The most empowering, humanizing experience of my life happened on a steamy Florida July afternoon when I gave birth to my daughter, Ana. She was born in our home with me squatting, holding onto our bedpost, pushing with every ounce of strength left in me after ten-and-a-half hours of labor. She was swooped up by the very capable hands of one of our two midwives, wiped off and placed on my chest. She soon began her first tentative attempts to nurse and I fell in love in a way I had not experienced before. I felt like I grew a second heart to hold all the love that swelled to overflowing in just a moment’s time with the first look into her face where I saw my father’s and my own face reflected back at me. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I hadn’t even thought about the need for pain medications or medical intervention.
I knew I wanted to be a mom from a young age. I’ve always been, and still am, drawn to
children and animals. The idea of a home birth evolved over time. Fresh out of college, unable to get a job teaching, I started work as a nurse’s aid. Some of the things I saw and heard made me very afraid of a hospital stay. I met a friend whose partner was planning a home birth and the idea began to sprout. I read everything I could find about the history of natural childbirth, which was limited to the library and the few people I could find to talk to that didn’t think I was being extremely reckless and crazy.
Since I can remember, I’ve been a strong-willed, independent thinker who could care less about convention. My dear mother was often aghast at what would come out of my mouth. I became a vegetarian before it was fashionable and learned to ask my body what it needed. I began to look at my body as something designed to carry and deliver a child. I trained my body like an Olympic athlete. I trained my mind to turn fear of pain or negative consequences to thoughts of my body doing what it was designed to do. I saw an obstetrician during my first and last trimester and was regularly monitored by a team of highly experienced lay midwives. If there were any indications of potential problems, I knew I would deliver in a hospital. My husband was a first generation Italian who, along with much of his neighborhood growing up, had been born at home. I knew the risks and responsibilities.
I’ve had many amazing experiences in my life that have moved me to tears of joy or
wonder, but nothing remotely compared to the euphoria I felt when giving birth to Ana. I grew a third heart to hold all the love I have for her sister, Laura, born at home 3 years later. I still have room to grow several more if I’m fortunate enough to have grandchildren.
Although I didn’t experience an orgasmic birth, it was painful and intense, but nearly 30 years later I still feel like Wonder Woman.