by Misha Safranski
I’ve been there. I know that place. You stand on the ledge, staring down into the tempting clear blue waters, knowing in your heart they are refreshing, pure, freeing…your heart pounds wildly as you try to sort out the risks and benefits of jumping from those of staying up on the ledge. Some try to urge you forward, many attempt to hold you back.
If you jump, you face the possibility of criticism, logistical challenges, and potential hostility if something should go wrong. If you remain on your perch, you may be caught up in a chain of events that could quickly spiral out of control.
It is the divide between home birth and hospital birth, and while the choice seems to be automatic for some, for others the leap is not that simple.
It’s highly likely that you already know the profound physical and emotional effects birth has on the mother/baby couple.
You probably also know how favorable the data is on home birth outcomes. The vast majority of mothers-to-be considering home birth do a mind boggling amount of research into the pros and cons – particularly regarding safety. Indecision is seldom due to lack of information, rather, it is the result of something deeper.
We all come to the home birth table with our own preconceived notions, baggage, fears, not to mention our own tribe – the baby’s father, grandparents, friends, relatives, all of those well meaning loved ones who may or may not understand, much less respect, our autonomy and inherent human right to choose our own birthing environment.
In spite of (some) appearances, we do not all come to the home birth table 110% ready to take the leap off that culturally accepted ledge into the wonderful, terrifying, freeing, comforting, liberating, incomprehensibly amazing world of birthing at home.
I was lucky, in a way. I knew I wanted several children, and if that hadn’t been the case I might never have gotten to experience the joy of coming around to home birth. After my first, born by cesarean due to my own typical first baby ignorance, I was not open to home birth right away. I had joined ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and had no shortage of support and information pouring over me in the form of the incredible women on the email group.
It’s not just about information. One can plug all the data in the world into the human brain and if that individual is not open to receive it at that time in their life, in their current space, the capacity to influence their choices will be minimal. As for me, I heard the information, I just wasn’t ready to let facts override fear quite yet. Over time my eyes did open and I had two beautiful HBACs.
As you stand on the ledge peering curiously into those unfamiliar waters, allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Fear is normal. Fear signals danger and allows survival of our species. Take some quiet time to identify the root of it. Is it fear of pain? Fear of something happening to you or the baby? Intimidation of family and friends who can’t understand why you’d even consider having the baby at home?
All of these things are normal; while home birthers are typically pretty confident and self-assured on the outside, the truth is we’ve all felt fear in one form or another on this exhilarating journey. We honor those feelings, we prepare, and sometimes we just do it afraid.
Nearly 30,000 women give birth at home each year in the United States (and that number is growing). Each one must deal with fears and obstacles in order to leap off the ledge and buck the institutional system of birth. You can too.
Misha Safranski is mother to five beautiful children, birth mother to a sixth, VBAC mom, unschooling parent, intactivist, lactivist, and freelance writer. In addition to working full time for a major online media company, Ms. Safranski publishes an advocacy blog on birth and intuitive parenting issues called Creating Dissonance. She resides in Michigan with her kids and better half, all of whom are incredibly tolerant of birth (and so much more!) being a daily topic of conversation.
I think it takes a lot of guts to choose home birth.
Not only guts, but self confidence. And confidence in midwives, as well as your partner.
Families who choose to give birth at home are less than 1% of the population in the United States. That is very revealing of our current culture, don’t you think?
To me, it says most people are very afraid of birth. The most common question home birthers get asked is, “what if something goes wrong?”
This implies that you’ve got to be brave to give birth at home. Although this phrase or opinion has had a negative connotation with a lot of women who have given birth at home, I’d like to spin it in a positive light.
To better understand what I mean, watch the short video below.
It was four years ago when I became pregnant, stopped smoking, quit the bar and found myself.
I started taking care of myself. It was the beginning of my “grown up” transformation. Before then, I was just a kid.
Just about midway through that first pregnancy, I discovered home birth. And that was the real game changer.
See, I never really knew what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I was a jack of all trades. Good at a lot of things but not really GREAT at one thing in particular. I couldn’t choose. I didn’t go to college and had no idea where my life would lead. Heck, I was so scared by not knowing the answer that I actually started talking myself into thinking working in a smokey bar was good enough for me.
Of course it wasn’t good enough for me at all.
