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What an Amazing Gift!
by Laura Menningen

Merrilee and siblingsWhen my husband and I found out that we were expecting our seventh child, I knew that I needed to look into a planned homebirth with a midwife. Our fourth child was born at home into my husband’s hands after a very fast labor. Although our baby and I were just fine, it made me a little nervous to think that I could go into labor and the baby could be born anywhere. In order to retain some control over where our next babies were born, our next two babies were born in the hospital after a scheduled induction. During those experiences, I saw how far we had strayed from our desire for a normal, natural birth. Although I was able to endure those births without receiving medication, the pain and the isolation I felt as I was confined to the bed with a fetal monitor and an IV, was almost unbearable. I knew that I could not do that again. As Providence would have it, the month before we learned that I was pregnant with our seventh child, I was invited to a screening of The Business of Being Born. That amazing documentary gave me the inspiration and the courage to consider a planned homebirth with a midwife.

I “found” Jane and Christie after doing an internet search for midwives in Central Wisconsin, and I called to set up a consultation with them. From the first moment I stepped into their office at In The Beginning, I knew that I had met my midwife. It all just felt so right – from the calm manner with which they greeted me, to the quilt on the bed and the books on the shelves – and I knew that I could trust them to oversee my pregnancy and the birth of my baby. In all of my experiences before, I had never hugged my doctor after the appointment, and I had never looked forward to the next visit. That was just the beginning of all of the changes that would take place that would result in the birth of our daughter, Merrilee, being reborn into the normal, natural birth that we had wanted to achieve.

I loved being able to make preparations for this birth. I researched about waterbirth, got to choose my outfit, and plan the menu for our snacks. But best of all, I knew that the people around me would be ones whom I loved and trusted, and who loved and cared for me, too. My labor began slowly on November 1st. All day long, I had about one good contraction an hour. By 9:00 that night, they were coming about every 20 minutes, and I called Jane to let her know. Jane and Christie arrived at our house at about 11:00, and by that time, we had the birth pool set up, candles lit, and a fire going in the fireplace. The mood was set for a calm, peaceful, natural birth.

My husband would say that the events that followed were pretty boring, but for me they were wonderful. My labor progressed slowly but steadily for the next six hours. I kept waiting for labor to get hard and unbearable, but that never happened. I guess my memories of the pitocin-induced, Merrileeaccelerating freight train kind of contractions kept me from expecting that labor could be a joyous time. I got to spend that night in the company of friends, and I enjoyed talking with them, and sharing snacks and drinks with them. In my previous birth experiences (especially the inductions), I would get through the hard contractions by using visualization. I would mentally check out and imagine myself somewhere else. I didn’t need to check out at all during this labor. I got to enjoy where I was at the present, and didn’t desire to be any other place. When I felt contractions come on, it was just a sensation of my body opening to welcome the birth of our little girl.It was really wonderful. Only at the very end of my labor, would I say that I felt any pain. I labored in the pool a couple times during the night, but I was “on land” when I started to feel the urge to push. I realized that more than anything, I wanted to feel the support of my husband, to lean against him and have his arms around me when our baby entered the world – so we moved over to the futon that was also set up as an optional birth bed.

I had told Christie earlier that one of the things I wanted to try to avoid with a home birth was the sense of emergency that I felt with our hospital births. Even though I was able to go through labor in a dim, quiet room at the hospital, when labor hit second stage, all things would change. The lights would get brighter, the voices louder, the doctor would give orders, and the nurses would rush to quickly transform the labor bed into a birth bed, and uncover all of the emergency equipment that had been previously covered up. It made me feel like crying. In contrast, when I reached second stage with Merrilee’s birth, nothing changed. The room remained calm and peaceful, the lighting soft with the glow from the fireplace. After a few pushes, our little girl was born. Jane handed her up to me right away with a blessing of, “Welcome to the world, Merrilee.” I got to hold and nurse my daughter right away, and just kind of melted into that blissful moment. After about an hour, I handed Merrilee off to be examined, and when I looked up, everything was taken care of. Almost without my realizing it, everything was cleaned up, the birth supplies were packed up, and the pool was emptied and put away. I was left to relax and enjoy being a new mom again.

I received so many wonderful gifts during my whole pregnancy and birth experience. I couldn’t have wished for anything better. I loved getting to know Jane and Christie through this process, and felt that we mutually cared for and respected each other. When I went back to see Jane for my six week post partum visit, I told her that knowing her was dangerous for the population of the world. I found myself thinking about getting pregnant again, because I wanted to relive that beautiful time. I feel truly blessed.

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