Sunday, May 15, 2011

Like A Good Neighbor

I am planning a home birth.

Now, I know what you're going to say, and let me answer some questions for you: Yes, Jeff is going to grow Jethro Tull hair and start wearing flannel. No, there will be no barn animals (unless you count the mice who live under our sink). Yes, I realize this means that I won't have access to pain medication. No, I am not allowed to smoke pot first. (I already asked.)

My mom had both me and my sister at home, so it's normal to me, the same way a hospital birth is normal to most people. And of course if anything goes awry we'll be whisked away to the hospital so that the baby and I are safe. But the purpose of this post isn't to defend home birth to skeptics. It's to ask a simple question that's been haunting me since I got pregnant:

What do I tell my neighbors?

When my mom had me she and my dad were living in a cavernous 6th story loft just northwest of Union Square; they had the whole top floor of the building, and since this was 1980 I have always assumed that whoever lived beneath them was busy either shooting heroin or painting in the nude when I arrived. When my sister was born we lived in a little suburban one-story house in Austin, Texas, separated from the neighbors by 30 feet or so on either side. But I live in a small, four-apartment brownstone with cracked ceilings and holes in the floorboards. I can hear my upstairs neighbors have sex, play Rock Band, and even drop cutlery. In my bathroom there is a vent that seems to lead directly into another apartment, because I can always hear someone sighing softly, presumably while on the toilet. Seriously, what do I say?

"Hello, neighbor. Sometime in the next month or so you will hear terrible screams coming from my apartment. It could be at noon or it could be in the middle of the night. Do not be alarmed; I am merely giving the gift of life. I plan on using a birthing tub, but from what I hear those suckers are pretty hard to break, so the chance of my flooding your apartment with my baby water is quite low. Regardless, please accept this $7 bottle of wine and this set of airplane earplugs as a token of my sincere advance apologies."

Hmm. I may have to work on my speech.
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45 comments :

  1. Anonymous9:15 AM

    Tell them NY apt style: Have Jeff handwrite a note on a piece of copy paper ripped in half, and scotch tape it to the wall of the vestibule above the mailboxes. "Apt. 2B will be having a home birth within the next week. Please don't be alarmed by the glorious sounds of childbirth."

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  2. psychsarah9:36 AM

    I have been wondering the same thing... I'm hoping for a home birth too (though I have to convince my little bundle to flip over in the next 8 weeks, he's currently breech), and though we're in a house, the houses are fairly close by, and if the windows are open (likely by July) people may be wondering what the heck is going on... I like your idea about distributing earplugs...hmmm...

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  3. Tell them, "Although my husband now looks like and ax murderer, in a month, that's not what he'll be doing. Instead, we'll be birthing ax murderer jr."

    And don't worry, I don't think your husband is an ax murderer- mine did the same thing, only Colorado style, so he looked like mountain man Joe, and his drivers license picture make him look like a just released convict.


    mywarpedworld.blogspot.com

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  4. "I plan on using a birthing tub, but from what I hear those suckers are pretty hard to break, so the chance of my flooding your apartment with my baby water is quite low." Maybe one of the funniest things I've heard in recent history. Heh heh...baby water. HA!

    Yeah...good luck with that. Not sure HOW you ought to tell them, but for sure they deserve to know beforehand. :)

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  5. I agree with anonymous . . . let your neighbors know there will be a celebration of new life at your pad soon with screams and shouts of joy to the world.
    And just in case they might be wondering, that beautiful new life will be reminding them at all hours of the day and night how happy it is to be to be here, be hungry and be loved.

    congratulations and best wishes.

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  6. I second the first suggestion. That way you can continue to avoid actually talking to your neighbors and pretending like you can't all hear one another having sex and pooping.

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  7. You definitely need to tell them something. Otherwise they might call the cops, and the SWAT team might show up.

    And then you'll have to offer them drinks and cookies, and who has time for that when you are squeezing a baby out?

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  8. So I'm assuming you're keeping his boy parts intact. Because I would not attempt that myself.

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  9. This post needs to be longer! So good!

