This is the story of how one little boy chose to come into the world. It was in a way that can be called anything but conventional. However, at the beginning of the tale, it all seemed quite normal, as far as pregnancies go. I was 19 when I conceived him. I had normal prenatal care. I was healthy and the baby was developing in all the right ways. That’s not really what makes the story interesting. The story really starts, in my mind, when I was 33 weeks pregnant and went into labor.
I woke up in the middle of the night to really hard contractions. I woke my husband up and we decided we should call the hospital, which was over an hour’s drive away. The woman who answered the phone, of course, told me it was probably nothing serious and I should just try to get some sleep. “Just get some sleep and call us in the morning if you still think there’s an issue” she said. ‘Yeah right’ I thought to myself. After I got off the phone with her, my husband and I discussed it shortly and determined that a midnight rush to the hospital was in order. We didn’t take much with us and were out the door in a jiffy.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, just over an hour later, the contractions had gotten harder and more regular. We went in through the emergency room entrance and told the woman at the desk, the same one who’d told me to go back to sleep, why we were there. She had us wait for just a moment until a man rolled a wheel chair over for me and rolled us into a room. The nurse got me onto a bed and the doctor came almost immediately. After a quick check, she determined, “Wow, you really are in labor!” There were several things going through my mind at that point, like ‘Good thing I decided to come in. No thanks to your staff.’ or ‘Gee, you really think so?’ and feeling a little bit scared all the while.
They told me they needed to get an IV in me to start a dose of magnesium, which they said should stop the contractions. They proceeded to stab needles in my hands and arms, to no avail. Finally, on about the 6th or 8th try, they got a working (and painful) IV in my forearm. They warned me that the magnesium might disorient me a little and make me somewhat nauseous. It wasn’t too bad, though, as far as side effects go. I was a little bit clumsy and disoriented, but not very. They kept me hooked up to the magnesium for that night, that day, and the next night and day until they were sure that the labor was totally stopped and I was stable. Then, the interrogation began.
The doctors and their lackeys were constantly coming in, asking me questions, telling me they wanted to do this test or that test. They asked me all about the days leading up to the premature labor in hopes of finding some clue as to why this had happened. Fortunately my membranes weren’t ruptured in the process of the contractions, so the risk of infection was very low. However, they still wanted to do a bunch of tests and of course, keep me overnight “for observation”. ‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘another night won’t hurt anything.’ So I stayed for a third night and on the third day, they asked me if I would consent to an amniocentesis test. I asked them about the risks (which of course they basically said there were none. It wasn’t until much later that I learned this procedure causes late term miscarriage in 1 out of 200 cases) and why they felt it was necessary. They said they wanted to check for infection in the amniotic fluid and that they could gauge the development of the lungs as well.
After discussing at length with my mother, whom I trust very deeply, we decided that it was not necessary and I’d be fine without it. I also felt, intuitively, that it was an unnecessary procedure and not in my baby’s or my own best interest. Later that day when the doctor came in to ask me if we were going to go ahead with the procedure, I told her how I felt about it, and politely refused. She seemed dismayed and said she’d be back in a while to talk with us again. That afternoon, when she returned, she informed me that I’d be staying another night, again, “for observation”. At this point I was starting to get a little bit bothered with the entire hospital staff for several reasons. They were not nice to me or my mother (my husband wasn’t there usually as he was working) or me when we had questions, they were never very clear with us when explaining anything, and never seemed to be able to give a direct answer about anything. I was ready to go home as I felt that the labor had been stopped, the hospital had done their job.
I asked the doctor when I could go home and she said she didn’t know, maybe the next day, the 4th day. Again, I felt like I should humor them. I wanted to trust them, after all, isn’t that kind of the point of medical care? You ought to be able to trust the people providing your care and I was feeling it less and less. I was getting restless; they didn’t want me up and moving a lot but I am not the kind of person who can be cooped up in a room, bedridden for long periods of time and not get restless. So I would walk around with my mom quite a bit and they didn’t seem to like me doing it very much, but really, it’s not as though I was ill or in an emergent situation any longer.
On the fourth day I again asked if I would be able to go home that day. The doctor said she wasn’t sure and that we’d see how the day went. I waited and waited and grew more restless. The doctor came in around mid day and again suggested I get the amnio test. I again refused, saying that I didn’t feel I needed it and that I’d rather just go home. She said okay and that they’d see what they could do. That afternoon, close to evening, she came back in and asked once more for me to do the test. No, I told her again. I won’t do it. “Well, we’re going to keep you another night then, for observation.” At that point, I began to feel trapped. They were making this very hard on me, and clearly on purpose. It felt as though my fight or flight instinct was being engaged and I was like a caged animal.
The next morning, the head doctor had gotten back into town and came to talk to me. “I heard you’ve been giving us a hard time about taking the amniocentesis test.” I was astounded. I had been giving them a hard time? I explained what I had told the other two doctors about it and that I was absolutely not willing to take the test and wanted to be released to go home that day. I had been there for 5 nights and was starting on my 5th day . She said that that simply wasn’t an option. She then had the nerve to give me an ultimatum; “You can either get this test, or we will just keep you here for the next 6 or 7 weeks until you are ready to safely have this baby here.” I was horrified and appalled. I was sure that this was not allowed. I had every right to refuse the test and had equally as many rights to leave the hospital at any time.
