by Aja Graydon Dantzler
For some reason when you say the word homebirth, especially to black folks it conjures up some vision of an outhouse in the woods, a screaming sweating mother and an old lady holding tattered blankets with a pan of hot water. I don’t judge though because I was once that person. When I was pregnant with my first child I was new to Philadelphia and needed to find an OB/GYN. I asked my sister-in-law for a referral. She told me she had used a midwife for the birth of her son just one year prior and felt it was a great choice. It was like a foreign word to me. Midwife. So I asked her, “Well does your MIDWIFE know any good OB’s”. She told me that she was sure her midwife would not make the referral but that I should meet with her and give it a chance.
I met Judy who was also a nurse and decided I would go through with it. All my prenatal care was met at her small but cozy private practice and although she was a midwife we would deliver at the hospital. I learned so much about my body with Judy. If it hadn’t been for her I probably still wouldn’t know what my cervix looks like. She taught me to trust my body and believe that I could deliver my baby naturally without making me feel at all pressured. My delivery was smooth. She was in charge of everything and was there the entire time, not just when i began to push. I was completely sold on midwifery and knew that if I had other children I would not hesitate to come back to her.
I would surely return, as you all know but not under the circumstances I planned. When i became pregnant with my second child my husband already lost his job and we had already become Kindred The Family Soul. We had finished our first album but as artists we had no health insurance. When I returned to Judy she suggested a more economical choice would be homebirth. Another foreign word. I trusted her though. She introduced me to Iris, the women who delivered her children. I wasn’t scared. I knew I could do it. Besides Iris’s twenty plus years delivering babies along with her hippie-like disposition made me very relaxed. I’m also pretty adventurous at heart and was looking forward to a new experience. Still I couldn’t shake the outhouse in my head or everybody elses. People looked at me like a freak when I said I was having my baby at home. They would look at me like ” How rural of you” or say “Why?”. Still, we stuck to our guns and tried to remember that a pregnancy is not a sickness and doesn’t require a hospital stay.
On the day my first daughter was born. My mother and sister were in town and I didn’t have to choose between them. They could both be there, in the room. My mother in law and sisters were all there. My daughter was born into a circle of women who loved and encouraged me through it all and there was no hospital policy to stop such a beautiful thing from happening. She was born naturally with out any assistance because believe it or not uteruses existed way before epidurals and women’s bodies know how to do this. my body was free to move around without being strapped to a monitor or an IV, so I could find just the right position to birth my child. There was no outhouse, there was just an incredible birthing experience and a beautiful baby to show for it.
Of course homebirth isn’t for everyone. Midwives will not cease to encourage you to have a hospital birth if you are at risk for complications they cannot handle( and there are very few of those). But I say give it a chance. We are totally capable of doing this work (labor) so be in the most comfortable place to do it.