I never realized that home birth was taboo until I chose that path

During my first pregnancy in Seattle I sought out out-of-hospital midwives. Honestly, I never realized it was very taboo to consider a home birth until we started telling friends and family that it was the plan. I am half Dutch and grew up hearing about how my mother and all her siblings were born at home.

My cousin had already given birth twice at home in the Netherlands and loved the experience. I knew that home birth was something common in the Netherlands, but I didn’t know how rare the Netherlands actually was. Somehow, I grew up unafraid of birth, I was mostly curious, and I liked the idea of having an intimate relationship with the women that would be with me throughout my pregnancy and birth. My mother passed away when I was 21-years old, so I think I’ve often sought out close relationships with women, especially in a mentorship capacity, in my adulthood. I quickly realized how completely horrified most people in the USA are of the concept of a home birth. And frankly, just terrified of birth in general. This began to anger me because I often felt completely unseen and disrespected in my decision. The conversation was never about what was right for me as a birthing person, but instead about fear and danger.

I began to research. I read many articles, scientific papers, books. I still had access to the University of Washington’s vast library system, and my degree in biology. I wasn’t just reading blogs. I felt that I needed more and more numbers and statistics to back me up, to prove my point, that my decision wasn’t irresponsible. I spiraled into a passionate rage of all the injustices in the American birthing system. There are so many. Instead of feeling more convicted in my choice for a home birth, I instead developed a fear of birthing in a hospital in the USA. I would have nightmares of what could happen if I had to transfer to a hospital. It was definitely not a healthy mindset. Before the end of my pregnancy I backed off the research and just focused on preparing myself for my birth and baby.

In the end it was a beautiful, intense experience. I was fortunate to have an uncomplicated birth and I did get to stay home for the entirety of my labor, birth, and postpartum recovery. Rem was born the night Donald Trump was elected to the presidency. It was a heavy night for our doulas (our doula brought an apprentice doula) and midwives, but they never let on.

They were fully present with me the entire time. It wasn’t until over an hour after Rem was born that I asked about the results and I saw their faces fall. I pushed the news aside and breathed in my newborn. It would be several days until I accepted the news, I was happy in the newborn bubble, never having left my home. Just weeks later it would be Trump’s election that encouraged my husband Atish to think far more seriously about moving abroad. As a brown person he felt scared and angry with the state of America and eager to leave. I would always say we would do better to stay and try to make things better, but that would always be my white privilege. So, we took the leap and moved to Amsterdam where we still live now.

The experience of having an empowering birth became something I wanted to share even more with others. I hosted a film screening at our local film forum, the documentary “Why Not Home?” with proceeds going to an amazing local organization that provides doulas to at-risk and underserved families. But the more I continued to learn about birth, looking back at my own experience, and hearing from other people, it became clear to me that I needed to shift my perspective of fear of [unnecessary] intervention and non-evidence-based practices towards education and empowerment. Now, 4 years since I began consuming as much knowledge about birth as I could, I feel very settled in my conviction: I believe strongly that every birthing-person should be supported in birthing where they feel safest.

For most people, this will 100% be in the hospital. Birth is complex and uncertain, but one thing we do know is that it progresses much smoother when families feel safe, respected, and empowered. That can mean many different things. I am passionate about families being fully educated about their options, the risks and benefits of those options, and then supported in their choices. I also am passionate about supporting the work in healthcare that needs to be done to reduce gross inequalities in birthing outcomes for POC (not only in the USA).

The USA has a long way to go to integrating home birth in their birth system. Transfer times are often too long. Hospitals, nurses, and doctors, often receive transfers with a lot of prejudice and stigma, resulting in disrespectful care. In some parts of the USA they still call the police when a transfer arrives at the hospital, threatening to take a partner into custody. We were lucky to live in Seattle, between two nearby hospitals that worked respectfully with the city’s independent midwives. When we moved to the Netherlands it excited me to have the opportunity to birth in a society that still embraces home birth. I felt so safe knowing that my choice was supported and respected. And also, so safe knowing that if I transferred, I would be in a hospital where my choices and body would continue to be respected. I did not fear a possible transfer at all. A home birth was an obvious choice for us here in Amsterdam.

My second birth was awesome. It was faster and more intense than the first. My midwife was amazing. We spent a lot of time preparing Rem and he ended up being there with me almost the entire time. I am SO grateful we had a wonder birth photographer because I know we will cherish the photos and memories forever of a very powerful and beautiful day.

(My entire birth slide show is on Lucrecia Carosi's website here) I believe it will be powerful for Rem to look back at the photos to remember what he was a part of and what is possible.

