When my sister first asked me to Skype in to her home birth a few months ago, I immediately declined. I suppose I laughed it off and marked it up to yet another fad to “do” birth textbook perfect (or maybe, indy-film perfect). I love my sister with my whole heart, but I was skeptical as to why she would want me to watch her birth from 3,000 miles away. It didn’t come up again for a few months.
In June, I spent time with my family in Michigan. Eating strawberries, drinking my mom’s homemade wine and being dressed up as a “queen” for the entertainment of my nieces and nephew. Late one night, I nonchalantly mentioned to my mom that Laveda wanted me to Skype in to the home birth. Waiting for her to scoff her usual yeah right, she replied, in all seriousness, “why not?” I sputtered something about it being awkward and weird. Then my mother replied matter-of-factly, “Detta, you are your sister’s security blanket. She needs you there.”
It’s funny how a few unassuming words can completely wipe transparent a view that was once a mirror. This wasn’t about me and my comfort…it was for my sister. A friend that has been there since I was young. The one who used to let me climb into bed with her when the shadows on the ceiling created threatening shapes in my imagination. How had I been so self-focused? I had been there for the first two births and now technology existed (that beast of a thing, that encourages enlightenment and devolution all at the same time) that allowed for me to be there FOR FREE. What was the problem here?
I hadn’t officially decided that I would Skype in to the birth till her due date. I guess when time ran out and my only obstacle was my pride, it hastened the decision. But why was I so embarrassed? I suppose home births are controversial to some…and then when you add in a live streaming, it borders on taboo. I finally emailed my mother explaining that I’m game, modestly asking that the camera not be aimed at her “hoo-ha.”
So tonight, at around seven I got a call from my mom telling me she was getting the computer set up to Skype in. My face burned a little and I could feel the butterflies bubble up. We had people staying at our house and just about the time the video turned on, my brother-in-law and our guests walked into the house. Nervously I exclaimed, “I’m watching my sister’s home birth on Skype!” Matt’s face twisted, disturbed. He stammered something like “oooh-kay.” Our friends politely nodded and apprehensively laughed, waiting for the punch line. Shoot. That did not go over well.
I gathered up my computer and some headphones and headed into the bedroom. The noises of a home birth are not sounds you want blasting through your house when you have company. I’m not sure how to describe what followed. It’s weird to be sitting on a computer watching an incredibly moving event. I basically cried the entire time. The difficulty of watching your sister in pain, paired with the pain of not being able to be there in the flesh overwhelmed me. I kept turning off the video so that they couldn’t see what an emotional wreck I was.
There’s a lot of peace in the room during a home birth. No doctor encouraging you to push and calling you “tiger” (I swear to God that happened at my sister’s first two births…). Yes, you are hearing the cries of a woman in more pain than she ever imagined. I think my sister thought maybe she could yoga-hypnotize herself through it, but it was obvious that she was fully present and in pain. The confusing thing is that in the hospital, it is very clear that they are giving birth. The team is there, the doctor is there, everyone is saying “push.” But this time, she was just in her own world. In a little pool of water, with a few women checking every once in a while, rubbing her back and giving her words of encouragement.
“I’m going to lift him out now,” were the words I heard when I realized that she was actually pushing. It was over. The obvious sounds of increased pain should have tipped me off, but it was so contrary to past experience that I didn’t know any different. I heard the faint cry of the baby and wondered if she could hear the not so quiet bark of my dogs in the other room. It’s incredible to watch your own face (in the little corner of the Skype screen) react to a birth. The first few times, I’m fairly certain I was smiling but also mortified by the act of birth. But this time, I watched my hands cover my face as I cried and smiled. I think I clapped too and whispered to myself, “he’s born.”
I know this isn’t my birth story to tell. But it’s an odd and beautiful thing that happened to me tonight that really has impacted me. I live so many miles away from my family. A pained expanse that regularly challenges me to question our long-distant choices. The fact that I could watch the birth of my nephew is both strange and miraculous. I’m still defensive and wonder if my choice to watch it via computer camera was “normal.” But that pit in my stomach feeling that I get when I think of the seconds that tick by without my family near and the teeth that are being lost without my noticing and the gray hairs that are being added to heads that will act as an even stronger marker of time lost, it’s not here right now.
So call me crazy, but I’m glad I did it. Even though it’s not about me, I’m feeling a security blanket as well. Security that comes from knowing that I was able to be a part of something seemingly impossible and miraculously enacted by a strong woman that I call sister.
Love you Vu, I’m proud of you.
© 2012 D. Willson