It amazes me how much I have loved being pregnant. I knew I wanted kids but I never thought I would enjoy the process of creating life. I spent my entire adult life fearing pregnancy. I feared it for the responsibility, I feared it for what being a mother would do to me, and most of all I VAINLY feared what pregnancy would do to my body. After meeting Robert I knew it was something I had to do and wanted to do myself. We spent quite some time trying for a baby and I feel blessed with every pain, ache, or middle of the night trip to the bathroom that this baby is growing and healthy. This growing belly is the first home my baby will ever know. Sure, it’s uncomfortable and painful as I toss and turn sleeping on my sides. My hips hurt, my back hurts, my cervix feels like it’s being stabbed but this belly is nurturing my growing child. It’s also nurtured my own sense of self. I grow as a person with every hiccup and painful uncomfortable moment.
I started my pregnancy with an OBGYN that had a rotating combination of doctors and midwives on their birthing staff. I chose this doctor because they gave you the option of choosing a birth center with a water birth option if you chose to go natural and also a hospital if you would be opting for an epidural. Early in my pregnancy before I started doing research on birth I without a doubt planned to deliver in a hospital with an epidural. After touring the small one room birthing suite with the small and very tight bathroom I knew I would be more miserable than relaxed and happy there so their natrual birth center wasn’t an option. While the doctors were as kind as any other doctor I’ve come across it didn’t feel like they did more than look at the numbers on my charts. They cared about my last menstrual period, blood and urine analysis, ultrasound statistics but it felt like I was being run through a baby making factory… and I was.
DOCUMENTARIES & BOOKS
A documentary I watched early on called, “The Business of Being Born” really changed the way I looked at hospitals. It was life changing. I highly recommend watching it even if you are planning a hospital birth. It will give you insight into the questions you should be asking your doctor and may just inspire you to explore midwives in your area. While I am extremely thankful doctors and hospitals are there for high risk pregnancies and emergency situations, I don’t believe they are the best option for a normal pregnancy. After watching this documentary natural birth went from being this frightening thing to something I felt was a passage into womanhood.
Next I read glorified midwife Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth.” I highly recommend you read this if you are considering a home birth or natural water birth. Even if you are not planning to birth naturally read this book. After reading it I felt a new sense of respect for the female body and what it has been doing since the dawning of mankind. It truly points out the negative effects of some of the standard drugs used in a hospital and shows just how rewarding a drug free birth can be. I learned so much watching the documentary and reading this book. I had no idea that when you are on your back your pelvis is significantly smaller and you have to push against gravity because of the angle of a woman vagina. In fact on your back your pelvis is about 30% smaller than it is when you are squatting. Until the last 100 years giving birth on your back was very uncommon. Most would squat because this is the natural and most open position. I was also relieved to read that most the pain in childbirth comes not from the pushing but from the contractions before the pushing phase of labor. I always thought it was pushing the baby out that caused excrutiating pain. While I have yet to experience this myself from what I have read it is a relief to finally be able to push. During my pregnancy I have also referenced the “What to Expect” book and iPhone app often. I most loved the community of women due during my birth month. I loved reading what they were going through and being able to post questions anonomously and responding to comments. It felt like a team of women all going through the same things with the same goal at the end… a healthy baby – no matter how you chose to birth the baby (most choose hospitals from what I saw.)
Other books I read include: Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke, Homebirth by Sheila Kitzinger, Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read, How Big is a Placenta Bowl by Renee Moilanen, The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger and a book on a subject I’m truly passionate about called, Gentle Babies: Essential Oils & Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infants and Young Children. The iPhone apps I liked for daily reference of the babies development were What to Expect, Sprout, BabyCenter My Pregnancy, WebMD, Ovia Pregnancy, Baby Bump Pro, and Pregnancy +.
6 REASONS TO CONSIDER HOMEBIRTH
- Hospitals are for the sick and injured. A labouring woman is neither. I don’t understand why I would go to the hospital, then, unless complications arose (in which case I would be happy to be transferred).
- For low-risk pregnancies, planned midwife-attended home births are just as safe – or can be ever safer – than hospital births. For women who have no history of birth complications or medical conditions there is no difference in the safety or results when attended by a professional midwife in a home compared to a hospital. In fact, planned home births are associated with reduced rates of obstetric interventions like episiotomy, cesarean etc. Home births also show reduced rates of things like severe perineal tearing, postpartum hemorrhaging etc.
- No stressful transfer. When you are in early labor many things can stall labor. Transferring or leaving home to head to a hospital is one of them. So many women go to the hospital and by the time they arrive and are checked in they are no longer progressing and are often sent home.
