A major learning moment in my life was the birth of our son, Talib. The challenge I faced was in taking his birth into my own hands. Rather than relinquish all or most of my power to doctors and a medical staff, as we are taught to do, I chose to carry and birth him in a way that was empowering for us all. My husband and birth team, which included my twin sister and one of my best friends, were super supportive along the way.
The mistake I made, if I can call it that, was that I chose to tell everyone of my plans to switch from a hospital to a home birth. Immediately, many people started projecting their many fears onto my plans. "What if something goes wrong?", "What if you need emergency medical care?", "What if, what if what if?". Being a professor of Women's and Gender Studies, I've taught classes on the transformation of birth into a business. I guide students along a historical breakdown of how birthing became both a huge profit-generating venture, and it also helped to keep women in check. In the US, at the turn of the 20th century, the medical field was transformed in a male-dominated domain, with women serving as side-kicks within the nursing profession. And, as expected, this was a white terrain that made little to no space for people of color and/or ethnic immigrants. So I understood why, in the 21st century, a home birth would be viewed as a risk and, for some, a neglectful choice to bring a child into the world. I may have understood it intellectually, but emotionally I allowed the fear to seep into my psyche and doubt my choice.
At one point I started to truly doubt my decision and retracted from my original plan. I went back to seeing a midwife associated with a hospital. I immediately started to feel as if I was betraying myself. The rushed visited, the sterile office visits, and the constant tests and studies were enough reassurance that a hospital was not where I wanted to bring our child into the world. As I do with most dilemmas in my life, I chose to pray and meditate. I consulted God and gave myself some time to let the guidance settle into my mind. I also started going deeper into research on home births and asked those who had home births to share their experiences. I spent a bulk of my pregnancy at home, reading and researching anything related to home births. Being a trained doula was definitely an advantage for me as I already had a strong theoretical background in the stages of pregnancy, birth and the post-partum period.
After some time, my husband and I to chose to go with our original desires. Most importantly, rather than share our new plans of a home birth with everyone who asked us, we were strategic and opened up about our dream birth to those who FELT like they would handle our vision with care and respect. This, if I had to chose, is THE biggest lesson I learned along the way of birthing our sun: keep your dreams close to you and share with a trusted circle of friends and family. Share more, if you choose, as the dream matures. Finally, allow the dream's fruition to be the "proof" that listening to your gut, in addition to doing your homework/research, will always lead you to higher heights.
His birth was magical, to say the least. I was home, surrounded by an amazing group of people who each played a significant role in the birth. My twin sister and best friend Debbie made sure the candles were lit, the lights were dim, and the music was soothing. They inflated the birthing tub while making sure the water's temperature matched a human's body temperature (close to 98 degrees).
My spiritual mentor, Mama Mut, held spiritual space throughout the process. Every time I opened my eyes, she was praying in front of the birth altar I had set up a few weeks before the birth. She sprayed me with florida water and chanted Kemetic hesis, or mantras, to a pantheon of birthing guides (or NTR). Our birth doula, Kyra, was amazing! At one point, she got into the shower with me, in her underwear, and applied pressure on my lower back for what seemed to be hours. Our midwife, Umaimah, is a womb priestess. She barely touched me as she wanted to make sure I was in control of the process.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, unmedicated birth could have easily been a trigger for me. Unable to "escape" the discomfort, survivors during birth often reminisce about the abuse and our inability to "escape". It can therefore lead the person to escape from their bodies so as not to feel the discomfort associated with birth. This, as proven by research, can often lead to medical interventions, including c-sections. Umaimah knew this about me and continuously reminded me to "stay in my body". She seemed to be a portal to the many women in time who had done this same exact thing.
Lastly, my husband Idris was a rock. He barely spoke, and allowed the women to dictate most of his moves. Regardless of what was going on, Idris was always next to me. He understood that his role as my male partner was to hold space and trust in our birth team. In the end, he was the one to "catch" Talib as he ascended from the tub. He cut the chord and was the first one to embrace our baby. While the birth team cleaned up the space, and the midwife helped me deliver the placenta, Idris was off in a corner cradling Talib and sobbing. What a site!
All of this was going on while my mother was in her house, praying. She was the first person I called with the news and, an hour or so later, she showed up to our house with a pot of hen soup and unconditional love for her fifth grandchild.
I'd do this all over again. This moment taught me that I could do anything I put my mind and heart into. It was one of the few times in my life where I can truly say that fear had NO place. I barely entertained the thoughts of something going wrong. I prepared for "what if", but I kept faith central to my plans. Home births are not for everyone. But for those that can, I'd recommend considering this option. Not only is it cost-effective, it also places the birthing mother and her family at the center of the process.