I had no idea what giving birth would mean to me. I thought it would mean endless, beating pain; anger at my husband and the world; anger even at my baby. And fear. That was the big one—fear of the contractions reeling off another round through my body. Fear of possible slices, stitches, injections, and drugs. Fear of my body being broken and ruined for a time. Mothers I spoke to consoled me with the promise that as soon as my baby was born, I would forget the pain. But you know what? I never, as long as I live, want to forget a single sensory moment of that extraordinary night. I claimed the right to my body and my experience, and got to marvel at the majesty of it. And every year as I wrap a birthday present for my girl, I will be thinking about our labor—hers and mine—and how magnificent we both were.
It all started with my wanting a home birth. It just seemed obvious: I didn't want the conventional picture of a woman on her back with doctors urging her to push. In fact, I didn't want my experience to be controlled by anyone other than me, unless it had to. I couldn't imagine feeling "loose" in a hospital; it seemed too claustrophobic an environment, unfamiliar and forbidding. Even in the early stages of pregnancy, I knew I needed to be in a place that I identified with trust and safety, and in my home I could be whatever I wanted to be, whenever I wanted. If my pregnancy ran into trouble, I would find a hospital and readily hand the problem over to the experts, but with a healthy pregnancy, I knew who the expert was—me.