Time seems to stand still as I spiral down memory lane. That first one, Jonah, our only baby that we didn't know the gender until birth, surprising us two weeks early in a wild three hour labor, born still in the amniotic sack. The next one, our Peter, born while the kids were all away on various summer trips, a whopper at 9lbs 9oz and my very favorite birth. Then Rosemary, born after a night of laughing through labor with my closest friends while J brought everyone coffee - more of a girls night than a birth day.
Yes, I answer. Three.
And this time? Her pen pauses and she looks up. Where are you planning to deliver?
The hospital, I say. And I feel it, that unanswered cry deep inside me to I hush to deal with later. Not here, not now.
I'm thirteen weeks pregnant with baby number seven and I need to make peace. But first, I need to grieve.
Ever since our pregnancy announcement, we've been asked why we have chosen the hospital this time. The reasons are varied and complicated, but the short answer is this.
1) Our wonderful midwife who gave us the gift of her time and care during those three pregnancies has moved on from her practice. For my own reasons, she is the only local midwife I would be comfortable birthing with. I completely respect and support her reasons for leaving baby catching behind her. The days we had with her were a blessing and I'm full of nothing but gratitude for the tender way she cared for our family.
2) There is nothing unhealthy or strange or unnatural about a healthy young woman having seven babies, but certain risk factors do go up after a certain number of deliveries. I am in excellent health and there are no concerns about my ability, but that factor, held with my midwife's departure, lead us to our current choice.
The local hospital.
Permission to grieve freely.
"It'll be fine." Friends assure me. "You're older now and have had more babies than the last time you were there. They will respect your wishes more." I smile and nod and bite back any retort, swallow back that lump in my throat. I birthed three children in that hospital. I know it's not hell on earth, nor the employees there some kind of awful people intent on ruining my birth experience. In fact I truly do believe that I will have a fine experience there. I'm not afraid. Despite wondering if I'll be able to manage the mental peace required for me to make it through a natural birth in an unnatural space, I'm not overly worried. But then, what is this?
There it is again, deep in my heart. That little plaintive cry. The one that is wrapped up in all the warm memories of the past three deliveries that no hospital can replicate through no fault of their own.
Again come the reassurances. "You can make it as much like home as you want. You can wear your own clothes, bring your own pillow, play your music, invite your friends. It'll be almost the same."
Yes, and no. How can you explain to those who haven't experienced it? No clipboard questions or triage beds. No "just because" heplocks, digging around for veins while labor. Not a soul you didn't handpick to walk that path with you, no strange nurses or aids you've never met who don't know you. No bands around your belly to "get a strip" before you're allowed to move. No eye drops or injections in your baby when they are fresh out of the womb and want only your arms. No mandatory 24 hour stay before you can take yourself and your little one home to where everything feels right.
Homebirth has been a beautiful gift in my life. A warm cocoon with which to usher in new life in quiet peace and familiarity, away from the rush of the outside world. A space and a place so intimate and personal that I can hardly verbalize it.
There's nothing wrong with hospital birth. I know I'll leave there bursting with gratitude at the lovely nurses and doctors we work with, holding my newest love all wrapped up in my arms. It will be fine. It might even be nice.
But tonight, tonight I'm giving myself permission to grieve. To sit with the hurt that comes from knowing a door to something you love is firmly closed. To think back on and relish the beautiful experiences I've been given. And to prepare my heart for what comes next.
I'm linking up with Transparent Tuesday.
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