October 4, 2012

Helping with Homebirth

The best way to begin this post is by saying that I have had the privilege, honor and blessing of experiencing what is the polar opposite of what our culture has deemed "the Mommy Wars." That might seem like an odd way to start this post, but as I thought about it, it's really the crux of what I want this post to express, and it perfectly explains what needs to be happening among women; among friends.

My friend Kristal and I are very different people. We see differently on many things, including some methods on parenting, and even how some Scripture can be interpreted. If there were ever two candidates for an "unlikely duo" in the parenthood realm, it would be us.

Our story as friends actually began way back in the mid- to late-nineties. We were in youth group together here, where we now both live again. She was a couple of years older, and I do have lots of memories of trips and youth get-togethers where we were both there. Of course we all dispersed and went different directions, and eventually, we ended up reconnecting through our blogs. I don't want to speak for her, but I think we mutually found out fairly quickly that we were just different thinkers, and we were wired differently from each other. We knew each other as teenagers, and we had become adults with somewhat different world views at that time. We even had some dialogue via our blogs about differences of opinion. As the Lord would have it, we both ended up moving back "home," and since that time our friendship has grown and become something that has (excuse the trite phrase) become beautiful.

Here's why. Kristal and I began to openly discuss and confront our differences with the intent of understanding each other. NOT to necessarily change the other person's opinion or beliefs. When I learned to read Kristal's posts and ideas and statuses and articles that she would link to through the lens of sharpening my knowledge and expanding my thoughts on what I believe and don't believe, my entire focus shifted, and my responses became different. I remember a specific conversation where we simply established that I'm wired more sensitively, and she has an incredibly thick skin. That sounds elementary, but when you simply understand how God has made you and someone else, it changes things. It changes how you respond, and how you view the other person. We began emailing (both of us sometimes think/express better through writing) about topics where we wanted to understand the other's point of view. It was through these conversations that we developed a very strong respect for one another and a level of trust (knowing the other person, at their core, wanted to simply understand, NOT berate or belittle the other's stance). It created a level of authenticity that is extremely rare in female friendships, and I think it laid the foundation for Kristal's impending home birth.

We were at Starbucks before going to see a movie together, and the topic of her birth came up. I offered to help in any way I could, thinking maybe she'd want me to keep Isaac (her son) or video, or something. She immediately replied, "Oh my gosh, I was JUST about to ask you to be there for the birth!" I was floored and completely honored. I didn't know what my role would be, and I don't think Kristal did either, but I knew I would be there.

On the day that Kristal went into labor, I had my first doctor's appointment, and came as soon as the appointment was over. I changed into comfortable clothes and joined Brandi (the photographer and a friend of ours) and Joann, the midwife. Chad, Kristal's husband, was also there.

Kristal had been laboring for several hours, and she was managing her contractions really well.

Chad was so awesome at helping Kristal and giving her support when/where she needed it.

I learned a lot from Joann, Kristal's midwife. At one point, in between contractions, Kristal took her ear phones out and started laughing and talking with us. It was such an enjoyable time, and I couldn't believe that she was actively in labor, yet it felt like lunch with the girls - ha! Joann told me during Kristal's next contraction (when her music was in her ears again and she couldn't hear) that when your contractions begin to get a little further apart, it's actually a sign that you're transitioning. Brandi and I were like, "What?!" because a lot of times, you hear that if your contractions are stalling, something must be wrong. But that's not always the case!

Not long after Joann shared that information about transition, sure enough, Kristal wanted to move to the tub. Chad, Joann and I had filled the tub with water and gotten it ready for her. Right before she got in, Joann checked her and she was at a 7-8, I believe? It was right where she wanted to be, and I think it helped her mentally knowing she didn't have much further to go.

We noticed that the contractions started picking up again, and they were apparently getting much more intense. I was sitting next to Chad and Joann at the other end of the pool.

At that point, Kristal wanted HARD pressure on her back during each contraction. Since Chad was in the pool, it was hard to him to get a good grip and stay in one place, like Kristal needed. So I got behind him and gave counter-pressure on his shoulders to help.

Kristal said the warm water felt great on her lower body, but it was making her VERY hot and flushed in her upper body. So we got a bowl of ice water and I become the "water person." :) I spent the rest of her labor exchanging washcloths and making sure she was cooling down on top. I ended up putting my hands in the ice water and just putting the water all over her arms, back, and neck.

Looking back on it now, I actually took on more of a "doula" role during the labor. I don't mean that in a presumptuous way at all; I'm not formally trained and I don't even know if that would be the correct term for what I was doing, but Chad was needed in the pool, and Kristal also needed someone near her face to help talk to her, coach her breathing (I got a crash course from Joann), and just being a place where she could lay her head.

The next thing we knew, Kristal was actively pushing, and in the blink of an eye, Miriam Leigh arrived!

It was incredible!

They didn't know the gender, and when Chad revealed that it was a girl, we all squealed!

One of my favorite moments was when Kristal's mom arrived (she had been keeping Isaac), and Kristal got to say, "Mom - it's a GIRL!" Kathi (who is a dear family friend of our family) was sobbing and it was just an amazing moment.

It was also an incredibly sweet moment to watch Isaac meet his sister.

Not too long after that, Brandi and I slipped out to let Kristal, Chad, Isaac and Miriam be alone and just dwell in that amazing moment. As I drove home, I couldn't believe that I had witnessed my friend give birth, in her home, and that it was such an incredible "life" moment for me.

As I've reflected on the whole experience, it kept resonating with me that this is what it's about. Not arguing, and belittling each other, and accusing other women of being horrible mothers. When we DO have dialogue, it's possible to have conversations that are respectful, open, and authentic, where we explain ourselves and let the other person explain herself. Most of the time, Kristal and I walk away from conversations still holding our original opinions, but we understand each other better. We learn that there are REASONS why the other person has made their decisions, and ultimately, that's between them and the Lord. Is it okay and healthy and normal to be passionate to have strong opinions on parenting? OF COURSE. That's the ingredient that makes Kristal and I "work" as friends - we're both passionate people. We come from slightly different parenting camps, but there are absolutely places where those camps overlap. Those "overlaps" are where we choose to dwell, and where we are the happiest, and where we have found an amazing friendship.

I encourage everyone to find the overlaps. Find authenticity and respect and LOVE for other women. Because when you find yourself holding your friend as she labors, and supporting her choice to birth at home, and being there for one of the most important and sacred moments of her life, you'll find that the differences completely go away, and it becomes one of the most sacred moments of YOUR life, too.

Click here for Kristal's account of her birth experience.


Kristal said...


Crying as I cuddle my daughter and read this sweet post.

Thank you Ashley.

Kelly said...

Beautiful post about friendship and doing life together, even when it leads to confrontation and differences. Love!

Daniel and Sara said...

So precious! I just had my daughter at home two weeks ago! It was an incredible experience! Thank you for sharing this!

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