Homebirth Changed My Life

Midwifery Today, Issue 136, Winter 2020.
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Having my second baby at home truly changed the trajectory of my life. I had had an traumatic hospital birth the first time and was totally traumatized and guilt-ridden by it. I was planning to have a much better, un-interfered-with birth in the hospital when I met Dr. Tom Duncan. He talked me into having a homebirth. Imagine a doctor talking you into having a homebirth! It was providential. He ultimately did only three homebirths in Eugene, my hometown. It proved to be too far for him to travel, at about an hour-and-a-half.

After I had my second daughter at home in that incredible homebirth, I just kept reading my birth books. My husband said, “You have already had the baby. Why are you still reading about it?”

I said, “I think there is something more here.” Indeed, there was.

After 12 years of homebirth practice, I thought since there was not a magazine for midwives, I would start one. Actually, Ina May Gaskin’s Birth Gazette was still going, but she took a hiatus while dealing with her daughter’s illness. We both published magazines at the same time for a while, but she eventually stopped. Both of us agreed that homebirth was the gold standard of care.

I am quite thrilled by where and how the trajectory of my life flowed after my first homebirth. I learned midwifery from my mentor Marion Toepke-McLean. She taught several of us in weekly classes and even brought us the Frontier Nursing midwifery curriculum so we could go through the relevant parts. My sweet, 12-year practice was always with a partner because there are two lives you are dealing with in a homebirth. I transitioned from my homebirth practice to publishing Midwifery Today starting in 1986.

I also went on to have one more baby at home. That super miraculous experience went so fast that my husband had to catch our son. He still says I owe him $100! At that point I had been a homebirth midwife for nearly four years.

Many women who have homebirths go on to embrace the calling to become a midwife. Midwifery Today has always aspired to increase the number of midwives in the world and ensure that they are well trained. Through our magazine, books, and conferences, our heart has been to provide more insight and knowledge to those who want to be midwives and to bring new and old practices to midwives, doulas, and even a few doctors.

I have concentrated much of my life—45 years—on midwifery and birth. This journey has been a fun, frustrating, and beautiful journey. I have met and made friends with some of the most brilliant people. So many dear homebirth midwives have become my friends and colleagues and teachers at our conferences. I have learned so much from them. We have traveled the world together, trying our best to make it a better place for motherbaby and the different kinds of birth practitioners.

It really opens up your perspective when you have friends from all over the world. I have sweet sisters from Iran who are trying so hard to make birth better there, though not in homebirth, which is not allowed. From England to Australia, I have remarkable bosom buddies—as Harriette Hartigan calls them. Everyone reading this is a friend, and we are blessed to live during these interesting times of great possibility. Together we can change the world if we keep going forward and answering our calling. It is important not to let political differences cause us to divide. We must keep our eyes on the goal of changing birth practices.

I have been truly blessed and given much joy. It has been a pleasure to live at the same time as so many beautiful midwives and doulas. I can’t think of a better way I would want to spend my life. It has been stimulating and rewarding. Some of the biggest rewards come when someone contacts me to tell me what a difference I have made in her life. I am always shocked but totally lifted up. There is no better feeling than when someone says, “I had a great homebirth because of something you said or wrote.”

I have never been concerned that I didn’t have a purpose. My call was clear to me 45 years ago when I had that second baby, my first homebirth. There are many of us who want to help every woman who desires a homebirth to have one. We want the rest to have great hospital or birth center births. Our greatest desire is for the best birth possible for every motherbaby. We see that the planet can become a better, more peaceful place with good birth. This is an experiment that has never been tried. I think it is about time. Let’s keep doing it together!

About Author: Jan Tritten

Jan Tritten is the founder, editor, and mother of Midwifery Today magazine and conferences. Her love for and study of midwifery sprang from the beautiful homebirth of her second daughter—after a disappointing, medicalized first birth in the hospital. After giving birth at home, she kept studying birth books because, “she thought there was something more here.” She became a homebirth midwife in 1977 and continued helping moms who wanted a better birth experience. Jan started Midwifery Today in 1986 to spread the good word about midwifery care, using her experience to guide editorial and conferences. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies in the United States and around the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world!

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