Baby, You’re Home
Liz Rubincam for The New York Times
ROOM FOR ONE MORE? Alecia White Scharback between contractions, surrounded at home by her mother, Judith Deierling White; her sister, Amanda White; and her husband, Joshua Scharback, before giving birth to Noah with the aid of a midwife.
By JULIE SCELFO
Published: November 12, 2008
SQUATTING in an inflatable pool in the open kitchen of her apartment in Astoria, Queens, a very pregnant Alecia White Scharback, nude except for a bathing suit top, groaned in pain. It was 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 1, and Mrs. Scharback, 29, an actress, had been in labor for more than 36 hours. The contractions had been only mildly painful at first, but had grown increasingly fierce as a second night gave way to morning.
At the height of one contraction, Mrs. Scharback closed her eyes, bent forward and rocked her hips back and forth. “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts,” she moaned. Using a stainless steel refrigerator to steady herself, she vomited. Joshua Scharback, her husband, rushed to her side and gently stroked her head.
Mrs. Scharback was giving birth at home because she did not want any medical interventions in the process unless she needed them, she said. But after another four hours, she was beginning to doubt whether she could make it and was pleading with her midwife, Miriam Schwarzschild, for relief. “Oh, Miriam,” she whimpered, “I can’t.” Ms. Schwarzschild reassured her client: “You can. And whenever you’re ready, you can start to push.”
Home births have been around as long as humans, but since the 1950s, the overwhelming majority of American women have chosen to give birth in hospitals, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists identifies as one of the safest places for the unpredictable and sometimes dangerous process of childbirth. (The group has officially opposed home births since 1975, and this year the American Medical Association adopted a similar position.)
Recently, though, midwives and childbirth educators say, a growing number of women have been opting instead for the more intimate and familiar surroundings of home — even in New York City, where homes are typically cramped warrens of a few hundred square feet and neighbors often live close enough to hear every sneeze and footstep.
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