My first two births were hospital births. It didn’t even occur to me to do it any other way. I don’t even think that I knew that I could. I trusted the hospital, and for my first, I dove in fully without any reservations. I didn’t take any classes. I didn’t read any books. I had no idea what the stages of labor and delivery were and had no idea what to expect. I just checked in and decided I’d figure it out as I went.
I wish I could say that the hospital staff took me in their care and all went beautifully; but unfortunately, my lack of education cost me a series of medical interventions, leading to a visit to the operating room and a long recovery from the pain. I was then told that because of these complications, I would most likely need a Cesarean section for any subsequent births.
When I became pregnant with my second baby, I did things quite a bit differently. For one, I switched doctors and found one who supported my hopes for an all-natural labor and delivery. I feared what had happened the first time when I had accepted the interventions, including the epidural, and did not want a Cesarean section that would put me in a delayed recovery once more. Given my options and the fact that the baby had to come out somehow, I decided on a natural hospital birth.
In order to prepare, I began my research early. I read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, which really helped me understand why the medical interventions I had accepted had led to my complications and what I could do to prepare for a natural birth. It outlined the stages of labor and delivery and was my guiding hand throughout the actual process. I also loved Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which really helped me visualize and understand the beauty of the birth process. I was gifted an inspiring CD full of beautiful Bible scriptures, which I meditated on throughout the pregnancy and labor. I also found a wonderful doula who was key to making it all happen for me.
I labored mostly at home, which was the best part of the childbirth. Transferring to the hospital was quite a bit more challenging than I had expected. It was nothing like the stories I had read. The receptionists and nurses were constantly in my face, asking questions, trying to stick things in me, and pushing for their interventions. I got “in trouble” quite a bit for not doing things the way they wanted me to, (even though I had a birth plan) and I didn’t see my doctor until it was almost time to push. Fortunately, at the end of it all, I did end up with a natural delivery, and it was the most empowering and amazing experience of my life.
Moving on to my third, however, I can confidently say, without a doubt, I would love nothing more than a home birth. I want to live those birth stories, free from the chaos and the push of medicine. I want to bring our child into our home, our safe space, our sanctuary. When asked, “Can’t you just have the baby in the hospital? What’s the big deal? Why can’t you just do things normal?” All I can think is ‘I’ve been there, done that. Twice.’ and I have learned that childbirth is so much more than the due date. There is so much that happens physically, emotionally, and spiritually prior to the birth. A home birth allows for and celebrates those preparations, it culminates in the labor and delivery, and is followed with post-partum care that facilitates the bonding between mom and baby. Childbirth is one of the most special processes in a woman’s life, and one that changes her forever. Here are 20 reasons why I’m opting to experience this process at home.
PREPARING FOR THE BIRTH
1. I can expect to receive more education on the natural birthing process. When I visited my OBGYN, my visits were very businesslike, focused on whatever tasks were on the checklist for that day. Actual visits and talks with my doctor rarely went over 5-10 minutes past the necessary “to-do” list. Every now and then I received a handout (or ten) with additional information, but there was never the time to discuss my concerns or questions.
Visits with my midwife have been much more thorough and informative. Our 1-hour visits include the necessary tasks along with plenty of time to talk about birth experiences, nausea, weight gain, natural remedies, etc. The atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable, and I am welcome to borrow books and DVDs from an extensive library on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, etc. I can ask questions and not worry about getting a scripted answer. Instead, I get options to consider, and in the end, am able to make better decisions for every step of the process.
2. I can contact and get in touch with my midwife whenever necessary. I love that I can text, email, or call my midwife personally, and she is readily available to help me. We have different protocols for emergencies vs. general questions, but overall, I can expect a response within a few hours or immediately most days. This was something I could never do with my OBGYN. Between automated systems, receptionists, and nurses, it was almost impossible to speak with my doctor on days other than my appointments. I am grateful to have my midwife’s support whenever necessary.
3. Midwives are skilled in natural labor and delivery. This is something that stood out to me the most when I began my research. I didn’t realize how different their training was from that of an OBGYN. Doctors, I have found, solve most of the problems associated with labor and delivery with medication and surgery. They are well trained in these necessary areas and given a true emergency, are very much valued for their expertise.
