A close friend of mine recently asked me about my choice to give birth at home. I know many women who have given birth with a midwifery practice, but I also know many who have given birth in a medical facility. Contrary to what some may assume of my philosophy, I do not believe that giving birth naturally or in the home is the “right” way to deliver a child; rather, I believe that birth is a matter of personal choice and conviction and should be considered wisely and informatively.
Ian and I chose to work with the midwife who lives just down the street in our little mountain town and who also happens to be a member of our presbyterian church. She has been practicing for 13 years and runs a Birth Cottage on her property where she hosts regular informational gatherings, Christian childbirth classes, women’s wellness exams, prenatal care, and child birth. It’s a cozy place to visit with its warm terra-cotta walls, beautiful bright feminine artwork, vintage bookshelf stacked to the brim, inviting couch and rocker sitting room, and orange patterned quilt bedroom nook. When I go there for my prenatal care, I feel like I’ve just visited another home. For me, that is a safe and secure feeling.
Since my midwife lives so close by, we decided to birth baby in the comforts of our own home. It’s reassuring to me that when the hard labor of delivery begins I will be able to move around my home freely and deliver her where I will raise her.
Also, since I’m a swimmer and always find it soothing to be in the water, I plan to use a birthing pool for labor and delivery; I’ll also have access to the shower and Jacuzzi tub by our bedroom.
When my friend asked me about how I came to my decision to have a home birth, I explained to her my cultural background concerning pregnancy and birth and my own process of thought concerning my body and my desires. Here’s what I wrote in the email:
As you know, I grew up in a small close-knit Christian community with large families; I didn’t know anything else but mothering & babies & families & nursing & birthing. I was influenced on those topics from a young age and, considering my personal bent toward nurturing, I was always intrigued by those things. When I was a teen, we discovered that I had scoliosis, which deterred me from chiropractors, weight lifting, and any kind of spinal testing/injections. Also, during that time, I was into reading about babies & childhood development & motherhood; my favorite TV shows were TLC’s A Baby Story & the Discovery Channel’s Birth Stories.
I learned quickly through my sister-in-law and other personal relationships about the epidural, and of course I saw that procedure as well as the C-section often on those TV shows. From those sources, I concluded that I never wanted to have a needle put in my spine and that I never wanted to be put through surgery unless it was absolutely necessary.
I only knew a few women back then who were willing to birth at home and who had actually done it; the ones who had gone through with it said they’d never do it any other way. I now know many more women who have birthed naturally at the hospital or at home, and they have all had positive experiences. (Interesting fact: my midwife has 6 children – the first two birthed at a hospital – and her conclusion after both those experiences was “There must be a better way to do this.” That was the catalyst to her 10 year long study of midwifery and becoming certified in the state to run her own practice.)
That being said that it can be such a positive experience, I have a particular belief about birth: that being that it is a natural God-given process for the woman’s body and, therefore, that it is beautiful and wonderful in its own right.
Natural does not mean painless or easy or pleasant. In fact, often times home births are anything but those things. When I say natural, I mean that it is a non-medicated, guided, and personal process that a mother goes through at her own pace, with her own preferences as her body does the hard work of birthing a child.
Back to my life timeline (heehee), by the time I met Ian I knew that I would only have home births, and fortunately he was happy to support me in that. It sort of comes with the territory of a paramedic who is trained and accustomed to extreme situations, possible risks, and the adrenaline high of the whole experience. He actually just recently was trained by a midwife for responding to home birth emergency calls and was taught about midwifery credentials and their beliefs about the body & birth.
So, here we are, encroaching on our first home birth experience, and here is a concise list of my reasons, my preferences, and my values concerning this momentous occasion & divine privilege:
1) Birth is a non-emergency type bodily life process and should be honored as such. No intervention is needed unless vital signs becomes dangerous.
2) The body should be given plenty of water, food, and other natural sources during labor as it is hard work for both the mother & the baby. Hospitals do not allow any of these helpful resources.
3) Labor & delivery are tough no matter what. I would rather experience it in the comfort of my own home where I can light candles, sit in a tub, listen to any music I like, walk around my neighborhood & house, yell or cry whenever I feel like it, or just sleep (in the early stages of labor) in my own comfy bed. Those are just a few of the perks of birthing at home!
4) A well-trained midwife is constantly aware of the vital signs and their effects on the body of the mother & the baby. She will always give reasonable guidance and will not evoke fear in the parents about what is taking place. A midwife will also facilitate and guide the mother as she deals with labor in her own way.
5) It is very beneficial for the body to produce the right amount of energy and tension when gravitational positions are encouraged and manipulated. In other words, hospital staff are not allowed to help their clients on all-fours or help their clients birth on a stool or in a tub (although that is being allowed more recently in some hospitals for natural birth with midwifery assistance); midwives, however, teach their clients beforehand how to facilitate the body’s natural way of giving birth in a variety of positions. This can be extremely helpful for relieving pain, bringing up baby’s heart rate if necessary, bringing out baby quickly & efficiently.
6) I, personally, am only comfortable sharing this sacred experience with my husband and confidants. I would feel more tense and less free if I were around nurses & doctors I didn’t know.
I’m just now beginning 31 weeks of this pregnancy, which means that we are 9 weeks away from Baby Girl’s due date. I continue to read and research my own interests in home birth, breast feeding, postpartum recovery, infant development, etc. Today I discovered several practical, positive internet sources regarding natural childbirth …
Giving Birth on ‘The Farm’ – a woman’s journey to experiencing the most renowned midwife’s birth facility care
Epidural Side Effects – an informative list of factors for every woman to consider
Take Back Your Pregnancy – the Wall Street Journal’s excerpt from economist Emily Oster’s statistical social/cultural/medical research book
Also, I’ve pinned several other articles, practical tips, personal stories, and videos to my Pinterest board “Homebirth.”
Here’s a sweetly intimate honest home birth experience in a fluid slideshow presentation from a skilled photographer: Erin & Ken’s Journey to Birth
Next week we begin our Christian childbirth classes, so I’m sure this is just an introductory post to all I’ll be learning and discovering about birth & babies. I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates and pictures! What has your own childbirth experience been like, or what types of resources have you investigated on the subject?