“Can I ask you a personal question?” asks the woman on the phone. She is calling to inquire about my birth classes and the subject of homebirth has come up.
“What about the mess?”
At first I give the standard answer. That birth isn’t so terribly messy, that you can put down towels and chux pads, that the midwife often does the cleanup. I pause a moment. This prospective client and I have an instant connection and excellent rapport. I add, “Actually, I left a huge blood spot on our living room carpet.” I add that the spot came out almost completely with peroxide, but can’t stop myself from also remarking, “I actually feel kind of proud of it—it felt like a symbol to me.” I find myself laughing a little and there is an unmistakable note of triumph in my voice.
“That I did it. Gave birth in my own home, in my own living room, on my own terms, under my own power, in my own way. In the way that felt best and right and safest to me. On my own. Me. I did it.”
What I did not add—what would have been pushing it just a little too far—is that when we moved the peroxide-cleaned carpet square into our new home a large, round, rusty-red stain was revealed on the concrete floor beneath. And, that I take secret delight in its presence. I am proud that I left my mark on the floor that bore witness to my labor. I delight and actually revel in the reminder of my power that the stain represents. Is this total weirdness? Or freakishness? A type of maternal masochism or even a perversion? No, I decide. It is really not so different from keeping a football trophy from high school or an award for volunteerism in human services from college. Maybe there is a medal for natural childbirth after all—arriving in different surprising guises, one kind a blotchy reddish stain on a concrete floor.
Despite our easy camaraderie, I never hear from that prospective client again.
Those who critique the zealousness of birth activists sometimes accuse us of supporting an insidious “Cult of Natural Childbirth” and assert that we undermine women and their unique and often traumatic experiences by “insisting” that birth be an empowering and triumphant event for women.
Maybe there actually is a Cult of Natural Childbirth and I am an acolyte of Birth cackling with wild glee as I caper around my bloodstained floor….
In the original article, I included a post-birth picture from my second son’s birth that showed one completely exposed breast. I must have still been hopped up on the post-birth euphoria when I sent it, because after it was actually published I felt slightly horrified to have my boob in print and didn’t feel like I could show the article to my dad (or, really, to many other people!) If you look closely at the picture I substituted in this blog post, you can see there is blood streaked all over my chest, arms, and hands. It was a very bloody birth!
This is a preprint of The Spot, an essay by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, published in Midwifery Today, Issue 86, Summer 2008. Copyright © 2008 Midwifery Today. Midwifery Today’s website is located at: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/