Many years ago, I was told I should probably be a midwife because I’m so “into babies,” as they put it. Could have been my older son saying that. “If she’s not here, she’s probably over holding someone’s kid.” Problem?
Instead, I’m collecting stories and sharing them. My friend Charlene Chauvaux called tonight and told me her tale. I first met her family when they moved in up the street from the old K-Otter studios in 1987.
She’d birthed a daughter in 1972 in a hospital in San Fernando Valley. “I had a natural childbirth. Northridge was one of the first natural birthing centers. The birth itself went well, but other things made me feel I didn’t want to go through that again.
“I was told while in labor not to get up. I had to go use the restroom, which was right there so I did, easily. A grumpy old nurse burst in on me and it was the only time during my labor that I felt any real pain. Probably nerves at the imposition. And there were other women making all this noise ….”
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Two and a half hours later Spring was born. “And they take the baby away from you — you have to ask for her back!”
Two years later, when she met and married Richard, they’d figured they’d like a child of their own. He’d helped with a number of home births with friends before so was comfortable with the concept. By 1976, the three of them had moved to San Jose and there was a group of midwives that happened to be living just a couple of blocks away!
“I had my backup doctor, of course, who was from Holland and had actually studied with midwives, so was supportive. I was a fanatic about doing my exercises and taking care of myself. We had the house all ready with a bed that would fold out in the living room in front of the fireplace. We were ready.
“Two midwives were to come. One got a speeding ticket, however, and wound up missing the event as labor was only 45 minutes long! Rosemary, our main midwife, got there and checked me — I was already at 10 cm. She went in to get things together. Richard told her the baby’s head was crowning and she told him to tell me not to push. Of course, you can guess what I may have said.
“It wound up Seth’s umbilical chord was wrapped around his neck so Richard reached in and un-looped it as Seth was coming out. He was just fine. But a funny thing happened, too, that night — a friend called during the birth wondering why I hadn’t come to pick her up at the airport. ‘Um, I’m kinda busy right now…’ ” She understood.
Fifteen months later, in 1977, they had Zane. Same house, same fireplace, same neighbors that watched Spring before now watched her and Seth. Rosemary, the main midwife, came again, as did the one caught speeding before and two others who were in training. Rosemary told them they’d better be quick about getting things together this time.
“When they were ready. I heard them in there playing cards and whatever. so I got up and cleaned a little. knowing Richard’s mother was going to be coming. Zane came an hour and a half later without a hitch. It was great.
“For me, this was the way to go. I just felt less fearful and more in control of things. My kids are all healthy and wonderful — what more could I ask for?”