A Black Mother Shares Her Experience of Home Birth During COVID-19
Photo courtesy of Michelle DuBois
My COVID-19 journey was not just my own—it involved another life coming into the world.
I was excited to find out I was pregnant with my third child in August of 2019, well before anyone had heard of COVID-19. Now mind you, I'm an experienced mom by this point, with two hospital births under my belt and two healthy, happy babies to show for it. I thought this was going to be another exciting but routine pregnancy.
I'm one of those moms who appreciates homeopathic, holistic care with minimal interventions, but also values hospitals and Western medicine. I anticipated that this pregnancy would balance the two—and that ultimately I would have prenatal care and labor and delivery in a traditional hospital setting.
And then: pandemic pandemonium. The world shut down in March of 2020 when I was two months away from giving birth. Honestly, for a while, I shut down too. Because everything I had planned went out the window.
Could my husband and my doula be at the hospital with me? Would I have to take a COVID-19 test on the way in, when I'm already in the throws of labor? If that test came back positive, would I be separated from my baby? The "tub room" at the hospital where I delivered my last baby was no longer an option. It wasn't clear that any of the supports I had planned on would be available. Less than 60 days from bringing a new life into the world, it was almost too much to bear.
Breathe, Michelle. Pray. Lean on others, including your partner. Come up with a plan. Breathe and pray again.
We consulted with the medical staff at the hospital where I was planning to go. Even they seemed overwhelmed. They didn't have enough masks; the guidance they were given was changing by the day. They did all they could to assure me that my birthing experience would be fine, and I wanted to be confident in that. But I could hear in their voices and determine with my own discernment that this was a situation with no guarantees. I believed they would do everything to bring my baby into this world safely, but what was on the table was the experience I would have. What kind of experience would that be? It felt like a slippery slope.
And then those two words that I might have considered in theory but never thought would practically be on the table for me: home birth.
In general, again, I didn't see myself as a "home birther." I had grown to learn more and embrace more holistic care, but the idea of doing all of this at home, without the option of doctors and medical interventions, entrusting one of the most sacred moments in my life—and the life of my child—to a midwife, a doula and my husband, a small team, just seemed too risky!
But was that actually true? My husband and I did extensive research on home birth statistics. We immersed ourselves in the details. We prayed, long and hard. And I also had to trust my Black woman instincts. Something about what I was hearing from those folks in the hospital just didn't feel right. It was right for me before, but not right now, not right for me. We determined that God had a home birth in our future—and that we might actually be safer, more secure, and more likely to have a successful birthing experience at home.
Little did we know, we might have also saved our baby's life.
The big day came: May 5, 2020. Cinco De Mayo. My labor started early in the morning and my birthing team was on site within minutes.
The experience was just beautiful. I was able to labor in my own room, and then my own bathroom (so glad we did that remodel last year!) in my own tub. Hour after hour proceeded and I never imagined that, even with the pain, I would be this calm. And then it was time to push.
But there was a problem. For weeks and certainly in the days before birth, my baby had been in the "head down" position, which is a very good thing. As anyone who has had a baby or been a part of a birthing experience knows, if possible you want your baby to be head-down rather than head-up, a position that is known as "breech" that can be very dangerous for moms and babies. My little boy was head down up until labor, just like he should be.
In the final, penultimate moments: something happened. It became clear that this little guy had flipped. His head was up.
In any traditional, hospital setting, this is a big, big problem. If I had decided weeks before to deliver in that hospital, I would have been rushed to an operating room to have an emergency c-section. And in this case, given COVID-19, it would have been a deeply frightening experience. Who knows what would have happened with a last-minute flipping baby, in an emergency breech position.
But I was home, with my home birth team—a Christian midwife named Diane, her Jewish assistant Eliana, my Muslim doula, Tamoyia, and my husband—surrounding me. And with surgical precision Diane was able to free my baby from the position he was in, literally guiding his chin from the womb into the world. And in the miraculous blink of an eye...he was here.
Photo courtesy of Michelle DuBois
Abraham Antoni Auden DuBois—Auden for short, but Abraham because of the interfaith team of miracle workers who surrounded us—was born safely to me. In fact, he was made more safe because of the fact that I was home. This situation that I would never have fathomed—me, home birth?—might actually have saved my child's life, and my own life too. It certainly made for a more empowering birthing experience.
COVID-19 has taken many things from us. But it has also taught us many things. The importance of flexibility, and resilience. Trusting your instincts. Trusting God. And recognizing that the way we care for ourselves and allow others to care for us outside of a hospital can be just as meaningful and important as what happens inside a hospital setting.
I still believe in the importance of traditional medical care, and I don't know what I would do if I had to face the decision again. But what I can say to encourage moms and others out there is: COVID-19 cannot rob you of your joy. It can't take your most special moments from you. However you adapt is your decision and yours alone. Trust God, trust those who love you, do your research and trust your gut. After the year we have all had, I believe there is a miracle at the end of your journey, too.
Michelle DuBois is co-founder and president of Values Partnerships, one of the country's top social impact agencies. In her work at Values, she helps companies launch new projects with diverse communities and solve complex challenges. She is also a wife, mom to three beautiful kids and one insane Yorkshire terrier, and advocate for maternal and child health especially focusing on moms of color.