When I got pregnant, and then when I discovered home birth, I knew that my life was changing for the better. I had found a cause to stand behind. Birth concerned me, (because I was pregnant) but the more I learned about birth and the lack of women’s knowledge about their bodies and the process, the more emboldened I became.
Suddenly the pregnancy and the home birth I was planning became my mission.
While preparing for that home birth, I planned. I read and watched movies and talked to other women who had birthed at home (my piano teacher had two unassisted home births!). I interview our midwife, took a childbirth class and endured duel-care at the local hospital.
It was the first time in my life that I eagerly threw myself into learning everything I could about a subject. I became a student of birth and home birth.
Safe to say I learned a LOT! Enough to build this site, write an ungodly amount of blog posts, give birth at home twice and create an ebook.
Now my first home birth babe is 3 1/2 years old, and my second, (also born at home) just turned one. I’ve continued my commitment to learning by taking on new ventures with much more confidence than ever before. And I have home birth to thank for that.
What has home birth done for you? Has it taught you something in particular? Share your thoughts below!
Longer days, warm weather and independence of children in full bloom. The perfect recipe to connect with life offline. I haven’t been on the computer much, and don’t plan to be. Here’s what I’ve been up to, and my plans for this season.
Summer has finally arrived in Michigan. We planted our vegetable garden and taught Ella how to water the plants, which she does each morning (and she usually gets wet right along with them).
I began taking horse riding lessons again after an eight year hiatus. Dreaming of my most-loved creatures was becoming too painful to bear. Action was beyond want. I needed horses back in my life. The moment I stepped back into the barn, a wave of emotion crashed over me so powerfully it made my eyes water. The smells, sounds, giant faces peeking out to greet me; I felt like I finally returned home.
Ella and Lucan have accompanied me to the barn and Ella in particular has a growing affection for horses, sheep dogs and barn cats. I’m overjoyed to share it with her. She cant’ wait for the chance to climb up on a pony someday - tentatively set for when she’s 5.
When I was a little girl, my dream life = owning my own horse some day. Somewhere in my late teen years, I lost a lot of hope in goals and escaped (got lost) the life I’d always known for something more wild, free and rebellious. It wasn’t a great time in my life, but I learned a lot.
Thankfully, I’ve come around full-circle. The home births of my children, (Ella’s home birth story & Lucan’s home birth story) really helped with that. Before becoming pregnant with Ella, I was still causing my body a lot of harm (smoking, drinking, staying up too late partying, etc.). I am much more in touch with my true essence these days – taking care of my body, mind and soul by living intentionally (and drinking my green juice!).
I’m a thinker. So when I stepped foot into that barn, and then a step further, when I rode for the first time again, I knew what I had to do. I thought long and hard and the answer was clear. I had to create my dream life for myself. I said it outloud: I will train to become the best rider I can be, fill my brain with knowledge about horse care and I WILL OWN A HORSE in less than 10 years.
Part of my plan to get there includes equine photography. Just received my business cards in the mail yesterday! I’m also beginning an apprenticeship in dressage training with a local accomplished trainer and rider next week. I’ll also be taking photographs for her new website. Beyond thrilled. All of this will be documented and shared through KaitlinRoseBlog.com (currently under construction).
If you’re wondering where the advocacy of natural pregnancy and empowered birth fits into the picture, I’ll tell you…
Eric and I have decided, (for now – we’re not making anything permanent) not to have more children. With that door (mostly) closed, I’ve naturally moved on to other interests in life. It’s hard to write about pregnancy and birth when you’re not in it.
Knowing this, The 9 Steps to Home Birth Prep ebook has been a great “end of the chapter” for me right now. For the time being, I’ve done and said just about everything there is to say about birth within this site (but be prepared if you talk to me on the phone or see me on the street – I can talk for HOURS about birth!).
It feels really good knowing that I have done my part in creating a space in the world where families can come to learn more and feel inspired about giving birth at home. I have accomplished what I set out to do two years ago by founding and constructing this site. We’re on the first page for the search terms “Home Birth Preparation“, “Home Birth Stories“, and “Birth Art.”
<grateful, happy sigh>
I am also grateful that I have learned how to trust in myself enough to know which path to walk down when I encounter a fork in the road. There is always more work to do in the birth world, and I know if I dug in the recesses of my gut I could pull out much more energy to pour into the cause. But my heart is calling me in a different direction, one that I have to follow – or else!
This site isn’t going anywhere, and I will continue to write here when I feel called. I will also continue posting birth stories and accepting guest posts.