The doctor left my mother and I to discuss it and said she’d be back in a while. I still held my position firmly but was fearful that they were going to somehow force me to remain in their care until I either gave in to the test or had the baby there. My mom decided to leave for a short time to grab a lunch that wasn’t hospital food. While she was gone and I was all alone and more vulnerable, the doctor came and bullied me some more to get the test. For several minutes I refused her but I did end up giving in because I was tired of fighting them about it and just wanted to go home. It seemed like the easiest avenue, although I was bullied into it and taken well without the scope of my rights. I signed the form consenting to the test and they rolled in a cart of supplies for the procedure.
First, the doctor numbed a small area of my stomach with three tiny needles. It hurt and I was terrified and furious and I began to cry. There was a nurse on each side of me, holding my hands. Right as the doctor was preparing the huge 10-inch needle and syringe to stab me with, my mom returned. I felt like I wanted to hold her hand but we were already in the middle of the scenario and I didn’t think I could easily start it again if we delayed. I told my mom it was okay and that I just wanted to get it over with. She understood and watched from behind the doctor. The memory of that moment is so awful for me, I cringe to think about it. It was still very painful and frightening although the area was numbed and I started hyperventilating. I was crying the whole time and the procedure only took a couple minutes from the time she got the big needle in, but I will never forget how that experience and those 5 days made me feel.
After the procedure was complete, we just had to wait a couple of hours for results and the doctor told us I’d be able to leave that evening most likely. The results came back late in the afternoon, and as I had suspected, there was no information that was helpful in any way besides a confirmation that I did not, in fact, have an infection. Which I knew. I trust my intuition very acutely and I feel that I would have known had there really been a bigger problem. That evening, I was discharged and my mother took me home. I felt as though I never wanted to see a hospital again. The experience was deeply scarring and traumatizing. My faith in the medical world had been eternally damaged. But to me, it was an enlightening experience, as bad as it was.
After that all happened, I began to consider alternatives. I live in a fairly small, rural community and I had known several women who had done home births. I contacted the only midwife in the area, but midwifery service wasn’t covered by my insurance and I certainly didn’t have enough money to pay for it myself. I was forced to consider something else – something even more cryptic than a midwife attended home birth; an unassisted birth, or freebirth, as it is sometimes called. My mom was very supportive of me, as she had been there with me for most of the hospital experience. We started talking to local women who’d done home births, reading books, watching videos online and getting all the information we possibly could to make this a reality.
We borrowed some equipment from one woman who had done a previous unattended birth, including a fetal heart doppler, a stethoscope, and a few books, among other things. We got all the equipment prepared and set aside before hand so we were sure to be ready when the day came. Then, one Sunday morning, ten days before the due date, I woke to intense contractions and leaking fluid. This was it. Finally the baby was ready and so were we. Labor was fairly easy until transition, when I started throwing up every few minutes and not being able to relax at all. The whole time (6 hours of labor) I was moving around, changing positions, keeping myself comfortable. I felt very relaxed the whole time. We had the tub filled with warm water, which I’d get in and out of depending on how I was feeling, there was a big yoga ball I was rolling on a bit, and I would walk around for a few minutes, lay down for a few minutes, whatever I felt like I needed to do. I knew this was far different than what I’d be allowed to experience at a hospital.
When it came time to push, it was about 10 or 15 minutes at the most and I had my beautiful son, Espynn, in my arms, in the bathtub. It was so peaceful and empowering. It was far less traumatizing for all of us than a hospital birth would have been; Espynn fell asleep right after he was born, and I let him-after I heard his voice of course. We left the placenta attached for about 15 minutes, when it looked like most of the blood had stopped pumping through it, before we cut the cord. Everything went so smoothly, I know that there were hands on the other side guiding our actions and watching over myself and my son. I felt that the early labor was his way of ensuring his perfect entrance into the world; like it only happened for me to see that the process of giving birth does not necessitate a hospital or its staff. I felt so complete after that experience and I wouldn’t change anything about it in retrospect.
I can now see the necessity of my experience at that hospital and I believe everything always happens in its perfect way. I am currently pregnant with my second son and due to deliver at the end of July. I intend to have this one as an unassisted birth as well. I will never be able to give birth in a hospital setting outside the scope of a serious and emergent necessary medical procedure. I have seen the light of childbirth in nature and it really does mean something that humans have survived this long doing it without doctors and their facilities and procedures. I am proud to say that I birthed my child and to know that I did it on my own. I would send a message to all women and even just people in general that you should NEVER EVER LET A DOCTOR OR ANYONE ELSE MAKE YOU FEEL INCOMPETENT AS A HUMAN OR RESPONSIBLE DECISION MAKER. NEVER ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE BULLIED OUT OF YOUR FREEDOM. I hope that my story will inspire confidence and power for at least somebody. This was a long story, and obviously I didn’t get every little detail in here, but please, feel free to ask me any questions about it and let me know your opinion. I know that home birth is very widely disputed and I expect that someone will have something negative to say, as that’s the nature of the internet, but for me, this was a very positive and enlightening experience and always will be. Espynn Aureileas, came into the world at 11:14 am, 11/14/10 weighing 6lb. 15 oz. and measuring 19 3/4 inches long. Thank you for reading my story.