My background is in conservation biology which eventually took me to law school. I’ve always felt passionate about conservation and environmental activism. I went to law school to study environmental law. Over the years my interests were already moving more towards environmental justice, women’s rights and women’s health, indigenous rights. It was in law school that my eyes were open to how little I actually knew about social justice issues in the USA and I became more passionate about learning more and contributing however I could to various causes. Before I graduated, I became pregnant with our first child. I did some legal work after graduating but I allowed becoming a mother to keep me from pursuing a legal career at that point. I don’t regret this decision at all, it has become clear to me that I do not want a legal career. But I do hope to one day return to working in the not-for-profit sector for an environmental or social organization in some capacity. Instead of law I dove deep into all things birth related and found a love for the usefulness and beauty of wearing my babies. I am now a babywearing educator. I have my own business and do babywearing consultations for families. It’s part time work that keeps me fulfilled while also allowing me to be with my children until they go to school fulltime.

I left the beginning of a career in law to be with my kids full-time and that decision has often surprised me. But I am grateful that it has been possible for me and them. I really can't imagine working full time and trying to fit the rest of life and parenting in the little time left in the day and weekends. I have massive respect to all the families that manage to do this, it bamboozles me to think about. I am a babywearing educator and consultant. I began my business, Adapting to Love, in Seattle and moved it to Amsterdam. I enjoy hosting community events for parents to come together to meet and support each other. I want babywearing to be accessible to everyone and I accept payment for my services on a sliding scale, and I also am always happy to answer questions and provide advice for free via email.

The transition into motherhood is a sharp and dramatic one and I thought that was the height of the challenge when Rem was just becoming a toddler. But now that he is gradually leaving toddlerhood and becoming a kid it is clear to me that being a parent to a full-fledged human is really the challenge. Navigating how to explain life, emotions, ideas, problems, society, and the world to Rem blows me away. I never know what I’m doing, and while he is becoming more and more physically independent, his entire way of perceiving the world and interacting with it is molded by our influence and choices. I find the responsibility incredible and I’m constantly wondering what I can be doing better.

When I think of him and his brother approaching adolescence, I panic a little because it seems too much for two adults to handle, being fully responsible for two young men. I already see teachable moments with Rem to break some of the cycle of the patriarchy. But I’m also raising brown children who will one day be brown adults, though they will likely receive a fair amount of white privilege.

Being a white woman and raising brown children is a whole other challenge that I believe I will always be learning to navigate. It is important to us that our children feel proud of their heritage. I regularly tell Rem that his voice is powerful, and he will learn to use it to speak out when he sees something that needs to be changed and to help others, as well as to tell his own story. But I also hope that as a man he will learn to listen to understand, rather than respond.

How to raise responsible, emotionally intelligent, respectful humans will be an ongoing life lesson for me and my husband. At the moment, I tell myself that the best I can do is to model the behavior and choices I want them to learn, and that inspires me to raise myself up to be a better, more compassionate, more patient person... when I can muster it. There are many days that I wish I had done better.

Over the course of the recent Black Lives Matter uprising I reflected a lot on what I would be doing if I was still in the USA and what I can and cannot do because I now live in the Netherlands. We made donations to organizations in the USA and the Netherlands, but I wanted to use my time and power to have a more long-term impact. I’ve been growing a collection of inclusive books for Rem and Ravi for a while, and I thought it would be nice to donate some books to Rem’s class so that they would have inclusive books at his school as well as at home.

But I quickly started to scale the idea in my mind, and it seemed like a very tangible goal to raise money for inclusive children’s books. There is a wonderful Black-owned children’s bookstore in Amsterdam Oost called EduCulture. The owner, Joan Windzak, curates a collection of English and Dutch language books that include characters of color and represent various cultures. Joan is putting together a package of age-appropriate books for ages 3-10 and for every 10 books we purchase from EduCulture, Joan is donating an additional one. A friend is helping me with outreach and Dutch translations as she is a Dutch high school teacher. We are connecting with various schools across Amsterdam to bring them each a package of about 10 books. If you live locally in Amsterdam and want to donate to the book drive you can do so on the GoFundMe page.

Anyone can raise money to buy books, you can start with your immediate community, your friends and your school. You can expand to your school district. You can buy books from Black-owned bookstores (just google and you will find lists of bookstores to order from). For the USA, The Conscious Kid has been running an Antiracist book drive for a while. You can raise money and donate directly to them. They will get the right books in the right schools. They are an amazing organization doing important work. I’ve learned a lot from them and it is a very helpful resource for families who want to diversify their library (and discussions) at home.

Zyanya - Mom of 2 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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