STRETCHING, BIRTHING, CRADLING:
The Power, Concerns, Joys, & Gifts of an Indie Home Birth
by Jesse Wolf Hardin – www.PlantHealer.org
As I write this, dear Kiva is entering her 38th week of pregnancy. In the last few week, our boy Ælfyn has “dropped” head first into the pelvis in preparation for his entrance into the world. He remains wildly active, alternately tickling Kiva’s ribs with his toes and painfully pushing downwards for his morning exercise. Whereas a week ago he seemed to be doing complete somersaults on a regular basis, now it feels like he swings his lower body back and forth while keeping his head pointed in the direction of beckoning air and light, an impish norms-busting Viking break-dancer it seems!
Over the course of the last month, we have scraped together the money for a number of needed baby items from diapers to toys, and most importantly, ordered a cheap doppler to monitor little Ælfyn’s heart rate during the latter portion of the labor, plastic sheets, and everything else we figure we might want for the birth. Ginger Webb from Texas Medicinals rushed us some of her powerful herbal preparations including for the treatment of rare but dangerous postpartum hemorrhaging. The support and love we have gotten from the Plant Healer tribe is heart warming and a delight, especially important in our situation and at this time.
Paying for a midwife clearly did not work out well, with one woman who promised to attend ending up getting cold feet and changing her mind after the reality of her own life and the remoteness of our home sunk in. Others we contacted were either unable to get away, intimidated by our primitive accommodations, or already booked up with births as was our very caring Good Medicine Confluence teacher Juanita Nelson. Juanita’s practical advice and encouragement were reassuring, after getting many letters of concern and reading the scary parts of the many midwifing and birthing books that we purchased and read. We are committed to a home delivery, and what will almost certainly be an “unassisted” or “Indie” birth, after concluding there are no “red flag” signs or medical history that would indicate possible problems, studying research around the effects of stress on a woman’s labor, taking into account Kiva’s Asperger hyper-sensitivity and anxiousness around strangers, and having learned that there is a statistically greater chance of serious trouble having one’s baby in a hospital instead of at home or in a supportive alternative birthing center.
As informed and prepared as we are, and as strong as my personal intuition can sometimes be, we fully realize that there there is no guarantee of a healthy birth any more than we can ever be completely secure in the real world at any point in our lives. We are, however, doing what we think will provide the best desired outcome, and in this case, the most natural thing. Women have been bearing children, often alone and without support, for the millions of years that our species has been in the making, with the vast majority of these events being successful regardless of sometimes difficult conditions. Herbalists make use of medicinal plants to assist or boost the body’s natural healing response, in preference over pharmaceutical intervention and suppression. We generally do not got to an MD or hospital except in acute situations or to test and treat the most dire chronic illnesses. It makes sense that take the same approach to what is one of the most basic and natural of human activities, the miraculous creation of and propelling of new beings from our own sentient, mortal bodies. Birth intervention can be a lifesaver in rare cases, but most often it is doing damage to mother and child to chemically trigger labor before the baby is ready, remove a baby through cesarian surgery out of impatience or excessive caution instead of absolute need, to pull on the umbilical cord to hurry delivery or to remove the placenta after. If there is an unexpected medical emergency, we will climb into our river-crossing Jeep and proceed to an emergency room two hours away, in hopes of remedy. But otherwise, baby Ælfyn will make his debut in this hand wrought cabin where we feel most secure and most at home, two miles from pavement, one hundred miles from the benefits and drawbacks of a city… because, as our friend, naturopathic doctor and Confluence teacher Kenneth Proefrock puts it, “The act of giving birth is not itself a medical procedure.”
Kenneth and family surprised us by driving seven hours to visit us, bringing with them a huge padded box that his wife Darla called our “birthday present” – a gift making Ælfyn’s upcoming day of birth. They arrived in the nearby village at 2am, caught few zs, and then risked their 4×4 truck to motor the rest of the way to this New Mexico botanical sanctuary. Out leapt a passel of adolescent boys that Kenneth called their “hooligans,” but who were some of the sweetest, curious and respectful young fellows we have ever hosted here. They ran around exploring the river and mountains with our seventeen year old Inga (formerly known as Rhiannon), while we got to know the complex and thoughtful Darla.
The maple rocking cradle they brought us was amazingly made in a small shop in West Virginia in the 1800s, just prior to the American Civil War. It features turned spindles and carved finials that remarkably match the set of antique bedroom furniture that I traded for as wedding presents for Kiva, and it looked so good in the flickering light of the woodstove that we were kept up imagining our willful wildling nested in it on the Sheepskin we were given by Holly, making soft breathing sounds as we gently rock it with a bared toe. As with everything that you folks have picked out and purchased off the baby registry or discovered yourselves, we will long be telling Ælfyn where his precious things came from, the stories of the people who have shown so much love.
Thanksgiving marks a regretful acceleration of the colonization of North America, the subjugation of its indigenous peoples and destruction of its soils, forests and waters. But is also serves as reminder of all the blessings and advantages we have as diverse peoples of this place, the importance of savoring our meaningful lives and learning and caring, the preciousness of healthful families and friendships, and the value of our healing work… aware human existence punctuated by struggle and loss, sustained by tireless hope, rewarded with purpose and opportunities for bliss.
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For more about the pregnancy and registry, and an article on Plant Healer’s Anima Sanctuary, click here to download the free November issue of Herbaria Monthly.
For advance discount tickets to Kenneth Proefrock’s amazing classes, and the other 133 intensives and workshops, click on the: