Home Birth: Some Natural, Everyday Miracles (Part 2)

Last post, I delved into some naturally occurring acts of beauty that we may not have been able to witness had we not birthed our Baby Ray at home — (1) my role as a primal, instinctual birthing woman, (2) our healed placenta, and (3) our calm and alert baby.  I think I could list and list what was most beautiful to me, but I’ll sum up the topic with just three more:

4. The breast crawl

Two years ago, I read Rachel’s blog post on something called the breast crawl, saw the video of a baby independently searching out her mother’s breast, and was in awe.  My response, which you can see in her comments, was that I’d like to witness the breast crawl someday.  I thought it was beautiful, but to be honest, I wasn’t really meaning me and my baby.  (Why do we tell ourselves these lies?  As if we can’t experience something beautiful and normal?  As if we are the exception?)

As I envisioned our post-birth meeting, I knew I wanted slow, sweet, quiet time with our baby.  I knew I wanted to take my time birthing the placenta and cutting the umbilical cord.  My midwife’s practices assured me that Ray wasn’t going to be whisked away to be examined or weighed.  I knew I wanted to breastfeed him in the early moments of his life, and though the images from the breast crawl video were still fresh in my mind, I think I still didn’t have the guts to claim it for ourselves.

There we were, still soaking in the birth tub, me cooing sweet nothings to my newest boy.  I had bared my breasts, inviting him to show interest.  And then there they were — strong tiny feet digging into me, a nose smelling for milk, open mouth rooting around for what it knows it wants.  And breast in mouth, baby rests, happy in the fulfillment of what he was searching for.  Perfect latch.  There is a picture of me, elated and gazing at my wise suckling.

Oh, I wasn’t as patient and uninvolved as the woman in the video.  I put Ray in the area of my breasts, probably wiggled my torso around to help him a bit.  But he led the charge.  He did that lovely breast crawl, as if it’s just what he had been rehearsing for the past five months.

Seeing my baby, all bright-eyed and smart that first evening reemphasized the ideas I’d been ruminating about feeding him at his demand.  It’s hard to break schedules, hard to stop watching the clock as a breastfeeding mama.  But I think seeing the miracle of the breast crawl helped me to be a dispenser of grace when it comes to breastfeeding.  I’m no ten-minutes-here, ten-minutes-there, must-be-every-two-hours feeder anymore.  When Ray is suckling for ten second bursts and taking breaks to gaze around the room, I just have to smile down at him and let him enjoy the evening.  I’m starting to figure he may know a good bit as much as his mama.

5. The hormone cocktail

I didn’t make up that phrase hormone cocktail, by the way.  (I think it was French surgeon and natural birth advocate Michel Odent.)  But I love it because a nice smooth drink to make me happy is a pretty great comparison to the rush of hormones that flood over a naturally birthing mother.

Labour and birth involve peak levels of the hormones oxytocin, sometimes called the hormone of love, and prolactin – the mothering hormone. These two hormones are perhaps best known for their role in breastfeeding. As well as these, beta-endorphinthe body’s natural pain-killer, and the fight-or-flight hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine) play an important part in the birth process. There are many more hormonal influences on birth that are not well understood.

I couldn’t begin to explain the intricacies of the hormones that lead a woman to seek privacy, or that fill her with intense affection for her newly born baby.  Sarah Buckley’s article “Pain in Labour: Your hormones are your helpers”, quoted above, speaks volumes, though.

What I can attest to is that they work, and that they are in rich supply when alternative medications don’t interrupt their natural flow.  Oxytocin, prolactin, God? — something bound my heart good and tightly to Ray’s during those first few moments with him, and I’ve been a bit of a fierce mama bear since, even going on five weeks.  You want to take my baby from me, even just into the next room?  You better watch out for some claws.

6. The amazing, transformed house

Okay, so I’m kind of just putting this one in for extra credit.  Let me tell you, though, it was pretty amazing how the towels and the birthing tub completely disappeared while Kyle and I slept in our bed with Baby Ray in those wee hours of the morning, so that all that was left was our family and a cozy house to snuggle up in.  Rachel and Brenda drained the tub, deflated it, did laundry.  Rachel cooked us the pancakes I requested as a morning gift.  Let me just say: giving birth makes you so hungry!

And then came the next shift — my beautiful mom, who stepped right into her perfect role making us more wonderful food, playing with our boys, letting us sleep, loving us to the rhythm of the washing machine.  She doesn’t know this (until now), but if we had had a baby girl, that sweet baby was going to be named after her — a woman of strength and grace.

In the days that followed, the love that spilled over from our birth families and our church family was the kind that enable miracles way bigger than the transformed house.  Because in the end, I realize giving birth isn’t just about a woman and a baby.  It’s about the village around her — the people who speak encouraging words and empower her to step out of what’s culturally accepted into something raw and real.  I had a downpour of that love, and I can only say thank you.  My people nurtured me and gave me strength, and out of that… life.  That is the biggest miracle of them all.

    • carmen classen
    • September 19th, 2011

    These are SUCH BEAUTIFUL POSTS! Thanks for sharing. While I didn’t talk to you at church yesterday, I did love seeing Ray snuggled up against you and just imagining how nurturing these first weeks have been.

  1. Thanks for sharing Carrie! Love your story. If we would have another sweet baby… I think we would give a home birth a try. I love the sweet peace and joy that surrounds your story . 🙂

  2. I am a friend of Brandy Beyer (who sent me this blog)…loving it! We are planning a homebirth for the spring…will be number 2. We had a full-on medicated hospital birth with number 1, so this is uncharted territory for us. These stories make me smile & pile on additional peace about our decision to home birth. Curious, how long did it take for Ray to find your breast & latch on the breast crawl? Thanks!

      • clbeyer
      • December 6th, 2011

      Hi, Carol! I’m glad you enjoyed the home birth posts! I wasn’t really tracking time, but I think Ray found my breast within 5 minutes. I think it’s not at all a problem if a baby takes longer, though.

  1. September 27th, 2011
  2. October 6th, 2011

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