June 2017. Several days they should be there. Despite cramps in the lower belly, announcing their imminence, no blood flow seems to stand out; but I'm regular as clockwork. In front of my stupefaction, because it had not happened for years, I see again my mother-in-law wondering. I quickly ruled out the hypothesis of pregnancy: no, I was not pregnant. Although, last time, at the end of our union, we had felt it well. A current of energy, a blue appearance, smoky but well present. In the shower, right after, you were there. I knew it. Your father, too.
Two pregnancy tests later (to be certain!), the news is confirmed, you will join us in February. I had the feeling, for two years, that 2018 would open other doors for me; now I understand.
Then came the question of support to this pregnancy as well as the birthplace I wanted: at home, followed by a midwife. I insist on this “I” because, although it is necessary to be two to transmit life, the most physically concerned person was me.
It is indeed painful for me to read testimonies of women leaving their desire to give birth at their place because their partners oppose them, due to fear and ignorance. This lack of reassessing their fear(s) leads, in most cases, to a self-effacement from the future mothers to the benefit of the fathers whose need for security comes above their initial desire.
I have the immense grace of being accompanied by a man whose inner journey leads him to question his thoughts, his beliefs on the world, at every moment, to welcome his feminine part and to recognize fear for what it is: irrational, a space from which we ask the vast majority of our choices; fear is the opposite of love, of Life. Because we do not think of dangerous birth – a widespread belief in our Western societies – or that it requires hospitalization, our positioning was, from the beginning, different. I hear the argument that the number of women and newborns who died during and after childbirth shows that they are not anodine events free of any risk; indeed they are not. But... nothing in life is free from any risk: nothing. Crossing the street can also lead us to get knocked down by a car and die.
Do we have to stay locked in our home - potentially risking a domestic accident - or get all out in armor, just in case? The zero risk does not exist, although everything is being implemented to reach it, all areas confused, just as there is not yet a vaccine to protect itself from life and its “eventualities” (to which I do not believe).
For our mind, which wishes to control everything and to overcome any risk, this reality is difficult to accept.
For my part, the idea of giving birth in the hospital, a place of care for sick people, found no resonance and appeared to me as strange, although it is the norm in France (99%). It was not a matter of excluding with a wave of the hand the progress that the medicalization of childbirth may have constituted, when it turned to be a real butchery at home, not only in deplorable hygienic conditions but also with accompanying person(s) who are not (even in-) convenient. The hospital can provide real or even vital assistance in special situations: placenta praevia, premature births, etc.
However, the vast majority of pregnancies take place without incidents or complications and could lead to births, if not at home, at least in other structures (including birth houses) as it is the case in Switzerland, Belgium, Canada...
Unfortunately, I became aware of the almost absence of alternatives to birth in maternity ward in our country, especially when we live in the countryside. I wonder about this generalization of childbirth in the hospital, which I deplore even more because many women have the desire to give birth differently.
The childbirth setting in the hospital structure repelled me, obstetrical practices revolted me. In a time of the omnipotence of scientific rationalism, it seems that obstetrics resist, again and again, to the law of gravity... Because yes, the position of birth imposed on women has not evolved since Louis XIV and thus, entire generations have given birth lying down, in the dorsal deubitus posture. By inquiring about the world of birth, we have learned that a labour, according to the hospital protocols, must indeed take place in the same way for all women, and this, in a given time. I then became aware of the synthetic ocytocin - injected to accelerate the work, making it much more painful and leading to the request of the epidural to relieve from the barely livable artificial contractions -, episiotomies without consent and/or comfort (especially for a first birth), the caesareans at the much higher rate than recommended by the WHO, certainly because they are more profitable (and quicker) than vaginal deliveries,... Freedom of speech around birth for women led to the publication of numerous testimonies and stories that I, most of the time, struggled to finish reading.
