Here, at the apex of the mountain

NS September 18th, 2009

Evan birth

One year ago today, at this moment — the exact moment captured in this photograph — I possessed more presence of body, clarity of mind and connectedness with humanity than I ever had before. Giving birth to my son at home with no interventions or drugs was, hands down, the most amazing, mind-blowing, peaceful, empowering yet extraodinarily ordinary thing I have ever done. Not just because I felt proud of my body for doing what it was designed to do, or because I felt special or superior to anyone else, but because I’d learned so much about myself, and the power of women, in the process. I wrote:

Believing in birth and making it happen has given me a renewed sense of faith in myself, something I think was desperately needed. I now know that I have the power within me to do things I previously thought impossible or too painful. I can face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and with enough determination, organisation and knowledge, clear them easily. This was more than just my child’s birth – it was my rebirth. I’m not a religious person and I don’t even consider myself spiritual, but I do know that I’ve never felt more alive, more connected to humanity or more powerful, yet so humble. If that’s not a sacred experience, I don’t know what is.

Since that event, my committment to fighting for a feminism that includes mothers in a way that doesn’t marginalise,  patronise or demonise our experiences with pregnancy, childbirth and parenting has grown — especially those that do not mesh with modern-day expectations or norms. My feminism is not just about making sure women have the right to NOT have babies (though that is profoundly important); it’s about giving them the right to choose HOW and WHERE and WHY they have those babies, if that’s the path they’ve chosen. Fighting tooth and nail for reproductive rights and talking about the importance of complete bodily autonomy should apply to birthing women as well. Telling a mother-to-be that she is endangering her baby by trusting her body and that she’d better submit control of her birth to a medical institution or professional that usually assumes the worst of our bodies, makes us believe we are fragile and ignorant and Other…well, it’s not very feminist at all, really.

I’m not talking specifically about home birth either, but ALL birth, everywhere. A woman who’d rather be in hospital, or who has no choice but to be there, shouldn’t feel she has to prostrate herself before an endless array of bureaucratic policies just to get quality medical care and make her own health decisions. We each deserve a birth that isn’t solely about the end result, but about how we experience it: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually  and socially.

Complete knowledge. Complete care. Complete autonomy. Complete respect.

Nothing else will do.

Happy birth day, The Noble Baby. To both of us.

19 Responses to “Here, at the apex of the mountain”

  1. vered says:

    Happy birthday!

  2. cartside says:

    Yay to that! Happy birthday!

  3. anna says:

    great post.

    it’s my little brother’s 21st birthday today as well!

  4. Anji says:

    B’aww. This is beautiful. Happy birthday little one! :D

  5. cartside says:

    oh, and I’ve got an award for you over at mine.

  6. the bad aunt says:

    Happy Birthday little one!!!

  7. Happy birthday, TNB. Happy momiversary to you, you wonderful writer.

  8. I agree about the new sense of self that comes with birth. I don’t know if I’d feel something more profound if my next experience comes 100% naturally, but just birthing (in whatever form) is transformative.

  9. Fabulous.

    Happy Birthday and many congratulations to you both.

    I hope one day I can experience such an empowering and powerful birth. Mine didn’t quite go to plan but was still the most incredible moment of my life and changed me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. I love that you’re fighting to make that experience better for me, to iron out the wrinkles (intensely crappy midwife, PPH) so that next time maybe I will be able to have the transformative, autonomous, natural birth I’ve always longed for and that should be come naturally and rightfully to me.

    Keep up that fight please! We still have a long way to go…

  10. geekymummy says:

    What a beautiful picture, thanks for sharing it. Happy birthday Noble Baby!

    I was trying today to share today the wonder, exhilaration and sheer joy of birth with a woman in my group who left today for her maternity leave. I told her I was envious that she was going to labor and deliver her child, and that I wished I could do it again. I wanted to communicate to her from “the other side” that having a baby is not something to be feared, as our culture so often seems to say. She is excited but afraid, of course, and I was hoping to assuage her fears.

    It was a friend of mine who opened my eyes, and allowed me to know in advance of my first pregnancy that giving birth could be wonderful. I am so fortunate in having had to fantastic labor and deliveries (in a wonderful hospital, but intervention free). I wish this for all women. I wish I had your eloquence though, so I’ll send her your post!

  11. Charlotte says:

    That photograph, the joy of it, brings tears to my eyes. Happy birthday to your little darling!

  12. Iota says:

    Lovely picture and great post.

  13. Emily Barton says:

    Amen! And Happy Birthday to the Noble Baby! I cannot believe it’s already been a year.

  14. nicola says:


    You are not the first of my ‘friends’ to have had a similar birth experience in the UK. Two friends had planned home births, one decided to deliver at home at the 11th hour because the labour (her first) was going so well with her midwife (and this was the friend married to a dr who was adament that she was going to be straight into hospital for her epidural as soon as labour started).

    I don’t know anyone in the US who has had a similar experience. And I know plenty of mothers. It is so much easier to get caught up in the ob/gyn system of healthcare, which does not advocate natural birth at any stage in my experience.

    When I told my dr that I wanted a natural birth (a dr I really liked and respected) she just smirked and said, ‘it’s always the women that say that that are begging for the epidural after 10 minutes. We’ll see.’ I was so angry at her response, but was still determined. And even tho I had a high risk pg with Captain Underpants I researched as much about natural labour as I could and also paid for 2 doulas to be present.

    Ultimately, CU was a natural birth, albeit at 30 weeks, strapped to a hospital bed and with limited mobility due to all the monitoring that was happening. However, in my mind I was able to tune most of that out. For the first time in my life I surrendered. Surrendered to my body and trusted the knowledge that it knew what it was doing. It was the most liberating, empowering thing I have ever experienced. I identify with everything that you wrote.

    I could prattle on – but won’t. Thank you for a brilliant post. Ricki Lake produced and starred in an amazing natural birth documentary this year and is advocating for change in the birthing process in the US. I am right behind you both.

  15. amy says:

    a gorgeous picture! and you so good for just giving birth! happy birthday little one xx

  16. Liz says:

    You look absolutely beautiful, you may have sold me on home births now, though not sure how the system feels about VBAC home births!

  17. SandyCalico says:

    Happy Birth Day!
    Amazing post. I wish more HCPs would listen to women. We’re not ill, we’re pregnant. It is natural. *sigh*.

  18. NS says:

    Thank you all for your kind words. :)

  19. Completely awesome. I want that HBAC waterbirth experience SOOOO badly. Would you believe that it’s STILL almost impossible to find someone to attend my homebirth even though I’ve already had a successful VBAC? The environment is so hostile. One of my friends likes to say that us cesarean moms walk around with a Scarlett C on our chest. Nobody wants to touch us — nobody with insurance anyway.

    But I’m going to do everything in my power to have that same look on my face years from now when I do this again. I NEED that feeling. My VBAC was great – but next time has to be more peaceful. It just has to be. If it can’t be, I can’t even think about going through it all again.