Into His Own Hands
Before Jonathan Crummett and his wife ever met in person, they had spent
hours discussing the births and childhoods of the children they hoped to have together.
They chatted on the internet about what their babies would look like, speculated over the phone
as to what they would be named, how good the children would be at art, sports, games,
writing and speaking, the kinds of toys and clothes they would have, and a lot about how much their familywould be wildly in love with each other. Within three years, they had made those dreams into reality, andthey did it completely on their own terms, by their own wits and almost entirely by themselves.
In 2006-2007, approximately 50,000 babies in the United States were born
in the comfort of their own homes. Jonathan's son and daughter were two of
them. In fact, most babies in the history of the world have been born at home,
usually attended to by members of their own families. If you are over the age of
thirty in this country, it is likely that your own grandparents were born in their
parents' bedrooms in the homes where they spent their childhoods. It is probably
only your parents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings who were the first generation
to be born in a hospital. The trend away from homebirth has gone so far to the
unnatural side of the spectrum that in those same years, 2006-2007, one in three
babies (31.1%) born in the United States were delivered by Cesearean Section.
At first blush, Jonathan looks like any other 27 year old man, if not more
young-looking and perhaps with more of an artistic flair to his style, but you can tell by
sight that he is a very put-together guy. He has a wisdom in his demeanor
that belies his youthful appearance.He is a quiet man, yet gets very animated when
describing his passion for the process of unassisted homebirth and the spiritual
and even romantic effects it has had on himself and his family. He is quite
knowledgeable about birth in general, and is in his opinion more "gutsy than any
obstetrician in a hospital". He wasn't always that gutsy. Five years ago he was just a
21 year old guy from Texas who had moved to Colorado to live with a woman he
had fallen in love with over the Internet. Okay, perhaps that is not the example to
give to prove his lack of courage. But it is not too far-fetched to say that he knew
almost "nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies" before he found out he had one on the
way. In fact, he says that before he delivered his son, he had never even held a baby before!
He says that his and his wife's decision to homebirth was based on many
factors, but chiefly his wife's experience having her first child in hospital and his
myriad feelings about birth, having been born 3 1/2 months prematurely.
He isadamant when he says, "If we were going to have kids, it would be on our own
terms, meaning that we would have them alone. We were alright with that. We
had a freedom and independence to bring these babies into the world in the
calmest, most natural, positive way possible as opposed to in hospital, where a
doctor will cut your wife open whenever he chooses so he won't miss his 5 o'clock
tee-off or island vacation."
Insisting that they didn't take preparation lightly, he
explains that they read numerous books and websites, studying procedures and
watching homebirth videos. When he started looking into it, he realized that they
really weren't alone. "Many families were having their babies at
home all over the world and we wanted to be part of that." He says.
Under their own roof, just five months before their son was born, his wife's best friend and
her husband, who were housemates of the Crummett's at the time, had an
unattended homebirth, and that helped to really bolster Jonathan's confidence. The
other couple had had three prior homebirths and a hospital waterbirth with their
oldest child, so they were an invaluable resource of support, encouragement, and guidance.
He realizes that most people think that what he did is "weird" or "odd" or
even "dangerous". But he says, "I don't believe I did anything dangerous or
wrong. Actually I would say I did very little. Our daughter's birth was more
complicated, she was breech. I was terrified and it was hard to control my
emotions. But Steffani (his wife) was there to talk me back down and we worked
together, along with following along in a book, and everything had a happy
ending. Any doctor in a hospital would've cut my wife open before he did what I
did." In fact, he likes to joke that his father has been a paramedic for many years
and has never delivered a breech baby, but he has. He doesn't mean to be arrogant,
though, you can tell he has just been emboldened and encouraged by his own
experiences. He is fully aware that things could've gone wrong for them and that
things sometimes do go wrong at homebirths, but says that "things go wrong in
the hospital too, you just have to be mentally prepared for that. If there had been
any danger at all, we would've transported." Meaning they would've gone at that
point to the hospital, which was just blocks away during their daughter's breech
He is very fretful when discussing the things that go on in a hospital birth.