“Don’t read that” they told me while I was pregnant, “it’s horrible.” Yes, it’s horrible... Even more when it comes to birth and yet, it takes place every day in hospitals. Fortunately, all deliveries do not take place in this way.
But in case of repatriation to the maternity ward, I preferred to be informed in order to be able to get into position.
Giving birth to the hospital meant mainly for me to be deprived of my power and infantilized. I was not particularly reassured by the presence of hospital staff, not that I question their skills, but I already felt the need for for privacy and loneliness during delivery. I could not imagine your arrival in the somewhat morbid setting of a hospital room: bright lights, white coats, plastic gloves, metal instruments.
No one wants to die in the hospital. Have we ever wondered if anyone wanted to be born there? Honestly, and if fear did not guide our answer, no one would like it.
No human wants to leave his mother’s belly to be welcomed by foreign hands with the plastic contact he knows nothing about. No human dream of opening his eyes under artificial lights, of being manipulated, stretched, measured, weighed, cleaned and put in incubator, alone and far from the contact of the woman who carried him. No, no human wants to be born in such conditions. and, whatever we say about it - being consensual is no longer up-to-date - no human wants to be born in violence.
The idea of a group of foreign people working around me was therefore difficult to bear, moreover who would “direct the operations” and, because of their training certainly, would be struggling not to take action in the natural process of childbirth – ah the joys of ego.
Do you need someone to tell you when to push when you're in the bathroom? No. That’s what I was thinking. So, be nice, let my body do, it knows better than anyone.
The imposed childbirth position was also a major brake, as was the prohibition of eating, drinking, going to the toilet alone. I wanted to be completely free in my movements and that no medication, which is not absolutely necessary, would be administered to me (for the release of the placenta, for example), epidural included.
Not because I love pain - this request is often perceived as a return to the Middle Ages by anesthetists – but I wanted to be in full capacity, especially physical but also psychic, to keep a constant connection with you and my intuition. I also knew that the recovery time would be less for both of us without analgetic intervention and the setting up of breastfeeding eased.
The medical context was thus clearly not the most indicated and, as surprising as it may seem, it generated more anxiety and frustration that it did not secure me, besides not agreeing to our vision of birth, and life by extension.
Giving birth at home, it was an evidence, the question did not even ask itself. We then focused our research on a midwife accompanying births at home, i.e. less than 60 in total on the whole territory, the France counting only about one percent of births at home (compared to 16% in 2016 in the Netherlands). The hunt for witches they are subjected to, working without professional insurance because of an exorbitant annual cost, does not really encourage to defend the cause of physiological birth. The resistant ones are rare and precious. No one in our department (22) ; luckily, the neighbor (35) had several, the closest to us was about 60 kilometers away and agreed to follow us.
When we announced this project, we suspected that it would provoke fear but it would not disturb us. In front of each situation generating emotion, it is in the story of each one, their projections did not concern us in any way. Still in the 19th century, the prejudices on giving birth at home are tenacious, it is necessary to replace things in the context of the time. Many studies, carried out for the most part abroad, show that giving birth at home does not lead to more deaths than in hospital structures but mainly reduces possible interventions and complications (e.g. episiotomies, tears, bleeding ...).
Here we have a go for an assisted home birth. The appointments with the midwife come one after another, each month, and go well. We discuss a lot, a long time in order to create a mutual trust relationship. I appreciate the gentleness and respect that she shows me, not forcing me to any action that is not fully consented. You are very receptive when she puts her hands on my stomach. Every visit, we listen, impressed, your little galloping heart. When an adult, who observes the same rhythm, would have a heart attack, you are growing up at an incredible speed. You are in full shape and confirm this observation with many kicks. This first pregnancy, from a medical point of view, unfolds perfectly well. Inside, I feel serene, away from the emotional rollercoasters assigned to pregnant women. At six months, always in the dynamics of the farmhouse renovation, I am still perched on the stepladder and realizes the lime-hemp coatings of the walls of the outbuilding in which we will welcome you.
