Thursday, June 28, 2012

Published 12:56 PM by with 0 comment

Why Choose a Home Birth?

Please don't consider anything I've written here to be a personal attack on your own choices of birth or as a diatribe against hospitals. I realize that every mother has to make her own decision on where and how to have her baby; if you had a hospital birth and were pleased with it, then that's wonderful! Some of my friends work or have worked in hospitals, and I am grateful to people like them who provide care for patients. Believe me, I do think that hospitals are a blessing when they are needed! My first visit to an emergency room for stitches in my forehead when I was two years old made that very clear : ) 

First, here are the three main questions I hear, and from what others who've chosen home-birth before have said, these questions are extremely common:

~ "Isn't home-birth dangerous (since a hospital is obviously the safest place to have a baby)?"

~ "But doesn't a home-birth mean that you can't have pain medication? (You'll be begging for an epidural!)"

~ "What if something goes wrong (and you need immediate medical assistance)?"

Generally people who think I'm crazy will then go on to tell me about their children's births in a hospital, which is usually a story ending in "I was so thankful for the pain-killers" or "I would have died if I hadn't been in a hospital". Not the most positive way to prepare me for my first birth!

If you would like to know the basic answers to the questions above, I highly recommend reading this article before moving on.

Second, I had some very powerful reasons why I already knew even before I was pregnant that I did NOT want to have my baby in a hospital if I could help it. Here are some of my reasons:

~ After several experiences with illness and surgery in hospitals, I have come to view them as necessary for medical emergencies and dire sickness, so I understand their importance. I probably would have died of infections (once of staph. infection, once of double kidney infections) if a hospital hadn't treated me. However, I don't view birth as an illness. Yes, sometimes situations occur that necessitate medical interventions in birth, for the mother or baby's health, but these occurances are the minority, not the majority, as any study or honest doctor/OBGYN will tell you. From everything I've researched, the majority of women (with proper prenatal care) can have healthy pregnancies and births that require a minimum of interference.

~ Hospitals have always made me VERY uneasy, because of their frigidly impersonal environment, frequent rotation of staff (there's always a stranger poking you when you're trying to sleep), glaring white surroundings, never-ending rounds of needles (I haaaaate needles), and constant noise (other patients shrieking, the intercom, carts rattling around). How much more relaxed and at ease I would be if I could labor and have my baby at home, in peace!

~ I hate how confining some hospital rules can be for a laboring mother. It is a rare hospital that will let the mother walk around if she wants to, birth in different positions other than flat on her back, eat and drink what and when she pleases, include whatever family members she wants, sing or yell or moan, get in and out of a warm shower or tub, wear what she wants... I value the freedom to find the best process for my body to give birth, unless it is absolutely medically necessary for me to do otherwise.

~ At this point, Chris and I are still researching various options for newborns such as circumcision, vaccinations, etc. We're not sure which (if any) we'll do. With a home-birth, we can decide whether we'll have these for our baby, without being forced into them by the rules of a medical establishment.

~ After my past surgeries, the pain-killers prescribed for the days of recovery have always made me extremely sick to my stomach, so ever since I was a kid, I'd often refuse to take them. I can only imagine what a pain-blocker like an epidural might do to my stomach or nerves! I learned that I'd rather suffer through pain than throw up constantly and drain my energy. Of course it hurt, and I wasn't really one of those "silent sufferers" (my mom can attest to my crying when the pain became unbearable) but I know now that I can have a very high level of pain tolerance when I need to. An un-medicated birth has been proven to be more healthy for both the mother and baby, both in the long and short terms, and to aid in bonding after birth.

These are just a few of the major reasons I want to have a home-birth. For others, please read this article.

Here is another great article on the reasons for home-birth. 

Third, there really is a lot of safety in having a home-birth. Yes, sometimes emergencies happen. There is a chance of complications or death for the mother or newborn even in a hospital; very rarely, tragedies happen unexpectedly, which we have to be prepared for no matter where we choose to give birth. Plus, there is a much greater chance of unnecessary medical interventions being performed in a hospital birth (that may cause more problems than they prevent), not to mention the high prevelance of hospital-acquired infections that are rapidly becoming a huge problem nowadays!

The important thing is to have plans ready IN CASE interventions are needed at any point. In St. Louis, no midwife will allow a home-birth if the mother develops ecclampsia, is expecting multiples, or has a pre-existing medical condition that would make a hospital birth necessary. Only "low-risk" pregnancies are advised to consider a home-birth, which makes a lot of sense. Of course, it's still possible to have a minimal-intervention birth in a hospital, but the hospital can often try to over-rule (or bully into submission) a mother's wishes if their policies dictate a specific medical procedure for a "dangerous" situation. 

One of my favorite parts of planning for a home-birth has been the appointments with the midwife. I've been seeing her for all my prenatal visits, receiving the same exams as I'd have with an OBGYN, such as monitoring the baby's heartbeat, keeping up with my health, urine and blood exams, etc. I've loved my visits with the midwife, held in her office which is located in the comfortable basement of her home. In a doctor's office, my heart-rate skyrockets with nervousness, as I would have to wait for long periods of time in empty rooms for a few minutes with the OBGYN, with a different nurse each time taking my vitals and administering tests. Instead, the midwife talks with me as I sit on the cozy couch in her office, sometimes with her four year old daughter playing at our feet; my appointments last on average forty-five minutes while we discuss everything, go through tests (she is very considerate of my fear of needles), and ensure that everything is proceeding well for me. It is much more personal to develop a relationship with her, knowing that she is doing all she can to help me have a healthy pregnancy and will be there to help me have a positive, safe birth. She has attended over two hundred births, worked in several hospitals as a nurse (including in the intensive care unit), has five children of her own, and worked in a birthing center in Russia. Chris and I both feel very confident in her qualifications!

As a side-note, we have elected to forego the usual ultrasound tests for several personal reasons, including the important fact that we want our baby's gender to be a surprise, even though my midwife could help arrange for me to have an ultra-sound if it was necessary.

My deepest desire is for the safe delivery of my baby. If that means I need to go to the hospital, then I will certainly do that; we already have a hospital as part of the birth plan, in case I need to be transferred there. But unless that situation ever happens, I will hopefully have my first baby at home sometime during the middle or end of June. Chris, the midwife, and my mom will be present at the birth, if the baby holds on long enough for my mom to make the four hour drive from Kansas City! So far, at least, everything has been going very well, with no morning sickness, nothing abnormal in any tests, and a positive outlook for the end goal.

Am I nervous? A little. There is always the uncertainty of the future. Am I afraid? No, not at all. My preparation and support are being carried out to the best of my ability, and I am confident that nothing will happen that is out of God's will for me. Mostly, I am very, very excited! My first pregnancy has been exhausting, but also full of learning and joy. The midwife's knowledge and precaution will aid my health, Chris and my mom will boost my inner strength, and our loving community will be waiting to welcome the new little one to this world. 

If you have any other questions, please read this article, which delves further into the myths of how "dangerous" home-birth is.