Friday, September 9, 2011

Telling The Neighbors

Back in May, I told you I was planning to give birth at home, and, being the neurotic New Yorker I am, rather than voicing any concerns about the logistics of labor in a brownstone that hasn't been renovated since Kennedy was still alive, I worried about how to break the news to my neighbors.

Well, I decided. Along with a bottle of wine and some earplugs, Jeff and I left these notes at each door:

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day to give birth in the apartment above you, would you be mine? Could you be mine?

Click to enlarge, read, and marvel at my even handwriting.


Now the only question is, how do I tell my dry cleaner?
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41 comments :

  1. for some strange reason, this brought tears to my eyes. i am so excited for you! and i'm thinking of you pretty much every day. can't wait to meet the little guy virtually. and GOOD LUCK!! hope everything goes super smoothly.

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  2. not telling the landlord is a good idea, i think. not sure they make insurance for shit like that.

    having said that: i think that was a great idea to forewarn them. so they don't think you and jeff are doing anything strange. like sacrificing cats or something.

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  3. Anonymous9:13 AM

    I always tell myself the tradeoff of not having to own a 2 acre estate in Kenilworth or Lake Forest was getting to deal with the thumping footsteps of my neighbor doing wind-sprints in her army boots as she gleefully chases her girlfriend around upstairs in my north side Chicago apartment building. Never, never have I considered the possibility of home birth as an unintended eavesdropping event. Thank you for once again expanding my understanding of the possibilities of the urban universe. You, Jeff and your son will be in all of our thoughts the next few weeks.

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  4. this is hilarious. i can't wait till you pull a [better version of] carrie bradshaw and make these posts into a book.

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  5. OMG! That is hysterical! I love it! You guys are so brave doing this at home AND letting your neighbors know it!

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  6. Anonymous10:10 AM

    Dude that's so messed up. Home delivery should be for someone living in their own home, not an apartment with neighbors and others to consider. You don't think you're going to yell and disturb them? Are you kidding me?! If you want to have a kid, great. You want a home birth, Ok. But do it in a HOME- not apartment! You are being so inconsiderate to your neighbors...If I got this note on my door i would be PISSED.

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  7. While hilarious, that is really, really considerate and generous of you guys. Good luck! Hope you're totally Zen!

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  8. Thanks, guys--obviously the intention was to be funny and as considerate as possible. Anonymous #2, I understand your feelings, too. But with respect, I think that birth choice should be determined by what you want out of it, not by where you live. I understand that it's not going to be the best experience my neighbors have ever had, but so far the response has been positive. I should also point out that there are only three other appointments in my building and that I am on good terms with all of my neighbors. Luckily you do not live in my building. (I hope.)

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  9. And by appointments, I mean apartments. I am articulate.

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  10. After reading this post, I want to be one of your neighbours.

    Best of luck!

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  11. Great letter! What a considerate neighbor you are! Hope everything goes smoothly with your home birth.

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  12. Anonymous11:16 AM

    Oh good grief, Anonymous #2. Its not all about YOU.

    My neighbors dont give me wine. Or ear plugs. Or leave me notes. Lucky neighbors!

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  13. I love this! Very good decision, writing a note. That would have been a very awkward face-to-face conversation.

    As far as doing a home birth in an apartment, I don't see what the big deal is. You're having a baby, not a house party (which you would also be within your rights to do in your own home, but would be guaranteed to be at least 5X louder than pushing out a kid). Informing your neighbors is a great courtesy, but they probably wouldn't have even known if you hadn't told them. People scream all the time in their homes--they argue, they stub their toes, they have sex. Living in an apartment, you either ignore or tolerate that stuff, because you can't control it. Life is loud, dude.

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  14. Love it! And if you're going to have a baby, where better to have it than at home where everyone knows you at least vaguely instead of at a hospital where no one knows you. lol.

    I think it was very considerate of you to tell your neighbors. I wouldn't have told mine. Hahaha.

