11. I don’t have to fight for my right to refuse medical interventions. Having a natural birth in the hospital meant I had to put up a fight. In between intense contractions, I had to explain over and over again why I didn’t want the saline solution, why I didn’t want yet another vaginal exam, why I didn’t want the epidural, etc., etc., etc. I even had to fight for my “right” to wear my own gown. It was stressful and led to a lot more labor pains as I became more and more anxious throughout the process.
I also managed to get “in trouble” with the staff through it all. My doula, at some point, was told to tell me that I had to work with the staff so that they could do their job. What?! This was so frustrating to me! Shouldn’t they work with me to help me do my job? I was the one in labor. I was the one birthing my daughter. They were there to assist me. Unfortunately, the system is all about the system, and although I was able to avoid the interventions, I wasn’t able to avoid the battle . . . or the extra contractions that I had to work through as a result.
12. I reduce my chances of having a severe tear or “blow out”. As I mentioned in Part 1, I had intense complications the first time around and had such severe tears internally that I had to be rushed to the operating room for reparative surgery. At the time, I didn’t know that the tears were actually a result of the epidural I had accepted. When a woman cannot feel during the birth process, she has to use the cues of the staff to know what to do. All instinct is thrown out the window, and mama and baby can no longer work together to make it all happen.
Because of this, it is not uncommon for a woman to push too hard and cause much damage to the sensitive tissues. Doctors also may not be aware of how to help a woman through the process by adequately applying pressure, and therefore, may just stand by as the woman “blows herself out” or may perform a routine episiotomy. Ouch!
I have heard horror story after horror story of this happening. Thankfully, midwives are trained in this area and know ways to prevent significant tears prior to and during the birth. They also have a number of remedies, other than medications, to help with healing and recovery should a small tear occur.
13. I reduce the need for any medical interventions that can ultimately lead to complications for me or the baby. It seems to me that most (not all) childbirth “complications” seem to stem from the medical interventions that preceded them. During my first birth, the medical interventions I received looked something like this: saline solution (slowed down the labor) –> accepted the epidural to help with the prolonged pain (stalled the labor further) –> Pitocin (to speed up labor) –> excessive pushing and severe internal tear –> surgery in the operating room with more anesthesia and stitches (to reduce pain and repair tissues) –> pins and needles side effect from the anesthesia –> two drugs were given to stop the allergic reaction, including Benadryl –> stool softeners (for constipation, which is a side effect of the anesthetics) –> not enough stool softeners led to severe constipation –> enema (to help with the drug-induced constipation) –> prescription Ibuprofen (for intense pain associated with healing). It was one thing after another over my three-day stay in the hospital, and this is the abbreviated version. It literally took me over 8 months before I was fully healed from the entire process. I thank God, however, that I did fully heal.
Unfortunately, my experience was not an isolated case. I’ve heard stories where the sequence goes like this: saline solution (slowed down the labor) –> epidural (stalled the labor further) –> Pitocin (to speed up labor) –> epidural wore off –> extreme pushing due to the Pitocin –> severe third-degree tearing. Another began with the saline solution –> epidural –> routine episiotomy –> horrible side effects to epidural, including light-headedness and headache. Another included the saline solution –> Pitocin for induction –> more Pitocin –> more Pitocin –> epidural to help with the extreme contractions from the Pitocin –> distress to the baby –> Cesarean section. And the list goes on. Although I’ve heard a few complete success stories, most hospital birth stories that I’ve been told ended up with some sort of complication and recovery period due to an intervention.
What I’ve come to realize is that there will always be some sort of pain associated with childbirth. I have found that the pain can either come naturally through the process or afterwards due to interventions and complications. Rarely is it ever completely pain free. In many cases, the interventions simply postpone the pain; they do not eliminate it. Personally, I would rather feel the pain prior to the arrival of my infant so that I can enjoy those special first days and weeks without the need for recovery. With my second birth, this is exactly how it was. Within minutes, although a little sore, I was up and walking in my hospital room ready to go home. (They made me stay 24 hours anyway.)
14. I reduce my chances of having a Cesarean Section. Studies for low-risk women show that home births can be as safe, if not, much safer and less risky than hospital births. Where midwives have a hospital transfer rate of 1%, hospitals have a Cesarean rate of 32% in our country! That’s at least 1 in 3 women! There are also hospitals in our country that far exceed this percentage; one in Florida as high as 80%!
