From the moment we found out we were pregnant with our first little one, we knew we wanted to have a homebirth.  Many of of our close friends had had their babies at home and since there weren’t any factors prohibiting it (high-risk pregnancy, etc.), it was almost a given.

But then…the unforeseen happened.  At 36 weeks pregnant, I went into labor.  We tried to stop it, but it plowed ahead, and our son, Cedar, was born at home four weeks early.  Babies born at that gestational age can often go either way: they can be totally fine, or they can have problems like other preemies.  After observing him for a few minutes after the birth, my midwife could tell that Cedar was having trouble breathing and after a phone consultation with a doctor she knows, she made the decision that Cedar should go to the local children’s hospital.  An ambulance was coming.

Cedar, just an hour or two old, getting worked on atop the dining room table before being transported to the children's hospital in the ambulance.

Our little guy ended up spending four days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).  His breathing problems from being premature ended up resolving themselves pretty quickly, but since he was now in the hospital, they wouldn’t let him leave until he was eating the amount that they wanted him to.  That took a couple days and he also spent a day under the bilirubin lights since he was quite jaundiced.  Those four day in the NICU were some the hardest we had ever dealt with (I really feel for those parents whose babies are in there for week or even months!), but there was always grace.  We were able to go home on Christmas Eve, and waking up on Christmas morning with our little son, in the silence of our little home (no beeps and nurses talking), was the best Christmas present I ever received.

Within a couple weeks of being at home, and despite some big nursing issues due to his prematurity, Cedar quickly became a thriving little boy who grew quite chubby.  When he was about seven months old, we found out that we were expecting again. What had caused Cedar to come four weeks early was something that could affect subsequent pregnancies, but we wanted to have this baby at home as well, if at all possible.  My midwife and I watched closely for possible preterm labor complications, especially as the pregnancy progressed, but thankfully nothing too serious came up and our little Genoa was born on her due date.  She came into the world at home, in the water, just like her big brother.

My desire for homebirth stems from something I’ve been passionate about for a long time: doing things the natural way.  “Natural” can have many definitions, but for me it means doing things without unnecessary interventions and using things that are minimally processed and free of chemicals, etc.  In my late teen years, my tendency towards legalism caused me to take it to an unhealthy extreme, but since then, God has been breaking me of that bondage and teaching me balance in all things.  It’s still something I’m very passionate about, but I’m learning to not let that passion rule my life.

Cedar meeting his new sister for the first time

However, having babies brought this passion to a whole new level as I realized that the decisions my husband and I made were now affecting these little people on whose lives we had such an impact. It wasn’t just me any longer, and that caused me to look even closer at the decisions we were making in our lives, both consciously and without realizing it. Every day we make choices, even when we go along with the status quo, and I wanted those choices to be what was best for my children, even if it seemed a little weird.

For our family, one of the things this meant was having waterbirths at home.  While we’re incredibly thankful for hospitals in emergency situations (like Cedar’s breathing problems after his birth), if the pregnancy has been relatively normal and there’s no reason to be in the hospital, then we like to stay in the peace and comfort of our own home.  For me, I love birthing in the water as it’s a great relaxant and a non-invasive way to better deal with the labor pains.

Doing things the natural way also meant breastfeeding for our babies, and for much longer than the American social norm…and doing things that are really weird, like tandem-nursing!  Cedar was only 17 months old when Genoa was born and while he had continued to nurse for comfort throughout my pregnancy, he hadn’t really been getting much milk since he was about nine months old.  So I wanted to make sure that he continued to get the health benefits of breastmilk, even though he was past what most Americans would consider weaning age.  And nursing them both at the same time were some of the sweetest moments of mothering for me.

Cloth diapers drying on the clothesline

We also chose to use cloth diapers and tried infant potty training.  I really didn’t want my babies to be sitting in chemicals 24/7 for the first couple years of their lives, so using cloth provided a good alternative.  I know that it seems like a lot of unnecessary extra work to many people, but for us, it’s definitely been worth it.