All my love, respect and gratitude for your readership, support and encouragement ~
And that day I went from focusing on eating enough protein to wandering through a place I’d never been before, with no map, just taking each step not knowing where my foot would land next.
I felt a particular kind of sadness I had never experienced before, not ever.
I even had thoughts like ‘I do not belong in the Mother’s Club anymore because I failed’, and ‘I am broken’. I was angry, embarrassed and frightened, and my body was, hormonally, having a baby. I wanted to find a dark and quiet place away from everything that didn’t make sense anymore.
Three days passed in between the doctor telling me there was no heartbeat and the night that I woke up, went to the bathroom, and a gush of everything came out.
I flicked on the light and the contrast from the dark burned my eyes, so I immediately turned it off. I thought about thrusting my hand in the toilet to see what it was but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t know what to do. I just sat there in a bizarre cosmic pause, listening to my breath. I began to notice the perfect quiet of the early summer night air, and the stillness of the boys sleeping in the next room. And from there, I asked, What now?
I heard a voice that said, ‘go back to bed’. So I did. I went back to bed.
And that was it. That was the moment that Willow Priya was born.
It’s a horrible scary thing for a baby to die and people don’t like to talk about it.
In fact, some might say I only lost a pregnancy, or the promise of a baby. I didn’t know how to feel. I had to go searching on the Internet just to find some validation that the deep well of sadness I’d fallen into was called grieving. But grieving for what?
With nothing to bury, there was no funeral.
Only the awkward silence. The Sicilian in me wondered why people weren’t showing up at the door with food, because I was more than certain that someone had died. People tried to be helpful. They said, ‘don’t worry,
you can try again’.
In those first moments, all I wanted was to skip forward past all of the heartbreak and just get that spot filled up again. I didn’t want to feel that complex cocktail of emotions that so desperately needed my attention. I just wanted to zoom through the empty to the
With all the work I’ve done around this event I know, I really know, that this experience has greatly expanded my range of emotions.
And when I allow myself to just be in that emptiness, I feel really humble, because I experienced death within my own body. And now I think, what an amazingly profound way to connect with life.
From that thought I can access an entirely new and more empowering meaning.
I feel grateful for the amazing and nurturing women that have come into my life because I reached out for their care and connection. I feel amazed at the awakening that happened in me, and compassion for myself and all the other women who know what it is to lose a baby. Feeling that gratitude, awe, and compassion gets me to the new meaning. And here it is:
The past does not define us (unless we let it). From my greatest pain, I can draw my greatest source of strength.
That you are reading this right now is a sure sign that I found a way to a more empowering meaning. A big part of that involves speaking about it, because when I learned that there are as many as one in four women dealing with this, my mission became apparent: connect with this strength and inspire other women to do the same.
Miscarriage is a natural part of the life and death cycle, but it doesn’t seem normal because it’s invisible in our culture.
I’m convinced that if we give it a rightful place in the natural order of things,we can work through the feelings of loss, and be able to embrace the other part of a miscarriage: the birth.
There’s this bizarre thing about a miscarriage: it seems to be all in the wrong order. Usually, we get born, then sometime later, we die. What happened for me was that part of me died, then I waited for it to get born. Somewhere in this uncharted emotional territory, I found a new life.
Have you found a way to get a new meaning from your experience with the loss of a baby?
Andrea Naveena Valley is mom to three year old Sacha and works as a Massage Therapist and Coach. Before Sacha, she was a documentary photographer and taught yoga for many years, and she is still fiercely devoted to her daily practice. She is passionate about all things home birth and continuum parenting, enjoys biking, and loves to grow vegetables in the garden and experiment with fermented foods. Her mantra: Laugh at your limits–Redefine what’s possible. Connect with her at email@example.com
That’s a great question – here’s my answer.
There are 5 different types of people that would benefit from buying my ebook. You could be one of them. See below.
#1: You’re curious about home birth. On the fence.
#2: You’re pregnant and planning a home birth.
#3: Midwives & doulas.
#4: Childbirth Instructors.
#5: Last but not least, this ebook is a great gift to friends.
I truly believe it can help a lot of families. I’m proud of the information it entails and want to share it with the birth world at large.
The 9 Steps to Home Birth Prep represents the change I want to see in the world. Writing it over the past 5 months is the way I’ve put in effort to make that change. Home birth = peaceful birth. And peaceful birth = a more peaceful world.