One of the founding principals behind Birth Boot Camp’s dedication to natural birth education is the belief that birth actually matters. To families this is clear, especially after the baby is born and they see the lasting impact it has made on their life. But the importance of birth does not end with those who will give birth, it is shared by all of us. Today we share a guest post by a woman and mother who, while never having given birth herself, understands this beauty and power. Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew is author of the book, Hannah, Delivered. It explores the depth of influence that birth has over our lives and the lives of our children. Today, we are honored to have Elizabeth share the story of her own experience with natural birth as an adoptive parent with her partner.
I’d been working on my novel about a homebirth midwife for five years when my partner and I decided not to get pregnant. We wanted a child, but my partner’s cancer history and busy creative lives convinced us to go with adoption.
I was disappointed. I wanted to have the experience of pregnancy, not the way some women do with a fierce biological need but rather out of curiosity: How would it feel to hold another living being inside of me? Not getting pregnant was also a setback for my novel. I’d hoped that first-hand experience would make me more qualified to fill 350 pages with stories about pregnancy and birth.
But even I could see these weren’t good enough reasons to pursue extraordinary pregnancy measures. Instead, two college kids in a predicament found my partner and me in a fantastic variation on Internet dating and chose us to be their baby’s parents. We moved into a time of intense paradox: We were expecting a baby, but birth parents change their minds all the time, so maybe not. We bought diapers and infant clothes but said no to a baby shower. I was determined to breastfeed, so I ordered illicit drugs from Canada and pumped every two hours for an entire month. I tricked my body into thinking it was pregnant, all the while I prepared my heart for disappointment.
My partner and I walked directly into our fear. We chose to trust the birth parents even though we hardly knew them—even though they were so young they hardly knew themselves. We chose to have faith in our love for this couple and their unborn baby. Loving them was worthwhile, regardless.
With hindsight I see that this same exercise of faith in the face of fear is what initially inspired me to write about natural birth. Natural birth requires that we honor women’s bodies—that women’s bodies hold wisdom that’s worth heeding, despite how uncontrollable birth is, despite the dangers, despite the more predictable outcomes of a medicalized birth. One midwife I interviewed called natural birth “feminism’s final frontier.” I think she meant that if our culture embraced a woman’s inherent capacity to give birth, women’s power and wisdom would finally achieve its rightful place in the world. As a character in Hannah, Delivered says, “Accepting natural childbirth is fundamental to a culture’s ability to love women. If we loved women, we’d trust our bodies.”
What amazes me is that this is true inside the hospital and out; it’s true regardless of the outcomes of any particular birth; it’s true whether or not you’re pregnant, or even female. Loving and respecting and trusting women’s bodies, including their inherent capacity to give birth, is worthwhile. Regardless.
Abby, our birth mom, chose a hospital with a low C-section rate, a fabulous team of nurse midwives, and a birth tub. When the time came for Abby to push, she asked her boyfriend, Emily, and me to be there. At one point the midwife suggested that Abby leave the bath to use the toilet. Abby said, with impeccable manners, “Please, can I stay?” and then gave a mighty push. The midwife reached into the water and pulled out a milky infant. I cried, Emily cried, and Abby said, “Congratulations, mommies.”
Gwyn is five now, and she loves the water. She’s just learning to float. In one rare moment I watch her relax on the water’s surface, and I’m filled with joy that she’s learning to have faith in her body. This is what I want to pass along. This is why I’m a natural birth advocate.
What are people saying about Hannah, Delivered?
"Unflinchingly honest, a gripping novel that explores the emotional and spiritual dimensions of natural birth." -- Jennifer Margulis, author of The Business of Baby
"Hannah, Delivered knocked my socks off. I haven’t read anything that so details the struggle of direct entry midwives in the USA. This is...a book about the birth of the spirit, the journey of one woman, who could be any of us, as she accept her own truths, her own relationship to the power of the 90% of the universe we cannot explain by science. If you are a thoughtful person, you will love it." -- Patricia Harman, author of The Midwife of Hope River, The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife’s Memoir, and Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey.
"Hannah, Delivered documents Hannah's trajectory from midwife wanna-be to solo practitioner with grace, veracity, heart, and passion." –Peggy Vincent, Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
You can find a review of Hannah, Delivered, here.