We are so grateful to have a third child, as of Wednesday night. Having Hana was really different from labour with Noah and Eli. For about 3 weeks I had very real labour pains at night, on and off. They were painful. I felt like an idiot every time I thought they were real. I called in the midwife once, and she sat there until she figured out I wasn't really in labour. She said it was common with third babies. Then her due date came... and went... I visited a chiropractor and tried homeopathic remedies. It was quite new for me to be seriously considering whether we needed to induce, and whether I agreed with current guidelines on going post 41 and 42 weeks. I had to decide how I thought about respecting the recommendations when the relationships between midwives and backup hospitals depends on some degree of adherence to those recommendations (and in the relatively unusual event that a low-risk pregnancy needs to be transferred to hospital, it's really important that midwives have admitting privileges and a way to get women seen).
In the long wait for the birth, I read a lot of birth stories and I guess what I took away from them was that birth is scary because we lack control over so much of it. Some people try to control it by having an elective c-section, medical induction, or going with the wishes of their Ob/gyn, even though their ob is not necessarily acting in their patients' best interests (yes, i'm going all political-- 70% c-section rates in private hospitals in South Africa demands at least some comment!). Others try to control birth by deciding that no matter what happens, they'll give birth naturally, at home. And I guess most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes, weighing our choices as best we can. I'm super grateful for the Ob/gyns who step in the 10% of the time when birth can be dangerous or deadly, even as I believe that giving birth without intervention seems to be better for women's health in most cases. And for what it's worth, I share a bit about each of my children's births because I think it's challenging to identify with vaginal delivery as normal and safe, when all our middle-class South African friends have had c-sections. So I want to be that one friend who had three normal vaginal deliveries, and who can you point towards the crowd of others who also did if you want me to. I do not share because my abstract beliefs about birth are important in our relationships or judgements about our common experience of motherhood, or because I think these are moral choices.
In the end, I felt lucky. With some natural and less natural induction methods, she came without the need to be induced in the hospital. In fact, she was an unintentional freebirth (yes, there's a name for it), as I was waiting until the boys went to sleep before I called the doula and midwife (and I wanted to be super sure I didn't call them too early), but by that time I was ready to push Hana out. (The doula made it just in time, but not the midwife-- our wonderful doula helped capably with the only potential issue, the cord around Hana's neck).
Those of us on the hippie spectrum risk romanticising labour and birth, when it's ultimately-- in my experience at least-- extraordinarily painful and messy-- and such a tiny part of parenting. And beautiful and lovely and intimate and bonding. But did I mention extraordinarily painful and messy? So I guess I'm totally excited to have had another healthy birth, and I would love to support women in choosing to give birth at home naturally. Allowing our bodies to control us-- albeit briefly-- is extraordinarily powerful. It's a wonderful way to welcome a new life. But I have a renewed awareness that we-- our conscious selves, at least-- have markedly little control over the process, even when we embrace our own ability to birth. Otherwise I would have waited for the midwife.