Updated: May 5
Kara lives with her husband and three girls in Wheeling, West Virginia USA. She had always resonated immensely with homebirth. Despite feeling alone, fearful and misunderstood by her friends and family, after a ton of research and learning, she went on to have a homebirth with two of her daughters by the time she was 23-years-old.
What’s your name and who’s in your family? My name is Kara Baum. In my family, there is Mike Baum (husband), Kaylee Bishop (oldest daughter), Bella Bishop (middle daughter), and Zoe Baum (youngest daughter).
How did you feel learning you were pregnant? When I first learned I was pregnant I was terrified! I remember a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was not in a very good place in life – I was in college living with a boyfriend I had only known for four months and I had stopped speaking to my family and friends. I felt very alone and scared. I was fearful of what was to come and how I would be able to handle it.
What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? I was mainly just afraid – afraid to tell people, afraid to be a ‘mother’ and afraid of what was going to happen to my body. I felt sad that I would have to let go of the life I had come to know. I do remember however, after the dust had settled and initial panic had dissolved, a genuine feeling of excitement that I would be able to raise a child in my way and according to my values.
How old were you when you fell pregnant? Were you at school/working/studying? I fell pregnant at age 19. I had just begun my second year of college and was working a full-time job.
Did you feel supported during pregnancy by your family/partner/medical team? My family was supportive after the shock wore off. They told me it was bad timing but a good thing, but I could still see in their eyes and hear in their voices that they were scared for me. I had no stable home nor a way of providing for myself. My partner at the time and I both had very low paying jobs. The doctors were not very helpful nor supportive and I felt they looked down upon me. They did not support me educationally nor emotionally.
During an Easter dinner at my grandmother’s house, I started talking to a cousin who had a homebirth and at the time was studying to become a midwife. I told her how I was always interested in homebirth from a young age – I was in love with the Counterculture of the 1960’s. Straight away, she began educating me on all things homebirth and encouraging and empowering me. She helped me find a local midwife, and after a month of learning, I made my decision to have my baby at home.
I was largely criticized for my choice. Family and friends began to try and scare me out of it, but I had done the research to back up my decision and I knew instinctively that this is what I wanted. I found the knowledge, power, and strength to move forward. My birth team were amazingly loving and supportive. They helped me holistically in ways that nourished me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I knew that especially because of my age I was strong and healthy enough to be successful at birthing.
How old were you when you gave birth? I gave birth to my first daughter at age 20.
What was your birth experience like? My birth experience was so nourishing and empowering. I had done so much research that I had very little fear of birthing or pain. It was a full slow 24 hours of labour. I still carry the lessons of the birthing process through life – it truly was a rite of passage for me. I was surrounded by three doulas and my midwife. There is something almost magical about being in a room full of women attuned to the natural birthing process. There were times where laughter filled the room. I felt very supported through the entire experience.
Were you able to debrief your birth experience in a way that helped you to process the experience? In every birth, due to the rawness of it, there is always something to process, but in my case, I felt there was very little I needed to process, which I was able to do by talking with the friends I met through my midwife, who were all very well educated about the emotional side of birth. I felt proud of what I had done and wanted to help other women feel empowered in their own birth experiences.
What do you think could have made you feel more supported during pregnancy and childbirth? I think if my family had trusted me in my decisions and embraced learning with me instead of trying to scare me and change my mind, then I would have had less to overcome. I would have felt more supported had more people listened to me and asked questions about my feelings and concerns. The medical staff gave no care to my emotional well-being and did not hear my concerns or validate my choices.
What would have helped you? Emotional support – I feel empowering pregnant women regardless of age could be a game-changer. I wish more people would look at birthing as a natural and powerful part of a woman's life. I also wish I had been cared for and supported more postpartum. I had a good support system, but even today, I often see many people left to mother their child with very little support. I had many questions, and I did not have much guidance outside of my birthing team.
