a person I’d already grown to love. So instead of focusing on the medical aspects of birth, or on how difficult it was going to be, I focused on making my baby's home birth a celebration; the best birthday party I could throw.
I’ve had two wonderful birth experiences so far, and perhaps that sounds like bragging (and maybe it is), but I tell people about them because women should know that a wonderful birth experience is possible. And no, I’m not talking about orgasmic birth, although I haven’t written that off as impossible yet. A big part of what made my deliveries wonderful was that I felt supported, joyous, and powerful throughout the birthing process.
Infusing joy into my birth experience was a conscious decision. When I was pregnant with my first, I read all the positive birth stories I could get my hands on. I made plans for both my partner and my mother to be there. I sought out midwives as my caregivers because they are joyous about birth. He was born (after many, many, many hours of labor and pushing) at a birth center. My dad and brother were waiting down the hall and heard his first cries. My in-laws arrived a half hour later, just in time for the cupcakes my mother had made for the occasion. We all just hung out, fussed over my newborn son, and smiled from ear to ear.
When I decided to have a home birth with my second, I began to get really excited about having the experience I was after. I wanted to be calm and zen, like I was with my first. This time it would be easier, as second labors often are, because I knew what to expect and I was going to be on my home turf. I’d get to use my own toilet, and so I stocked the bathrooms with soft toilet paper and good-smelling soap. I had pillows that smelled like me and my husband and my then-2-year-old son. Not only was it comforting to me as I labored, I loved that my baby would immediately be surrounded by the sights and sounds she was going to live in. She’d move from one comfy home to another.
Once I had all of the birth supplies in my closet and my due date was drawing nearer, I began to nest in earnest. Though for me, nesting looked a lot like preparing for a party, because that’s exactly what I was doing. I cleaned meticulously. (In fact, that was probably the last time my house was spotless.) I carefully organized the birth supplies. I put pictures of my partner and my son and the ultrasound pictures of my daughter on my nightstand. I bought all sorts of snacks for myself and for my labor team. I laid out the clothes I was going to wear -- my comfortable yoga pants and my soft robe, the one that’s so easy to breastfeed in and that I wore right after my son was born. I laid out the baby’s first outfits. I gathered the little swaddling blankets.
A large part of the excitement was about seeing my son become a big brother. He was going to be there for labor and the birth. He was prepared. We watched beautiful birth videos together, and he saw how happy I was every time I watched a new baby emerge. He got to see that it was normal and safe and amazing. We even watched videos where older siblings were present, and he got to see how excited those kids were to meet their younger brothers or sisters. He was caught up in the excitement of it all. He helped me pick out cake mix and a zero birthday candle for the baby’s party. He helped me bake lasagnas and quiche to serve right after the birth.
When I woke up in labor, I called my midwives, my birth assistant, and my mother. When my mom came over, we vacuumed and chatted excitedly about how most likely, that night, I’d be sleeping next to my new daughter. The atmosphere was warm and lovely. Everyone involved was helping me welcome our new baby. My partner, my son, and my parents are the most important people to me, and having them in the house made me feel loved and safe. When the labor started getting tough, I had my partner or my mom at my side. My dad hung out with my son, baking cupcakes and watching movies. Occasionally my son would come in, smoothing the wrinkles out of my forehead and rubbing my back.
I called my photographer friend who was going to take pictures at the birth. The last time I had hired a photographer for an event was for my wedding. It was yet another way I equated birth to the other important celebrations in life.
The moment of her birth was one of the greatest moments of my life. When I started pushing, I was giddy. I actually said “cheese” for a picture when I had a break between contractions. There’s a ridiculous photo of me grinning, sitting upright on my bed, and my daughter’s head was about to be push through. It was remarkable, and also nothing like in the movies. I wasn’t scared or overwhelmed; I was just excited. I didn’t feel rushed, and she was born easily and gently, placed right on my chest and began nursing within a few minutes. It was just the first of many times I’d lie in that bed and snuggle in with her. It was bliss.
I know home birth isn’t for everyone. Plenty of moms just want alone time both during labor and after their baby is born. But the first minutes of my daughter’s life were so happy and full of love. I was surrounded by people who loved me. I felt safe with my birth team and confident in my body’s abilities.
With the hard work finished, all that was left to do was to party. We had the cupcakes. We lit the zero candle and sang to our daughter on her birthday. My son snuggled in bed with me and his new baby sister. We popped open a bottle of champagne. We called more family and friends. We just soaked it all in. And an hour later, after everyone else had gone home, it was just us, and we started getting right into the swing of things as a family of four.
I hope that by sharing a little piece of my joyous day, I can plant the seed that it’s possible. It’s possible to love giving birth. It’s possible (in most cases) to make your birth what you choose. You never know how labor is going to progress, but you can put plans in place so that you feel safe, supported, and loved in whatever the day brings. I chose to celebrate and to fill my house with people who supported me. And really, it was of the best parties I’ve ever thrown.
Images Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh (5)