A month later, it is time to start resting and keeping energy for the rest, my body and you, make me feeling it. The seventh month is physically more painful, I willingly make up with plum juice – that takes the cake for someone from Agen. The acid refluxes and nocturnal itches add a bit of spices (no bad pun) to this definitely too peaceful pregnancy. After three weeks of exhaustion, a surge of energy takes place and intensifies during the last two months. I hurry to finish the wool blanket started during this pregnancy, which led me to start knitting as well as diving back into the pleasure of reading, paradoxically cut since my degree of French Language and Literature.
The books dedicated to physiological birth, labour and breastfeeding pile up on the coffee table of the living room. One of them, bought during the eighth month, was going to be the reminder I needed, the one who would bing me back together with my inner voice and make me take the plunge. While I was browsing the last pages with emotion, the beauty of incarnation came out in the face. I have once again lived the unique space-time, which created itself during delivery, from the arrival to the world of a soul. At this moment, the pressing need for privacy, to be alone, with your father and you, was vital. The three of us, that's all. I was living, in all my being, the presence of a “foreigner” as an invasion. This presence, I knew, would annihilate my ability to evade to this parallel interval, to switch into a necessary modified state of consciousness and offered during this unique moment. I could no longer consider a single second to be monitored, interrupted by regular checks during the labour (checking the cervix expansion, listening to the baby’s heart, etc.). Nor did I imagine, during the action, that the first physical contact you receive is not the one of your father or mine. I did not dare to admit, but this awareness ended the initial project.
Life works, the events come along at just the right time. The very close deadline of your birth forced me to take a decision quickly. The midwife had to come in less than a week to prepare the house at best for the D-day, two appointments to the maternity ward (which I had voluntarily postponed at the latest possible) for the mandatory opening of my file were also scheduled during the week: one with an anesthesist, the other with a gynaecologist. They proved to be decisive in my choice of giving birth alone because I had no desire to finish my pregnancy by two hospital consultations and because I was indeed certain that I would not go to maternity ward.
I did not wish to have to compromise on the conditions under which I wanted to give birth or to have, eventually, to justify myself as for the refusal of the epidural or vaginal touch as it had been announced to me by my midwife. Also accepting new blood tests prescribed in addition to those already realized each month was to participate, despite me, in the inspection by the maternity ward of the good work of my liberal midwife.
This process of giving birth at home, however less medicalized compared to a “classical” follow-up in maternity ward, turned out to be too much for me: the monthly blood tests for toxoplasmosis, the iron level, proteins in the urine, the sugar level (thank you to my midwife for having spared me the test of gestational diabetes), the test of B streptoccalus had to be absolutely negative to avoid the drip of a medicine during the labour (efficient to 5% to the maximum) and compromising the birth at home if positive, "resisting" until the 38th week of amenorrhea (to give birth before that is considered like premature and means impossibility to give birth at home).
I sized up the pressure of giving birth at home – the liberal midwives proposing it seek to cover themselves to the maximum, which I understand – the relief felt at each criterion for the feasibility of the project.
During the last meeting with the midwife, we came out with a bag containing a catheter, bottles to perfuse me in case of hemorrhage, a protocol if there is premature rupture of the amniotic sac, prescriptions. I no longer wanted all these precautions, to experience moments of hesitation, anxiogenous, punctuated with "and if" and "in case" while I knew everything would go for the best. I aspired to peace, calm, even more in this end of pregnancy.
