Home Birth, the Latest and Oldest in Healthcare Cost Cutting

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

My daughter loves balloons. Me? I’m uncomfortable with the little bastards. They burst mid-blow, slap your lips with stinging rubber, startle the boogers out of you.

My kid, though, she loves them. How could she not?

The day my daughter was born, my best friend brought day-old, helium-filled birthday balloons — her husband’s — and she and my husband tied the flagging orbs to the ceiling fan above our bed.

Earlier in the evening, we had planned on a movie — I don’t recall which one. Beetlejuice, perhaps, Tim Burton’s image of death and a darkly disturbed daughter. He must not have yet had one. Or Bagdad Cafe, Percy Aldon’s story of luscious rebirth in a Southwestern desert. No matter: We didn’t make it. I left a trail of dribbles back to the car.

And settled at home, when we were all certain it had started, we lowered the lights. We played Mozart — or was it Brahms? Maybe some womanly Celtic stuff. It’s all a bit fuzzy.

I remember going to the kitchen, to make chamomile tea, to move, to breathe, to wonder what was coming next. She wanted to help, my friend, as did my husband, but I think I wasn’t ready for that. Our midwife knew better than to offer.

And then we waited, while I tried to imagine her an adult — I knew it was a girl, untested but certain. Would she be an artist? Would she be whole? Would she survive?

I went to make more chamomile tea, to move more intently, to breathe deeper, to get down on all fours and howl. I knew what was coming next.

The pain, the abstraction, the focus, the detachment, the pain again.

And in between, I thought of Mother, the four she birthed, the one she lost. She also had been born at home, in the safe comfort of loving hands that would swaddle a healthy babe and let loose those not ready to join the living. Did Mother remember, could she recall her sequence, the progression from water broken, the length of her labors, the moments the contractions gave way to release and bliss?

Why don’t we ask these things, ask before it’s too late for answers?

But no matter; we were done. My daughter lay on my chest, umbilical cord still pulsing. Her father glowing. Balloons fluttering between gently turning fan blades, too soft to lift drenched hair from my forehead.

And to this day, my daughter loves balloons. Me, I remain uncomfortable with the little bastards. Although if someone else inflates them, I admit they make me smile. And still, I try to imagine her, well into her adulthood. Will she be an artist? Will she be whole? Will she survive? I don’t know.

But I do know that home births are slightly more common today than in recent years past, as they should be, though not yet the norm they were before hospitals took over. And if Congress has the resolve to reduce the cost of healthcare, insurers will be required to cover them.

© 2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

(Balloon photo by Aaron Hockley via a Creative Commons license.)