There are plenty of risks associated with all medical interventions for both baby and mom and all it takes is one intervention to snowball into a complication that requires a Cesarean (as mentioned above in reason #13). This was one of the most alarming things I discovered in my research. According to the World Health Organization, the percentage of Cesareans should fall between 10-15% , but it’s interesting to me that midwives, such as in Ina May’s Birth Center where midwives are trained in natural childbirth, the percentage falls at about 1.5%. So, yes, there is clearly a time when a Cesarean section is a much needed blessing, a time when it serves as the only way to keep mama and baby safe through the birthing process. I do NOT speak against this in any way.
The problem I have is with the doctors who perform “unnecessareans” on the other 25-30% of mothers in our country. (This post has some great signs to look out for. If you or someone you know has had an unnecessary Cesarean, ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) is a wonderful resource to consider.) Clearly, something is wrong with the system if that many women in our country “need” a surgery to deliver their babies. Unfortunately, these surgeries and interventions do not come without a cost. Complications in U.S. hospitals have also led to one of the highest rates of infant and mother mortality rates in all developed countries in the world. The United States ranks 29th! This is frightening to me.
Had I not done my research and prepared accordingly, I, too, would have ended up with a C-section for my second and then, because the doctors rarely support VBACs (vaginal birth after Cesarean), for my third. My doctor had already predicted it based on my prior complications, and knowing this, makes me even more protective over this birth. As a mother, I want to do everything in my power to protect my children. By instilling natural practices with a trained midwife, I hope to reduce my chances of these risks for both my baby and me.
15. I can labor in my own space, in my own clothes, on my own furniture. After reading numerous birth stories, one of the underlying connections I found was the importance for a woman to feel safe during labor and birth. Even having an unwelcome guest could lead to a stalled labor and the need for interventions. I remember growing up with cats and dogs and watching as they would hide every time they were going to give birth to their litters. As women, how much more do we need that same comfort, that same security, that same obscurity!
I love the idea of being on my own furniture and not on a bed that was sterilized with who knows what. I love the idea of wearing my own gown (without having to fight for that right) and not some hospital gown that was worn by who knows who. I love the idea of creating my own birth ambiance with candles, Christian music, Himalayan lamps, and an essential oil diffuser rather than the fluorescent lights in my face, being switched from room to room at their discretion, and dealing with the backdrop of hospital beeps, phone rings, etc. I want to be surrounded by prayer. It’ll be my space, my home, my birth.
16. I don’t have to worry about any poking or prodding after the delivery. This was just an annoyance I came to discover more so after my natural hospital birth. I remember trying to get some much-needed rest and being constantly interrupted to answer some questions or be available for some sort of test. One of those interruptions even included blood being drawn for purposes I was completely unaware of. After the birth of my baby, I want to be snuggling in my bed with my family, not being poked and prodded unnecessarily.
17. I don’t have to worry about my infant getting an “accidental” dose of an unnecessary vaccine or intervention. This one was HUGE for me. After both births, my babies were stripped from my arms and taken to the nursery for reasons unknown to me. I remember countless times during both of my hospital stays where I beeped for the nurses to bring me my infant and had to wait as long as an hour or two before they would bring them! It was so upsetting to me. As a new mother, I wanted nothing more than to be with my baby.
My biggest concern after my second birth (when I knew better) was that my daughter would get the Hep B vaccine without my approval. I knew that because many follow the CDC recommendations, vaccines are almost an automatic standard of “care,” and I did not want my one-day infant injected with an onslaught of toxic ingredients, possibly including thimerosal (yes, mercury), aluminum hydroxide, formaldehyde, soy peptone, etc.
I also had done my research and knew that this particular vaccine was unnecessary in our situation because we did not have Hepatitis B nor was my newborn daughter at risk of contracting it. Not only that, but the vaccine came with many documented risks, including SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). No thank you! The most disturbing part of it all was that the vaccine did not even guarantee long-term immunity. So, at about the time that actual risks for Hepatitis B may be eminent, immunity may have worn off. This makes no sense to me. Unfortunately, I have read that they just give this vaccine to infants because they couldn’t convince the adults to get the shots. But why newborns? I personally think it’s a good way to get us to do what we’re told, for if we can accept an almost always unnecessary injection of poisons on day one of our newborn’s life without questioning or any actual risk of disease, the rest are cake. . . but I digress.
Overall, I just wanted to keep my baby safe, and it bothered me that the staff had more control of my baby than I did. I do not want that to happen again.
