Monday, May 16, 2011

The Road Home - Our Path to Home Birth Part I

{As we near the time for our sweet fifth to be born,  many questions have cropped up in my inbox and in conversations regarding our decision to have this baby at home.  Hopefully some of your questions are answered here!}

Eight years ago, when I was pregnant with my very first baby, if you would have told me that I would eventually have a baby in my own bedroom, I would have laughed - and been incredibly grossed out by my future self.  I couldn't imagine anything more scary - having a baby at home must be disgustingly messy, not to mention dangerous.  And what if I couldn't handle the pain?  No button to push for an epidural?  Certainly I would never do such a thing.  I was not a "hippie" mom, had no problems with hospitals, and simply could not see any benefit from having a child at home.

Its funny, the way time and experiences can change the way you view the world.

Our journey to homebirth was, in comparison to other families I know, very slow.  We did not jump into this mindset with our first, second, or even third baby.  It wasn't until baby number four that I was ready to consider homebirth as a possibility for us.

Along the way, I had my first two in the hospital with all the available technology - including epidurals.  And, if I am being quite honest, those births were just fine.  Everything went smoothly, the babies were healthy, the labors quick.  But once I became pregnant with our third, I began to wish for something...more.  Having had two babies, I knew the basics of birth, but I expanded my knowledge by reading everything I could get my hands on regarding natural birth. I learned, for the first time, about the possible side effects of the interventions I allowed during my first two labors.  I also realized that none of the interventions in my labors had been necessary.  Armed with this new knowledge, I set about to have a different experience with my third: my first ever natural birth.

My first natural birth was wonderful.  I was able to avoid all the interventions that I sought to, and I felt empowered by my ability to have a baby drug-free.  One thing that did bother me as I reflected on it later on was how hard I had to push with various staff to achieve the birth I wanted. Although I had a birth plan and several hospital forms refusing certain procedures, I had to explain and defend my decisions to everyone from the triage resident to the head of pediatrics. 

This gave me a new-found passion for all things related to pregnancy and birth, and just months after my daughter was born, I took the training to become a birth doula.  Through the training and subsequent attending of births, my perspective on birth, maternity care and pregnancy again began to change.  I understood the why's and how's of hospital policies.  I also deepened my knowledge of my own birth processes and how I handled birth.

I began to see the medical model of birth as being one option, but now realized that there were others.  Similarly to choosing where to grocery shop, I could choose where to have a baby.  The hospital offered one type of maternity care, but if I wanted something different, I could choose differently.  As a consumer, I could decide on the things that mattered most to me and find a provider (and a location) that lined up with those ideals.

To be continued.

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  1. We're still working on that in South Dakota. Midwife-assisted home births is illegal, but a group of women are working hard to make it happen. I have joined them to the Capitol to meet with legislatures and provided a luncheon. The division between midwives seems to come from those who think they don't need certain certification to practice, while others think it's necessary in order to convince legislatures to consider their cause.

    Look forward to reading more of your story!

  2. love seeing your journey :) I'm not there yet, maybe after I've had a few more...

    One of my favorite lines: "I also realized that none of the interventions in my labors had been necessary". So true. I'm thankful for the safety net they provide, but so many things done were NOT needed at all.

    It's kinda like if someone had told me I would use cloth wipes/cloth diapers and especially cloth momma pads, I would have said EWWW NO WAY! Things change :)

  3. Sara - the two things I said I would never do as a Mama were cloth diaper and homebirth. Things can definitely change! :-)

  4. I know how you feel. I just finished reading "Pushed" by Jennifer Block and it has changed my life. Have you read it? What are your favorite doula books? Could you maybe share a list of your favorite research books? It's just so incredible to me that obstetrics is the only area of medicine where the patient's right to refuse treatment is just completely trampled! I still don't understand why so many doctors see birth as a procedure needing to be managed and have interventions, rather than the natural conclusion to a pregnancy, which does best when left alone. Thanks so much for sharing this, and talking about it. I think the more exposure to this topic we can get, the more women we can inform. Because my first birth was traumatic and terrible, and each of the other three were so stressful because I had to fight to decline things. If we end up having a number 5, it will either be at our local birthing center or at home.

  5. Oh Colleena, I'm so sorry to hear how traumatized you were. I can well relate to being stressed from having to fight to decline things. Even though my OB was completely on board with me, the hospital staff was not as easily dealt with. I felt that, instead of spending those first precious moments with my baby, I had my "fight or flight" hormones going crazy trying to protect my choices. Very difficult to deal with when having a baby for sure. Thankfully, not all hospitals or staff are like that...but unfortunately it seems to be the "luck of the draw."

    I'll come up with a booklist. I have not yet read "pushed," but hope to soon!


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