Sunday, September 27, 2009

Giving Birth at Home- an interview with Nicolle Littrell

The Lessons of our Labors- Part 2- Giving Birth at Home

The wonder of homebirth is alive and well in local filmmaker Nicolle Littrell. She beams as she recounts her homebirth in Montville 5 years ago.

“My son’s birth was magical. It was just after Christmas so the lights from the tree shone down on us. There was a full moon and candlelight, fresh snow was falling outside and I was warm inside the birthing tub. The moment I will never forget is looking down at my son for the first time. His head and shoulders were born. His father held his head while the midwife and I each held one of his hands. He looked up at all of us through the water. There was a sense of deep connection even before he was fully born.”

This magical moment was pivotal for Littrell who has become an advocate for choice in birth. “I was amazed that I could do such a thing…that my body was so incredible and powerful. I learned that I could take care of myself and be very strong. I knew that I had everything that I needed to give birth within me. Women are amazing.”

Nicolle credits Donna of Morningstar Midwifery for giving her exactly the kind of hands off support that she needed to be able to give birth. “Support of women is really important in the birth experience. They left me alone in a safe and respectful way. They were sensitive to my needs and that I wanted to do it myself. For me, birth was a metaphor for all the things that women can do. When my contractions got really strong I completely understood why women ask for pain meds. But I talked myself through it. I learned about my strength, my capacity and all that I could hold.”

The lessons of her labor have held Nicolle through many transitions in her life. Now a single mother balancing her mothering with a full time schedule as a graduate student at the University of Maine, she often recalls her birthing experience when faced with a sleepless night. “I remember what I went through, how I handled myself and my strength and I know that I can face anything. Of course I want to be supported in what I am going through but if those supports are not there then I know that I can handle a lot of discomfort in my life on my own. It is about being ok in the difficult places that both motherhood and life put you in.”

As with any birth, Nicolle’s birthing was full of uncomfortable moments. A 7 hour labor required that she open fast. She says that the familiarity of her surroundings was an advantage in her birthing process. “I did not have to go anywhere. Being in my own home gave me the freedom to labor in the way that felt comfortable for me. That meant being naked, moving into different positions, going into different rooms and making all the noise that I wanted to. As a result of this, I was able to really connect to my body and my power in birth. I remember feeling like a goddess, that my body was so powerful and beautiful and that this experience was sacred, even holy.”

Leo’s birth redirected Nicolle’s life and her film work which now focuses on raising awareness about choices in birth. She says, “I want to spread more information and narratives about homebirth. Giving birth radicalized my consciousness. It flipped a switch in me. The world was a totally different place after I had my son. I saw a system that was broken and that was not serving women and that the issues went beyond birth. I saw how key support of women was in birth and of women and mothers in general.”

Littrell is concerned about the number of women who give birth by cesarean section. “I mean, we are at an over 30% cesarean section rate nationally. Something is very wrong here. Women need more evidence-based information about their choices in birth and more support in their choices. There is no way around it, women are the ones who bring the human race into this world. We need to do more in our culture to honor and support women.”

Nicolle credits her birth with teaching her to take full responsibility for her child and her choices. She is a strong advocate for educating oneself about reproductive choices. Her best advice for pregnant mothers? “Educate yourself. Read, read, read. Talk to people about their experiences. Watch films about birth-avoid the crisis “reality” shows. Start building a community of support and resources for yourself. If you are not clear about what you want, meet with different birth practitioners, consider and compare different birth locations. Most important, know and trust yourself. After gathering all of your information, base your choice on what feels best for you and your baby. The birth experience matters not only for your baby, but for you. After all, it is not just a baby being born, but a mother.”

No comments:

Post a Comment