‘One Family’s Journey from Cesarean to Home Birth’
When Brooklyn contacted me in early December regarding a review of her upcoming release, I had a backlog of books to review (AKA The Pile of Guilt) but my interest was certainly piqued… not only a positive VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean) story, but an HBAC (home birth after Caesarean) AND in the States, where homebirths are notoriously hard to come by, as some insurers will not cover home births (Brooklyn’s included) and ‘The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) oppose home birth.’, regardless of women’s choice an statistics relating to their safety in ‘low risk’ pregnancies.
Brooklyn is a postpartum nurse. She thought she knew everything there was to know about pregnancy, labour and birth. On paper, this was true. In reality, she fell into the over-medicalised world of labour underprepared and fearful. Her head full of the kind of terminology that can rattle the most steadfast of women, she arrived at hospital and let them induce her (her waters had already broken and she was aware of the imposed time limit for natural birth after rupture of membranes). By her own admission, she should have stayed home in the early stages of labour, relaxed, gotten some rest. By her own admission, “[she] knew nothing.”
In the weeks following her daughter’s birth, Brooklyn had time to digest what had happened during it, and the cascade of interventions that followed her arrival at hospital, culminating in an emergency C-section. It’s prudent for me to point out here that she clearly states (and we at TFTMS are in full agreement): “I do not dispute medically necessary cesarean birth. I know no one who does.” She is also pro elective C-sections and a woman’s right to chose the type of birth that she would like for herself and her baby. Her issue, as a large section of the book unpicks, is with the seemingly very normal route taken by so many women who arrive at hospital after a low-risk pregnancy, ready and hoping to birth vaginally yet leave, as she did, after major surgery because of ‘failure to progress’. It’s a theme that underpins so many births in both the UK and USA, as litigation and the culture of fear surrounding childbirth loom ever larger over the medical profession, and women.
The first section of her book (‘The doing was harder than doing nothing’) is a journey through Brooklyn’s first pregnancy and labour. The second section (‘the learning was everything but felt like doing nothing’) begins with excerpts taken from her blog posts during and after the miscarriage she experienced during her second pregnancy. It is candid and raw – she lays everything bare and for that alone, I am grateful – there are so many women who will find comfort and solace in those pages. This segues gently into the obsession with ovulation, cervical fluid and BBT (Basal Body Temperature) – factors that any woman or couple who have spent any length of time trying to conceive will identify with. When she conceives and eventually allows herself to become excited about her rainbow baby, she sets her mind and heart on a home birth. Her greatest ally is her midwife – Genevieve, whose understanding of the female body and it’s incubation and birthing of babies is nothing short of wonderful. There is plenty of insight into the history of birthing practices and the factors that have resulted in the current exceptionally medicalised arena of birth, which is fascinating for a birth geek like me, but is also invaluable in making one consider who really makes the choices for women about their bodies, babies and postpartum needs.
Section three (‘The realizing doing nothing is doing everything’). The difference between the language used to describe her first and second labours is so divergent, it seems like a miracle of sorts. It’s amazing to hear the empowerment and strength Brooklyn feels with her supportive husband and incredible midwife (and trainee midwife) on her team. This section begins with the line: ‘ They’re coming. Contractions. And I know what to do. Do nothing.’ It is the ultimate ‘trust your body’ moment. Her description of this second labour reminded me a great deal of my own – I don’t mean the physical act of birthing (though there were plenty of similarities), but the benefit of knowledge, the power of understanding your own body, the importance of being surrounded by positive people, allied with you in your choices and moments of doubt. I’ve also learnt a great deal about pelvic floor care, which she discusses in the closing chapters – something that I need to be better at!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to take charge of their birthing journey. Brooklyn’s experiences and knowledge will also be useful if you have previously given birth and feel like the experience wasn’t your own. It’s a brilliantly balanced read – intimate, deeply personal anecdotes and evidence based information converge to create a well-informed account of two very different births. Thank you, Brooklyn, for sending me a copy – it’s been a pleasure to read and review it.
Jo, The Mother Side x
The picture above shows Brooklyn presenting her ‘Pen To Paper: Write Your Birth Story’ workshop to MommyConChicago—a natural parenting conference. She has also recently presented at various ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) support meetings. She told me: “It has been an empowering experience with so many brave and bold women sharing the joys and trials of their birth journeys. Birth stories are invaluable! We need more of them.” If you’re US-based, check out these course. And should you wish to share your birth story here on TFTMS, please get in touch.