(and no, I’m not a hippie)
“There’s no place like home.” “Home is where the heart is.” “Home sweet home.”
“Home is where you have a baby.”
Wait, is that last one not a saying? Well, it should be! Our son Anthony Ensley Hagan, III, was born on May 30th at 3:35 a.m. It was a relatively short labor and easy delivery. Nothing out of the ordinary except that I had him on the guest bedroom floor of our home here in Lebanon with my husband Ensley catching our little bundle of joy!
It was always interesting when people would ask about the pregnancy- are you having a boy or a girl? (It’s a surprise!). Didn’t you sneak a peak at the ultrasound? (Didn’t have an ultrasound!). Which hospital are you delivering at? (Delivering at home!). Who’s your physician? (Don’t have one, using a midwife!). My husband and I would get looks ranging from confusion to shock when we would explain that we planned on having the baby at home. “I didn’t know you were such a hippie” was my brother’s two cents. My husband and I are lawyers for goodness sake, not a couple of long haired, incense burning hippies! Another friend described the decision to birth at home as “very Little House on the Prairie.”
I’ve never liked hospitals. Well, granted, who does, but as a kid I really had an unhealthy fear of them. I blame my older sister for making me watch a movie about a hospital orderly who would take patients to the basement and kill them.
But seriously, I’ve always thought hospitals were for sick people and I wasn’t sick, I was pregnant! I wanted to have a home birth with my first child, but I let everyone else’s fears become my own. I read all of the famous Tennessean midwife Ina May Gaskin’s books, I watched the documentary “The Business of Being Born,” the whole a woman’s body knows best motto made sense to me, but ultimately I capitulated and went the conventional route.
To say that I had a less than desirable hospital experience would be putting it nicely. My OB was on vacation and I wound up with another physician that I’d never laid eyes on before. I knew this doctor and I were not on the same page when she walked in and began lining up her surgical instruments. Somehow, I had a natural childbirth, but only out of sheer determination. Exhausted and battle worn, we left the hospital 24 hours later, again only by sheer determination, as the powers that be didn’t want us to leave without this doctor signing off, and that doctor signing off. I was in hospital prison! (At least I was not in the hospital basement, though…).
Needless to say, I vowed that the birth of baby number two would be different. As soon as that little plus sign came up on the home pregnancy test, the search for my midwife began. After a round of interviews, I found my perfect match with Jennifer Vines and never looked back. Not that my husband and other family members were without some fears, but ultimately, Ensley agreed with me that the person pushing the baby out gets to call the shots!
Prenatal care was not that much different than with an OB/GYN, only much more relaxed. I met with Jennifer at her office in East Nashville on a typical prenatal schedule. With my first pregnancy, I always felt like I was going into battle prior to my OB/GYN appointments, having to outline my arguments in my head as to why I was declining this or that test. My physician, while known as the “lenient” one in her practice, would often look at me visibly annoyed. She actually huffed at me once! My prenatal appointments with Jennifer felt more like visiting with a friend who, while knowledgeable, respected my opinions and decisions.
At 36 weeks of pregnancy, Jennifer and the team, which consisted of a birthing assistant and a doula, came out to my house for my appointment. There, we made sure the space I had selected to labor and deliver was appropriate and that I had my birthing kit ready in the event the baby decided to make an early appearance. I won’t get into too much detail about the birthing kit, other than to tell you that lots of plastic floor liners are necessary!
Our little guy decided to come two weeks early. I was working from home during the early stages of labor, finishing a legal brief while sitting on a big balance ball and having sporadic contractions. I wasn’t sure for a long time if I was even in labor because it was so different from what I experienced with my daughter. We decided to play it safe and get everything ready just in case.
I had planned on laboring in my birthing pool, yet there it lay deflated on the kitchen floor. My husband first tried a hand bicycle pump – fifteen minutes later with nothing but a hand cramp to show for it, he decided we needed heavier artillery. After burning out his electric pump, my husband tore off to TSC to buy a heavy duty air compressor, asking me not to have the baby before he got back. I’m pretty sure I was breathing through a contraction, otherwise I probably would have thrown the bicycle pump at him. About three hours later, the pool was inflated and filled with a lead free garden hose.
The game plan was to send our then 19 month old daughter Emeline to grandma Barbara Allison’s house, which is right down the street from us, but she had gone out of town for the weekend. Luckily, our daughter is a sound sleeper—she slept through the entire event!
When the contractions were too intense to ignore, my husband called Jennifer and my birthing team was at the house within an hour. Unlike a hospital where the nurse has to check this and check that every hour, I was allowed to just breathe and labor the way nature intended. Not to say that having a baby is easy, but it was a cake walk compared to the long, painful and stress-filled hospital birth of our daughter. It was the most amazing feeling when I gave that final push and out came our baby and my husband yelled, “It’s a boy!” After Jennifer gave our baby a once over, he and I had time to look at each other and just marvel at how amazing it all was. No whisking away to the nursery for shots or a bath, just mom with baby.
Several weeks later we ran into an acquaintance who heard the big news. “So, you really gave birth at home?” followed by “Was it intentional?” Yes, yes it was. And no, we won’t be buying up farm land for our commune any time soon.
No siree, Ensley is still practicing law at the Hagan Law Firm and I’ve decided to stay at home with the kids for a year. Jane Austen wrote that “there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort. Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.” I couldn’t agree more, and that’s my little piece of the good life.