A second baby is so different from the first. We should say, our second baby is so different from the first, as we tell Billie’s story here not to push a particular childbirth approach but simply to capture and share her birth as it happened to us. Having a baby is magical, and pictures and words are the best tools we have for capturing a little bit of that magic.
Already we try not to compare our girls but their births are difficult not to. Both our births, under the care of midwives, have delivered us miraculous, healthy, sweet babies without pain medication and ultimately with stories that we are even embarrassed to tell with any kind of scrutiny, knowing so many other families with birth stories gone awry. But we experienced our first birth in a hospital in such a dramatically different way than our home birth.
At Moo’s birth, our first, our friend Amber was unexpectedly present throughout. She drove us to the hospital, stayed for the birth, and drove us home again a few hours later, now a family of three. Moo’s birth was relatively short with only three hours spent in labour at the hospital. Amber took pictures and gave us the most wonderful gift ever: a written record of the night from her perspective as a friend, an outsider and an honorary auntie. But all in all it was a medicalized birth: Cass had an IV and a medical bracelet, gave birth in a bed, was wheeled out in a wheelchair. Nothing crazy or even anything to complain about but it was rather… procedural.
This time, our friends in the country, Jill, Rachel and Emily, were summoned to our house at 3:30 a.m. We had few expectations about how this birth would go and who would be present, but since Moo was fast asleep upstairs we knew we wanted someone else at home with us in case we had to rush to the hospital in an emergency. We needn’t have worried about that though, as Billie’s labour was hard but efficient and she was born within two hours of waking up in active labour. Cass laboured in the kitchen for the first hour, baking cookies between contractions, and in the bathtub for the last half hour, giving birth to Billie when the spirit moved her.
All the details are perhaps best shared on our front porch over pie and lemonade, but there is a basic difference that feels easy to share (if not pin down exactly). There is certainly a fear that accompanies pregnancy and birth: What if something goes wrong? What are the things that could go wrong? What is Plan A, Plan B, what do I need, what does the baby need? This anxiety permeates the decision about where to give birth, yet when the focus is shifted away from that negative energy (as was the approach of our awesome midwife Tanja) the appeal of a home birth is much stronger.
Labouring at home felt like a controllable experience, particularly when that fear wasn’t allowed a foothold. We knew where we wanted to labour, where we wanted to deliver, and where we wanted to sleep afterward (the play room, of all places). We knew where all the supplies were and everything else we needed. Contractions were easier, as pain was faced directly and pushed through rather than avoided or danced around. And frankly, when Cass wanted to push, she pushed and out came Billie in just three contractions.
Where in Paris today could a baby be born except for at home? Since the Willett no longer has maternity services, it seems the only option for parents is a local hospital in some other town or to take a ‘risk’ and give birth where we eat, sleep and drink on every other day of our lives. We think about our 1850s home and wonder what other babies were born within these walls. Who lived (and who died) here? Beyond the fact that research supports home births in Canada as safe (just as and often more safe than hospital births, all risk factors considered), there is something truly poetic about returning to the most basic of rituals and honouring our instincts to bring new babies into this world in an environment of our choosing.
We hope these words and Mark’s multitasking photography skills have done justice to our little piece of magic. We are so grateful to now have little Billie in our family. We are the luckiest.