It also meant using natural remedies (i.e. herbs, essential oils, homeopathy) for teething, colds, etc. with conventional medicines only as a last resort. We’re not so hard-core as to never give our children acetaminophen if nothing else has worked, but we go to the more natural helps first.

Choosing to live this way also meant using only natural cleaners to limit my babies’ exposure to chemicals.  With little ones crawling all over the floor and chewing/sucking on everything, it’s only  inevitable that they’ll still be exposed to cleaners even when we’re so careful about keeping the bottles inaccessible to tiny hands.  With that in mind, I made a point to limit the chemicals they ingest by cleaning naturally.

When they’re ready to start solids,we like to feed our babies real foods from the beginning.  We try to eat as much real food (i.e. not processed) as we can, and it only made sense to give that to our babies instead over-processed baby food.  One of Cedar’s first foods was steak (in a mesh feeder to keep him from choking on big chunks) and he loved it!

Cedar enjoying a piece of steak in a mesh feeder

One last choice that we made, that is actually quite controversial, was choosing not to vaccinate our babies.  We’re not completely against vaccines, but felt like the risks outweighed the potential benefits of injecting our little ones with diluted diseases.

My passion for doing things the natural way is what caused me to choose these things to do (or not do) with my babies.  While each family is different, these are what worked for our family.  A big part of my calling right now is to care for my little ones, and I’m thankful to be able to use something I’m so passionate about to do so.

14 Comments

  1. E.H.Smith says:

    Jessica – Thanks so much for your response. By “completely breastfed” I meant exclusively breastfed, so you answered my question perfectly! My little guy is nine months old now and he seemed to have an interest in eating (lots of staring while we were eating), but now that I’m letting him play with food (little bits of fruit) he doesn’t seem quite as interested. I’m pretty sure some people think it’s a little weird that he’s still pretty much exclusively breastfed, so I was interested to hear what some other more naturalistic moms are doing! Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. E.H. Smith –

      Yeah, after I wrote out my answer I wondered if that was what you meant, but I just left it all anyway! ๐Ÿ˜› Unfortunately there’s definitely a mindset prevalent in Western countries that a baby NEEDS to start eating solids right at six months (or earlier! ๐Ÿ˜› And usually it’s stuff that you shouldn’t give a baby, like grains) and if he’s not, then he’s not getting enough to eat, but that’s totally off. From all that I’ve read, if a baby doesn’t seem interested in solids and are obviously still getting enough milk, there’s no reason that they “need” to eat solids. According to La Leche League, through the first year a baby’s calories should mostly come from breastmilk and I’ve read other stuff that says that should happen even longer. I have a friend who’s little boy was about 95% breastfed until he was about fifteen months old and then all of sudden got interested in solids and within about a month was eating about 95% solids. So it totally depends on the baby, and there really isn’t any big rush to start babies eating solids…breastmilk is the most perfect food for them anyway! (Alright…I’ll stop going on and on… :))

  2. E.H. Smith –

    I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to respond to your question…I’m not sure how I missed this comment coming in, but this past month has been crazy! ๐Ÿ˜›

