I’m in the middle of reading Confessions of The Other Mother: Nonbiological Lesbian Moms Tell All! by Harlyn Aizley. I’m reading it because it was recommended to me. I’m not very far into the book but so far I’m enjoying it. It’s filled with stories that don’t normally get told, ones that I very much want to hear. However, I couldn’t even get through the introduction by Aizley before I found myself rocketed out of this happy little homebirth world I’ve been cocooning myself in. Aizley says “[g]ranted I was doped up on hormones, painkillers, and fatigue” when recalling her immediate postpartum period and describes life with children as a “Cheerios- and Elmo-filled, world.” These phrases leapt out at me from the page. It’s not that these two phrases aren’t descriptive of many people’s experiences with birth and parenthood. Of course they are. It’s just that I find the simplicity with which they were stated as a matter of course and the lack of reflexivity that accompanies this sort of writing staggering. It comes across as so shocking because this is not what I envision for myself as a future parent, nor is it the reality I see most of our homebirth clients engaging in. I’ve gotten myself so buried in this alternative birthing and parenting world that I didn’t even notice I was doing it.
I like that my world is filling up with beautiful homebirths, happy children, and alternative parenting. But I also don’t want to lose site of the rest of the population. I love the stories told in Confessions of the Other Mother and think it is crucially important that these stories be told. I wish more families would choose the type of beautiful gentle births I’ve been attending lately, especially queer families. While anyone laboring in the hospital could face injustices, indignities, and less than subpar care, it is more likely to happen if you are not white, straight, middle class, etc. etc. etc. Reading Confessions of the Other Mother has reiterated to me the importance of providing decent, caring alternatives to a typical hospital birth as well as the importance of educating my own community about their labor and birth options.
I remember back to the first doula birth L. attended. The clients were a lesbian couple having their first baby together. It was particularly long and grueling labor filled with hours of back labor, nurses who were sometimes just unfriendly and other times overtly homophobic, as well as a few other complications. At the end of this difficult labor and birth, L. recalled that social workers immediately came in to assess the situation and determine whether the nonbiological mother was fit to continue with their planned second-parent adoption. I just can’t imagine having that happen my or my partner’s birth, let alone after such a difficult labor. Having to battle institutionalized homophobia and heterocentrism at that moment – one of the most tender and sweet moments of life – sounds like a nightmare to me.
Not to say that homebirth midwives have it all together when it comes to serving queer families. They don’t. You have to be choose carefully just like everyone else. But with the right care provider and the right circumstances, you could have the kind of sweet, powerful, humbling, and divinity-filled homebirth that I’ve been witnessing lately. Complete care providers that protect and honor your bonding time afterwards. You will still have to go through the bureaucratic bullshit, but later and at a more appropriate time.