- Privacy. I consider giving birth to be a private and intimate event and not something I want to share with strangers. I want to be able to tear off my clothes if that’s what I feel. I want to be able to freely move in and out of the birth tub and I don’t want a new nurse checking my chart or my cervix every couple hours. Once the birth is over and the midwives clean and make sure everyone is healthy I want to cuddle up with my Fiance and baby and relax in my own bed.
- A comfortable environment. A woman’s brain and emotions play a huge role in how her birth progresses. Fear, anxiety, and discomfort can slow down labour. And a sterile, unfamiliar environment, bright lights, strangers and all kinds of medical equipment isn’t calm or comforting. At home, I am in a familiar place and can control my surroundings (the lighting, music, bedding, etc). I can wear my own clothes and eat my own food. I won’t be ogled or poked by strangers whose shifts might change mid-labour. Once it’s all done I can take a shower in my own bathroom and put on whatever clothes I want from my own closet. No lumpy hospital beds, bleached-out gowns, weird food, beeping medical equipment, or plastic bins for baby to sleep in.
- Less risk of unnecessary intervention or pressure to medicate. I understand that the absence of pain medication might be considered a negative for many women; but for me, it’s an advantage. I’ve had plenty of time to prepare my mind for an unmedicated birth. I knew from the get-go that I would need to draw from personal resources to get through it because there would be no other ones to draw from. As a consequence I know I have to do this on my own.
FINDING A MIDWIFE
After coming to the conclusion I may want to try a home birth I decided I first had to find a midwife I believed in and loved before committing to birthing at home. I considered France, Switzerland, New York, Austin and Colorado since we spend time in all of them. I decided to start looking into the best midwives in each city. Doctors and midwives recommend you keep moving in early labor. Going for walks early on will keep your cervix dialating and labor progressing. I couldn’t imagine walking in the streets of New York or even Central Park during labor. I couldn’t choose Colorado because the weather in December is so unpredictable that if I needed to transfer in an emergency it may not be an option.
I started interviewing midwives and after vetting many of them online and doing research on their education and the history of their practice I chose to meet with Mari Mikel Potter in Austin, Texas. She has her BSN from the University of Texas but never practiced as a nurse, going straight into midwifery. She’s been practicing for 40 years and has delivered over 3,200 babies. In our first meeting she shared her complete midwifery statistics of her patients as well as her beliefs about birth. After spending about 2 hours in our first meeting I felt confident that with both her experience and education I was in the right hands.
I was most impressed when in later appointments she shared with me how to feel the babies different body parts and tell the position of the baby. Each of my appointments were at least an hour long. I loved learning about the vitamins that would be most beneficial to my body to ensure an optimal pregnancy. I learned that the prenatal vitamin is just the very basic and minimal my body needs. I felt like she listened more, gave me more time and has taught me so much about my body, pregnancy, labor, birth, newborn babies and breastfeeding and I haven’t even had my baby! I believe a woman’s body knows when and how to give birth better than a doctor looking at your chart. I believe your body knows what position is best to give birth and assist your baby in the long hard journey of entering the world. I felt she truly believed this too. I wanted the option to labor in a birth tub during the transition phase of labor. I appreciate the low tear rate her practice has, as I was very worried about tearing in natural birth. She has you on so many vitamins for months before the birth that help the skin to be able to stretch and more easily birth a baby. [Click here to read the vitamins I am currently taking and when.]
During the labor and birth itself she uses warm compresses of castor oil to bring blood to the surface of the perineum and applies pressure to prevent tearing. She also spends time massaging the area with olive oil. This is something a hospital just doesn’t have the time or resources to do because some doctors are delivering so many babies a week. She even taught my Fiance how to put pressure on my perineum from 34 weeks forward to ensure you can relax with pressure and not tear. These are all things that felt like she cared about me as a patient versus how many more clients she had to see and how fast she could get me in and out of the office. During one appointment she asked if I thought birth was bloody. I shook my head yes. She laughed and said hospitals and movies make us think they are. She said the only time you should see blood like that during a birth is when you birth the placenta. She said home births are not messy. After the birth the team of midwives clean up, wash everything, make sure everything is neat and orderly. They take pictures and video and even cook for you and your family while there. My midwives services include everything from prenatal care to post part care and she visits every day after the birth until you are healed and can then you go to her for your two weeks post-partum check up. Different midwives offer different levels of care. I chose not to have a Doula on hand because her team acts as both.
