When I told people this weekend that we were going to a home birth group discussion around the theme of attitudes to pain, they looked at Laurence as if feeling for his pain.
Truthfully, neither of us was sure what to expect. The idea of home birth is not an alien concept to me. My mother had my brother and me at home and I suppose I kind of always thought that I’d have my babies at home some day.
But since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve only met women with hospital births and so I was intrigued to meet others who wanted to do it or had done it at home. I’d begun to feel like they were the stuff of myth.
Looking around a room of, perhaps, fifteen couples, it felt like what we’re trying to achieve isn’t so ‘out there’ or as one friend suggested, frankly, crazy.
We’d joked beforehand that it was probably going to be a lot of hippies. Though I immediately looked down at my shalwar pants and had to admit that we sort of fit that bill anyway. A home birth on the cards and a room full of ‘real’ nappies? We’re those parents-to-be.
Actually, there was a lot of talk about meditating on labyrinths and quite memorably, one guy suggested that birth sounded like the biggest ‘trip’. But couples ranged in age, dress, number of children and stage of pregnancy. A summary of the room would admit that thinking about home birth seems to be for everyone.
The night kicked off with a birth story from a couple who’d recently had their baby at home (the current popularity of the name Bella astounds me – it’s pretty though). Their little girl kept staring about and I couldn’t help but wonder if everyone was looking at her and thinking the same thing I was: “We’re going to have one of those.”
During the break, Laurence and I caught up with each other’s thoughts. I’d been worried he was bored and wondering why we’d come but he was bursting with things we needed to get ready for the baby. His excitement was palpable. It was as if everything had suddenly become real and he’d realised that when I said we only have 12 weeks left, it actually wasn’t very much time at all.
In the next segment we broke up into two groups: one for pregnant women to discuss ideas for dealing with the pain and another for our partners to think about how they might support us. I’ve put a photograph of the lists we came up so you can get the gist of the conversation.
I’m still working out how I feel about all the different options. Some feel quite obvious to me – I will be hitting the bath a fair bit, I’d imagine. Visualisation on the other hand just wouldn’t work for me. It’s just not how my brain is wired.
But then each of us had something of an epiphany when our respective groups were asked to think about how we’ve always dealt with pain or tried to relax. When we talked about it afterwards, it was astounding how similar our thoughts were.
As Christians, our instinct is prayer. Why shouldn’t we aim to make our birth a spiritual – even worshipful – experience? It suddenly all clicked for us. While I’m not about to stick Tim Hughes on iTunes, mantras will be helpful, especially if they come from the Psalms.
I think the important thing to take from all this is to recognise that everyone’s got to make the birth experience their own. For us, that’s just opened a world of possibilities.