What were the first few weeks of motherhood like for you? The first few weeks were pretty much an emotional rollercoaster. I was so in love with my child, yet at the same time, I was mourning my own childhood and freedom. I was watching my friends come and go freely. They would stop in together before a fun night out. I felt sad about that and then guilty for feeling sad. I was completely exhausted yet felt energized at the same time. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by the amount of dependency my daughter had on me. On the flip side though, I felt so much love for my child – I never knew a love like that existed. I knew I wanted to be with her every second and be her everything!
What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? I was concerned I would be judged for my alternative ways of doing things. I honestly felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of my family and especially my friends. How would they understand and not think weird of me? I felt an incredible amount of joy though. I was very happy about the way the birth turned out and that helped immensely with the strong connection I had with my child.
Do you feel that you had a healthy support network? Luckily my midwife set me up with two women that acted as a great support team. Although, it was a bit hard connecting due to an age gap – there was usually a ten-year age difference in the mom friends I have and still have today. I have a large and tight family, but I was doing things in ways they did not understand so they were not always encouraging. If it wasn't for the midwife connecting me with some women who understood my values and choices, I would have had a pretty non-existent support team.
How did you find transitioning into parenthood? I felt the transition to be quite nice. There were times of overwhelm and sadness, but overall, I feel I adjusted well. There were days when my daughter was my whole world and I wanted nothing else. There were also days I missed my freedom, but I never wanted to be without her on my hip. I religiously read Mothering magazine and educated myself on all aspects of motherhood. I tried to always stick with the most primitive way of doing things.
Did you have strategies in place to manage stress and anxiety? I did not have any strategies in place but I also did not suffer from anxiety. This was a time before social media, and I feel that made a huge difference. I chose not to work outside the home which I believe cut down on stress in my life. To stay home with my children was the best choice I ever made.
What challenges did you face in the first year of motherhood? I faced financial challenges mostly, but doing things in alignment with attachment parenting seemed to cost less. I felt isolated in some ways but not in others. Once I found my mothering community it made all the difference. The best thing I did was surround myself with other mothers doing things similar to my way. We would meet a couple of times a week for hours of free playtime with the kids.
What do you love most about being a mum? Hands down what I love most is my connection with my children and how I can understand them in ways others cannot. I love sharing my wisdom and I love learning from them. I love how they challenge me and my belief system. I love watching them learn and grow. I love watching every success and loving them through every letdown. My oldest is now fifteen and my second (also born at home when I was 23) is twelve. I love how the dynamics of our relationship shifts and changes with time.
What life lessons have you learned? Oh wow! I feel everything I know about life I learned through becoming a mother. Our kids teach us so much about ourselves. I think one of the biggest lessons I learned is to trust my intuition. I knew the whole time what was best for me and my child. Many people tried to steer me in other directions, but I kept walking my path and it turned out to be right every time. People my age talked about me and said hurtful things, but I learned to find my self-worth internally and that has made a big difference. I also learned so much through the birthing process. When something is tough, I will think something like... "oh, this is like in labour when..." or I will stub my toe and be able to relax into the pain like I learned to do in birthing. I have never felt more empowered than I do as a mother. I know I am very blessed because this is not always the case for everyone.
What do you wish people could understand more about being a young mother? I wish people acknowledged the upsides to being a younger mother. Physically, you are in optimum health and have way more energy and vitality. I also wish people knew how uncomfortable it is emotionally to be somewhere in life that your peers do not yet understand.
What’s helped you the most in becoming a mum? Having a support network, reading and educating myself and trusting my intuition. I must mention my own dear, sweet, loving late mother who also had me young. I think of her several times a day. She loved me and my children to the moon and back. As a mother, I began to see the sacrifices she made to give me a good life. She was only 17 when she had me and was the best mom a girl could ever ask for!
Anything else you would like to share? I went on to have my second child at home at 23 years old. I felt young and vibrant and able to really have fun with my kids. I had my third child at 28. Though I am more stable and settled now, I have far less energy and am not as playful as I was with my first two.
Trusting my intuition has been my greatest ally in motherhood. I was never able to complete college due to the demands of mothering, but I honestly feel everything worked out for the best. I am now completing a certification in herbalism which is my deepest calling ever and I may not have discovered this had my life unfolded another way.
Thank you so much Kara for your vulnerability in sharing your story.
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