So last I left you Kris and I had just found out we were pregnant (me more so than him) and I was trying to pick my jaw up off of the floor…and remain somewhat composed. The next few months went by in a blur- we began telling our family and of course everyone was so excited for us (I think my mom was a little alarmed and counting the days from our wedding to our due date…but she came around and got excited too). I however, decided to take the healthiest approach and went into complete denial. That’s right…I just pretended I wasn’t. I Didn’t tell anyone at my job, didn’t announce it on facebook. I still went on my monthly doctor appointments, but that was about it. It was relatively easy since I wasn’t showing. At all. Seriously, if anyone noticed anything they might have just thought I ate a large lunch. After living in our hole one month too long we decided to move out at the end of December, we knew we were moving out ASAP anyway, but the baby gave us even more of an incentive to get the H out of there. Being two minutes away from my job just didn’t make up for the fact that we hated it. We originally started looking at rental houses, but good sense took over and we decided to get an apartment instead…this time we did a bit more research, decided to get one we both loved (we didn’t rush into it this time), and moved a little further outside of town closer to my parents. I knew we would be grateful for them being 15 minutes away once the baby got here. It was a longer commute, but would ultimately be worth it.
So I stayed in denial until mid-February, I was about four months (still not showing) and I finally decided to slowly come out of my denial and thought it might help if Kris and I took a birthing class. My mom had been suggesting The Bradley Method since that is what she used to have me completely naturally and drug-free… I had spent the better part of December and January ignoring her helpful advice, but I knew my fifth month was approaching and I would surely start showing then right? I figured it was probably time…and the little hippie Jenn that sits on my shoulder really liked the sound of a natural birth. ooo maybe even a water birth would be cool. I didn’t know much at this point, but I was finally to a point where I was ready to pull my head out of the sand and start coming up with a game plan. To be clear- I never planned to become a hard-core natural and home birth advocate… but that’s exactly what was about to happen.
Once we started our Bradley class the reading began…the more I read the more educated about birth I became and the less scary the whole thing sounded. I started getting really passionate about natural birth and I realized that finding a health care practitioner who was just as passionate about natural birth as I am was crucial. I didn’t want to have to fight off unsupportive doctors and nurses. My mom’s experience of giving birth to me in the hospital was a shining example of what I didn’t want. My dad had to fight off nurses the entire time, her doctor wasn’t there and the on call doctor was so rude- very skeptical that she would be able to pull off a natural birth and even made several snide remarks. She pulled it off, but it was a battle of epic proportions (think Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader). Isn’t labor hard enough without having to fight the people who are supposed to be helping you? I did not want to have to deal with that.
I had also heard stories of women going to the hospital with requests of a natural childbirth, even found a doctor who had seemed supportive of the idea at their appointments, but when their body didn’t meet the standards of dilating 1cm per hour (which I honestly believe is an unrealistic standard, especially for a first time mom) the doctor who had once been in support of a natural childbirth would rush things along with Pitocin or demand an emergency c-section. I found out that if I were to go to a hospital there was 1 in 3 chance I would have a c-section…some hospitals in Houston upped this to a 50% chance. The World Health Organization says that the best outcomes for women and babies occur with c-section rates of 5% to 10%. Rates above 15% seem to do more harm than good. 30-50%… yeesh!
Now I understand that there are some legitimate reasons to get c-sections and I’m very thankful that the procedure exists for those that need it, but unfortunately I think the procedure is being over-used for doctor’s convenience. I was also extremely concerned with the induction rates out there…a lot of doctors have now made it their routine to induce women on their due date or shortly after…well what does a due date even mean really? It’s only a guess…it’s like saying that all children will weigh 40 pounds exactly on their fifth birthday. Some will. Some won’t. All children are different and babies are no exception. 40 weeks of gestation time is an average- some babies will come earlier and some will come later…and there is nothing wrong with that. Yes, there are a few risks associated with going overdue, but with careful daily observation after going overdue a doctor would easily be able to detect if something was wrong. I think induction is kind of like throwing your kid in the deep end of the pool before they are ready…wouldn’t you rather wait until they are ready and willing to jump in on their own? I understand it’s hard to wait…even harder when your doctor is recommending it. I get it. But for me, the thought of being cohersed into an early induction was something I didn’t want. There were a lot of things I didn’t want. There were a lot of things I did want and figuring out exactly what I wanted in my birth was extremely important to me.
After looking into doctors that were pro-natural I was still worried about the rituals and routines at hospitals that I didn’t agree with…as well as there being a “time-clock” set on my birth. Most hospitals have taken it upon themselves to deem childbirth a twelve-hour affair…any longer and they are ready to slice and dice…yikes! It only seemed fitting to start looking for a midwife who had the potential of taking us out of the hospital scene all together. Now I feel like midwives have gotten a bad rap and I’m not sure why. When I started telling my mom I was looking at interviewing some midwives I’m pretty sure she was picturing some earth momma from bible times who watched women give birth while singing kumbaya and shaking a rain stick…it took awhile to convince her (and other people) that this wasn’t the case.
