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.
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.
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.
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!
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.