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Home remedy: The birth of Fanon

Towards the end of the summer, I dreamt of being at the beach in the clearest water with little minnows swimming all around me. I was adamant that I wasn’t pregnant, despite everyone’s knowing—side eyes. And although I wasn’t pregnant at that point, we conceived shortly thereafter. Maybe the “Mother of Fish” was trying to give me a heads up.

We struggled with finding prenatal care we were satisfied with. Our first choice erroneously told us at our 6 week ultrasound that the fetus was abnormally shaped, which could indicate a serious birth defect—or it could be nothing at all! “Just wait and see what happens,” they said. What a helpful thing to tell a pregnant mother.

We went to another hospital the next week for a second opinion, and the obstetrician assured me the baby looked fine. But his manner was so cold and clinical that there wasn’t any way I would have ever considered birthing there.

After all of this, we decided to go back to the alternative birthing center where we birthed Tsage. But something didn’t feel quite the same. And it started to feel superfluous to hike all the way out there just to get vitals checked. Then, after one particularly bad visit, I thought: We should just do this at home. The thought felt so cool and clear:.

The more I thought it, the more convinced I was that it would happen.

So, a month before my due date, we began to prepare for a home birth. I told my husband to download and print out Emergency Childbirth: A Manual by Dr. Gregory White. He had some reading to do.

We met with our doula and with our home midwife—probably the only midwife in Chicago who is willing to come to the south side (who isn’t underground). As we talked and as I thought about Tsage’s birth, as wonderful as it was, I realized there were things done that just weren’t necessary: my water was broken manually, I was only able to labor in the water but not birth because of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), I was told to push when I didn’t really feel like it, I was put into an inefficient semi-reclining position and my placenta was tugged out instead of birthing it myself (which might have been the reason I bled a lot)

This time would be different. And it was.

My due date came and went, each night teasing me with contractions. But early Friday morning, I woke up to particularly strong contractions. When I saw some bloody show, I knew it would be the day. I called my doula and midwife to let them know. My husband saw I was out of bed, and I told him as well; he immediately began cooking breakfast and prepping the house.

The contractions were strong but not unmanageable. I spent some time in the shower breathing deeply, praying and enjoying the relief the warm water gave. Once out of the shower, I breathed deeply through each contraction while rocking on all fours and trying to keep my sounds low. Right when it felt I needed extra support, my doula, Toki, came. Her touch comforted and grounded me as the labor intensified. I soon shed the pretty robes and scarves I had donned for the occasion.

My husband, Baba, and my doula both supported me. Baba kept the mood light with his joking and banter (I told him a day or two before that I wanted to laugh all throughout the labor—he didn’t dissapoint). He somehow managed to fill the pool by hand, make some ice and candy runs and breathe with me and rub me at the same time.

The ladies rubbed me, assured me I was doing great, moaned with me, breathed with me, washed me in the birthing pool water and iced me down when I got too hot. At one point, I was laying on the floor feeling both completely aware and not all the way here. When Baba told me what time it was, I was shocked at how many hours had passed. I also hoped the labor would end soon because besides being over the pain, Tsage would need to be picked up.

Toki softly played songs to Yemonja next to me. The drums played and after a few hard contractions, I began grunting. I heard the midwife say, “She’s sounding kinda pushy.” Everyone helped me into the pool. The warm water was a relief, but it also jolted my body into the final stretch. The contractions combined with an intense urge to open and push. I could feel the baby moving down.

It was surreal—so surreal that I didn’t quite believe it was happening. As his head was crowning and rotating out, I nearly jumped out of the pool; Baba had to hold me down and assure me everything was fine. Suddenly everyone was oohing. I was scared something was wrong, but no. My baby was born veiled, in his caul.

One final push and Baba caught him and pushed him up to my chest. I held my newborn to me, my little minnow in the water. He was slippery, still and silent, and I could feel my heart in my throat. The midwife suctioned his nose, and his little mouth opened wide and color rushed into his body. I was bathed in joy.

Having my baby at home was everything I had hoped birthing would be. Liberating. Empowering. Simple. Calm. Mine. I was not made to do anything I didn’t want to; I was where I was most comfortable, around people I was most comfortable with. My body did what it was made to do without coaching or external cues; all it needed was the love and support of those around me, and in that strength and love, life was birthed into the world.

I am so very grateful to present baby Fanon to the world.

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!

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