The first midwife we went to go visit was at Bay Area birthing center. I originally thought the idea of a birthing center sounded safer than a home birth, I (wrongly) assumed that they had additional equipment and could deal with more emergency situations. And while we really liked this birthing center as well as the head midwife we felt that their hospital transfer rate was a little too high. My thinking was that if we were going to do this we wanted to get exactly what we wanted, a peaceful water birth in a home-like atmosphere. It wasn’t until we met with Pat Jones that we realized home birth was the right decision for us. Pat was extremely qualified- having years of nursing and midwifery experience and attending over 1,700 births…I knew I would be in good hands. She also had extremely low c-section, induction, and hospital transfer rates. We also found out that she actually brings all of the equipment that a birthing center housed right to our apartment, so it was really no different than a birthing center other than the fact that we wouldn’t have to go anywhere- she not only would come to us for the birth, but also for all of our pre-natal appointments. No waiting ridiculously long hours in a doctor’s office (which I had already done for the first half of my pregnancy), score!
We loved Pat, our pre-natal appointments usually lasted well over an hour and truly gave us a chance to get to know each other. I feel that hiring Pat was like gaining a family member. She truly cared about us and concentrated on things in our appointments that none of the OB/GYNs I visited ever cared about. She wanted me to have the best possible nutrition which can prevent a lot of pregnancy health problems (preeclampsia and toxemia to name a few) and made me start really watching my weight gain (I gained 48 pounds too so who knows where I would have been without her!). She provided me with book after book to read and I soaked them up like a sponge…I wanted to learn everything I could…and reading positive birth stories helped too. I steered clear of those dramatic and scary birth stories, because after reading all of my childbirth books I knew what could really go wrong and how rare those situations actually were.
Choosing Pat as our healthcare provider did however come with strings. Unfortunately, most people believe that home birth is unsafe and we were constantly bombarded with questions like “why wouldn’t you want to be in a hospital?” and “what if something goes wrong?” These were valid questions and I had already answered them for myself, but I was now in a position to defend our decision to anybody and everybody. There were two main statistics that helped build my case 1) home birth has lower infant and maternal mortality rates than hospitals and 2) the US has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate of all the industrialized countries…you know who has the lowest? Countries that use midwives as their primary birth care and only utilize OB/GYNs in high-risk pregnancies and emergency situations. Several people told me that I needed to find the best possible OB/GYN out there…well the truth is that OB/GYNs are trained surgeons. For a natural, normal birth, it’s kind of like hiring a brain surgeon to take care of your mild headache. It hurts yes, but if you wait long enough it will go away. OB/GYNs are trained and experienced in handling emergency situations…so while they have the best intentions they just might turn your normal childbirth into an emergency medical situation because that is what they are most comfortable dealing with.
Now, this isn’t to say that everyone should have a homebirth. A good home birth candidate is having a normal and healthy pregnancy (which could easily account for the great home birth statistics that were mentioned above)- midwives aren’t seeing the high-risk patients. But I could also make the argument that because of their emphasis on nutrition they are able to prevent most of their patients from becoming high risk. A planned, home birth is in fact safe…and it’s definitely not for the lazy pregnant women. First of all, the research I did to come to the conclusion that I wanted a home birth was time consuming in itself, but once the decision was made we did additional research, attended classes with our midwife, make an emergency transport plan (which included choosing a hospital as well as a backup hospital, finding out where the closest ambulance came from, and making sure all of our options would take our insurance should we need to go there), and even had to prep our apartment for a birth (I’ll get into that later). If we were more than thirty minutes away from a hospital, we probably woulndn’t have opted for a home birth, but since we live in Houston and the closest hospital is about two minutes away I felt extremely comfortable knowing that in the case of an emergency situation (which is in itself is extremely rare) we could be at the hospital in about 5 minutes. Needless to say we did our homework.
For some reason birth has become a scary event in our country…whether it’s all of the unnecessary “emergency” c-sections doctors perform or the sensationalism of birth on TV… it’s not a good thing. Birth doesn’t have to be scary and it doesn’t have to be an emergency. I had never been admitted to a hospital in my entire life and being pregnant is not a sickness…so I didn’t see why I needed to change my track record. I was hell bent on staying out of the hospital.
In one of our childbirth classes with Pat, she went around the room and asked all of us what our biggest fear was- several people said that they were afraid that something would go wrong, I said I’m afraid of going to the hospital. I was serious. I did NOT want to go there. I think I was most scared of giving up control. Being at home with Pat and with Kris I would be in charge- getting into comfortable positions, not being tied to an EFM (only a few minutes each hour), and my dogs would be there (sounds silly, but they really are like my kids with fur). I had a birth vision in mind and I wanted everything to go a certain way…
once again to be continued…