A calling to home birth By AMANDA MCCORMICK HANKINS, NY — Ember Ocean Jones rang in the new year at 2:40 a.m., clocking in as the first baby born in Sullivan County in 2023. She was delivered …
HANKINS, NY — Ember Ocean Jones rang in the new year at 2:40 a.m., clocking in as the first baby born in Sullivan County in 2023. She was delivered by her mother, Ann Jones, in an unassisted home birth.
In the Robert Frost poem about the road less traveled, neither routes are wrong—they’re just different—and Jones chose a less-traveled road when she decided to birth her third child in this way.
“I wanted to do it in the most natural way that was the healthiest for my baby,” she said. “At the time, I was new to the study of Shamanism, and was connecting to my roots, my ancestors and ancient ways. So I felt called to do it the way my ancestors did.”
Jones has two other children—Troy, 8, and Tristan, 6—who were both born the traditional way, in a hospital. “I originally believed home births were dangerous, so I wanted the doctors to be in control with my first two births. It felt unnatural to give birth in a hospital, but I never thought of doing it a different way,” she said.
But the start of her decision to do an unassisted home birth came from trauma and feeling victimized by Western medicine. “I had severe digestive issues starting at the age of nine, was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses and autoimmune disorders, saw many specialists, but never got to the root cause of what was going on,” Jones said. “Then when Tristan was two, he was diagnosed with autism. After six months of watching my child struggle with symptoms typically associated with autism, I stumbled upon information about nutrition and autism. I had never heard of or thought that what we ate would have such a dramatic effect on our body.”
Switching from what she considered a “healthy standard American diet” to organic, whole foods, Jones noticed a huge improvement not only in her son’s symptoms but also in her own chronic health issues, she said. “No doctor talked to me about nutrition for myself—which could have changed my life when I was nine years old—or for Tristan. He suffered for six months because the food I was feeding him was causing inflammation and pain in his body. Here I was thinking I was feeding him a healthy diet, and that he was having temper tantrums as a mood disorder, but this was his way of trying to communicate to me that he was in pain. So there was a lot of trauma surrounding that,” she said.
“But seeing these drastic improvements in both of our lives, based on changing our diet, started to awaken within me this realization that there’s not one road or path that fits everybody. There are multiple different branches. And just as I had taken a different path with my health and my son’s health, I was also meant to take a different path with this pregnancy.”
During her pregnancy, Jones worked intensively with a medicine man in a year-long study program, was sitting in meditation often, participating in Shamanic journeying, sweat lodges and cacao ceremonies.
“My process to prepare for this included a lot of connection to myself, to my heart, to what I truly desired—and then connecting to all of the people and forces that supported me in the seen and unseen realms. I also tapped into the divine source of power that we hold as women, and spent time strengthening relationships with this community of women who held and supported me through the process,” including two other women who shared their own stories of successful unassisted home births with her.
Jones reiterated how important having a community of support—whether locally or virtually—and guidance through this process was for her and for others interested in following this path in the future. “When we do home birth, it’s almost like you join this unspoken community of other women who feel the calling to home birth. I’m so grateful to the many people who held and supported me through this tremendous and beautiful experience.”
The road less traveled does come with its own set of obstacles. Jones had some fears and anxieties that needed to be released, she said, as well as outside judgment from those who viewed her decision as irresponsible and negligent.
“The unassisted home birth process empowered my friends. They felt it was best for their babies,” Jones said. “And when I tapped into my heart space, with all the work I did in connecting to spirit guides and ancestors on Shamanic journeys, I was reaffirmed over and over again that I was making the right decision. I really trust more in my intuition because that’s what healed me and healed my son. That was what was important to me in bringing my daughter into this world and doing the home birth also allowed me to release the trauma and victimization I had felt towards modern medicine.”
If you consider giving birth at home, she added, it’s your soul giving you an opportunity to release the conditioning that we as women are taught we’re supposed to give birth in a hospital setting where someone else delivers your baby. “Even the terminology used is ‘The doctor or midwife delivered 10 babies today,’ but no—it’s always the mother who delivers the baby.”
The only pregnancy-related book Jones read before her home birth was called “Unassisted Birth,” about Indigenous women who aren’t conditioned to believe birth is painful or dangerous. “They’re just completely in touch with how it’s a natural right of passage for a woman,” Jones said. “When women in these cultures go into labor, they go find a shady spot in nature, give birth on their own, and come back to rejoin their community a few hours later with a newborn baby. So peaceful and beautiful; I held to that image.”
Talking about her delivery, Jones was only in labor for two-and-a-half hours, during which she was in and out of the tub and shower. “The warm water was really comforting and relaxing,” she said, and recalled it being a pain-free process, thanks to the empowering examples from the book. “I remember feeling waves rushing over my body, I think [it was] what most women would call a contraction, but I couldn’t even identify it—just felt like the baby was moving downwards and my body was accommodating her birth.”
Jones had an ultrasound at 33 weeks, performed by a trusted midwife, to calm any last fears and make sure there were no red flags.
She didn’t find out the sex until her daughter was born. “I intuitively thought I was having a girl. So when I saw I had a daughter, it was such an incredible moment.” Jones had already decorated the nursery in pink, too.
“It was empowering and humbling at the same time. Filled with so much love and gratitude. I felt so connected to everything and everyone. This was how my ancestors gave birth. This is how animals give birth. And I felt like it gave birth to a new me that so many layers of conditioning were released in actually doing something that many people told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do,” she said.
Choosing to take the road less traveled isn’t easy, but many find it is much more rewarding. Including Ann Jones.
“It was the most magical experience of my life. I’m so glad I did it. And now I feel a duty and honor to support any other woman who wants to walk the path that I’ve walked. I’ll always serve as a resource and support to them in whatever way I can.”
If you are interested in walking your own unassisted home birth journey, and are looking for support and resources or for an understanding friend, contact the River Reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org for Jones’ email address.
This article is not to be construed as medical advice. There are circumstances and complications that may attend some births that do require professional medical attention. For the Mayo Clinic’s review of pros, cons and possible dangers of home birth see https://tinyurl.com/n8uyxupm.
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