I have had the opportunity to understand and experience where faith can lead when it is firmly established. We believe to see the world as it is, we understand gradually that it is only the reflection of our projections, it appears to us through our personal prism. Hell only exists in our head; we create the conditions of our experience at every moment that passes. Feeling fear helps to put in place "physically" the events that will respond to this emotion and comfort it. Life would express itself, inevitably in its accuracy, I did not doubt for a single moment. I wondered what today means to live a “natural” pregnancy in the West. A pregnancy in which the life that is taking place is celebrated, the faith in the the mother and the child to go to the end of this unstilled adventure, the beauty of this gift and its glorified power... The appointments with Karine, my acupuncturist, practitioner in traditional Chinese medicine, specialized in gynaecological follow-up and pregnancy in Saint-Malo, offered me the reenchanting and reconnecting gateways I needed, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
From the moment I listened to myself, made the decisions that made sense and sounded true for me, I have the feeling of having tend towards it.
Giving birth alone at home is a choice.
Giving birth in a maternity ward is another.
A choice is, by definition, extreme.
Giving birth alone is not a more extreme decision than giving life in a hospital.
That it be a uncommon decision in France, certainly, but it must be respected and heard.
I'll always remember our phone conversation with my midwife. It was a delicate moment for both. I think I can say that we have a sincere sympathy, which has been maintained for months. I felt guilty of questioning the project only a few days from her visit to the house. I told her of my will to be alone during the labour and asked her whether she agreed to come once it would be finished (it would have been legally covered two hours later, I didn’t knowit at that time), which she said no, she wanted to be here throughout the process. This idea is no longer possible for us, I then told her that we were ending this process. I was sorry to hear her concern and feel her disappointment. She remained at our disposal if we decided to return to our choice. I knew it wouldn't be the case. When we hung up, one part of me was feeling dizzy, another one felt an immense relief, the ease of being finally in line with what we wanted since the beginning for your birth.
Nine months of internal journey, welcoming my fears, questioning them – an immense gratitude for the “work” of Byron Katie, which enabled me to overcome the very specific fear of a hemorrhage of the third stage of labour and ultimately led me to question my relationship to the women of my family.
And... came the day when you arrived on February 8. You had whispered it to me when I went through the calendar. Seven extra kilos of life, eleven days before the date of the announced term, the time of the plunge, without a lifebelt. 2h35 in the morning: a very strong contraction made me jump from the bed, the first of a long series. A few times before, I was still wondering about what a “real” contraction looked like... The twelve hours that followed enabled me to experience it concretely! As strange as it may seem, I had never really thought about the time of delivery. The only certainty I had was that I will not master anything, that the best of the options remained the one of welcoming what would be happening, not fighting. So, the pain, this exhausting pain, did not turn into suffering. The last six hours, with very close contractions (ranges of less than ten minutes) did not leave me much break. I went through a phase of despair. I asked your father to do something, so that this pain will stop. At the time, I understood why women ask for the epidural and thought about the relief it would give me. But I also knew the experience it would have deprived me of.
A childbirth is also the opportunity offered for every woman to be born a second time. Few moments offer such a sharpness of Truth. What a face to face with Yourself, what Power...
During the labour, I opened my eyes and found myself in the middle of a huge tipi in the center of which a great fire was created. 13 grandmothers, sitting in a circle, sang. My mother-in-law, the only one we had warned of our project, also appeared and smiled at me. From time to time, at night, I still hear this song resonating. Just like I see Ritodgata again, our Keralais monk friend, appearing in the middle of the journey, sitting, eyes closed, showing me how to welcome these waves and breathe.
It is funny to realize that here, in this culture, I would be treated like a madperson with crazy visions, while, in another culture, I would be a shaman.
A travel out of the body, this childbirth was also an accelerated therapy. Flashes of my childhood were presented to me; the beings who had crossed my path, came along for a while, all were marching in front of my eyes and disappearing. In peace and quiet, my inner child looked at them, dressed her wounds and completed her bereavement. To offer you the place you would need, I had to free up space.
