[Carol’s daughter Angelina did a school project which involved collecting birth stories! These are four beautiful and very distinct birth stories from across the globe, with the last baby caught by our own Carol.]
I have 4 kids, ages 14, 12, 10 years old and an 8 month old baby
Zoa (14) was born in a hospital in London (2001)-in the UK babies are delivered by midwives, so no dr was present
I had wanted to have home birth but with just moving house, and not even having a dr at 7 months pregnant I felt it was too difficult. I had been temporarily living in Tokyo for the 2nd and part of 3rd trimester.
Japan makes pregnant women have many tests and hospital visits-these can sometimes last 3 hours. They were covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI).
The hospital birth was long (23 hours) and painful; it was “back labor”. I was offered and accepted all sorts of pain relief; gas and air, pethidine, a hot bath (until the pushing was starting-I shared a room separated by curtains with three-five other women all in early stages of labor. We had a bathroom with bath tub we could take turns using. I also had my own TENs machine and eventually the pain was so bad I had an epidural.
I delivered Zoa in a separate room with just a midwife, my husband James, and a resident dr (who was just observing) present.
I’m sure I had a specific birth plan (no drugs etc etc) but the pain was unreal that whatever I could do to stop it I did!
Zoa took a while to come out and the midwife was going to get forceps to help pull her out…I remember thinking that would make my baby have a funny head, so I pushed hard and Zoa flew out…the midwife ran back to the bed in time to catch her!
I tore during the labor and the midwife had to sew me up. The epidural had worn off and the sewing hurt. The epidural actually had negative impact on my body later; I was numb or tingling on one side and it left me with a pinched (painful) nerve in my vagina that lasted for months.
James was very supportive of whatever I wanted to do.
After Zoa was born I was put into another shared room with about 10 other moms who had just delivered. Our babies were next to us. I believe I had the option to stay 1-2 days but I just wanted to get home as it was difficult to sleep and the food wasn’t nice.
What was good about the NHS was that they have great after care for new moms-health visitors come to your home; check on your baby and you…check for post natal depression. I think the visits continue for the first 1-2 months.
Oshen (12) was a home-birth in London (2003)-the National Health Service (NHS) said I could have a
home-birth with one of their midwives delivering but they could not guarantee it and when I went into labor I would call and see if a midwife was available, if not, I’d have to go into the hospital
So, I hired a private midwife
In the UK home birth midwives are allowed to give gas and air…but mine forgot to bring it! I managed!
I can’t remember if I had a birth plan-I must, I still have the midwives notes somewhere.
This birth was shorter, about 12 hours. Present were James, the midwife, my Zoa was sleeping in her room and our friend was looking after her, also, my mother in law stopped by unexpectedly (uninvited) and asked to watch Oshen be born!
The midwives I hired were great (they were both American) and provided great care before and after the birth. They gave great advice and yet didn’t push their beliefs on me.
Winter (10) was a home birth in Tokyo (2006). Having a home birth was almost unheard of and many moms chose hospitals with a smaller number choosing birthing centers. In Japan, they don’t give strong medicine (for any medical reason) so it is difficult and expensive to get an epidural. There is a push for women to have c-sections and I have many friends who delivered in Tokyo who had c-sections for reasons that probably wouldn’t happen in the UK.
The hospitals use midwives but when active labor starts the dr appears.
In order for me to be “allowed” to have a home birth I needed to find a dr that would be my emergency back up-I managed to find one and I found a Japanese midwife Wada-san, who spoke some English.
This time around I hired a doula because I wanted someone with me, someone who spoke English, and someone who was good with my other kids. The doula, Selena and I are still friends today.
During this pregnancy I decided against many tests and sonograms/ultra sounds as I believed it wasn’t healthy for the baby.
Zoa and Oshen watched me during the birth…they were kind of freaked out but James and Selena reassured them that I was ok. Besides my regular midwife, she had brought another midwife to assist during labor.
This birth was not as painful as the first two but I threw up non stop…maybe because I eat a lot during the early stages!
Once winter was born, I just wanted to take a bath which my midwife said that is very unusual and not recommended by Japanese Drs but she said she was ok with it.
The Wada-san and Selena had several after care visits. One thing of note, in Japan you are not allowed to keep the placenta…they have someone who comes to your house (hospital) and collects it!
Starr was born here in NYC in November 2015. This was my first child born in the US and I knew I wanted another home birth. I have come to believe that pregnancy and labor has become extremely medicalized in the States. I worried that I would have difficulty finding a midwife and also feared that at age 40, I might be considered high risk. The first 4-5 months of this pregnancy I was still living in Tokyo and had my check ups there. Because of my age they were concerned about the baby having genetic issues but I opted out of testing-both my husband and I agreed that we wanted this child regardless. The preliminary test for Down’s syndrome came back as high probability but as I mentioned, we decided to wait and see once our baby was here.
For this birth, James was not present. I called him when I was in early labor and told him to get on the next plane.
For this birth I had present, my sister (she has two kids delivered by cesarean), my three other kids, two midwives, a doula, and a birthing assistant. I like the fact that my baby was born into an environment surrounded by powerful loving females.
I didn’t really have a birth plan-I learnt after my first kid that things don’t go to plan. This labor was very painful and long. I felt ready to “give up” and wanted to go to the hospital. I’m not sure what I thought the hospital could do but all I was thinking was that I needed the pain to end! Everyone around me was really encouraging and when I decided that I needed a hospital I felt supported in my decision. In the end, I stayed home and with a few more big pushes Starr popped out!! He was very big 9.9lbs
I didn’t realize at the time but I think he was having trouble breathing and the midwife (your mom) calming cleared his mouth and got him breathing. I think if it had been in the hospital they would have made a big commotion at that moment but in my case, I didn’t even notice which I think was great because my reserves were pretty low and I couldn’t handle anything else.
If I were to get pregnant again (I won’t…being pregnant is NOT fun) I would without a doubt want another home-birth and have a doula. My doula at the last two births were amazing…they knew how meld into whatever support I needed at that moment.
I think an important lesson I learnt over the fourth births was that whilst birth plans can be important/useful it is even more important to be kind to yourself; to allow yourself to be flexible and change things if you want. You may have decided no pain relief and were adamant about but perhaps that first contraction is painful beyond belief and you just need something. Unfortunately, there are dialogues out there that put one type of labor as “better”, or a “real birth” over other types, such as cesarean; it’s a shame because anyway your baby got to you is real.
I have 4 kids, ages 14, 12, 10 years old and an 8 month old baby