The first time I heard about alternative birthing options to the hospital births I had seen portrayed on TV and in movies for years was in my Women’s Studies class during my sophomore year of college. I read a book about a midwife during the 17th century and learned how different birth used to be, learned what the term “birth plan” meant, but didn’t do much about it because marriage and babies were so far away at that point.
Interestingly the next step in my journey toward learning more about alternative birthing options was reading a fictional novel about a midwife who cuts open a laboring mother with a butcher knife during a home birth gone wrong. (Definitely one of my favorite novels ever, by the way. I highly recommend it.) Interestingly I was able to focus on something other than the gory details of the birth story, and it didn’t make me afraid of exploring birth options outside of a hospital. The storyline introduced me to a new attitude toward giving birth, and I realized that there were women who embraced the birth experience instead of feared it. I read about these fictional midwives who devoted their lives to caring for pregnant and laboring women, sometimes against great opposition from outside forces.
My next step in my alternative birthing discovery quest was learning about birth photography from Kelli Nicole. She has photographed a few births herself, and I found the stories told through the photo slideshows so beautiful that I began searching for more photographers around the US with posts on their blog about births they had photographed.
Think birth photography sounds boring? Then you haven’t seen what Life in Motion Photography can capture, even in the most limiting of hospital circumstances. Check out the second photo down in the birth of audrey. Stunning right?
Out of all the stories, the ones I loved the most were those outside of the hospital. The women were in motion, squatting, kneeling, floating in a birth tub, hanging around the necks of their husbands. They were able to choose if they wanted older siblings to be present, and how involved they wanted them to be in the birth process. The women ate and drank when and what they wanted, used birth pools and birthing balls to explore alternative positions, and brought their babies immediately up to their breast moments after the birth. Their husbands are active participants in the birthing process, often getting in the birth tub women to literally be their rock through an incredibly difficult experience. I wanted the control, I wanted the support, and I wanted my husband. If you’d like to see what I’m talking about Homeshade Photography has captured several out-of-hospital birth experiences I adore, although she has all right clicks disabled so I can’t link to them directly. They are worth clicking over and scrolling down for though.
(Oh, and if you’re like me and can’t get enough birth photography one other site to check out would be that of Lynsey Stone, she’s out of Dallas and absolutely fantastic as well.)
The last significant step in my introduction to alternative birthing before we started trying to get pregnant (and really went crazy with the birth research) was reading The Red Tent. Random I know, and I’m sure many of you have read this novel without the same effect, but the description of the birthing scenes really got to me. To be in a place surrounded only by people who know and love you in a quiet, controlled, comforting environment throughout my labor was something I wanted for myself.