Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why Homebirth, Part I

So I'm pregnant. Very exciting news, isn't it? Even more exciting is the news that it's sticking (for now); we're officially out of the first trimester, making it much easier to grin and announce the coming baby with gratitude and joy. That trepidatious sense of impending doom recedes a little more each day, and as my tummy begins to grow (only the faintest hint right now), so does the thrill and anticipation. Soon I'll feel movement (the quickening), and soon after that, Mark and Burgundy will be able to feel it from the outside. I'm making a baby.

Given how long and dearly we've wanted this child, some people have asked, all incredulous, why we would take the risk of a homebirth attended by a midwife. After all, isn't a hospital safer? Isn't a doctor more knowledgeable? For those who have been in my home, there's the gingerly asked (and possibly quite valid), "Um, is it sanitary enough?"

In a word, No, No, and NO. I mean Yes. The answer to the last question is definitely YES. No Freudian slips here; move along.

I want to spend several posts exploring these questions and the scientific evidence in favor of midwifery care (as opposed to obstetrical care) and home or birth-center-based labor and delivery. Childbirth is one of the most important rites of passage in our culture, and the way we approach care for this event in a woman and family's life has implications for safety, maternal and infant morbidity rates, cultural assumptions and attitudes toward life and toward the value of people. Childbirth is a fine example of the interconnectedness of life, love, science and progress. Childbirth is my soapbox, my love, a saving grace (for me). Healthy, normal childbirth is a passion, its promotion almost a mission for me.

These posts might be far between because I want to present them in a way that demonstrates the interdependencies of the childbirth process (for example, the well-documented "cascade effect" of our technological advances that has lead to our inexcusably high Cesarean rate in the US). I often find that when a person asks me about one thing, for example, electronic fetal monitoring, I don't do a very good job of presenting the big picture, the whole argument.

I begin discussion logically enough. Unfortunately, as I connect the dots mentally, I get a little rabid. I stumble over my own words; I get "Libertarian Eyes" (a term for the slightly wild-eyed look of a zealot in full-on Preach-the-Gospel-of-My-Cause mode coined by my friend Hannah in discussion of, um, excessively passionate people), and apparently, I lose my ability to form a coherent sentence.

When I come back to my senses, I'm out of breath, spluttering, and whomever I've just assaulted with a vitriolic denunciation of anything short of squatting in a rice paddy backs away slowly and refuses to return my calls for a month. As they back away, I follow them, saying things like, "And that's not even the half of it! I once discovered a coven of obstetricians mired in a Ritual Cesarean chanting insurance codes! I DID! And they are the reason that our society is crumbling! It’s the Demonic Obstetricians of DOOM! You must birth [spittle flies on the heels of birth; I pronounce it like a televangelist] NAKED! Do it for the CHILDREN [I begin to shout because they're running now]! JESUS WANTS YOU TO RECLAIM YOUR FEMINIST POWER! WHEN YOU BIRTH YOU BECOME A SUPER WOMAN; YOU ARE CAPABLE OF ANYTHING!"

So yes, I want to write something coherent and accessible. I want to write something that friends can read without thinking, "Christ on a cracker, don't tell her you're pregnant!" Most of all, I want it to be effective. I want people who read me, who stumble on my journal, to understand that there is a better way than epidurals, episiotomies, and cesarean sections. A safer way, a gentler way. A loving way.


  1. I really wanted to homebirth my three. Unfortunately, Cody was just not open to the idea.

  2. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on homebirth. We would like to have one with our next baby. With our last two we had a midwife in a hospital setting, a doula was present with David. I had such an easy labor last time and I just wanted to be home - a few hours after I had him I was begging the hospital staff to release me so I could be home in my bed, but they wouldn't let me leave for 24 hours. I swore then that I would never have another baby in a hospital unless I absolutely had to.

    I just finished the book Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir last night. It was written by one of the midwives highlighted in the Business of Being Born. I think you would really like it.

    Since we are hoping to get pregnant within the next year, I can't wait to hear how your experience is. I will be able to learn so much from you!!

  3. Amy - Warning: Libertarian eyes ahead. I have to admit, Mark was not very keen on homebirth at first. Unfortunately, I really do go rabid about this. We talked about it before getting married, and I made it clear that when he planned to push the child out of his penis, he could decide where it would happen. Otherwise, he could find a different love of his life. Anytime he's brought it up since, I've pointed out the entire shelf, double-stacked, with educational books backing my position and told him that when he has fully educated himself, I'll listen to his argument based on facts, not opinions. This is one of those areas where I'm a rigid, inflexible shrew, and Mark wisely stands back.

  4. Jessica, I had a similar experience with my hospital birth of Burgundy 14+ years ago. I couldn't wait to leave. I will check out Labor of Love; I haven't heard of that one before.

    I would also recommend a couple more books: Obstetric Myths vs. Research Realities and The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth both by Henci Goer.

    There are a host of other excellent books out there as well.

    I hope these posts are educational and interesting and I don't get too wild-eyed. If I change my profile picture to me in a tinfoil hat, be afraid.

  5. If you read my friend KrisMarie's Blog
    You can read about all her adventures with the midwife and giving birth at the birthing center. She does the cloth diapers and all those kind of things. She is my go to for all that neat stuff.

  6. I was in my doctors office recently waiting for my appointment to begin but the doctor left saying "time to go deliver a baby". My thoughts bounced from thats exciting to I guess I need to rescedule this annual. The nurse then promptly says to those of us in the waiting room "you may reschedule or wait, he'll be back in 30 minutes so we can go ahead and start checking you in (weight, height, bp, etc)" 30 minutes to drive to the hospital, scrub up, deliver a baby, clean up, drive back to the doctors office and continue on rounds?!?!? My face must have shown some horror to it b/c the nurse continued that they only call him for the delivery when its really time to basically catch. So far I trust him as my doctor but I have a feeling I'll want a trained person with me for more than 5 minutes when delivering a baby. I may be young and nieve but who's making the big bucks and for what? (granted when in labor I might not want anyone in the room for all I know...)

  7. Congratulations!

    My four were born at home, and we're planning a home birth for our fifth this summer! It's a tricky thing, to move from rabid to even-keeled when discussing birth. :)

  8. I support every woman doing what she wants. I wanted epidurals with mine, but they didn't take. I liked expediting things along with the pitocin, even though it made the contractions super strong and pain-y. The important thing is having a healthy baby, labor doesn't last that long, though sometimes it seems like it does.

  9. Congratulations!!!! So, does this mean you ARE interested in the cassettes of world lullabies? I thought you were just being nice to comment--please tell me if you are truly interested in them and in my leather skirt for your daughter, and I will send them to you ASAP!

    You should read Ina Mae's Guide to Childbirth--a totally hippy pro-natural midwife assisted "homebirth" (they actually use a birthing center, but it is essentially the same) that astounded me with not only the facts and statistics given about hospital vs homebirth, but also made me cry and be so proud of womanhood with all the stories of women in their own words telling their birth stories.

    God made us to birth children naturally--even now when all of creation is corrupted by sin and so bad things happen sometimes during childbirth, it is still the best and safest way. Hospital births are born (ha) out of man's desire to control nature, to replace God's plan with the "efficiency" of standard procedure, to bring the spiritual element of birth down to a "science."

    See, you're not the only one who gets all preachy at the topic! Seriously, while Julie is right that a healthy baby is the end goal, the current hospital birthing system is all about what is convenient for hospital staffing and what is cheapest for the insurance company. Sigh.

    I will pray all goes well with you and the wee babe!