This past week, I celebrated my ten year wedding anniversary and still think marrying my husband was one of the best choices I ever made! I’m crazy for the guy and somehow, he’s still crazy for me. Even after all this time, I remember the insane amounts of thought and research that went into our wedding…
My wedding dress was custom made by my aunt who is a seamstress. I designed it as a classic, elegant statement. It fit me perfectly, and very well should for all the dress fittings I stood through as my aunt laboriously trimmed, measured, hemmed, pinned, and stitched. The dress meant many trips around town for just the exact right lace and the perfect texture of silk. Hundreds of hours were spent bent over that long white gown as my aunt hand-embellished the bodice, sewed in the ribbing to the exact centimeter, and then if it wasn’t just perfect- she’d rip it out and do it all again.
And this, folks, was just the dress.
I could write pages about the number of churches and halls we walked through, the thousands of flower arrangements I scoured, the antique stores I visited to find the perfect vintage jewelry for my bridesmaids, the fittings at the tux shop, the trips to the bridal stores and beauty parlors, the consults with professionals, and of course, the daily trips to the gym to get INTO the dress! When “the” day came, my wedding was indeed lovely despite the fact that it was actually much less expensive than the average American wedding. It was held in a chapel, not a cathedral, and as beautiful as it was, many would still consider it a relatively humble affair.
I look back now and wish I had eloped...or at least toned it down a bit.
Oh, it’s not that I disliked the wedding; it’s just that it was so much tadoo for an outcome that would have been the same with or without all the pomp and circumstance.
With or without a wedding, I was getting my man.
All this reflection on my wedding made me realize more than ever, how flip-flopped our priorities are as American young ladies. We grow up and dream of the dress, the flowers; the ceremony of our wedding. But the ever-important ceremony of becoming mothers rarely crosses our minds until we see that pink line on a pregnancy test. Only then will most of us begin to envision what our birth will look like…and when we do,
most of us are terrified.
Some women don’t react like this though. They manage to get their hands on some more substantial reads like, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”, “Your Best Birth”, or “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth”. They gather information from research that has no hidden agenda. They may even hire a doula. These women want something more than freedom of decision-making in their pregnancy- they want the sort of birth they know deep inside, that they are capable of and that actually entails making a whole lot of decision making!
It is more often than one would expect, when a mother like this mentions to me, “You know, what I really want is a home birth. But…my insurance won’t cover it.”
My heart sinks.
It’s not that you have to have a home birth to have a beautiful birth, but if a woman truly WANTS a homebirth and understands what that entails, without a doubt she will have expectations about her birth that are not met in a hospital setting.
I’d like to pause for a moment to point out that many western women would happily spend money on a wedding and never question its monetary value, but when the idea of spending money for a birth is raised, there is much more pause.
We are raised knowing that our wedding day is:
...one of the best days of our lives,
...the beginning of a new life with another human being
...symbolic of a deep and meaningful love and commitment
...to be celebrated and commemorated in a meaningful manner.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that exactly what our birth days are supposed to be as well?
I understand why it happens. Birth isn’t really something we grow up anticipating spending money on. It’s not like a wedding, or a car, or a home (actually it’s far more important!). Most of us envision giving birth in a hospital- after all that’s where most of us were born and it is certainly where all the Hollywood babies we’ve been watching on T.V.get born! It’s not a culturally accepted idea to have to pay for our births. We don’t plan on it.
Now, I don’t want to get into the politics and business aspects of why home birth is not covered on most insurance policies. That’s a whole other deal. What I do want to do is to simply present the question that I ended up asking myself when I was considering my impending birth day:
“Why did I feel so comfortable spending money on a wedding ceremony that was pleasant, yet unnecessary but I am questioning the out of pocket expenses for a home birth?”
Having a baby and the manner in which I did it, far outshone the importance of a white gown and flowers to me. There were certain aspects of my birth that I wanted done my way. I knew that I’d have to either fight for or surrender these preferences in a hospital setting. I just wasn’t okay with that. Unlike marriage, where I would have gotten my man through a courtroom ceremony or a traditional wedding, the process of my baby’s arrival was actually very significant to me.
Not having a home birth was never an option for me. I wouldn’t let it be. Paying for it was hard; we worked out a payment plan with the midwife, my husband and I worked a ton of hours, and we lived in a 300 square foot apartment until the month before I gave birth. We made a way for it to happen. Now, it would be incredibly naïve of me to think that it was this simple for everyone. I certainly understand that even as tight as finances were for us, we weren’t poor and we were both employed. This is why I love the idea of a new non-profit that offers home birth scholarships to those who truly cannot afford them.
There are many things moms can do to make their home birth a reality despite tight finances. If you are questioning home birth and if it is worth the out of pocket expenses, I cannot encourage you enough to at least look into your options. You don’t have to commit ahead of time, but my guess is that once you start speaking with midwives, looking at their care plans, realizing that your prenatal appointments are generally 45-60 minutes long (Yes! There IS that much to talk about during pregnancy!!), that you will have continuous care, and that your newborn will be tended to in the comfort and convenience of your home in those first few weeks of life, you will begin to truly understand the value of your dollars.
After having a home birth, I will never be able to “go back” to my childhood idea of birthing in a hospital. I was tended to by the most generous, kind, and thoughtful birthing team. In all seriousness, the care I received was so wonderfully humbling- and the postpartum attention that was given to every detail of my healing and wholeness as well as that of my child, far exceeeds anything a hospital would ever be able to logistically provide. I also totally understand that home birth is not the right choice for everyone and many women prefer to birth in a hospital. That’s great, and I will continue to support these women, but for me, home birth was the right choice.
I imagine that if I am blessed enough to give birth a second time, there will be even more financial sacrifices made to make a home birth happen. I don’t care; I’ll do it. I’ll beg, borrow, trade, research, negotiate, and barter if I have to! In fact, I’ve created a long list of all the items I would sell in order to get money to pay for it- my wedding dress is one of them.