    Best of luck with everything. I'll be praying for y'all! :)

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  15. That is an adorable and sweet note. I would be so excited if I was one of your neighbors, and offer to help however I could- run out for a snow cone or a brand new copy of The Breakfast Club just because you want a new one, whatever you need! I'll be thinking of you, Jeff, and Baby Curmudgeon the next few weeks! ;)

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  16. I think you've been more than generous letting your neighbors know what is about to conspire. And I think you should send Anonymous 2 your placenta. It can be used as a palliative for bad temperament.

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  17. When I was in labor in the hospital I had the joy of listening to another woman screaming---at least your neighbors will be otherwise comfy!

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  18. Anonymous5:15 PM

    i love that this is real life

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  19. Anonymous7:52 PM

    i read your blog all the time and can't wait to hear stories about neighbor's responses to your charming note!
    good luck with all & hope you have a smooth birth :)

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  20. Has anonymous #2 ever had kids? I think not.. His only impression is of people yelling on tv. It's not like that. They probably won't even hear Una because most women conserve their energy by not yelling. Una's apartment is her HOME, hence the home birth. Bring your negativity somewhere else, anonymous #2.

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  21. Heather8:46 PM

    Do you have your playlist picked out? I let my husband take care of the music during my first home birth and our son was born to the uptempo sounds of Django Reinhardt. There's nothing like gypsy jazz to get you pushing! I really regret not giving him Django for a middle name.

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  22. Anonymous #2 is a huge douche.

    Una, you and Jeff rock and really, unless you're in a movie, birth is not that noisy. It's not Scientology silence but it is generally not mayhem.

    Am dying with anticipation of your writings of the birth story when you're little bundle of joy makes his (hopefully) unibrowed appearance!!

    Seriously, best of luck!

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  23. seriously when i was in labor in the hospital...the lady down the hall was screaming and it was annoying me so badly i asked my doctor to go tell her to shut it. he told me no and that she was in labor and i should be considerate...seriously?!?!

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  24. I think the wine was a fabulous idea, and I bet your neighbors are excited for you! Also, they'll have a great story to tell at parties....

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  25. Una! You are going to be an amazing mother. You continue to amaze me with your writing skills and the humor that you bring to the world.

    Know that there are a plethora of people cheering you on!

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  26. Having your child at home sounds like such a wonderful, back to the earth way to expel one's baby. But I always worried that once finished with the task I would be expected to make dinner. In a perfect world, Elizabeth Arden would have been my preferred location.

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  27. I love it! And I agree with Emily S. - it takes some serious concentration, especially on your breathing. The yellers must be talented multi-taskers. A home birth is a beautiful thing! Good luck!!!

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  28. I dunno if that's really information you need to share with your neighbors. Not that it matters now, I guess, but some folks are downright crazy. They could call the cops on your birthin' ass for subjecting infants to unnecessary risks.

    It might've been better just to download some MP3s of labor sounds and played them for a few weeks in advance to get people used to the idea.

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  29. You did a great job with the letter!
    You hit all the points that made you worry about it and did so nicely.
    I mostly whispered through the contractions and the inbetween times too, and mostly kept my eyes shut. I found it easier to control my breathing and pain if I did that too. Funny, but I remember seeing a doula on Rosie Pope's show talking briefly about it...something about modulating your voice, making certain practiced sounds, the process had a name?
    Anyway, it worked for me.
    You, Jeff, and Baby Z are in my thoughts. Feel good!
    How did sister Zoe make out planning your shower? Did you have it or are you waiting until after?

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  30. Mike,

    I'm actually glad you wrote what you did because homebirth is NOT illegal! It's important for people to understand that for a woman with a low-risk pregnancy, it's often even covered by insurance (as mine is). And homebirth also does NOT mean popping the kid out with no medical assistance. I have a very skilled midwife who will be here delivering the baby. She will provide excellent care--the only things she can't do are administer pain medication and do a C-section. If anything looks like it's not going right, we will go to the hospital.

