We had our first-ever class all about the benefits of home birth at the store on Saturday and it was AWESOME. I’ll start off by saying I was a huge home-birth-nay-sayer not too long ago. I thought it was a novel idea, but the perceived degree of danger I had associated with giving birth made it seem like an irresponsible, life-threatening choice that only the craziest of parents would make.
Then I educated myself.
Turns out if you are healthy woman, giving birth without surgery or pain killers is pretty risk-free. Our bodies were designed to do it. It’s nature. There is a reason our species survived for so long before we started giving birth in hospitals. Now it is a fact that home birth is not for every one, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some women will truly have high-risk pregnancies if they encounter such health problems as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, hemophilia, or preeclampsia to name a few, and in these cases any good midwife will test you for such problems and disqualify you as a candidate for a home birth. In cases such as these, I thank God every day for advances in modern medicine and skilled surgeons who can perform cesarian-sections on women who in earlier times would have either lost their life, their baby’s life, or both. There’s also the simple fact that you might be too nervous or anxiety-ridden about the idea of having a birth at home, in which case the calming effects of home-birth would be completely negated it just wouldn’t be worth it.
That being said, the truth of the matter is that most women don’t need these modern medical interventions. Our media has taught us to believe that labor is an unbearable pain that no sane woman would want to endure, and that giving birth is one life-threatening disaster after another just waiting to happen. If you watch “Deliver Me” or “A Baby Story” you know exactly what I’m talking about. Crazy thing is, more often than not it are these very “advances” in medicine that cause problems during labor that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. Here’s how it goes down: you come in to the hospital at the beginning of your labor. The nursing staff offers you an epidural right away. This epidural causes your contractions to stop so they give you pitocin to increase them again. The more intense contractions caused by the pitocin makes you want to beg for another epidural and they give it to. Guess what? Your contractions lessen again they give you more pitocin. This continues and the up-and-down internal environment is causing your baby’s heart-rate to drop. Because you are on a constant fetal heart monitor, your doctor says this drop in heart rate means your baby is distressed; the cord could be wrapped around his neck and we’ve got to get him out as soon as possible! An emergency c-section is performed, and everyone says “Thank God the doctor was here to save your baby’s life.” (As a little side note, the cord being wrapped around your baby’s neck doesn’t mean anything. Babies don’t breathe through their mouth/lungs in utero, so as long as the umbilical cord isn’t compressed in a way that cuts blood flow to the baby, it could be wrapped around your baby’s entire body and it wouldn’t cause any danger…but I digress.)
This is not to paint doctors and nurses as evil-doers lurking at your bedside, trying to get you to have the scariest experience of your life. I’d say just about all of them are wonderful people who want what’s best for you and your baby. Only problem is, they are trained to believe that what’s best for you and your baby is as much intervention as possible. They are taught how to handle emergencies and disastrous mishaps that can occur during birth (thank goodness, right?) but with that are taught that every pregnancy should be treated as high-risk. And if you want to have a totally natural birth, good luck. Nature takes a while…sometimes with her first child a woman’s labor can last over 72 hours…and hospital staffs do not want that. Again, it’s not that they’re heartless, but hospitals have a business to run and you taking up a bed for 3+ days cuts in to their profits. They’ll “kindly suggest” (and that’s putting it nicely) pitocin or even a c-section to get things moving, citing that if your labor is taking that long it means something is wrong and your baby’s health is in danger.
Now that’s not to say that a long labor never indicates something that’s wrong: you could have a calcified cervical band that keeps your cervix from dilating past 7-8 inches in which case, yeah, you’re going to need a c-section because there’s no other way that kid’s getting out. But for the times where there is nothing wrong and you want a totally natural birth, long labor and all, you are going to have a hard time achieving this at a hospital.
So I suppose the question is, what happens should something like the aforementioned “band” occur, or, God-forbid, a prolapsed cord while at home? You have a good midwife who also has a good, efficient transfer plan in place. You prepare ahead of time and make a relationship with a doctor who will act as your back up in the hospital should you need them. Occurences like these are VERY rare, but it is wise to plan for them. At the end of the day, research shows that having a home birth, if you are in good health and attended by a certified professional, is just as safe as a hospital birth.
Why have my husband and I decided that a home birth is the best choice for us? Because we want my husband to be involved in and needed during the labor and birth, not relegated to a chair in the corner of the room. Because I want to get to hold and breast feed my baby right after it’s born instead of an hour later. Because we trust that my body is capable of doing what nature intended. Because I want to be in the comfort of my own home and feel like I am in control of what is going on with my body. Like I said earlier, home birth is not the best choice for everyone, and no one should ever be made to feel guilty for making the choice that is best for their family (be it hospital or home). But know that it is a choice…a perfectly legal choice even here in Nebraska where people will tell you otherwise…that is a beautiful, empowering option.