We didn't want a c-section. That was far and away my biggest concern.
We didn't want to feel coerced into medical interventions.
We didn't want to be scoffed at or doubted as we discussed natural, unmedicated birth.
Okay, so now what?
I began looking into our options for birth centers and midwives. We toured both our local hospitals and learned that they had c-section rates of 35% and 42% respectively. No matter how much we liked our OB/GYN, I didn't trust the medical paradigm she was practicing in.
|Screenshot from Birth By the Numbers video|
The data was pretty clear that the best way to avoid a c-section was to avoid induction of labor and to avoid an epidural. Given that both of these are offered to women during a very vulnerable time, and administered in the hospital, it made sense to me to avoid the hospital setting all together. Thus, I began looking into birth centers and midwifery care.
At first, I was more drawn to birth centers because the idea of home birth seemed a little gross to me. I wasn't sure that I wanted all the bodily fluids and "dirty" parts of childbirth happening under my roof. We interviewed a couple midwives and ultimately chose the person we felt most connected to. Secondarily, I liked that she had a birth center in addition to doing home birth...so we would have the option. At her birth center, there were many childbirth education classes, parent groups, etc and I liked the idea of joining a larger community and meeting other couples that were making similar decisions to us.
|Our our babymoon in Mexico, sitting by the pool, listening to Hypnobabies|
The way I decided to prepare for childbirth was using the Hypnobabies home study curriculum. My sister used this very successfully with her second child and almost didn't make it to the hospital because she had such a quick labor. This is relatively common with Hypnobabies, because all of the affirmations and hypnotic suggestions include "a quick, easy birth." The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a home birth made sense. After all, the only thing that's stressful about a quick labor is trying to get to the hospital or birth center in time. Why not labor in the comfort of my own home and let them come to me? No need to worry about packing a bag. No need to worry about driving with a one day old baby. So that's how we settled on doing home birth.
We transferred our care from the OB/GYN to our midwife after our 20 week ultrasound. The difference in care is pretty profound. The midwife appointments follow the same schedule as standard OB/GYN care, but they are 1-hour long. They discuss diet and nutrition, emotional state, and they engage the husband and make him feel important. At each appointment, they palpate your stomach to feel for the baby's position and growth. I'm shocked how many people have a posterior baby (face-up) and had no idea their baby was in that position. Our midwife was an expert at using her hands to understand how the baby was positioned. At 40 weeks, we went for an ultrasound because there was some concern about my amniotic fluid levels. At that ultrasound, the doctor said the baby was 7lbs 9oz. Yet, 10 days later when she was born, she was only 7lbs 2oz. By his estimates, she should have been well over 8lbs at birth. In constrast, my midwife's "low tech" way of doing things had her estimating my baby's weight at 7 and 1/4 pounds...only 2oz off from her actual birth weight.
Another wonderful thing about midwifery care is true informed consent. Each decision is laid out in factual terms for the mother and father to decide. For example, they asked us if we wanted our baby to get the antibacterial eye cream that is standard for all hospital births. They explained that it was a preventative measure in case the mother has a certain STD (chlamydia I think?) which can cause an eye infection and lead to blindness in the baby. Because we knew that my STD status was negative, we declined. The cream is irritating to baby's eyes and there was no need to expose her to an antibiotic cream for no reason. In every instance, you're empowered to know the facts and make informed decisions about your care and your baby's care.
The other decision we made to support our desire for a natural childbirth was hiring a doula. Doulas are non-medical birth workers who help provide physical and emotional support to mothers before and during labor. Studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and requests for an epidural by 60% (Source.)
|My wonderful doula, Lara|
I'm so thrilled that I was able to have a natural childbirth. I'll admit there's a part of me that likes the badge of honor and how people perceive me to be so strong and tough...but a much bigger part of me is saddened by this reaction because I truly believe that all women are capable of natural childbirth. It's what our bodies are designed to do. Unfortunately, the images of childbirth we see in the media and the current climate of Obstetrics care in the United States has made many women feel inadequate and incapable. It's so pervasive that some women don't have a single role model in their life of another woman who had a natural birth--no wonder they don't feel like it's possible. So for that reason, I'm proud that I did it. I'm thankful that I can be an example and provide encouragement to other women who intuitively believe that they shouldn't expose themselves or their babies to medication during childbirth. Please don't mistake my sentiments as a judgement or indictment of women who get epidurals and such...I have very close friends and family members whom I love and respect that had medicated childbirths. I simply feel passionately that women can do it naturally if they really want to, they properly prepare, and they have a supportive team of healthcare providers surrounding them in their birthing time.
Read our birth story here.