    Anyway, just wanted to clarify that the police would have absolutely no right to prevent me from having my baby at home. I know it's a very foreign concept to most people--and that it seems very risky since we're so used to having babies in hospitals--but it's not remotely negligent or criminal.

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  31. Heather12:47 PM

    Una, correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't you and your sister born at home?
    My two kids (now 5 and almost 7 years old) were both born at home with the assistance of a midwife. It was a wonderful experience and I wouldn't have done it any other way. I, too, had low risk pregnancies and live close enough to a hospital that had there been any complications during labor, we would have not hesitated to seek medical assistance. It all comes down to women having the choice to seek the kind of birth experience that is right for their family. Pregnancy is not a disease and should not be treated like one!

    Good luck! It's going to be great! I look forward to hearing about it :)

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  32. Hi Heather--good memory! You're right, my mom had both me and my sister at home. So it has always felt normal to me. Thanks for reading, and of course I will post the birth story, whether people like it or not :)

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  33. I love this letter! I'm having a giggling fit here and my husband is wondering why :P Anyways, it amazes me sometimes the reactions people have to home births. It's a lot more common and, of course, safe than people realize. There's also the comfort factor, mom is likely to be much more relaxed at home :) (well, as relaxed as can be expected given what's going on down there :P) Good luck to you Una, I'm excited for you and your future posts!

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  34. home birth would freak me out because i'm a worry wart and would want to be near emergency care, BUT i think that the neighbors can endure one night/day of a little grunting/screaming/crying. maybe they will feel bonded to your little miracle after having "witnessed" his birth.

    good luck!

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  35. Awesome. Our last homebirth was in our present house, which is next door to a bar. We debated whether or not to forewarn them that there might be a huge amount of screaming,yelling and crying and to please not call 9-1-1. Then we figured if it ended up extra noisy, it'd be payback for all the rowdy drunks who wake us up at all hours.

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  36. OH,also...at the time, the house (we rent) was being sold and the realtor called when I was in labor wanting to show the house. "Ummm...well, I'm kind of in the middle of giving birth,soo..." I guess I should have written him a letter.

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  37. I gave birth to my second child in our little walk up apartment in Vancouver. We decided it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission, not that we needed anyone's permission, so we didn't tell our neighbors until afterward.

    the next day, baby in arms my husband knocked on their doors. "Sorry about the noise last night..."

    "It was pretty loud..." they'd start to say.

    "...but my wife was pushing out a baby."

    "Oh! Really?!!! Wow, congratulations. Girl or boy, etc."

    They forgave us. :)

    Best wishes to you as you labor. Here's an unsolicited hint from a woman who has done it 5 times now. Stay busy as long as possible. If you are able to do something else, it's not really labor yet and focusing on it will only make the real thing feel extra long and exhausting. oh, and keep your lips loose. Don't know why that works, but it does. :)

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  38. You are a badass.

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  39. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Haha... I screamed like a banchy when I gave birth. Most women hold it in, but screaming was the only thing that eased my pain (not to mention that they gave me some wierd drugs in my IV that made me really loopy) Scream on, the neighbors can just get drunk, leave, or enjoy the experience of knowing that there is a miracle taking place right upstairs!

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  40. Anonymous7:50 PM

    Una, I need to read your blog more often! I know I'm a week late, but I still want to cast my vote with the masses here: This letter is incredibly sweet. I, too, am the product of a home-birth, which I guess makes me slightly biased. But if your neighbors can't be won over by that letter (and wine, to boot!) well, shame on them.

    Good luck, Una -- you will do great.
    ~Lily Raff

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  41. A friend of mine linked me here. I am due 9/30 and planning a home birth too. I'd actually just emailed my neighbors letting them know and then I saw this, so I decided to do the same and left little goodie bags with wine and earplugs on their doorknobs. Thank you so much for the inspiration. I keep a blog about all this too, in case you want to check it out at thorathebee.blogspot.com. :)

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