I got a high-5 today when I told a friend I was planning a homebirth. Such great vibes!!! I’m part of a couple online groups of other homebirth moms and have heard horrible stories about how their families and friends have reacted to the knowledge that a homebirth is planned. I’ve realized two things:
1) I have awesome friends and family
2) The general public has almost NO information about what homebirth (attended by a midwife) is or what the statistics are around homebirth.
I’m a homebirth baby myself and I was still pretty ignorant of the truth about homebirth. My mother gave birth to me (her 2nd birth and 1st of three homebirths) when we lived in Canada which is a very different health care system. She had a midwife and a doctor in attendance which is not something that happens in the United States. When I became pregnant (by surprise) with my first child I toyed with the idea of homebirth for a second but my husband was already nervous and so I let it go pretty quickly. I figured that homebirth was too “out there”, we already had no idea what we were getting into (I’d actually witnessed my younger sisters being born when I was 2 and then 7 years old AND I’d seen my nephew born, without pain meds, in the hospital when I was in my 20s so I wasn’t totally clueless) so we chose the “safe” option.
“Safe” option? Well, the traditional, we-know-what-to-expect option. The one people just DO because it’s what everyone does. Hmmm… sounds a little suspect when you put it like that, doesn’t it? Well, I chose an OBGYN practice that included three midwives thinking I’d get the same kind of care with them that I would have with a homebirth midwife. Ha, totally wrong! Midwives who work in an OB practice are subject to the same restrictions and prejudices as their OB counterparts are. Perhaps they are more natural birth friendly and more open to a relationship with their patients but, in the end, they are on a rotation with the doctors and are no more likely to deliver your baby than any other doctor in the practice is! These midwives are often called MEDwives because they’ve been absorbed and transformed by the mainstream medical community.
I really wanted a natural birth so I started to do some research and I went a little crazy on Amazon buying books. I bought the standard What to Expect When You’re Expecting which I found only mildly helpful and a week by week pregnancy book that was cool (this was before I signed up for weekly email updates with basically the same information). I also bought a couple other books about how to have a natural childbirth in a hospital setting. I read The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Groer. She is definitely pro natural/homebirth but does a fantastic job of laying out all the data and information about all types of interventions and situations. I could examine the data logically and make my own decisions–I almost cancelled my hospital birth at 7 months along because I was panicking about all the things that were going to happen to me and my baby. In retrospect I totally should have but again I felt safe and comfortable on the “traditional” road I was traveling and switching at that point in my pregnancy seemed insane… it really wouldn’t have been! I panicked that I would be snowballed into having all kinds of medical procedures and end up having a c-section, my worst fear. I read and re-read all the things that might happen and the advice that was given both in that book and from other sources on how to avoid the cascading effect of interventions. I could have saved myself so much stress by just calling up a homebirth midwife and switching care!
Anyway, my purpose in writing this post (and many to follow I’m sure) is to help other women realize that there IS another very good, comfortable and safe option for childbirth. I didn’t want to just be another patient in an OB practice, contsantly rotating through doctors who may or may not actually deliver my baby. I wanted to know and TRUST my care provider. That way I would KNOW that if an intervention was suggested it was actually necessary not just more convenient for the doctor (Henci Goer’s book gives many statistical details on that situation, I may have to break it down in a later post). I wanted my care provider to trust ME and MY BODY. I have always believed that birth is natural. It is NOT true that more women and infants died in childbirth before obstetrical care became such a huge deal which is what we’re led to believe. In fact our infant mortality rate is much HIGHER than other first world countries that treat birth as a natural life event. Birth is normal until proven otherwise, unfortunatly the obstetrical community treats it the opposite way which is what has led to the astronomical percentage (almost 1/3 of all births) of c-sections in this country. I can see I’m already getting sucked into a statistical discussion that I meant to avoid!
Even in the year or so following my son’s birth (vaginal delivery, posterior, induced and with the dreaded epidural) I still believed most of the women I heard say “Well, I had a c-section because I couldn’t get him out” or “They had to induce me becasue she was so big/late/whatever and then I didn’t progress enough so I had to have a c-section”. There are a few of my friends I do believe needed c-sections (see, I’m not a crazy c-section hating person I just feel they’re overused!). One had pre-eclampsia, a very serious condition which can kill both mother and child if left untreated—and the only way to get rid of it is to deliver the baby! Another friend had a c-section for her 2nd child (about 15 months after her first) because she was horribly torn by her first delivery, a personal choice but, especially with the closeness of the two pregnancies, a very legitimate one. But failure to progress? Water broken for “too long”? Baby “too big” or “too late”? Did you know that a NORMAL gestational range is 38-42 weeks NOT 38-40 (and then get that baby out ASAP because they’ve passed their “expiration date”)? I often wonder how things would have been different for those women if they’d had the care of a midwife instead of an OB practice. I think they would have had very different outcomes.
So, back to that trust thing, I have seen my midwife for every single prenatal appointment (at my house, I might add, during naptime. No driving to the office, waiting around in the waiting room and seeing the doctor for 5-15 minutes–better remember all your questions right away!) and she will be there for me throughout my labor. Okay, she’s not coming to my house at the first contraction but we’ll be in contact via phone, she’ll come and check me (and either stay or leave depending) when needed. I also text her in the middle of the night with concerns, she suggests herbs I can try instead of rushing me to Labor and Delivery (at the hospital) to get hooked up to monitors for three hours! That’s not an exaggeration, same issue with my last pregnancy and this one–regular, continueing braxton hicks contractions–spent over three hours at the hospital with an OB practice and just took an herb used to stop uterine contractions upon my midwife’s suggestion. Which would YOU rather? She starts with the least invasive choice and then moves up as needed, not the other way around to solve the problem quickly. She chats with me and knows all about my life and my family. She’s met my other children, she knows my husband. She knows my hobbies and what I really want from this birth experience. I know HER too and most of all I trust her completely. THAT is what I wanted in a care provider and that is the number one reason (backed up with hundreds of other reasons) I chose homebirth as the best option for me.
Anyone else think it sounds awesome? Before I decided this was the right chocie for me I had a really hard time finding information on homebirth (thank goodness for online groups because I’m not sure I would have found what I needed without the help of strangers!). I’d be happy to provide you with more information (statistical information, anectdotal, or information about how to find providers in your state–especially Connecticut!). As always, I don’t expect that homebirth is a good option for everyone BUT I really want everyone and I really mean EVERYONE out there to know it’s an OPTION. Explore your options then choose what is best for you, don’t just go in blindly.
Just for random reference I’m 37 weeks, 3 days as I write this post–getting close and I’m ridiculously excited to go into labor!