Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why do we homebirth?

With our little babe's birth up-and-coming, I thought I would share with you ladies briefly why we have decided to homebirth our children. Considering today's cultural trend to have hospital births, having a child at home may sound quite foreign to many of you. But contrary to popular belief, homebirth has been the norm for centuries. In the future, I plan on sharing research and statistics on the safety of homebirth in regard to low-risk women. But for now, here are a few of the reasons why we have chosen this birthing option.

1- Women have been doing this since the time of Adam and Eve. It's only been within the past two generations that hospital births have become the "norm".

2- Midwives and hospitals approach birth completely different. From a midwifery (pronounced 'mid-wif-er-ee') perspective, birth is viewed as a healthy life process. God has uniquely designed the female body to conceive and give birth to children. It's a normal function of her body, something she was created for and is fully capable of doing. From a hospital perspective, birth is viewed as a medical condition that requires medical intervention(s), something that needs to be "monitored" and "treated". There is so much fear surrounding the process of labor and delivery nowadays. We wonder how much of that is due to doctors turning something normal into a perceived medical problem or complication.

3- For low-risk women, homebirth is a safe alternative... possibly a safer alternative. High infant mortality rates of the past were largely due to issues of cleanliness/hygiene. Nowadays, we take MUCH better care of our homes and bodies so it's not so much an issue. Also, we are immune to the germs in our own homes whereas in a hospital, one comes in contact with all sorts of germs and viruses that they'd never meet at home. Plus, toward the end of pregnancy, we are required to order a Birth Kit. In this kit are sterile, hospital grade items necessary for birth, like gloves, pads, cord clamp, etc. so it's not like the baby will be introduced to an unsterile environment with unsterile equipment.

4- The level of care is much better with a midwife. At the hospital, prenatal appointments usually consist of very impersonal/very brief meetings with the doctor or nurse. To me, it felt like I was just a number... get me in-&-out so the next patient can be seen as quickly as possible. With a midwife, it's the exact opposite. Our initial consultation with the midwife was 1-1/2 hours long (and free of cost!). Prenatal visits are at least 30 minutes. Our midwife wants to know me, my family, my history, my fears and concerns, etc. I also get to know her, her family, her experience, etc. It is a VERY interpersonal relationship. The more she knows about me and my family, the better she can fulfill her role. So when I'm in labor, it's not a stranger wearing scrubs I'm with... but a close friend.

5- The process of birth itself was so much more relaxing and rewarding at home. At the hospital, it was cold, brightly lit, I was confined to bed and IV, and was denied food and drink for the entire duration of my labor and delivery (which left me dry-heaving during transition- which was AWFUL!). Apparently the hospital's reasoning for the "no-food-no-drink" thing is two-fold: 1- having an empty stomach is necessary for emergency c-section and 2- vomit could potentially enter your lungs (which rarely happens). At home, I had all the comforts of home: my lazyboy recliner, dim lights, I was free to walk and roam about the house as I pleased, and I was allowed to eat and drink as I needed (which provided me the strength and energy to sustain me during intense labor and delivery). I still did end up throwing up during transition, but at least I had something TO throw-up (which was WAY better). I delivered Cassandra in my bedroom, which for me was the most comfortable, private, and secure place. Her delivery was unlike the two hospital births I'd had before. Arianna and Benjamin came out screaming because of the cold and lights. I was only able to hold them briefly before they were whisked away for cleaning, shots, and goop to be put in their eyes. Cassandra came out bright-eyed, alert, content, and was allowed to stay in my arms for a long time. Immediately following birth and cord cutting, I was urged to nurse. Then, after a good nursing/time of bonding, Cassandra and I got to take an herbal bath together. We were pretty much inseperable from the moment she came out. And Cassandra never cried. Night and day difference. One more thought here... when a woman is laboring at home, she is comfortable and secure and usually labors continuously without interruption. Yet, how many times have you heard of (or experienced for yourself) labor stalling or altogether stopping when a woman leaves for the hospital?...

6- Most midwives deliver more babies than OB/GYN's. Our midwife has delivered over 800 babies in the (10) years she's been in practice. Your typical OB/GYN can't even compete. Part of that is not the Dr.'s fault, though, as they do more than just deliver babies. But not only does our midwife have certifications and training, she obviously has a TON of experience under her belt. There's probably not much she hasn't seen yet. To us, experience means more than a degree. We trust she knows what she's doing. And contrary to popular medical belief, IF something DOES go wrong, it doesn't usually crop up out of nowhere. A seasoned midwife should see signs and symptoms of something wrong long before it becomes a problem. And at that point, she either takes care of the problem herself or she will recognize it requires medical help and will transport momma to the hospital. There's not a whole lot that a midwife can't do that a doctor can, besides do c-sections. And there are a lot of natural ways to curb normal complications during birth that doctors either won't do or are unaware of.

7- I get to choose what position I want to birth in. At the hospital, it's laying down on a bed with your legs spread and up. Not comfortable. At home, I birthed on a cresent shaped stool where gravity could actually work FOR me rather than against me. Made pushing SO MUCH easier... and quicker! Many midwives also provide the option of having a water birth.

8- Less internals with a midwife. I had my first internal exam with my midwife when Cassandra's head was in the birth canal. They are usually an "un-necessary evil". My midwife jokes that she is willing to do internals if asked, but I then have to provide her with a homemade pie. :-) I think she's serious! Think about it... everytime someone checks momma internally, the risk of infection increases. I cannot count how many people and how many times I was checked internally during hospital prenatal visits and the actual hospital birth experience.

9- The cost is dramatically different. Even with insurance, Arianna and Benjamin cost RD and I several thousand dollars a piece. Cassandra and baby #4 cost us $1,800 each.

There are several other reasons why RD and I have chosen this birthing option... but these are the biggies. As I mentioned earlier, I do hope to share in the very near future information in regard to homebirth safety. We hope to dispel a lot of the misconceptions and unknowns surrounding homebirth so other mother's out there reading this blog can make a more informed choice about their birthing options.


ReaganF said...

I have a midwife this time around for our pregnancy and I must agree...a midwife is sooooooo much better! I loved my family practitioner when I had Riley, but now that I have had midwives, I don't think I could go back! :-)

My midwives are somewhat unique (I think). They are employed by the local hospital, so when I go into labor I will deliver at the hospital. But, they also encourage everything you said, Mel! Different labor positions, eating and drinking during labor, dim lights, quiet, low stress, few if any internal exams, less medical intervention unless it is necessary, baby stays with Mommy after birth, breast feeding immmediately! For me it is the best of both worlds. I'm actually really excited to see how everything goes this time! (I never thought I would be excited about going into labor, but I am!)

Michelle McCallum said...

Thanks for sharing. I am jealous! I would love to be able to have a home birth (especially since I know I can do it without pain meds- even after I was induced!), but I am high-risk pregnancy because of my blood pressure issues during pregnancy. So it isn't even an option for me. A lot of my friends have or are going to do a home birth. Their experiences have all been so wonderful. I hope this one will be as well.

Mel said...

Do you only have a hospital nearby or is there a birthing center available where you could have a midwife/semi-homebirth? (I guess it depends on the state.)