I went to the dentist the other day, and it was awful as usual. The waiting. The scraping of metal. The condescending warnings about not flossing enough. The bruising and bleeding from the mouth like a losing boxer. After two home births, I can say with confidence that it is actually more convenient and, in many ways, less painful to give birth at home than to see the dentist. Here’s why.
For both of my home births, I was in charge of scheduling, or my baby was. I never had to rush, never had to wait at four-way intersections or find parking in spooky high-rise garages. Pre- and post-natal visits were at my home, on my turf. I was usually examined while lying on my couch, blissfully unhurried. My water broke on the due date, contractions amped up, we called the midwife and she came striding through the door a half-hour later with a big smile on her face.
The dentist’s office is fluorescently lit, like most impersonal cost-saving institutions: hospitals, classrooms, courthouses. Walgreens, Safeway, Target. In contrast, my home lighting is incandescent, cozy and quaint. I could have given birth in total darkness if I had wanted to. Instead, we lit a bunch of candles and the reading lamp on the bedside table. The ambiance was pleasant, even festive.
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I often wait so long at the dentist that I begin to hear the same cheesy instrumental Muzak loop back around: a special kind of torture. After we learned in birth class that the average length of first-time labor is 15 hours, my sister and best friend created an extremely long birth playlist including my favorite songs from various chapters of my life: Madonna, Ani DiFranco, Bob Marley, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. When active labor began, I asked for silence, and no one seemed offended.
At the dentist, it is just you and the dentist. Maybe a friendly assistant, if you are lucky. You cannot have a conversation because your mouth is stuck in the open position. At a home birth, you can invite anyone you like. Some beloveds felt left out of my first home birth, so the second time we invited more widely. It was a regular party: the midwife, the doula, my husband, my two sisters, my mother, my best friend and me. We considered including the toddler firstborn, but then decided that he was too sensitive and sent him to the park. After two congenial hours of chatting and contractions, we were joined by the newborn baby, nursing greedily like a frat boy at a keg.
Perhaps it is because visits to the dentist are mainstream, while home births account for only about one percent of American births — whatever the reason, in home birth you are totally welcome to fly your freak flag. During a home birth, you can be naked, you can bathe, you can orgasm, you can drink kale smoothies, whatever you wish. I was instructed not to scream during labor but rather to keep my voice low, like a Buddhist monk, in order to keep my heart rate down and my focus centered. My interpretation in the heat of the moment was to moo like a cow and to growl like a tiger, a surprise to all of us. Imagine making these animal sounds in the dentist’s chair. Naked.
Many insurance plans do not cover home birth, and it can cost several thousand dollars. But the number on the contract with the midwife is the total amount you pay. The midwife does not push shiny brochures into your swollen pregnant hands, advertising fancier rubber sheets for your bed or more potent herbs for your sitz bath. She does not ask you to consider a two-for-one deal. No upselling or cross-selling; just quality care. At the dentist, on the other hand, I am bombarded with branded content. Am I a loyal Crest user? Am I a good candidate for Invisalign? Do I want gold, silver or porcelain crowns? It is maddening, all the choices, all the extras.
In home birth, unlike at the dentist, the experience is totally customized. The client is queen. And you get a baby at the end, not just a toothbrush.
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