Midwives, however, are trained in the natural birth process and natural pain relief, which is my goal for this childbirth. Midwives understand the design of a woman’s body, and the stages involved during labor and delivery. They are trained in non-invasive and alternative practices when it comes to dealing with challenges associated with labor and delivery and are skilled to make the judgment call should a true emergency be eminent. Midwives also understand the emotional and spiritual parts of the process that go beyond the physiology. It is this expertise that I find reassuring for my natural birth.
4. Unless a hospital transfer is absolutely necessary, I know all of my costs upfront and don’t have to worry about unknown charges. As we began the financial calculations, this was a key factor we knew to consider. After my first birth, we received bill after bill after bill and had no idea what anything was for. We were just expected to pay for it. With my midwife, I know exactly what I am being charged up front and know exactly what to expect. There are no hidden costs or fees. This is definitely something I can appreciate.
DURING LABOR AND BIRTH
5. I know who will assist me with my birth. During my prenatal visits, I can expect my midwife to be present along with at least one of her two interns who will be at the birth. We talk and get to know each other during the visits so that we are comfortable with one another long before the birth. My midwife understands the importance of relationships and the safety that comes with them during the birthing process.
Hospital deliveries, however, are more businesslike, and unless you are dealing with an OBGYN with his/her own private practice, the doctor you get on that day is based on the luck of the draw. I can say that I was fortunate during both of my hospital deliveries to have my OBGYN at my births, but the truth is, other than a visit or two during the labor, the doctor didn’t show up until it was time to “catch” the baby.
What this meant for me was that most, if not all, of the labor process was assisted by the nurses on call. When you factor in the length of the labor and hospital shifts, it’s easy to see how this could mean a number of different nurses coming in and out throughout the process. In their defense, I had some wonderful nurses at my second hospital birth, but I still had no idea who they were, what their names were, why they were trying to do what they were doing to me, etc., and yet, I was still expected to let them in on one of the most sacred and personal experiences of my life. This was much easier when I was medicated the first time around; not so much when I was fully aware of the process. I am grateful that my home birth will be surrounded by people I know and respect.
6. I don’t have to labor in the car on the way to the hospital, deal with questioning receptionists, or switching rooms throughout the process. This was a bit of a challenge since I opted to labor up to the transition phase at home. It worked wonderfully except that I had to labor during the most intense part of the process in the car and during the sign-in formalities at the hospital. I had receptionists asking me a number of questions in between contractions, and I was moved from room to room, depending on where they felt I was in the process. All of these distractions really made it difficult for me to labor at this point, and it was much more painful, I believe, than had I continued at home.
7. I can labor in whatever position I want. After being confined to a hospital bed for over 12 hours during my first birth, I decided to labor as long as possible at home during my second so that I could move. I found so much relief in the tub, on the exercise ball, and on my couch and felt most restricted when I transferred to the hospital. It was back to the bed or the bed rails, which was very limiting to me. This actually caused a lot more pain overall as I mentioned above and stalled my labor quite a bit. Based on my experience, I have found that the hospital system works really well for those who want to be medicated and delivered as I did the first time around. Natural labor and birth is a whole different story. You have to be able to move.
8. I can eat and drink during labor. Anyone who has ever had a natural birth knows that it requires WORK. . . and work requires fuel. When I labored at home during my second hospital birth, I loaded up on protein, Vitamin C, smoothies, and anything that could help me stay hydrated and strong. When I transferred to the hospital, they immediately wanted to attach me to the IV, so they could pump saline solution into my body. I had done my research and knew that diluting my labor hormones with saline in my blood would only slow down the labor process and lead to more pain and a possible induction, so I refused the solution and kept up with my smoothies every time the nurses left the room. . .
That was until they caught me taking a sip. I was then reprimanded for drinking and eating and told that if I needed a C-section, I would die! Of course, I knew that wasn’t true, so there I was in between contractions explaining that that was a myth based on the general anesthesia that was used years ago for C-sections. Nevertheless, I was no longer allowed to eat or drink during my labor. I was exhausted, and it was so much more difficult to push through to the end. Although I know I won’t be eating and drinking toward the end of it all, this is something I’m glad I won’t have to worry about at home when I need it the most.
9. I can have access to natural pain relief as needed. The only pain relief a hospital has in its “toolkit” is the epidural. Unfortunately, the epidural comes with a long list of side effects for mom and baby. Here are just a few:
- They lengthen labor.
- They triple the risk of severe perineal tear.
- They may increase the risk of cesarean section by 2.5 times.
- They triple the occurrence of induction with synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin).
