With the birth of Piper, the nurse asked me if I wanted a mirror. I was confused: "Why?" She looked at me a bit surprised (maybe because I already proved our alternativeness by asking for the lights dimmed...asking if it was okay to play music, etc). She answered: "Well some women like to see the birth." I decided I wasn't one of those woman. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I would want to see the children being pushed out of my vagina. In fact, it freaked me out a bit. I wasn't sure if seeing what was happening was going to be reassuring...it might send me into a panic. Because I knew that something really big was coming out of something small. And that something was my vagina.
But H has been through all three births. He's watched each of this children slip into the world. Has held them when they were still wet from the womb, and even cut the cord on one of them (the other two were whisked away from us). With Piper, he was the one who told the nurses "Ummm....I think that's the baby's head." Unlike many men though he doesn't have any funny stories about being horrified. He's always seemed very moved, and has never had any problems returning to sex afterwards. No repulsion, etc.
When we watched "The Business of Birth" I found myself cringing at the scenes of birth. They were often quite graphic. But after the first couple, I started to marvel at that moment when the women's bodies just opened up and brought forth a living creature. I knew it wasn't a simple opening. It was an opening that came through waves of pain, pushing and work. But I also knew that moment felt like ecstasy. It was like the world blew apart the moment your child came out into the world. And I wondered why I had been squeamish about seeing my body do this amazing feat.
H said something last night that I think answered my query. He pointed out that with the creation of hospitals as the norm, we've sanitized our lives. We've put our sick away. We've covered the bloody guts of life. We go there to be born and to die. We go there to be sick. People who visit us, often see the cleaned up sick us. They're not going to see the Dr. sawing an arm off, or cutting opening the chest (although the advent of the surgical theaters for civilians may be changing this). There is a part of me that welcomes this sanitation. After all, I do not want my family to see the insides of my body during surgery. That seems like an intimacy that perhaps is too deep. Nor do we necessarily wish our families to see our suffering.
On the other hand, we have taken a way a part of life. Suffering is not something that is always visible. And not only that but we've turned rites of life into something no longer shared and I'm not sure if this is such a great thing. By moving birth and death to the hospital, we've denied ourselves and our children the face of these two important moments of life. The movement to bring these passages back into the home strikes me as a potentially good thing. Perhaps death is not so frightening if we leave in the comfort of what we know surrounded by those who love us. And for those watching, we get to see a model of our own future.
With that said, H and I are strongly considering a homebirth. There are a few reasons for this. First, we feel more comfortable here in our space. I suspect that this comfort would make birth a bit easier. Second, I do not want to be forced into medical situations that make me uncomfortable or those that go against my wishes. Third, I want the other beasties there. I want them to welcome their new sibling into the world. I want them to see birth as something beautiful and natural. And I think they can handle it. When we watched the documentary, they were enthralled. They watched birth after birth with rapt attention. They were not scared or grossed out. Just utterly amazed at the process. They haven't yet learned to see this as something horrific, unnatural, or sanitized.
And yes there will be a mirror at this birth.