Around 2pm, exthausted, and despite the many contractions of the previous hours, my cervix was still not open, the mucous plug still in place. We thought it was a false labour. It was not the case. I then began to lose blood. The cervix is working, I said to myself. I remember turning to your father and asking him: “What if the baby dies? If I die too?" We already had approached the issue, but it was important for me to ask it again. He quietly asked me: “Are you in peace if this happens?”. We exchanged a look and I told him that I was, yes. I became aware of the dimension of our exchange and thanked our journey for enabling us to taste, as a couple, a space of Freedom of such intensity... Without limit, where the Being shines in his Divinity, without fear and without conditioning.
I, then, naturally adopted the position in which I felt comfortable, on my knees, straightened but with my elbows to the drum stool. To be born between a harp and a drum, it predicts a life filled with music! Well positionned, I felt you less and less moving and asked you how you were going. A great inner calm settled, a silence. I heard you telling me that everything was fine. In less than two hours, everything then collapsed: loss of the plug, my cervix dilates completely. I feel you're going down and... surprise, the amniotic sac starts to get out, in one piece. A small purse still containing the amniotic fluid. To think that we talked about the babies born with the caul (sign of a lucky life) with the midwife during one of our appointments. You would certainly have been if your father and I hadn’t made the choice to drill it before your release, in order to observe the color of the liquid, which was light. Your head then got moved, your father just had time to see your hair, a “thrust” and you swiped in his open hands, ready to welcome you. After a few moments where I find my breath back, I turn over and meet, "my" son, your blue, deep and wise look. Little man, as you had shown me, in a dream.
You open your eyes in front of the window that overlooks our little wood, tinted with golden light at this afternoon hour.
You offer us the Eternity in the present moment, remind us of it; You come, without a shout or a cry, radiant of peace.
Your grandmother will meet us an hour later, your father and I wanted her to be there to burn your cord with us. She will infuse me the energy I needed, putting her hands on my belly, in order to expel the placenta, an hour and a half later. It will fall into her hands, from which the nickname of placenta grandmother who will accompany her for a long time! I engaged in a private prayer when I saw it and blessed it. The only ephemeral organ of the body, he fed you for nine months and will continue to accompany you with care (homeopathic granules). A comforting shower while your father and you are in bed, squeezed against each other, before coming to join you and put you against my breast. A gluttonous and tonic suckling, the breastfeeding is launched. Nineteen months later, it's still going on wonderfully. Your father realizes prints of the placenta on large sheets, one of them will be hung in your room. Your grandmother chose one of them, as a souvenir.
Until today we have not seen my midwife. A photo of you, taken the day after your birth, and a small word of thanks have joined the ones of the births, which inhabit her office. A meeting two months after your birth was scheduled but cancelled from her part a few days before. To see us again seemed difficult for her. If she reads this text, I know she will recognize herself, I would like to thank her again for her support. She may not share my point of view, worrying about the medical aspect and the potential risk, but she helped me get back to my inner temple, listen to my voice, and for that, thank you very much. The highest idea that I have of the “work” of a guide, whatever it is, is precisely the one that results in the recovery of the power and the autonomy of the accompanied person. As a wink, you were born on the day of her celebration.
I thank this life, which led me to choose the experience of Birth as I design it. A childbirth lasts little time, compared to nine months of sharing in the same body and yet, it permanently marks the path of the unborn child. Let us strive for the end of it in Love and Peace, without violence, this odyssey which (re) begins.
I thank this body. At the time of your head’s passage, I was in communion with the women of the world who gave birth in that moment. We were only One.
Thank you, my body; As for billions of women throughout the world, you have this wisdom of creation, asking only to express yourself in the freedom and intimacy of the Being.
I bow to the mystery of Life.
Your father was occured with this sentence while you arrived: "Life works in itself, and for itself."
Saül, if you want to remember, ask your grandmother one day to tell you this moment.
She will testify to this immense Peace that reigned and whose room was impregnated.
Up above and here were no longer separated.
The same morning, watching the sun rise, a parenthesis after days of rain, I remember saying, “What a wonderful day to come to the world.”
Discover Margot, her universe and her book here