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  10. I had a neighbor who had her baby at home in the house directly behind ours, in the summer while our kitchen windows were open. I don't think they told us of their plan in advance, but we pretty much figured out what was going on. Our neighbors were way too gentle and kind to beat each other and we had seen the woman in the late stages of pregnancy. It was just three months after mine was born, and it sounded familiar. We shouted our cheers and congratulations out the window.

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  11. Why not just have Jeff get close to that vent and shout, "the birthing has begun!" when the time comes? It'll be a shout out without actually having any contact with any of them.

    Una, I assume your mother will be there, and maybe Jeff's as well. I hope so. The greatest gift my daughter-in-law ever gave me was letting me assist in the birth of my two youngest granddaughters. It was a magical experience for me. I'm good at it, actually, and my daughter-in-law and I were brought very close because of it. I was also the first one to hold them both, and that was a great bonding experience for all of us. Yes, she gave me a great gift there. I hope your mother and Jeff's get that kind of opportunity if they want it. I highly recommend it.

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  12. Anonymous12:33 PM

    Una, I feel like I know you since I'm a faithful reader of hour blog, and since I'm in your mother's generation, so have been around the block. Since it happened to me, I ask you reconsider home birth. My daughter got stuck & they had to do an emergency c section. There's no time to be whisked away, we would not have made it. Sorry to be a downer, it's just that I care.

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  13. Announcement on a bulletin board. You might have to put up the bulletin board first. Or just stick a post it note on each of their doors.

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  14. I say, The hell with 'em..don't tell them anything! Just, in the near future, let it be known that You and Jeff have taken up Method Acting. Knowing New Yorkers when the heavenly advent begins to produce Hellish sounds your neighbors will look at one another and remark," Hey! Those Kids are pretty good, aren't they?"

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  15. Hahaha, thanks guys, for all of the excellent suggestions. Two quick comments:

    @Lauren: Don't worry, there will be much more--more than you ever wanted to read!

    @Anonymous #2: I really appreciate your concern, but rest assured that I have a midwife whom I trust with my life (not to mention my mother, who's been a childbirth teacher for almost 30 years). I'm so sorry that you had such a scary complication, and I hope and pray that I won't experience anything similar. But as long as my pregnancy remains healthy and low-risk, I'm sticking with my home birth plan.

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  16. The first suggestion is amazing. DO IT!

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  17. Birthing tub?! Come one. The baby needs to come out into the world sometime. Nonetheless. My opinion means crap.

    Best of luck to you. I look forward to your posts after the event.

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  18. Actually, I think the $7 bottle of wine is a pretty good idea. Then the neighbors can get all lit up and won't care as much.

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  19. I feel like I really missed my chance to get some decent screaming off my chest at a most appropriate time...I went the quiet whimpering route (then screamed into my pillow a lot during the early childhood years).

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  20. No, use that exact speech.

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  21. This is hilarious! I love the naked/nude painting part...

    In all seriousness though, they should be fine with an advance bottle of wine. Just let 'em know matter of fact. I mean, what're they going to do... object, and deny you your proper home birth?

    Good luck!

    Baby Talk without the Babble

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  22. With stupid Blogger down for so long I had time to work on my response....lucky you.
    Una and Jeff are pleased to inform you that you will be attending the birth of our son from the comfort of your own apartment sometime during the next month. We apologize that we can’t be more specific about the date and time, but we do know that our apartment will serve as the venue for this event.
    Your level of participation will vary depending on the walls, floors, and ductwork that separate you from us.
    Please feel free to make snacks and cheer us on quietly from a comfortable place.
    We appreciate your unavoidable presence on this happy day.

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  23. Yes, but what if it's 10 am? Champagne might be more appropriate? You should probably buy alcohol appropriate for different times of day.

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  24. Oh, they'll figure it out! Your screams might not be that horrible anyway. Good for you -- I didn't have pain relief for any of my four births. You don't need it. But you know that.

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  25. How kind of you to offer them wine! And $7 wine at that!

    If I were you, I'd go ahead and toke up before the birth.

    Also, the fact that your neighbor always seems to sigh softly on the toilet cannot escape my notice as something so sad, like a French movie.

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  26. Tracey8:56 PM

    Three words: Scientology silent birth.

