If you have been following this blog for some time, you know that we are newly expecting! As I write this, I am 23 weeks pregnant, my belly button is popping, and we are having a GIRL!
My husband recently asked me if pregnancy was similar to how I expected or imagined it would be.
I looked at him with incredulity, and told him his question was unanswerable, because in 26 years of life, I NEVER IMAGINED MYSELF pregnant. Some girls grow up dreaming about babies, or families and some run through scenarios of all the “what if’s” of life. Often, these “what if’s” include, at least some contemplation of a growing belly and giving birth. These two ideas made me nauseous and uncomfortable. So, I literally avoided dwelling on them, whatsoever. For me, the closest I came to mentally preparing for ANYTHING along these lines was ignoring the 9 months of pregnancy, and vowing that if I ever gave birth, I wanted to be put out cold at the first sign of labor and awoken when my child was cleaned, wrapped, and sleeping peacefully.
Maybe this lack of visualization or mental preparation is why the past 5 months have seemed like the LONGEST 5 months of my life. I have experienced NO morning sickness, nausea, or actual pain of any kind (thus far), and yet time is dragging. I am physically feeling wonderful, but I am mentally and emotionally exhausted, because my body and mind are literally being taken over by a little miracle of God! I cannot fully express here the mental shift that has been presented to me, but I can say that I believe it to be the beginning of the most profound and wonderful journey of my life.
Because of the unpreparedness of my mind and body for this experience, I had made NO decisions about the pregnancy process and the only birth plan I had in mind was the one involving as much medication as possible (see above). Then, much like every new mom, I was engulfed by the learn-everything-you-can-about-all-things-baby-and-birth research hurricane. And while I am still navigating all of the research and opinions out there, I am happy to announce my decision to use a midwife and plan for a home birth.
I have been inspired by the looks of question, astonishment and confusion I receive on a daily basis, from family, friends, and even complete strangers. Therefore, I plan to lay out the rest of this blog based on the concerns and statements I have interacted with most.
Home birth? Why not the hospital?
Let me begin by stating, the hospital is a wonderful place and houses amazing and well-educated employees. I am sincerely grateful for modern medicine when it comes to surgeries, sicknesses, diseases, and other medical emergencies. However, pregnancy usually does not fall under any of the afore mentioned categories. Birth is not a sickness, it is a natural process that all mammals participate in, and have for thousands of years. In some cases, medical emergencies DO occur, about 10% of all pregnancies, and in these cases a hospital is a beautiful accomodation.
However, using emergency interventions or medical procedures on totally healthy women, who do not need them, can often cause more problems than it prevents.
A book I have checked out from my library twice now, for its maximum rental time, is “Pushed” by Jennifer Block. It is a dense but SUPER informational read for any mama-to-be or those interested in the birthing world. This is a quote that resonated with me,
Today, what’s normal is being redefined: from vaginal birth to surgical birth; from ‘My water broke,’ to ‘Let’s break your water;’ from ‘It’s time’ to ‘It’s time for the induction.’ As medical anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd writes, ‘in the early twenty-first century, we do not know what normal birth is.’ Most practicing obstetricians have never witnessed an unplugged birth that wasn’t an accident. Women are even beginning to deny normal birth to themselves: if ‘normal’ means being induced, immobilized by wires and tubes, sped up with drugs, all the while knowing that there’s a good chance of surgery, well, might as well just cut to the chase, so to speak. ‘Just give me a cesarean,’ some are saying. And who can blame them? They want to avoid what they think of as normal birth.”
In our society, normal birth takes place in a hospital, but in reality there is nothing natural or normal about traveling to a hospital to birth a child. A woman’s body is AMAZING! It can literally grow a tiny human being without assistance for 9 months, and I think we should trust its ability to bring that human being into the world. Now, some people throughout history have given birth alone or in remote circumstances, with great success. But, I believe having some preparation; a midwife, a team of supporters, and most importantly, a strong prayer life, is the most ideal situation for a healthy birth.
Jim Gaffigan shares some of his thoughts regarding this too 🙂
What about the safety of your child?
First of all, infant mortality rates for hospital births do not rank all that well here in the United States. In fact, “Amongst industrialized countries, the U.S. ranks 29th in infant survival.” -Jennifer Block
An article published in 2014 by Geradine Simkins, CNM, MSN, Executive Director, Midwives Alliance of North America, summarized the results of a study done about the outcomes of midwifery care for 16,924 home births over the years of 2004-2009, with these words,
Most importantly, their babies were born healthy and safe. Ninety-seven percent of babies were carried to full-term, they weighed an average of eight pounds at birth, and nearly 98% were being breastfed at the six-week postpartum visit with their midwife. Only 1% of babies required transfer to the hospital after birth, most for non-urgent conditions. Babies born to low-risk mothers had no higher risk of death in labor or the first few weeks of life than those in comparable studies of similarly low-risk pregnancies.”
The health of my baby is of utmost importance, and I have gone to seminars, read books, and prayed a lot about the decision of hospital versus home birth, so please hear me when I say baby’s health is greatly considered. I think it is extremely important to recognize that women who opt for a home birth AND women who choose a hospital birth, BOTH care deeply about the safety and well-being of their children. Therefore, research the information if you are so inclined, but tread tactfully when giving your opinion to mothers who have decided one way or another.
