Expecting my first child should have been one of the happiest times in my life. But instead of blissful prenatal yoga sessions, I spent more than half of my pregnancy on bed rest, due to an “incompetent cervix.” Our obstetrician warned me that I wouldn’t be able to carry my little girl to term, and I lived in fear that the slightest movement would have dangerous consequences for my baby.
After months of tests and confusing “doctor talk,” I underwent a painful labor induction at 37 weeks due to low amniotic fluid (probably because of all of my crying!). As if that weren’t enough, my parents and OB missed out on the whole thing.
Needless to say, when I learned that number two was on the way, I was terrified at the thought of another labor. The pain of my first pregnancy was still extremely raw. I didn’t want to relive that experience, but I had no idea how I could avoid it. Once an incompetent cervix, always an incompetent cervix, right?
After watching a documentary about home birth, my husband and I decided to consider it as an alternative to revisiting the hospital. This time, we wanted more control over our birth experience. He didn’t want to be confined to visiting hours and hospital policies. I wanted the freedom to eat, move around, and dress as I pleased. For us, home was the best place to make all of that happen.
As excited as we were, we had a hard time finding others who shared our enthusiasm. We reassured our parents that women have been having babies at home for centuries and that midwives were more than capable of handling emergencies. But there was a little part of me that was uneasy. Could the woman who can barely tolerate a paper cut handle natural childbirth?
It didn’t take long for us to find a pair of local midwives who instantly made us comfortable. Their cozy office walls were lined with photos of women and their beautiful, healthy babies—all born at home. The two women reviewed my medical records, gave me the green light to keep my routine, and encouraged me to allow my body to be in control of the pregnancy. I’d already proven I could carry a baby to term.
From then on, I looked forward to my monthly appointments, which were more like therapy sessions than medical check-ups. I used the hour to vent about everything from piles of dirty laundry to painful hemorrhoids. The midwives even helped me find a pair of doulas who worked with me on natural pain management techniques.
With our team in place, there was nothing left for us to do but wait. After my due date came and went with little more than a flutter in my belly, my midwives monitored me closely but resolved to rely on my body to decide when the baby should be born. “The baby will come on his birthday,” one of them joked. I tried every natural labor-inducing tactic out there—spicy food, long walks, and acupuncture—but my little guy chose to stay inside and cook.
At the end of week 42, the big day finally arrived—with a little help from a castor oil and orange juice cocktail. We eagerly transformed our one-bedroom apartment into a first-class birthing center. We filled the pool, sliced fruit, brewed coffee, and cranked up the music. As my midwives monitored the baby’s heart rate, my doula coached me through each contraction, encouraging me to move towards the pain rather than away from it. I was surprisingly calm, clutching the side of my birth pool and envisioning myself climbing a mountain. I was encouraged to change positions often. In true dramatic fashion, Baby Aiden made his debut moments later, in the middle of my favorite quiet place at home.
My team hung around to clean up and help my son and I enjoy our first meal together. By the time my little guy had been cleaned and weighed, I was chowing down on a delicious homemade breakfast and a long-awaited cup of coffee. My daughter, who slept peacefully though most of the excitement, managed to tear herself away from Sesame Street long enough to meet her new baby brother.
I never imagined I’d give birth in my one-bedroom apartment on purpose, but I’m so proud of my family for having the courage to make Aiden’s birth what we wanted. We now have two healthy children who are as unique as the conditions under which they came into the world.
After 10 years of working in the television industry, Angela Johnson is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.