Ezra Jonathan Bartos was born on Saturday morning, during one of the most memorable experiences that we as a family have ever had. He is a healthy boy and a joyful addition to our overwhelmingly blessed family.
Ezra was born at home. He didn’t come before we could get to the hospital, like you see in so many movies. No, we chose to take a more natural approach to birthing and have a home water birth.
When we found out that Laura was pregnant with our fourth child, she started reading a few books about alternative birthing methods, and soon decided she wanted to have a water birth at home.
I, on the other hand, was terrified at the thought of having a baby at home, just like people used to have them hundreds of years ago, before they figured out how to take pictures or use an iPhone. And then there was the water part… once I did the math, I figured that we were going to have to put the pool right in the living/dining room where I usually enjoy a generous portion of dessert after every meal. Yes, a pool! And not just a pretty pool with pretty fish and half dressed mermaids on the side, but a giant inflatable pool that looked more like an oversized tractor inner tube.
In any case, the wife won and we started looking for a midwife that would facilitate the home water birth. Since her sister had her baby with the midwifes at Tender Beginnings, we met with Mary Anne. Before I could speak my fears, distress, and anxiety, Laura had me sign a contract and pay the deposit.
The weird thing about going to a midwife’s house for regular checkups, is that it doesn’t feel as dramatic as the hospital visit. When you go to the hospital, there is blood everywhere, screaming patients, panicked nurses, police officers at high-profile convict patients’ doors, etc. But when we went to Mary Anne’s house, the only drama that we saw was on Shakespeare’s part (one of the dogs), who wasn’t allowed in the consultation room. That, and the fact that there wasn’t a single trace of dessert or even cheap candy at the house.
And then came the actual birth. When the other three kids were born, I was pumped – Laura had all of them naturally, without any medication or drugs, except the time when they induced her. So there were a lot of nurses or student nurses that wanted to witness an actual natural birth, which added to the excitement and drama of having a new baby being born. The more people in the room, the better, I think. That, the multitude of IVs and needles, the audible monitoring of contractions and heart beats, the screaming, and the obvious pain, made the arrival of our other children so much more dramatic and exciting than our home birth experience.
You see, when Laura woke me up at 3AM to tell me that she was going to have the baby that morning, I got up, made coffee, checked my email, and put on my swimming trunks. When Mary Anne came at 5AM, she brought me the most wonderful prime rib steak (part of our barter), and we enjoyed a few cups of coffee and shared birthing stories. Later, when her assistant, Lindsey, arrived, we sent Laura to rest for about an hour, and I cooked breakfast for everyone (special eggs and bacon).
Once the kids woke up and went to our friends’ house around 8AM, we set up the pool, and filled it up with hot water. Laura got in the pool, and relaxed in warm water in between contractions. About two hours later, I finally thought I was going to witness some drama when her contractions intensified, but to my disappointment, all she wanted was someone to massage her back, and then resumed the chilling in hot water routine.
Around 11AM, things got serious. I made fresh coffee, rolled up my sleeves, and was prepared for some intense baby-birth-drama. 10 minutes later, Laura took a deep breath, pushed against the pool, and a purple baby came out swimming like a scuba diver. No screaming from Laura, no crying from the baby, and I had all my knuckles intact. Laura took a hold of the baby, held him close, delivered the other stuff that comes out after the baby, got up, and walked to the bed, where she started nursing him. Within one hour, the midwives were gone, the house was clean, and all there was left to prove that something had happened at our house that night, was a quiet, calm, and hungry baby, and the leftovers from my prime rib.
Another note about the midwifes. I’m the type of guy that in situations like this, I would much rather get a free overdose of sleeping pills and wake up with a tax cut in one hand and a lolly pop in the other. But Laura wanted to understand every aspect of the birth – from the actual birth process, to the vaccinations, shots, and to the medical procedures that were going to be done. And that’s what our midwife did best – she took the time to explain everything, she asked our opinion or permission on a ton of stuff, and gave us a list with a variety of teas, herbal tinctures, and other natural remedies that would make the labor less painful, and healing process faster.
Whether the teas and tinctures were worth it, I cannot tell, I just know that none of them tasted even remotely sweet. With prescription drugs you can at least take them with chocolate milk, and you get the bonus of the tipsy feeling that leads to extra sleep.
So, to sum it all up: if you enjoy hospitals, IVs, fancy medical language, needles, lots of screaming, free babysitting, checkups every 2 hours for 3 days, gourmet hospital food, and best of all – free lolly pops, home birth is certainly out of your comfort zone.
However, if you’re into the calm, quiet, and peaceful birth thing, then by all means, do it, and do it all the way. Since we had the baby, I met other folks that had the baby at home, except they didn’t get the pool. That, to me, sounds like hypocrisy – the water is the real deal. And plus, if you don’t have the water, nor the lolly pops, why bother in the first place?
And before I end this, I feel that I should make sure to express my gratitude to Mary Anne and her crew for making the birth of Ezra such a peaceful, calm, and rewarding experience. After Ezra was born, Laura and I couldn’t stop talking about how his birth was immeasurably easier on all levels – psychological, physical, moral, than the other three who were born in the hospital.