Birthing alone was a fear I never knew I had. Flashbacks of my moments spent in the abortion clinic came to me with full force. Scared and alone in one of my most vulnerable moments. No one allowed to hold my hand or to comfort me during the procedure. Hot tears streaming down my face.
Those hot tears returned in the second half of March 2020. Eight months pregnant and a pandemic filling our lives. Visitors were being removed one by one. No photographers allowed. First it was one wristband that could be switched between visitors and then it was one visitor only. Other hospitals stripped away even that one visitor. Forcing mothers to birth alone.
I became sick. This was my third pregnancy. I thought I was going to get through it with minimal stress, and I almost did.
COVID-19 took its toll on my mental health. What would happen if I fell ill while pregnant? Would my baby be okay? What if I was sick with it while giving birth? Would they strip me of my child for two weeks? If something happened to me while giving birth, would I have to endure it alone, without a support person?
My entire idea of what the birth of my second earthly child would look like was stripped from me day by day. Article by article. Policy by policy.
“Unprecedented” became the definition of my last six weeks of pregnancy.
Then, Lauren — one of my closest friends and also my birth photographer — called me.
“I have a client giving birth at a hospital today, and I don’t know if they are going to let me up there to photograph her birth. If they are already being this strict, I am not sure I will be able to be there for your birth. Have you thought about using a birthing center?”
I bawled. It sounds so insignificant and petty — not having your baby’s birth photographed. But, to me, it was everything. Pregnancy and birth are emotionally wrecking for me. My first pregnancy stripped any chance of naivety. After the experience we had with our first child, I promised myself I would document every moment with my future children. And I have. Maternity pictures, birth pictures, fresh 48, newborn pictures — the whole nine yards.
We decided to wait until birth to find out the gender of our baby, and I was so excited for Lauren to capture that moment on camera. The moment my husband meets his second baby, the moment my friends and family find out if our first son was gaining a brother or sister. Not to mention, the moment our rainbow son met his little sibling. It is all so precious to me, and my support system is as well.
So, I started researching (as I do with everything). I started talking to friends and family. I reached out to the birthing center (Heartbeat Midwifery) recommended by Lauren. I prayed a lot and cried even more. I had panic attacks nightly for a week or so.
Then, I called my OB/GYN’s office and let them know I was transferring my care at 35 weeks pregnant to a midwife at a birthing center.
It was the best decision I have ever made.
I still had my fears. I trust the hospital system. I have practically lived in my OB/GYN’s office during all three pregnancies. I have depended on him and his staff for four years. I was scared that if something happened at the birthing center, I would be judged by my peers for not delivering at a hospital.
Judgement. The same word that haunted me four years ago when I made the decision to terminate my pregnancy after a terminal diagnosis.
However, “empowered” is the word for what I gained from the birthing center. Empowered to birth my 9-pound, 2-ounce baby without medication. Empowered to make decisions about how I labored, where I labored and who I labored with. Empowered to choose alternatives instead of interventions. Empowered to give birth without fear.
Birthing alone is a fear I never had to face because of a birthing center, two midwives, my friend and photographer, an amazing husband and my incredible family that love me unconditionally.