Mom Talk: I Switched To A Home Birth At 32 Weeks
Written by Jacquelene Amoquandoh
Photography by Jess Griffith, Photographed By BELATHÉE PHOTOGRAPHY
We’re back with another round of “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life, to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Jacquelene Amoquandoh discusses why she decided to forgo having her daughter at the hospital in favor of giving birth to her in-home. -JKM
I remember the exact moment when I thought to myself, “What the fuck am I doing?” I was driving home from work, hunger pains roaring in my belly, and I recalled the books I had read about home birth. They all discussed a woman’s need to eat and drink during labor, and that most hospitals only let women have clear liquid. How had I forgotten to ask the question about food and beverage during labor! At my next doctor’s appointment—30 weeks—I heard the news, “No, clear liquids only.” And, that was it.
Midwifery had always been an interest of mine and presented itself once again when a dear friend handed me Ina May Gaskin’s, Spiritual Midwifery. That book completely changed the way I viewed birth and sparked my interest in questioning the way women as a whole give birth in the United States. So much so that you would think I would have chosen a home birth when I got pregnant with my daughter. However, society and friends convinced me otherwise. I’m not typically one to listen to the opinions of others, if anything it drives me to do the exact opposite. But, with home birth, I felt weighed down by the what-ifs and negative opinions.
Initially, I chose to give birth about 45 minutes away from my home in a hospital that was considered baby friendly. Yet, every time I thought about going to the hospital, my anxiety would sore. I had a serious case of white coat syndrome; with each new visit to the doctor, my blood pressure would rise far above normal.
As the days neared the end of my pregnancy and I began thinking of what I would need in the hospital—what I would pack—I couldn’t help but feel like I was making the wrong decision. I truly felt like I would need boxing gloves for a fight. For me, going to the hospital was not doing what it was supposed to do. It wasn’t making me feel calm in my decision that this was what was “best for the baby.”
So, at 30 weeks, my husband and I drove to the midwives’ office for their routine monthly welcome meeting. The office was in the finished basement of one of the midwives’ home, complete with an exam room, comfy couches, and tons of photos of babies that had been born to them. I was the only one there with a very pregnant belly, as the other mothers were in the early stages of pregnancy and decision making. I instantly felt welcomed, warm, and at peace. The Certified Nurse Midwives that were part of this home birth group were trained at the best midwifery schools. They were also extremely kind and brought more than you could think of to keep both you and your baby safe, comfortable, and loved throughout the birthing process. In the end, I didn’t look at this switch as taking a risk. For me, taking a risk was going to the hospital; home birth was just birth.
I had my first official appointment post-switch at the midwives’ office when I was 32 weeks pregnant. My blood pressure was normal, and my baby and I danced for joy. The midwives quickly became family and my pregnancy flew by. At 36 weeks, one of the midwives visited our home to make sure she knew exactly how to get there, where everything was, and that we were prepared. We had a list of things to gather including everything from a home birth kit with gauze pads and a nasal aspirator, to a mixing bowl to catch my placenta and a baking sheet and heating pad to use as an incubator. Our bed was made with a plastic tablecloth beneath the sheets to keep the mattress safe and clean should the baby want to be born on my bed. Finally, my birth-tub was blown up. Fun fact: I bought a kiddie pool from Amazon, and if you read the reviews, I was not the first!
As the weeks went on and my belly grew, so did my excitement. I had a beautiful playlist prepared, candles thoughtfully placed around the house, and an order already in with my husband to cook his African peanut soup and buy me an ice cream cake.
On Halloween, while out dancing with my husband and our friends, dressed up like a man with a beer belly after winning the Halloween costume contest, I went into labor a week before my due date. I called the midwife around 1 a.m., who calmly instructed me to, “Put on your herbs and try and get some rest. Call when things progress.” Those words, “put on your herbs,” were what told me that this was it! (The midwives ask birthing mothers to get specific herbs, so they can be boiled and poured over postpartum pads, which are then put in the freezer. Just one of the many amazing small details they had come up with to make post-birth a bit more tolerable).
My midwife arrived around 1 p.m., and found I was lying in my birth pool, deep into labor. She was shocked when she saw I was already seven centimeters dilated. From there, my posterior baby did not feel like budging. After nearly 24 hours, 1,000 different positions, steady encouragement, and many cups of honey water, our Aurelia was born surrounded by her parents, midwives, and grandmother in her very own nursery. Tired but empowered, I brought my baby girl to my chest and sighed in relief and awe, for I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to make one of the greatest decisions of my life. I birthed my baby exactly where I thought she should be born: her own home.
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