Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Homebirth?

Considering today's cultural trend to have hospital births, having a child at home may sound quite foreign to many of you. Homebirth, though, has been the norm for centuries. We've experienced both sides. Our first two children were birthed at the hospital, while our last two have been birthed at home. Unless there is some sort of medically necessary reason I must birth at the hospital, we will continue having our children at home!

Here are a few of the reasons why we have chosen this birthing option.

1- Women have been doing this since the time of Adam and Eve. It's only been within the past two generations that hospital births have become the "norm".

2- Midwives and hospitals approach birth completely different. From a midwifery (pronounced 'mid-wif-er-ee') perspective, birth is viewed as a healthy life process. God has uniquely designed the female body to conceive and give birth to children. It's a normal function of her body, something she was created for and is fully capable of doing. From a hospital perspective, birth is viewed as a medical condition that requires medical intervention(s), something that needs to be "monitored" and "treated". There is so much fear surrounding the process of labor and delivery nowadays. We wonder how much of that is due to doctors turning something normal into a perceived medical problem or complication.

3- For low-risk women, homebirth is a safe alternative... possibly a safer alternative. High infant mortality rates of the past were largely due to issues of cleanliness/hygiene. Nowadays, we take MUCH better care of our homes and bodies so it's not so much an issue. Also, we are immune to the germs in our own homes whereas in a hospital, one comes in contact with all sorts of germs and viruses that they'd never meet at home. Plus, toward the end of pregnancy, we are required to order a Birth Kit. In this kit are sterile, hospital grade items necessary for birth, like gloves, pads, cord clamp, etc. so the baby will not be introduced to an unsterilized environment with unsterilized equipment.

4- The level of care is much better with a midwife. At the hospital, prenatal appointments usually consist of very impersonal/very brief meetings with the doctor or nurse. To me, it felt like I was just a number... get me in-&-out so the next patient can be seen as quickly as possible. With a midwife, it's the exact opposite. Our initial consultation with the midwife was 1-1/2 hours long (and free of cost!). Prenatal visits are at least 30 minutes. Our midwife wants to know me, my family, my history, my fears and concerns, etc. I also get to know her, her family, her experience, etc. It is a VERY interpersonal relationship. The more she knows about me, my family, my health, the better she can fulfill her role. So when I'm in labor, it's not a stranger wearing scrubs I'm with... but a close friend.

5- The process of birth itself was so much more relaxing and rewarding at home. At the hospital, it was cold, brightly lit, I was confined to bed and IV, and was denied food and drink for the entire duration of my labor and delivery (which left me dry-heaving during transition- which was AWFUL!). Apparently the hospital's reasoning for the "no-food-no-drink" thing is two-fold: 1- having an empty stomach is necessary for emergency c-section and 2- vomit could potentially enter your lungs (which rarely happens). At home, I had all the comforts of home: my lazyboy recliner, dim lights, I was free to walk and roam about the house as I pleased, and I was allowed to eat and drink as I needed (which provided me the strength and energy to sustain me during intense labor and delivery). I delivered both Cassandra and Edmund in my bedroom, which for me was the most comfortable, private, and secure place. Their deliveries were unlike the two hospital births I'd had before. Arianna and Benjamin came out screaming because of the cold and lights. I was only able to hold them briefly before they were whisked away for cleaning, shots, and goop to be put in their eyes. Both Cassandra and Edmund came out bright-eyed, alert, content, and were allowed to stay in my arms for a long time. Immediately following birth and cord cutting, I was urged to nurse. Then, after a good nursing/time of bonding, we took an herbal bath together. We were pretty much inseperable from the moment they came out. And they never cried. Night and day difference. One more thought here... when a woman is laboring at home, she is comfortable and secure and usually labors continuously without interruption. Yet, how many times have you heard of (or experienced for yourself) labor stalling or altogether stopping when a woman leaves for the hospital?...

6- Most midwives deliver more babies than OB/GYN's. Part of that is not the Dr.'s fault, though, as they do more than just deliver babies. Our midwife has certifications and training and a TON of experience under her belt (she's been birthing babies full-time for well over 10 years). There's probably not much she hasn't seen yet. To us, experience means more than a degree. We trust she knows what she's doing. And contrary to popular medical belief, IF something DOES go wrong, it doesn't usually crop up out of nowhere. A seasoned midwife should see signs and symptoms of something wrong long before it becomes a problem. And at that point, she either takes care of the problem herself or she will recognize it requires medical help and will transport momma to the hospital. There's not a whole lot that a midwife can't do that a doctor can, besides do c-sections. And there are a lot of natural ways to curb normal complications during birth that doctors either won't do or are unaware of.

7- I get to choose what position I want to birth in. At the hospital, it's laying down on a bed with your legs spread and up. Not comfortable. At home, I birthed on a cresent shaped stool where gravity could actually work FOR me rather than against me. Made pushing SO MUCH easier... and quicker! Many midwives also provide the option of having a water birth.

8- Less internals with a midwife. I had my first internal exam with my midwife when Cassandra's head was in the birth canal. They are usually an "un-necessary evil". My midwife jokes that she is willing to do internals if asked, but I then have to provide her with a homemade pie. :-) I think she's serious! Think about it... everytime someone checks momma internally, the risk of infection increases. I cannot count how many people and how many times I was checked internally during hospital prenatal visits and the actual hospital birth experience.

9- The cost is dramatically different. Even with insurance, Arianna and Benjamin cost RD and I several thousand dollars a piece. Cassandra and Edmund cost us $1,800 each.

I realize that this is a sensitive subject and my goal is certainly not to ruffle feathers. I'm simply wanting to share some of our main reasons for choosing this birthing option. Perhaps, also, someone will be encouraged to research this topic out for themselves and decide whether or not to pursue homebirth for themselves.


Jen said...

Wonderful, beautiful and I couldn't agree more!!

Rose said...

I have one daughter and I did not give birth at home but I didn't give birth at a hospital either. I chose a freestanding birth center. I loved it! Great experience and I hope to always have the freedom to choose that or home birth over a hospital any time I give birth. Beautiful!