When actress Lake Bell found out she was pregnant with her second child, the decision to have a home birth seemed like a chance to experience the magic all over again. Daughter Nova had been delivered in the same way when the family lived in Brooklyn.
“I felt very empowered … the home birth was this amazing primal bonding,” the mother of two said about her first home birth experience. “When my daughter came out, she had the [umbilical] cord wrapped around her neck, and it was very scary. She was on my chest and she wasn’t breathing. The midwife gave her three lifesaving breaths on my chest and my husband was there. She came to life and we saw it.”
But, as most people know, things don’t always go as planned.
The Bless This Mess costar described her second home birth as an “egregious up and down” experience. It all started in their Los Angeles home in May 2017. Her midwife and husband, Scott Campbell, were both present.
“I got pregnant again, and this time we’re in L.A. and I said, I want a home birth again. We had him at home. I was huge, he was 11 lbs. The same thing happened, I was at home and he had the cord wrapped around and he was on my chest,” Bell shared. “He was not coming to. Now you’re in really f—ing life and death. Your child is there and the entire room is trying to resuscitate him and they can’t. The paramedics are on their way, he’s still there. This person you don’t know.”
If all that hadn’t been frightening enough for the 40-year-old actress, son Ozgood had already surpassed the four-minute mark for oxygen deprivation. The situation was dire.
“The paramedics come in, the cord is still on so he has oxygen through my blood. They cut the cord and Scott ran out half-naked [with their son] and I was naked after my seven hours of laboring.”
Bell needed inducing to properly birth her placenta, so while doctors worked to save Ozgood’s life, she was being tended to by another set of physicians.
“I was looking at my phone as they were sewing me up and I get a little video from Scott: little Ozzy just barely taking breaths with the oxygen mask and I just passed out. Because I was like, ‘He’s alive,’ and then I just passed out,” Bell said.
His life had been saved, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Ozgood had to spend 11 days in the NICU.
“He was hypoxic, he was without oxygen for longer than the four minutes that is associated with being okay. … We were told that he could [have] cerebral palsy or never walk or talk. That was our reality. … Children’s Hospital Los Angeles saved his life.”
But little Ozgood has since come home and has been reassuring his mom that he’s just fine ever since.
“I had this incredible little boy who rolled over at two months and walking at nine months as if to say, ‘Mom, I got this. I’m working these milestones early so you can chill the f— out,’ ” Bell joked.
Even still, the mom needed a lot of extra help to overcome her internal sense of guilt.
“I took it on because I insisted on having a home birth,” she said. “I’ve dealt with that since. You could blame the midwife, you could blame yourself, but ultimately the result is the only thing that matters,” she said. “I’ve gone through therapy and was medicated for a year-and-a-half. I did wean myself off but I was on antidepressants to help kind of regulate. I barely take Advil but I was like, this is absolutely imperative in order for me to function.”
Does she regret it now? Despite the guilt, despite the scare, it doesn’t sound as though she does. Instead, she explains that every birth – home or hospital – comes with risk. And it sounds like she’s come to accept that.
“It was like war, but what I find about labor and birth is it’s the most extraordinary ordinary thing because every motherf—er goes through it. There’s no getting out of it that it hurts, or that it’s extraordinary, or that it’s life and death or high stakes, it is what it is,” she said.
So why open up now, more than two years after little Ozgood’s birth?
“It’s really Ozzy’s story and I’m proud of him,” she said. “Proud of walking out of that hospital with a clean bill of health.”