I love being black. I do. I thank God for all of my cultural idiosyncrasies and inherent Africanisms. I’m proud of who I am and the people I come from. It’s an honor to be born into a race of folks whose creativity and intellect and power helped shape the world as we know it.
But that being said, I can’t hop on this bandwagon that homebirth brings black women closer to our African heritage. I’ll immerse myself in a native language, I’ll shell out a few grand to fly to the mother continent and trace my Guinean roots. Heck, I’ve already dedicated thousands of dollars and thousands more hours studying our history for a master’s degree in African-American studies.
But if and when I ever find myself pregnant again, I’ll have my baby in a hospital, thank you very much. If something goes haywire — Lord forbid — I want all the bells and whistles of modern science by my side to save me or my child.
The beautiful experience, for me, has been raising my firstborn. Having her was just an ends to a means. So when I went into labor, I wasn’t expecting a fluffy, ethereal transition from big-bellied pregnant woman to newborn-cuddling mother like the ladies in the homebirth video suggest. I didn’t want to commune with the birthing process or revel in the sensation of throbbing contractions. I just wanted to pop that bad boy (well, actually girl) out and get it over with.
I agree that we come from a society that likes to overtreat and overmedicate us for every bitty thing. But most of Black women’s issues lie not in the hospitalization during labor, but the health risks we suffer leading up to childbirth. Our foremothers may have been able to stretch out in their homes with a supportive doula by their sides, but they also weren’t battling external stressors like money and relationships and health care and family medical leave and jobs and transportation issues. It was a different, simpler world.
I’m not knocking natural birth. I had my daughter naturally, though I had her in a delivery room, not in the comforts of our house. I didn’t pop so much as a Tylenol before she made her grand debut. That was always the plan, way before I went into labor.
But Lord have mercy, by the time we were in the car and my mother was driving like one of the Dukes of Hazzard through the city and I started getting that feeling like I needed to bear down and we finally pulled up in front of the ER and they plopped me into a wheelchair, all I could say was one word: medicine.
That’s right, dammit. I gave up on the notion to be natural. More than 16 hours of contractions pimp slapped my lofty idea of an unmedicated birth right down the tubes.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I was too far along to get any kind of pain relief. Miss Almost Born was crowning even as I laid down on the delivery table, so much so that it only took three pushes in 15 minutes to bring her brand new cuteness out into the world. She was healthy, she was safe, and she was perfect.
It could’ve been different. Complications crop up all the time in the natural process of having a child. And though I don’t discredit the wisdom and ability of a doula to do what a doula does or a midwife to do what a midwife does, folks go to medical school for a reason and learn things you and I and madame doula and midwife wouldn’t begin to know because that’s not our training.
When it comes to bringing my baby into this side of life, I want it done as safely as possible. The moments when things go wrong are precious. I want someone there who knows how to handle them. Like right there. In the room, not a hop-in-the-car or cab ride away. I can’t think of a better way to honor the ancestors than to bring a healthy great-grandchild out to live the legacy.
So sisters, I know there’s a trend in the natural childbirth revolution among black women choosing to have their kids as far away from hospitals as possible. I’m usually I’m on board with any movement that brings us closer to our roots. But this is one I’m going to have to pass on. For my own peace of mind and the safety of my yet-born, not-even-conceived child.
Would you consider having a natural childbirth at home?
Image via cheriejoyful/Flickr