18. My children can stay home and sleep in their beds. Although this one isn’t necessarily a necessity, I absolutely love the idea of having our children home for part of the labor and immediately after. I love that they will sleep soundly in their beds, not at a family member’s, wondering how mom is doing or how it will be with the new baby. I want to treasure that first night as a family in the comfort of our home.
19. Natural birth is better for baby and mama. There are so many scientific studies that have come forth recently showing the amazing benefits of a natural, vaginal birth for the baby. Until recently, we did not know of the beneficial bacteria found in the birth canal that would quickly populate baby’s gut that would build his immune system and make him less susceptible to allergies and eczema in the future. We may not have seen the benefit to his respiratory system as the pressure of the birth helped him expel the amniotic fluid appropriately. Breastfeeding is also encouraged and more likely to be successful when the baby is alert and not medicated.
The lack of synthetic hormones (Pitocin) in the mother’s system also allows for an overflow of actual oxytocin, which creates an immense sense of love and bonding between mama and baby. Many have noted that this hormone decreases the chances of a woman suffering from post-partum depression as well. Yes, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made”, and it is only a matter of time before more discoveries are studied and shared.
20. Natural birth is empowering. Although I could have a natural birth in the hospital, I know that my chances of having one increase at home, and this is very important to me. The natural birth experience with my daughter was one of the most empowering and amazing experiences of my life. It was very spiritual in nature, a full surrender to a force bigger than my own, bringing forth new life into the world. I truly learned a lesson that day. The part of me that always wants to be in control discovered what it truly meant to “Let go and let God.”
I know sometimes it’s taboo to speak about natural birth in such positive terms. The media makes it a laughing joke, and the hospitals tell us that the process doesn’t matter as long as mama and baby are healthy in the end. Although I truly believe that what is ultimately important is that mama and baby are healthy, I think sometimes, we do women a disservice when we don’t speak about the positive benefits that come with a natural birth experience. When the only portrayal they have of birth is exaggerated on television or dictated by a hospital staff member who tells them they need an epidural, we strip them of their right and ability to experience something beyond themselves. We need to talk more . . . if only to share options. (A birth center or hospital with midwives would be other great options for a natural birth!)
Yes, natural birth is hard, and there is ALWAYS a time within the process where you feel that you can’t go anymore. But isn’t that why we run half-marathons and marathons or get involved in challenging projects? To show that we can push past the pain to the finish line? To show that we are stronger than we ever thought possible? To accomplish the unthinkable? Natural birth is exactly like that–except there is a tiny bundle of joy at the “finish line”.
Having had both a medicated and unmedicated birth, I can honestly say that I am so grateful to have been able to birth naturally. It truly changed me spiritually, emotionally, and as a woman. It doesn’t make me better than anyone else, but it makes me a better person for it. Having gone through it once, there is no way I would ever choose to go back to the numbing sensations of the medicated delivery and the painful recovery.
Birth is natural. And although we live in a fallen world where emergencies happen and necessary measures must be taken at times, ultimately, our bodies are designed for birth. I have a friend who birthed naturally at home after three Cesarean sections in the hospital. My grandmother delivered all 9 of her children in her home. I’ve come to find out that my husband’s grandmother was a midwife who assisted many mothers as they birthed their babies in their homes. Women around the world would never dream of having their babies anywhere other than home or in a birth center with a midwife. I’ve also found it interesting that many labor and delivery healthcare practitioners are having their babies at home now. Even the cartoon Lady and the Tramp depicts a time when home birth was just a normal standard of care. It is our society that has changed, not our bodies or our abilities. We can still birth our babies just like millions of women before us, before it became “The Business of Being Born“. We must remember that when we are told otherwise–without a very good reason.
Some people think I’m crazy for wanting a home birth or that I’m out of my mind. I don’t think they always realize that there are other options that are just as safe. I know I didn’t at one time. The most important thing for me, however, is that I have prayerfully considered this choice with my husband, and it is this peace that has directed my steps.
I’ve had others tell me that I’m SO brave for not going to the hospital, but the truth is, I am not braver than anyone. There are always risks associated with whatever decisions we make. Given all of my reasons and the fact that in this point in time, my risks are lower with a home birth, I would have to say that I would have to be a much braver person to go to the hospital than to stay at home. Should the circumstances change at any point during the pregnancy, then, of course, I would have to reevaluate my decision.
For now, I have peace and a thrilling sense of excitement as I anticipate the arrival of our baby in our home. All I can pray for is The Lord’s constant guiding hand with every step I take. . .