Going Natural

I recently visited both of my sisters and their new baby girls. My sister in Chicago is on her first go-round and it was fun to see her “ooh” and “aah” over every little yawn and hiccup and remember how miraculous tiny babies are. My sister-in-law in Naples had a little girl about a month after my sister, but she’s number six in her family. She’s no less miraculous, but by now yawns and hiccups are ho-hum. What was fun about that visit was seeing how loved a baby in a big family can be. That little one has learned the “I’m bored, come love me” cry perfectly. She wails loudly and tearlessly for about thirty seconds, or until one of her brothers comes to pay her some attention. I picked her up after hearing this alarming sound when I first arrived, and she quieted immediately. I had a good chuckle, realizing how smart little humans are.

These visits, in addition to my stop in Sarasota to meet with my midwife for a check-up and to hear our baby’s heartbeat, reaffirmed my desire to do this whole baby thing again. The logistics, however, are a bit tricky. Plan A entails bringing the boat back to the Tampa Bay area in March, plugging the boat into a dock and waiting comfortably, near friends and family, for the baby’s arrival. Or, we can do like we did last time, and leave for a “two week’s vacation” and not come back. I guess that would be plan B. People have babies everywhere, right?  We’ve pretty much abandoned plan C, which was to go straight to Panama and have a baby there. That seemed a bit premature. We are eventually headed that direction, but we were planning a leisurely trek through the Caribbean island-hopping before we spend our time there, possibly preparing to go through the Canal.

The biggest hindrance to our happy-go-lucky attitude is our desire to have this baby naturally. People are always suggesting locations where we might find “U.S. style medicine,” but that’s exactly what we are hoping to avoid! Ideally, we would stop a couple months before the baby is due, find a local midwife, have the baby in a birth center or similar location, with as few interventions as possible, and recover at home. The birth center in Sarasota represents the perfect scenario for us, as it is homey, but away from home, close to a hospital if there’s an emergency and completely supportive of a natural, drug-free birth. It’s just a little hard to get to from, say, the Bahamas.

Although the other four children were born in a hospital setting, I always had midwives and always insisted on the nurses leaving me alone as much as admissible—fewer needles, fewer monitors, fewer, or no drugs. I’ve had good experiences, although I come off as a bit of a troublemaker. The average American woman arrives at the hospital, asks for her epidural and promptly falls asleep through the first part of labor. They are docile and need minimal help. The natural mom, on the other hand, requires constant companionship, and can be demanding of time and attention, always wanting to change positions, go for walks, labor in the shower, and so forth. She never just lies there, waiting for a baby to show up. It’s called labor for a reason! Of course, those that opt for a less painful birth may pay a price (and not just financially), since one intervention often leads to another (not to mention the risks of paralysis or spinal headache). An epidural can slow labor, requiring a drug to speed it up again. Sometimes the baby objects to this drug and appears distressed, and suddenly, what was a natural, normal process becomes a medical emergency requiring invasive surgery. The U.S. has abysmal rates of C-section, and also high infant mortality among developed nations, and much of this is due to the medicalization of childbirth. Of course there are lives saved by C-sections, but some are also unnecessarily lost.

What does all of this have to do with a life afloat? It is yet another aspect of a similar theme: we desire to do things thoughtfully, not just be a part of a system, to take responsibility for our lives and health, to be self-sufficient while recognizing our interconnectedness with life on this planet. Everything we do, including raising children, fits into this schema.

How can we make a thoughtful plan, but then ultimately leave the outcome to chance? It requires faith in Providence. We will make the best decision we can based on the variables of which we are aware, but be open to a different approach that may be better than we could have planned. For now, plan A is in motion, but we shall have to wait and see if our path leads that way or to another, as yet unknown plan.