Sunday, April 10, 2011

My own birth

I started out writing why I chose homebirth, but decided instead to write about my own birth first since it is important.

Why does my own birth story matter? Well, the first conscious memory that I have of birth was probably of my mom coming home from a birth as she used to go and help women in the church who would call her during labour. Sometimes they’d been stalled for several hours and the doctor was threatening cesarean. She’d go in, introduce herself as the mom’s pastor, and ask everyone to clear the room so they could pray. Then they’d pray or get out of bed and get upright or sip red raspberry leaf tea or Evergreen WheatGrass Juice. I remember one who was so tired after a long labour and was ready to have the cesarean. My mom (who has had 2 vaginal births and a cesarean) said, “You’re going to hate me for the next couple of hours, but you’ll thank me after. Now get out of bed.” She got her up and walking and that baby was born in less than an hour. Other times their own moms lived far away or were estranged so they’d call her to be there for them. I LOVED hearing these stories and seeing pictures of the new babies and families. I loved going with when she visited with them prenatally and postpartum.

But before all of that, was my own birth. I was there, I was present, and I’ve heard the story over and over, even if I don’t consciously have a memory of it. I DO believe that how a person is born matters and can affect their life (beyond just the immediate health issues that I talk about a lot on this blog.) How a mother tells her child’s birth story to them also matters. This is not to say that a difficult birth will inevitably scar them for the rest of their life, but I’ve heard mothers say – in front of that child – “It’s the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life.” “I thought I was going to die” or “I wanted to die.” “I never want to go through that again.” All of these are perfectly valid and it is good to process the birth, but please do it away from that child’s earshot. They don’t need to hear things that they won’t understand and may take responsibility for. Ie. “Wow. *I* caused my mother the most pain she’s ever experienced. *I* made my mom wish she were dead.” I digress…

My mother’s first birth was in the hospital. My older brother was born 2 weeks past his guess date. She arrived at the hospital with my father and my Aunt Karen, who is a registered nurse. My mom’s doctor had said she would be allowed in but the hospital said one support person only and no switching. So my mom refused to go in and sat in the family waiting room where my aunt helped her until she had to leave for work. She had an epidural after 24 hours of labour. The nurses changed shift and before going off shift, her first nurse gave her a dose of epidural but did not write it down. The next nurse came in and proceeded to get ready to give her another dose. She told her, “Um, excuse me, the last nurse just did that.” The nurse replied, “Well, it’s not written down,” and gave her another dose. Not surprisingly, my mother could not feel at all to push. So she got a terrible episiotomy (which later got infected).

Then she had to fight just to get her baby. This was 1983 and they used to stay in the hospital a lot longer than they do now so she was still there when her milk came in. It came in so she went down to the nursery. She pointed out her baby (who was hungry and crying – a nurse was holding him with her finger in his mouth, trying to calm him) and asked for him. She was told it was visiting hours and she could have him in 4 hours as no babies were allowed on the floor during visiting hours. Understandably, she freaked. “That’s MY baby and he’s HUNGRY and my BOOBS ARE FULL!!! GIVE ME MY BABY!!!” The nurse refused but the head nurse heard her all the way down the hall and around the corner and came to see what was wrong. She said “Give her her baby”. She called my dad, sobbing and unable to speak. He thought something had happened to the baby so he came rushing to the hospital. When he heard what had happened, he said, “That’s it?” I can totally relate to her. I may have tried to break down the nursery door if someone had tried that on me.

She was also roomed with another woman who had a very numerous and very loud family. At one point, they lost count how many people were in the room and were having to shout in order to hear each other. My dad went out and got the nurse and she asked everyone to leave.

Despite my brother being exclusively breastfed, my mom became pregnant with me when he was 6 months old. She did not want a repeat of what she had gone through before. She called up the hospital and asked, “Do you still have the policy of only one support person and no switching?” They answered yes so she sought out a doctor that would do a homebirth. He was from Holland, where most babies are born at home. He was very laid back.

The house I was born in.

I was born 3 weeks past my guess date. My grandma’s birthday was the day before and my mom had spent the day doing gardening and going for long walks, trying to get labour to start. It worked, but I wasn’t born until 3:12 am the next day.

My mom, 41.5 weeks pregnant with me (1.5 weeks to go!)

My mom called her parents to come over and they brought my Aunt Sarah (around 14 years old) with them. My grandma T was dressed up in her Sunday best and my grandpa T, who is colour blind and normally has his clothes picked out by my grandma, was wearing 3 different colours of shirt, pants, and tie. As my mom puts it, Sarah was the only one dressed how she should be for a birth – jeans and a t-shirt.

My dad’s dear parents (Gma and Gpa M) are/were very medically minded and were terrified at the thought of me being born at home. They were out of the country when I arrived.

My grandma started boiling water. She didn’t know what it was for, that’s just what you do at births! The doctor explained that it’s for hot compresses to help the perineum stretch and prevent tearing.

I was born right on my parents’ bed. The doctor handed me right into my grandmother’s church shirt covered arms.

My mom's parents and I

My mom was shocked when he announced that it was a girl. She’d SO wanted a girl that time but convinced herself she was having another boy so that she wouldn’t be disappointed. Not that my brothers were a disappointment! She was thrilled to have them and thrilled to have a daughter too J

Dr. Barel, me, my dad and mom.
I was 9 lbs, 4 oz and my mom had barely a tear that required no stitches.

My dad, big brother, myself, and my mom.
My mom writes:
“Right after you were born we woke Josh up to meet you and he said " whaz zat " pointing at you meaning if course what's that.  He was pretty fascinated by you. A real living doll.”

My big brother and I
My other grandparents called when their plane landed a few hours later. My grandpa T answered the phone. They asked if the baby had arrived yet and he said, “Yes! Right here at home!” Grandma M said “WHAT!?!?!? We’ll be right over.”

My dad's parents and I
She came over and got to give me my first bath. She asked the doctor how she’d know if it was too hot or cold. He said, “Well, if she turns red, it’s too hot. If she turns blue, it’s too cold.”

Grandma M and I
I spent the first night in my parents’ bed while they discussed my name. My mom’s grandmother’s name was Anna, as was my dad’s aunt. My dad’s mom’s name was Grace. They both liked the name Christine. They couldn’t figure out which names to use and then decided I could handle all three so they named me Anna Grace Christine. Anna means “full of grace.” They said I would need a double dose of grace in my life (and boy, were they right).

My mom and I (1 day old)
My Grandma T brought over chicken the next night for dinner. My mom also brought chicken for us in the evening after I had my secondborn at home :)

I love to hear my birth story told, especially when she says, “It was the most wonderful birth, just perfect.”

My mom writes,

“What a wonderful story!  You were a dream birth.  If everyone’s births were like that, people would have more babies.

You were such a beautiful plump baby.  Those eyes and cheeks...

The sight of you made people want to have babies.”


  1. What an awesome story!!!! Thank you so much for sharing it. I wish my mother would share my birth story with me, but when asked she just says she doesn't remember even though I know she does because she was unmedicated. Also how special that your grandmother got to give you your first bath. That is how birth should be - surrounded by helping hands after the baby comes.

  2. Thanks Michelle! I'm sorry your mom won't share with you. Was anyone else there that you could ask? (Dad, grandma, aunt?)

  3. That was really nice to read, Anna.
    I like my own birth story too :) it was in a hospital though.


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