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  27. Mrs. Smith9:51 PM

    Well, for a long time they will just think your groaning is sex. When you start transitioning and feel like yelling, just be sure to yell "I am having a baby!" That will clear it up for them.

    Save the wine and earplug delivery for when your newborn has been keeping them up for weeks on end.

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  28. Don't change a word.

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  29. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who knows as much about this subject as you do. You’re truly well informed and very intelligent.

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  30. Awesome. Please say exactly that.

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  31. Yay for home births! You will do beautifully! and Seriously, what you have written here is a perfect speech. What else Can you say?!

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  32. I know you're being funny (you are being funny, btw), but just wanted to share: I gave birth without any pain medications and I didn't scream once. Mostly I just groaned and breathed heavily. (I did use Hypnobabied relaxation techniques though.) I'm so tired of all births being portrayed with screaming, crazy-eyed moms in TV and movies.

    You'll be great.

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  33. Perfect. Leave exactly that note scotch taped to a bottle of 7$ wine.

    Go you.

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  34. I would write that on a small note card exactly and attach it to the bottle of wine. Awesome!

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  35. I'm another one who didn't scream - I didn't actually make any noise (and no, I'm not a Scientologist), other than to tell the peanut gallery (teaching hospital) gathered around my lady bits to stop talking about how big my son was until AFTER he was the whole way out of my body... Birth is not the horror show TV tells us it is, just trust your body. I'm sure your mom has told you this a million times already. ;)

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  36. Whoa. That is brave! I considered this and watched "The Business of Being Born," which definitely solidified my decision to go unnatural at the hospital with an epidural, 100%. (I've never been pregnant, just been trying to get pregnant for a while) I completely admire your decision and now I can't wait for you to give birth so I can read about it!

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  37. As a Mom of four and now also a Gramma, I admire your choice of home delivery. Your proposed note to the neighbors is in good taste and will also prepare them for the wails of a little one in the next few months. Although I'm sure they have seen you pass by them with your growing girth, this is a perfectly wonderful and beautiful gesture. Best wishes for an quick, easy and healthy delivery!

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  38. Anonymous4:54 PM

    By the time i was mooing like a cow the upstairs neighbours had discreetly gone out, but the other neighbours had great ring side seats when i was naked but for my partners gaping brown dressing gown contracting heavily in the street lit by the blue lights of the ambulance.

    Almost made it at home - best place to be - good choice and good luck

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  39. You'll be amazing!! I witnessed my best friend give birth twice without pain meds. With all the focusing and concentrating...she hardly made any noise at all:)

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  40. My downstairs neighbor drinks and falls out of bed every night & calls for his wife who seems to be sleeping in the livingroom. I'd say make all the noise you want...how often do you give birth anyway?

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  41. I decided I didn't quite want a home birth so I went with the next best thing, a free-standing birth center with rooms that were very much like a typical home bedroom. They had the hot tub, birthing stools and balls, etc. but home or birth center, being prepared is all that matters. And I'm with everyone else who mentioned that screaming isn't really part of most home births..... I was coached to use a low-pitched groan, which felt very natural as I labored.

    Anyway, good luck and I think the note is a perfect solution.

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  42. future conversation could be a little awkward depending on what noises you make :)
    as for me, come august - i am all for drugs. my dear grandmother reminded me before the first child - oh honey, you don't get extra points for pain - and i didn't listen - and i'm not doing that again.
    to each their own right? :)

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  43. LMAO That speech is TOO GOOD to waste!! You should make it some kind of block letter to all the tenants in your building who will be "affected" by the impending arrival, and tack it to their door with instructions to piss off while your birthing session is going on. xD As always, you have made my evening!! Grazie, bella...;)

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  44. Do you have a good midwife? I know a great one in Carol Gardens. Even though a recommendation from a stranger isn't worth much, I pass this on because you appear to have a complimentary sense of humor.

    Also births aren't necessarily noisy. Smelly? Yes. Messy? Yes.

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  45. Love all of this. Your blog and the ensuing suggestions as well. BTW if your sex sounds like giving birth please add a blog with step by step instructions? Just a suggesting hee hee

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