- They quadruple the chances a baby will be persistently posterior (POP, face up) in the final stages of labor, which in turn decreases the chances of spontaneous vaginal birth (see below).
- They decrease the chances of spontaneous vaginal delivery. In 6 of 9 studies reviewed in one analysis, less than half of women who received an epidural had a spontaneous vaginal delivery.
- They increase the chances of complications from instrumental delivery. When women with an epidural had a forceps delivery, the amount of force used by the clinician was almost double that used when an epidural was not in place. This is significant because instrumental deliveries can increase the short-term risks of bruising, facial injuries, displacement of skull bones and blood clots in the scalp for babies, and of episiotomy and tears to the vagina and perineum in mothers.
- They increase the risk of pelvic floor problems (urinary, anal and sexual disorders) in mothers after birth, which rarely resolve spontaneously. Click here for source.
Natural pain relief includes hydrotherapy, essential oils, homeopathics, herbs and teas, massage, birthing positions, and a number of other tools that can very much help with pain relief and labor in general but unfortunately, are unavailable in the hospital setting.
With my daughter, I felt so much relief in the tub and on the exercise ball. I also found that when my doula applied pressure on a specific pressure point on my spine, the contractions were much more tolerable. I didn’t know about many of the other remedies at the time, but the few tools I had were helpful . . . while I was at home. Once at the hospital, I was limited to the pressure point thing, which wasn’t much help once labor began to progress. I had to endure more of the pain of labor without any remedies for relief. It was tolerable, but it wasn’t easy. At home, I am glad that I’ll have all of these resources at my fingertips.
10. I can labor at my own pace. I have found in my research that labor and delivery varies greatly from woman to woman and birth to birth. What I found out in my own experience, however, was how much hospital births are bound to the system’s schedule rather than the baby’s. During my first birth, I overheard the nurses discussing the long day my doctor had had and how she was presently napping in the other room. When the doctor awoke and was nearing the end of her shift, I was given Pitocin to speed things up. Although I suffered quite a bit of complications with my first birth, I am grateful that my “slowed” labor did not lead to even larger complications.
The problem with being on the hospital’s schedule is that the baby doesn’t always come during a particular doctor or nurse’s shift. This is usually when an induction is recommended, and the mother is given Pitocin to move things along more quickly. Pitocin in of itself presents its own set of risks, such as:
- fetal heart abnormalities (slow heart beat, PVCs and arrhythmias)
- low APGAR scores
- neonatal jaundice
- neonatal retinal hemorrhage
- permanent central nervous system or brain damage
- fetal death
It also makes the contractions more unbearable and often leads to an epidural if one has not already been administered. If the labor progresses quickly enough, the baby can be born vaginally without further interventions. In many cases, however, the labor may not move fast enough and the drugs may soon begin to take their toll on the baby as mentioned above. The baby becomes distressed and his heart rate begins to lower, so before long, a now necessary Cesarean section is recommended in order to save the life of the baby. These are often called “unnecessareans” because they would not have been necessary had the previous medical interventions not be done.
Pacing can also go well beyond the actual day of labor, which is why the World Health Organization recommends that doctors refer to the “due date” as the “guess date” since the baby can be born up to two weeks after the projected date. In Pregnant in America: A Nation’s Miscarriage, one of the mothers was told her baby was too big and a Cesarean was recommended by her doctor. (Recommending a Cesarean section because of the baby’s size is NOT recommended by ACOG!) The mother switched doctors and went on to deliver vaginally with no complications. When this was going to be brought to the original doctor’s attention, they were told that the doctor was on vacation and soon realized that the recommended Cesarean was not in the best interest of the baby but of the doctor. (I’ll cover the problem with Cesarean sections in our country more in depth in reason #14.)
During my second birth, I was allowed to labor with the understanding that my doctor had a plane to catch for her Christmas vacation and would only be available up to a certain time. Thankfully, I was able to birth my daughter right before her shift ended, but it was definitely a close call.
Labor at home is much different and often takes much longer than the scheduled and manipulated hospital birth. During this time a woman can bake, take a walk, or prepare the home for the birth of her new arrival. The process of childbirth is not all intense work, and at home, it can be enjoyable and exciting prior to the transition stage where things begin to pick up pace. At home, you are not on someone else’s time table . . . just the baby’s and the mama’s. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
To Be Continued . . . Click here for Part 2!
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