MIDWIFERY FACTS (there are a ton but these I found interesting)
- The percentage of countries providing universal prenatal care that have lower infant mortality rates than the United States: 100%
- The percentage of U.S. births attended principally by midwives: 5%
- The percentage of European births attended principally by midwifes: 75%
- Number of midwives practicing in the U.S. : 3,000-4,000 direct entry midwives; 3,500 certified nurse-midwives
- Number of midwives needed in the U.S. to meet European levels: 120,000
- The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the preferred location for most births is outside the hospital, either at home or in a birthing center, and that out-of- hospital birth should be implemented and maintained as the basic standard for all midwifery education and training programs.
- Physician attended hospital birth has NEVER been shown to be safer than midwife attended home birth for women with normal pregnancies.
- 80% of the babies born in the world today are delivered by midwives.
- 14 other countries have lower maternal mortality rates than the United States. The U.S. rate is more than twice Canada’s (9 per 100,000 compared to 3.2 per 100,000)
- The U.S. ranks 22nd in the world for infant mortality, losing twice as many babies during the first year of life as Japan. (10 compared to 4.4)
- Midwives deliver over 70% of the babies born in Western European countries that have lower infant and maternal mortality, lower cesarean birth rates and lower health care costs.
- The U.S. spends more money on health care than any other industrialized country in the world. (above data is from the World Health Organization)
IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING A HOME BIRTH HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR MIDWIFE:
- How, when and where did you receive your midwifery education?
- Are you certified or licensed?
- What physician collaboration or backup do you have?
- Do you maintain statistics of your practice? May I see them?
- How many women are due within a month of my due date?
- Do you work with a partner? If so, what are her qualifications?
- What is your plan if someone else is in labor when I am?
- Do you use pharmaceutical products to induce labor?
- What prenatal tests do you require?
- What are your recommendations about my diet during pregnancy? (You should be wary of anyone that recommends a weight gain of less than 25-30lbs. If you are overweight, you should not be encouraged to lose weight. My midwife recommended I shoot for about 33lbs to ensure I have enough body fat to breast feed after birth.)
- Do you carry oxygen tanks to births? What other equipment do you carry?
- What methods do you suggest to alleviate labor pain?
- Is your certification in neonatal resuscitation up to date?
- To what hospital do you transfer to if it become necessary. Do you go with me? (Your midwife should go with you and act as a voice for you once you are there.)
- How often will you make postpartum visits?
Today I am 40 weeks + 3 days pregnant and waiting for our sweet baby. My midwife reminds me babies don’t come on their due date, they come on their birth date so I’m trying to relax and let labor happen when it happens but it’s getting harder! If all goes as planned I’ll labor and have our baby at home with my soon to be husband, my midwife and her apprentices. I chose to have only 2 extra apprentices on hand. To prepare for a natural home birth I am still working out doing prenatal Pilates, although my workouts look a different than they did a few months ago. As healthy as a pregnancy as I’ve had I don’t plan to be back in the gym anytime soon. We as a society put pregnant women on a pedestal for 9 months for carrying a child only to expect women to be right back where she was pre-baby. I rarely hear women being praised for spending those first weeks and months doing nothing but snuggling with her newborn. I am counting down the days or weeks I have left. With a natural birth there is no inducing. My midwife says 75% of her first time mothers deliver between 41 and 42 weeks. If I had stuck with my OBGYN I’d be meeting my baby within the next week since most will induce near or after the due date. I am learning patience and to trust that just as my body knew how to grow this baby, it will know when and how to birth this baby.
If you’re interested in reading about my home birth experience Emma Bing (who inspired Heidi Murkoff’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” will be interviewing and documenting my home birth experience for www.whattoexpect.com. I hope to inspire many more women to explore the idea of a home birth.
I made these boards sitting at home when my Mom was visiting. I felt like when labor became to much I could focus on some of these birth mantras and go deeper inside myself to find strength. They are not done perfectly. The goal was to get them down for quick reference when things get tough.
Homebirth isn’t for everyone but I do encourage you to do your research.
- Anti Ric
- Vernix Caseosa
- Magic Hour
- Water Birth
- Eye Ointment
- Epidural/ Pitocin
- Perineal massage
- Empowered Birthing
- Delayed Cord Clamping
- Placenta Encapsulation
- Newborn Stomachs
- Safe Cosleeping
- Skin to Skin Contact
I am so thankful I have such a loving, capable and supportive partner in Robert. If I were with a man I didn’t believe in, I wouldn’t be able to allow myself to be this vulnerable and birth without fear. I know no matter what happens Robert can and will handle it. If I were with someone else I’m not sure I’d feel confident enough to allow myself this home birth and spiritual experience.