When asked about what he thinks are other people's perceptions about homebirth
when they have only had hospital births, he says, " It depends. If I am talking to a
woman who has had a baby in the hospital, the first thing they think about is their
fear and pain, that is not so with my wife. So I just ask the women what they
expected when they approved drugs that were put in their bodies to forcefully
contract their womb then drugs that were put in their spines to paralyze them
from the waist down and completely impede and stop their body's natural
process and power of pushing your baby out with your own strength. It's then that
the doctor starts cutting episiotomies and pulls out the clamps and vacuums to pry
the baby out and cause incredible trauma to both the mother and babies."
He has very strong words about drugs that are used in birth. He feels that pitocin is a
completely overused, even abused time saver and convienience mechanism for
both parents and doctors. His aggravation shows when he says "Your doctor has
babies to pull out all day, he's not going to wait for you to have the baby naturally.
You will get pitocin and when that doesn't work fast enough, he will find some
reason or another to cut the baby out."
As for what he discusses with fathers, he says that it's not really something that men will talk much about at all, but if he does get to tell a man about his experience, he just tries to empower them to want to be as much of a part of their child's birth as possible and the reasons he feels that way. He tells them that they could deliver their babies easily, although he feels
that most men would be so terrified they wouldn't be able to come close to doing
it, while at the same time saying that he doubts most men are even aware that
homebirth is a possibility unless they know someone who has done it. "I tell them
that it is not difficult, it is not impossible, it is not necessary to give your power
over to a doctor unless there are major complications, and that the bond that is
created between you and your child and your wife is so much more incredible than
what you would miss out on in a hospital."
And what exactly does he mean when he talks about the effects of
homebirth on their family? "To know your children from the moment they were
born into your own hands has no greater bond. It is as natural as every other
animal in nature. Imagine what would happen if a tigress were to give birth and
have her cub ripped away from her for apgar scores, PKU tests and vaccines!"
He says it brought he and his wife incredibly close as a couple. He feels that
having the babies alone together sealed a contract on their relationship. Creating
the babies together, birthing them together, and living together is what makes their
life good. He fully believes that most other couples would be fortunate to
have as entwined a connection as he and his wife have, because of what they have
done in birthing their children together. He had thought before the babies were
born that he and his wife could not have been any closer than they'd been, but that
they became even closer and there is an intimacy with their relationship
because of what they have been through that many couples miss out on, especially
in the parenting of their children.
While discussing what the actual birthing experiences were like, one of the
things that is striking is that he remembers every single minute of them, even after
years have gone by. He says that his first birth was the "Unsure of Myself" birth.
He had no idea at all what was going to happen, but says he prepared for the
Worst and hoped for the Best. It was his wife's first homebirth too, so though she
had had a baby before, it was totally different for her too. They would be doing
this together. He says that one of the most memorable moments of his son's birth
was that his wife described her contractions like a ball of energy, like the sun, that
would get bright and hot at the peak of the contraction and then cool down. That
helped him know what she was going through and the degree to which she was in
pain. He said that the labor wasn't too long, from about 5 in the morning until his
son was born at 9:49 in the morning. During the actual moment of birth, he says,
he was just amazed at the natural process of it and that then, in what seemed like a
minute, he was holding his baby boy. He said he had never been happier or more
relieved in his life.
Their daughter's birth, just over a year later, was "The Scary One", but it was
the one with the happiest ending. For the most part, he felt far more confident that
he knew what he was doing because he had done it before. Then, at the height of
labor, when things were ready to happen, he saw traces of meconium (a black tar
like substance that usually indicates distress) and got scared fast. He consulted
with a few books and "they all said Meconium equals breech ". His wife had gone
into the bathroom to get a towel, and said that the baby was coming. He looked
down and saw a foot! He says "at that moment I freaked out completely!" His
wife, though, was calm and cool and he says she is the one that soothed him back
to reality. He knew what he had to do because of his reading books and being
prepared, and then he says, "just like magic I had my baby girl in my arms this
time! There is no other special transcendent feeling like that. It was worth it all,
to have a homebirth, even with the complication, maybe especially with the
complication, and know that everything will still be alright in the end."
There is a phrase that gets bandied about in homebirth circles and that is,
"We didn't need a doctor to get the baby in, and we didn't need a doctor to get a
baby out!" That is elevated even further in unassisted homebirth. Jonathan
Crummett and his wife created their children, just the two of them, intimately, and
that is the way they brought them into the world. He says that they knew long
before the babies were born that they would have "magical babies and magical births" and
now that they have, he considers himself a much stronger man and father and
husband, having taken matters, and his babies, into his own hands.