Sitting in front of Dr. Bason-Mitchell, I wonder whether I should laugh or cry. My newly assigned OBGYN made on joke after the other, I guess in an attempt to lighten up the atmosphere in her grey, sterile office. As I put my legs in the cold stirrups for my first prenatal examination, a subtle, yet distinct door of disinfectants lingering in the air interrupted my thought process.
When she was done and my mind was back to my normal self, I remembered to ask her about the hospital’s flexibility during childbirth. “Every woman more or less ends up on their backs and begs for pain-relief anyway,” she replied.
Hand in hand, my husband Josh and I walked out of the hospital building on California Street in the Richmond District, excited about the little life we had created, but at the same time frightened by our “comedian” doctor and the rigid medical system we just had become part of. As a first-time mom I didn’t know what to expect, but a gut feeling told med that this was not what I wanted.
In the weeks following the visit, I thought a lot about the phrases “doctors deliver babies” and “midwives catch them,” or even better “midwives guide the mother or father to catch their own baby.” What consequences would these different expressions practised mean to us? What would be our role and how would that affect the way our baby entered the world?
After some extensive research on childbirth*, I realized that I was not willing to give my body and baby in the hands of doctors who are thought to look at childbirth as a problem that needs to be solved. After a few dialogues with my encouraging husband, I decided that I was going to give birth on my own terms, at my own pace and space. We were going to have a home birth.
Despite fearful comments from some of my own family members and the general distrust of natural birth from society, I dealt with it and entered the ninth month prepared both mentally and physically for a home birth. After my decision I called different midwives, and after my second interview I knew I had hit home. Circle of Life was our choice. The three midwives in the group all had an impressive history within midwifery, and the wise and spiritual ambiance in the little purple house in Fairfax, Marin, made each prenatal visit pure bliss.
In order to be admitted into Marin General in case of a necessary transfer during birth, I had to go to their clinic for checkups. The pace was fast and it felt very impersonal. To make sure a doctor wouldn’t “deliver me” in case of an emergency, I was able to see nurse-midwives; however they were over-worked and exhausted so that seeing them didn’t make me feel much different from my first appointment.
A sharp sensation grabbing hold of my lower back and belly woke me up around 5 am on Monday morning of April 3rd, 2005. Light contractions had come and gone through the last month so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when the second one grasped me without much of a break in between, I got a clue. I walked into the bathroom, put a watch around my wrist and started to count the intervals of the contractions.