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Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Homebirth, Part 1

Ike in the hospital, 1 day old
I've mentioned a few times (or many) on my blog that I plan on having a homebirth this pregnancy.
Why? you may ask. Why would you risk your life and your baby's life and have your baby at home? Why do something dangerous like that? Are you in some sort of cult that eschews medical care and the medical establishment?


I thought that I'd write three posts on the topic, one about my "homebirth background", one from a medical and safety standpoint, why I am choosing to have a homebirth, and one from a frugal standpoint, why I feel that a homebirth is a worthwhile expense. Today's post will be all about how my thoughts on birth evolved to the  the safety aspect, and why I would choose to do something as risky as having a baby outside a hospital.

Before I continue, I want to say that this series not meant to criticize women's birthing choices; childbirth is very personal, dramatic and life altering, and every woman deserves to have the type of birth that she wants, whether that is a cesarean section, a completely medicalized and anesthetized hospital birth, an unmedicated hospital birth, an assisted homebirth, or an unassisted homebirth. I will not criticize someone for the birth choices she makes, even if they're radically different than my own. I am only sharing this series of posts to explain why I choose to have a homebirth for myself.
I also want to say already from the start that there are some women that from a safety standpoint should never, ever, ever homebirth, that doing so would be putting their life and the life of their baby in danger, so don't think that these posts mean I'm giving carte blanche for homebirths for everyone.

Why Homebirth? 

The Background

I was born in the hospital. So were all my 4 siblings. My mother had an epidural with every one of her births aside for me; she wanted to have an epidural during my birth but was told by the anesthesiologist that there wasn't time. My younger brother was born via scheduled Cesarean and my littlest sister was born via VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) in a hospital with an obstetrician. All my mother's babies were delivered via obstetrician.

The first time I ever heard of the concept of homebirth was when I heard that one of my mother's friends gave birth in her bathtub at home.
I was horrified and felt sorry for the woman. She didn't make it to the hospital on time! And she gave birth by accident in the bathtub instead...

I wasn't able to look at this lady the same way for the next little while- I was too embarrassed for her, knowing her "dirty secret".
I think I was 12 at the time.

No, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a planned homebirth. I had no idea that there were such things as midwives actually practicing today in developed parts of the world. I thought midwives were just unskilled women that were used before we had the technology available today to help us birth safely, and that midwives played a part in the high maternal and fetal death rate during childbirth in ancient times and in "less civilized" parts of the world.

Flash forward a couple of years.
I'm pregnant with my first and on a message board of married women. On the board, one of the hottest topics for debate was natural childbirth vs medicated childbirth, with each woman claiming that the way she gave birth was the best way.
The epidural ladies couldn't understand why anyone would want to give birth with no anesthesia, called women who went "all natural" martyrs, and compared unmedicated childbirth to getting teeth extracted or undergoing surgery with no pain medication.
On the other hand, the "natural childbirth" mamas often didn't understand why a woman might opt out of the "experience of a lifetime", something as empowering as a fully natural, unmedicated childbirth.
Having never experienced birth myself, I stayed out of the debate. How could I make a decision about something like that before the time came? But I read very eagerly to hear both sides of it.

The biggest argument for the "pro medicated" side was that you were able to enjoy the experience and that there was no reason to suffer.
The "pro natural" camp argued that birth wasn't miserable, that they came out feeling very empowered, and actually enjoyed their birthing experience even with no pain meds. They also were quick to point out the dangers and problems that can occur with a medicated childbirth, which the "pro medicated"s were quick to dismiss...
But after reading everything, the side that struck a chord with me most was the pro natural camp, even though I wasn't sure I knew anyone in real life who had ever done it naturally before. I actually was terrified of the concept of an epidural- I had read scare stories about a lady not too far from me that was left paralyzed from the waist down after a botched epidural... I also have some nerve issues that made me especially wary of messing around with my nerves.

Around this point, I started hearing a little bit about homebirth, and learned that some people actually would choose to give birth at home and was intrigued to learn more. (Hey, maybe my mom's friend who birthed in a bathtub did so by choice?!) But no, I would never have considered a homebirth for myself. Mainly because it was my first birth and I didn't know how I'd experience the birth pains, and that maybe once I felt what birth "really felt like", I'd be begging for an epidural like all those "pro medicated" women on that message board were claiming wold happen.

Instead, I prepared for my first birth by bringing in an arsenal of tools to help me deal with birth naturally. Affirmations. Positive guided imagery. Relaxation CDs. Calming music. Frozen water bottles. Hot water bottles. Etc...
I went with the decision that I'd try my best to have a birth unmedicated, but if I truly felt I was suffering, I would take an epidural, even though I really didn't want to.

Fortunately, my first birth went amazingly well. I had a good support system, went in with an attitude that I was capable of birthing naturally, and I really lucked out in getting an extremely pro natural midwife when I went to the hospital. (Locally, because of the the health care system works here, when you show up at the hospital of your choice, whichever midwife is on duty will deliver you; you don't choose your midwife beforehand. You can take a doctor privately- for a price-, or get a doctor assigned to you if your birth is "problematic" or high risk, but otherwise you just get the on duty midwife. You can't take a midwife privately at the hospitals here. And some/many midwives here are decidedly anti natural.)

After my first birth, I really was on a high. Everything went smoothly. I had no real interventions, escaped stitch free, used no pain medication, and honestly didn't understand why women got epidurals, because at no point did I feel the pain was unbearable. I was so empowered after that birth, so psyched up that an hour after birth I exclaimed "I could do this again. I totally would give birth again tomorrow. I like giving birth!"

My second birth, I assumed, would be even easier than my first. I was really, really looking forward to that same type of positive, glowing experience that I had my first time, and was anticipating labor eagerly. I considered a homebirth, especially after my previous birth, but couldn't work out the logistics or swing it financially. My second birth was also in a hospital, all natural, but was much harder for me than my first. (I'll elaborate on it in part 3 in this series.)

Yes, everything worked out "right" at that birth. I had a fully unmedicated and stitch free childbirth and labor, but was let down in many other ways regarding how the birth went, how I was treated, and how I felt... and that was what inspired me to start putting aside money for a homebirth immediately after Ike was born, because I knew that the next time around, I didn't want to be birthing in a hospital. I felt that giving birth at home would take care of every one of the issues that did come up during my last childbirth, and didn't want a repeat of that, as it didn't exactly leave me feeling empowered and good about myself and confident in my abilities...

And that's how I went from someone who was mortified for someone when I found out that she gave birth at home to someone who's willing to spend a lot of our hard earned (and not exactly plentiful) money to make sure that I have a homebirth this time around.

As for why I feel a homebirth is safe, and why I feel its financially worthwhile, those will be posts 2 and 3 in this series.

If you've given birth before, what types of births did you have? Medicated? Totally natural? Hospital births with doctors? Hospital births with midwives? Birthing center births? Home births? Did you have any interventions, and if so, how did you feel about them? 
How old were you the first time you were aware that someone might actually voluntarily give birth to their babies at home? Or was that something you always knew about?
If you're pregnant now, are you planning a medicated or unmedicated birth this time?

Linking up to  Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Monday ManiaHomestead Barn HopFat TuesdaySimple Lives Thursday


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