By Laci Hill
Golden sunset light danced on the surface of the sea, turning even the dullest colors warm and inviting. I was forty weeks pregnant and oh so ready to kiss the nose and hear the cry of my second little darling. My firstborn and my first love waded through shallow pools, catching tiny fish with a net. I breathed deep and closed my eyes, reminding myself to be present in the waiting. These moments are precious memories treasured for a lifetime, and as I exhaled I memorized every tiny detail of the present to take with me into the future. It was the perfect calm before the wonderful storm of life with a new baby.
My first son, Anchor, was born by non-emergent cesarean in Phuket, Thailand, on March 11, 2016. I remember waking up after surgery, alone, and feeling my once full and expectant heart turned cold. I struggled to bond with my baby after being forcefully separated from him for the first few hours of his life and I deeply grieved how my labor ended. I had imagined giving birth in low light in a room filled with love and reverence, music that fit the weight of the occasion soundtracking his first breath. Everything happened differently than I had desired and planned. The doctor had lied to me repeatedly during labor and then pressured me into a c-section, to which I eventually agreed and my son was born into a cool, sterile operating room and rushed away from me.
After a year of postpartum anxiety and processing this experience, I knew that power had been stripped away from me. I longed to be given the chance to be free in labor and deliver my baby into the warmth of my own arms; no separation. When we found we were pregnant again, we pursued many different avenues of having a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). In Thailand, very few hospitals and very few doctors at these hospitals would agree to do this, especially allowing the mother to labor freely. In Phuket, there were none. Our doctor even chuckled when I asked before replying that it was impossible. A home birth was “out of the question.”
I’ve always been a rebel. It’s a trait I’ve learned how to hold in tension with maturity and wisdom. But in this situation, I felt a fire grow inside me. I knew this baby and, at the core of my being, I knew what his birth was supposed to be. I was not going to let anyone steal that from us. So, we pulled some strings and a community of friends and family rallied around us to send a midwife from the States. I see her as a guardian of life and light; and, to this day, I picture her this way. From the moment she arrived, she hosted peace for me.
The wide glass doors of our living area look out over the sea, white boats sail through turquoise waters to hazy islands jutting up in the distance, and tropical flora grows lush in the foreground. I often gaze at this landscape in times when I need to rest my heart and mind. It’s one of my holy places, my sacred spaces. It was here, in our living room, that we decided we would set up the birthing pool. I would have my baby in the safety and sacredness of my own home. I would reclaim my right as mother and take him from womb to breast.
I was sure he would come early. This baby, another perfect boy, would stretch his long legs into my ribs, convincing me that there was not one more centimeter of space left in my body for him to inhabit. But days passed one by one and we were soon past our projected due date. Our midwife urged me to rest and enjoy the waiting. Days felt long and full, and I soaked up sun and snuggles with my guys as we prepared to be a family of four. My parents had arrived and the house was, once again, filled with energy and anticipation of a new baby’s arrival. I remember cutting down green bananas the week of his birth and placing them on some newspaper in the sun. Every day those green bananas grew riper and changed to yellow. The last day of their ripening, my husband sat and blew up our birthing pool on the porch. It was time. I was forty-two weeks the next day and our midwife had tickets to fly back home five days later.
Laci Hill - Laci Hill resides in Phuket, Thailand with her husband and two boys, Anchor and Everest. She and her husband founded a non-profit that works with people groups in harsh, isolated, and dangerous locations. They live the island life, enjoying rest and play between international trips throughout Asia. Laci loves to write about motherhood, travel with kids, and the deep and beautiful things of life. You can follow Laci at @globalmotherhood