    Yes, if it’s possible at your hospital, I would TOTALLY recommend a water birth. I’ve never done it “on land” so I can’t really compare, but I know that I love birthing in the water. The buoyancy it brings helps so much, especially in the pushing stage. And I don’t know how much you want to pursue it, but some midwives will do VBACs at home. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m not sure what you mean by “completely breastfeed”, but I’m still nursing Cedar now (just when he wakes up in the morning and before he goes to bed at night) and he’ll be two in a couple weeks. I’m planning on letting him self-wean himself, but if he gets close to three and isn’t weaned yet, I might help him a little bit. ๐Ÿ™‚ He was exclusively breastfed until he was about five and a half months old. I know that’s a little early, but he was very into our food so I started giving him bits of fruit and meat. He LOVED it and though looking back, I might have waited longer to start giving him solids, it ended up working out really well in that situation. By the time he was about nine months old, my milk supply was dwindling quickly due to being pregnant again, so he had to transition to an almost completely solids diet earlier than I would have liked. But, God was working in all of it and both Cedar and I were very thankful to have a supply again after my daughter, Genoa, was born. For about the first four months after my milk came back, Cedar’s appetite for solids dropped drastically and I was glad he was getting some of the milk he had missed out on earlier. And in regards to solids, Genoa is very different than her brother and is already over seven months old and not at all interested in solid foods. So I’m not pushing it at all…breastmilk is the perfect food for her now anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚ So…wow…that was a really long answer…sorry! Getting me started on breastfeeding and I won’t stop… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hooray! Another Crunchy Mamma I can get to know! Love that the Lord is leading you to balance in this area. So important. I’m on the same journey.

  4. E.H.Smith says:

    This is so much fun to read as I do many of the same things – cloth diaper, don’t vaccinate, etc. One thing I didn’t want to do was have a home birth. But after having a hospital birth I can now see why people like having home births. My son came 7 weeks early though (he was in the NICU two weeks) and I had to have a c-section, so home birth isn’t an option for me, but I’d like to try a water birth. ๐Ÿ™‚ Out of curiosity, how long did you completely breastfeed Cedar?

  5. Now if only I could convince my mother that there are other people living in this world who refrain from vaccinating their children because of potential harm…
    I have no “evidence”- but I received a set of 3 vaccinations simultaneously when I was 15 years old. By the time I was 16 years old, I was having health problems that led to a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease at the age of 19.
    Be cautious, that’s all I can say…
    Blessings!

  6. This resonates with a lot of what my family does–what a fun read. ๐Ÿ™‚ May the Lord bless you and your little family!

  7. I try to live as simply and naturally as I can now and hope that someday, if I have my own home and family, I’ll be able to keep house and raise children simply and naturally too. I know it’s “fashionable” at the moment. I do feel, however, that it’s sensible to live as much as possible as God intended. Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. You and I are on the same page in our convictions on how to raise our families ๐Ÿ˜‰ I agree with every single point you made!

    I had my first baby, Isaiah, almost a year ago now. We had a midwife attended, all natural, med free hospital birth. We’re considering a local midwife-run birth center next time around (since we moved across country recently).

    I am still breastfeeding my 11 1/2 month old son fairly frequently. He’s been cloth diapered exclusively since 1 week old and we also tried infant potty training, which worked for a while, but a move across country kind of put a delay on it for the time being. We pretty much jumped to solid finger foods right away (after he rejected pureed foods). He also is not vaccinated at this time, although we aren’t completely against a limited amount of vaccines in the future.

    It is difficult to remain balanced, at the same time, and hearing the Spirit of God on such matters. I always have to remind myself that God wants us to take care of our physical bodies, but it is the spiritual, godly things that are still our focus.

    Thanks for an interesting and encouraging read!

  9. Samantha R says:

    I applaud you for choosing the “natural” way in raising your family…. it’s not easy to go again the flow and make those choices and yet stay balanced too. But you and Aaron are doing a wonderful job! Your exuberance and passion is contagious, Jessica! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. As your passion for your lifestyle and choices you’ve made concerning your family are very simliar to ours, I can really understand it and applaud you for stepping out from may be considered “normal”, despite probably weird looks and negative feedback. (We are not vaccinated either, and now that we are all mostly grown up, I will say that we were not negatively effected by it in any way throughout our growing years.) These choices are most definitely not the easiest, most convenient, or widely accepted, but they are well worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Many blessings to your little family ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Love this! I’m just starting to write out the story of how I switched to a more natural take on life. In my case, it is for dealing with infertility but it comes down to the same thing- doing/using things the way that God created them.
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Thanks Jessica! It’s cool to hear of people doing that. I assisted my mother in 5 home births and love how gentle and natural they are!

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