A great book that delves into this more is “The Kind Mama”, by Alicia Silverstone. Also, One of the best documentaries I have seen regarding this issue is “The Business of Being Born”, which is available on Netflix and probably other video platforms. You can watch the trailer here…
What about the safety of YOU and the possible complications?!
The hospital is a wonderful place for high risk mothers, however, mothers who are low risk are actually better off having birth at home. If my iron is low, if my blood pressure is high, or a host of other tell-tale signs of possible risk show up in my final months/weeks of pregnancy, then I immediately become a candidate for a hospital birth. It is the job of my doctor and midwife to determine whether I am high-risk or low-risk. Often the interventions that hospitals use to induce, quicken, or numb birth are detrimental to the woman’s health.
An article published on parenting.com by Taylor Newman states,
“Our maternal mortality rate lands us 50 places from the top when it comes to safety in this department, despite our spending $98 billion a year on hospital births (more than any other nation). Hospitals’ C-section rates (also on the extreme rise) don’t nearly reflect real ‘emergency’ rates – many hospitals are well over 50% — and are a driving force behind the maternal death rate problem.”
We are so advanced medically, we should not be experiencing such a high maternal mortality rate! Home births, on the other hand, with a trained and licensed midwife have proven to be very safe for both baby and mother.
One study published in 2009, by Patricia A. Janssen, Lee Saxell, Lesley A. Page, Michael C. Klein, Robert M. Liston, Shoo K. Le, comparing home births to hospital births found,
Adverse maternal outcomes were rare in all 3 groups (of home births). Compared with women who planned a hospital birth with a midwife in attendance, those who planned a home birth were significantly less likely to have a third- or fourth-degree perineal tear (adjusted relative risk, postpartum hemorrhage or pyrexia). The rate of infection overall, although lower in the home-birth group, did not differ significantly between these 2 groups. The risk of all adverse maternal outcomes assessed was significantly lower among the women who planned a home birth than among those who planned a physician-attended hospital birth.”
I took out some of the specific statistics for ease of reading, but if you’d like to read this study in depth you can find it here.
“In addition, Compared with women who planned a midwife-attended hospital birth, those who planned a home birth were less likely to have a newborn who had birth trauma, required resuscitation at birth, or required oxygen therapy beyond 24 hours.”
Check out this great TEDtalk which highlights some of these stats.
What about the pain?!
Pain is going to come with childbirth. The Bible tells me this is so (Genesis 3:16), therefore, as much as I don’t want to, I need to accept that pain is a part of this process.
However, it is also necessary to realize that this pain is the type of sensation that leads to something spectacular. It is not pain that is being inflicted upon me, it is pain I have chosen to endure for the life of another being. Now, I have not experienced this pain, nor do I make ANY assumptions or promises that I will be able to handle it peacefully or kindly. But, I can say that I am fully aware that my attitude and my mental preparedness is a powerful tool when it comes to enduring pain. God made our bodies to endure this, and if He believes I am capable, my choice is to trust Him.
Another point here about being at home. Our bodies, especially in something as difficult and strenuous as childbirth, need to be in a place where we are both comfortable and encouraged. To me, a hospital is very sterile and meant for emergencies. Because of my disdain for blood, surgery, and the visual tricks my mind plays when it is surrounded with metal tools and needles, I would find myself fighting the emotion of fear and lack of control in a hospital setting. Whereas, I cannot think of ANY place that is more peaceful, cozy and filled with love, than my home.
Plus Oxytocin-our body’s natural Pitocin- is released in abundance when we feel relaxed and loved. When pitocin is given in the hospital the body contracts violently, without warning and no hormones are released for the brain to better prepare for the pain. Therefore, a woman experiencing birth with pitocin is usually in FAR greater pain, and sometimes, mentally disengaged from her body’s own processes. At this point, a woman usually opts for an epidural (I probably would too!) then, with an epidural she does not have full control over her body to know how to when to push. Furthermore, a woman NEEDS hydration during pregnancy, which is denied most women who have these sorts of medical interventions. Finally, we DO NOT birth well on our backs…we should be in all sorts of different positions, but not on our backs! Whew…that was my quick summary of how a hospital birth can often be more painful and emotionally exhausting, than a home birth.
My husband’s favorite book in this birthing research craze is Ina May Gaskin’s book, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”, after reading this, he is pretty sure he could deliver my baby, but don’t worry…he hasn’t convinced me so we will still have a professional midwife and her assistant present. 🙂
What about the money?!
Home births are FAR more affordable than hospital births!!! However, the problem is that the majority of insurance plans will not cover home births. So, even though we could save people AND insurance companies thousands of dollars by choosing midwives and home births, we are a long way from that sort of financial intelligence. 🙂
So, here it is! My decision to opt for a home birth! I am seeing both a doctor and a midwife to ensure my health is on track during pregnancy, and together they will decide whether or not I am a good candidate for a home birth. There is always the chance that I will end up delivering in or transferring to the hospital and I have already decided to fully embrace whatever situation comes my way. For now, I am praying for good health and a successful home delivery!!