I had seen Karla Newman belly dancing, but first met her hula dancing in our Community Center-sponsored Tornado of Talent Show. A gentle and bright woman, she is the first to respond to my requests for stories of homebirths.
“I had Gabe in Santa Monica in 1978 and Seth in Hana, Maui, Hawaii in 1980. Both births were kind of unusual.
“Gabe was a feet-first breech & my labor ran a full 48 hours. I’d arranged in advance to have a licensed doctor do the delivery at home. Home births were just beginning to be talked about in LA and I found him through a magazine article.
“We had lots of discussion when he discovered the baby was not only breech, but also feet first. He sent me for an X-ray the day before my due date to make sure my hips were ample and the baby wouldn’t get hung up. After viewing the X-ray he said I had enough room to “drive a Mack truck” through.
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“I have some memorable photos of 2 tiny, bruised feet emerging before any other body parts appeared. In a feet-first birth, the baby literally kicks the cervix open because there is no round head or butt to expand it gradually. It felt like I was giving birth to a flamingo dancer. Still, it was a great experience all around.
“Seth was born during a full-scale hurricane and no electricity for about 9 days after. I had arranged for the midwife to stay at my house a few days early because Hana is on the backside of Maui and is about a two-hour drive on a very curvy road. I was afraid a midwife couldn’t make it in time to deliver the baby and if she hadn’t been with us already before the storm, she would not have been able to get there.
“Seth had started out breech but somehow turned himself over in my 7th month. Midwifery was technically illegal in Hawaii in those days, so I was going to have no choice but to have the baby in the hospital originally. Luckily for me, he turned over and I called the midwife again.
“The birth went well. The only inconvenient part was dealing with a new baby and no electricity for a whole week. The elderly Hawaiian woman that lived next door came to see the baby and christened him “Makani.” Ka-Makani means “the big wind” in Hawaiian, so Seth’s middle name is Makani. He thought it was a really weird name & was ashamed of it when he was a kid but now he thinks it’s pretty cool.
“The last unusual thing about my home births is that I did not get a birth certificate either time. I had to evade the doctor’s office in Santa Monica and make excuses to avoid doing the paperwork. We moved to Hawaii before they caught up with me. In Hawaii, no one even asked.
“I was a teenager during the Vietnam War and had friends come back in a body bag or permanently damaged— physically, mentally, emotionally.
“I was determined to keep my sons under the radar in case of another insane war. I was able to do it, too, until they were old enough to want a paper route. For that they needed a SS number and to get that they needed a legal birth certificate. It was a hassle but essentially all I needed were notarized affidavits from US citizens who were present at the birth.
“The people in the LA records department were shocked and amazed when I asked how to get a post-birth certificate for Gabe but the Hawaiians said it happens all the time and were completely unfazed.”
Thanks for sharing, Karla. It’s interesting what we can do, isn’t it?