I had a baby…at home…on the bedroom floor. I had no choice because I wanted a natural birth. I wouldn’t have minded giving birth naturally in a hospital, but my OB GYN doctor of eight years – a “John Hopkins trained prestige,” could do my emergency ectopic pregnancy surgery but was not a fan of the natural birth. I was out of her comfort zone she said, and my birth plan put myself and my baby at risk.
Really? Having a vaginal birth without unnecessary medical testing and intervention, the way women have been giving birth since the beginning of time (save the last 200 years), puts my baby at risk? And how are doctors getting through medical school and residency without being proficient in natural birth?
While most women were looking for a doctor who could handle the “worst case scenario” I was looking for a doctor who knew how to let a woman have a baby, and they all said the same – find a midwife.
That was an excellent idea, except that traditional midwifery is illegal in the great state of Illinois (and the nearest birth center was four hours away). Seems a bit irrational don’t you think? Midwives aren’t equipped to handle births so we’ll either force a woman to give birth alone or in the confines of a hospital. Ah yes, the “my way or the highway approach.” So I did what any educated, normal, determined person would do:
I chose my bedroom floor.
Times have changed. What used to be a sacred, respected, safe process carried out by a woman, her closest confidants, and midwife has turned into a 3-ring circus complete with flashing lights, ring-side seats, popcorn, and enough technology to re-wire a circuit. What used to be an event where women were engaged, connected, and present is now a detached process with intervention and discombobulation.
We live in a country that led the way in women’s rights and claims to empower women with endless options, encouragement, and an open oyster; but apparently the birthing industry (yes, that’s what it is) never got the memo.
From the moment a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is bombarded with everything but her options. From the minute the intake form is filled out at the doctor’s office she becomes part of a “process.” Blood is taken, pee is collected in a cup, there are ultrasounds, monthly appointments, bi-weekly, than weekly appointments, flu shots, vaccinations, gestational diabetes testing, group b strep and genetic testing. You’ll be given a due date because really, babies are entirely predictable.
There is no establishing a relationship with any doctor because they only have five minutes to see you and chances are, they won’t be the one sitting in the delivery room with you when you give birth anyway. Actually, chances are no doctor will be “sitting” in the delivery room. They’ll move you along, come in to catch the baby, and off they’ll go. Instead of trusting a person and developing a relationship, you’ll have to yield to the system and hope that whatever doctor you get, yields to your birth plan.
When it gets close to your “due date” you’ll feel pressure to hurry things along. If your water hasn’t broken by week 40 you’ll be “scheduled” unless you have a really cool old-school doctor who knows babies don’t conform to schedules.
You’ll waddle into the hospital when you are one centimeter dilated because you felt the first twinge of pain – you weren’t told that laboring at your house is much more comfortable. Then you’ll be subjected to your first vaginal “frisk” of many, as if pap smears weren’t uncomfortable enough.
And then the real fun begins: You’ll be given pitocin to speed things up and then an epidural which will slow things down. You’ll be attached to an i.v., unable to move, and confined to your hospital bed on your back, complete with the dignity of a catheter. The lights will be on, the room will be loud, and you’ll feel completely detached from the process and from your body. Sounds like a party. At least you won’t have to get up to pee right?
And when labor slows down, and the uterus gets tired and baby’s oxygen decreases from the forced contractions, and the heart rate decelerates, and your body is plum wore out because you’ve been starved during the most rigorous process the human body will ever encounter, you’ll be escorted to a front row seat in the operating room, where you’ll lose your right to a vaginal birth for the rest of your childbearing years unless you find a special hospital and a doctor willing to take you on.
If you were lucky enough to avoid the embarrassingly high 33% c-section rate in this country, you’re probably in the cold, uninviting, delivery room waiting for someone to tell you when and how hard to push. Hopefully, baby won’t get stuck and you won’t need a vacuum or forceps because you’re on your back – a biologically uninviting position. And hopefully, you won’t tear. But let’s face it, you probably will.
Good thing someone is there to repair the tear that wouldn’t have happened but-for the medical interventions, anatomically incorrect positioning, and poor “coaching” you got from the back-seat driver.
Your man? He’s probably munchin’ on some chips tuned into the t.v. detached from you because you’re detached from the process. Hey, at least somebody get’s to eat right?
Of course nobody told you about the amazing experience the absence of pain and forced labor would rob you of. Nobody told you that the drugs administered to you have not been proven safe for babies and have side-effects that increase the likelihood of intervention and mortality both during and after birth. Nobody told you attachment might be hindered and your milk might not come in, and if it does, you could have trouble breastfeeding and bonding with your baby.
What did your first-rate U.S maternity care (the most expensive maternity care in the world) cost you – a whopping $30,000 – $50,000. (Maybe that just seems like a lot since the home birth kit I ordered online was $46…with shipping).
Oh snap, where were the birthing options on the intake form you filled out?
This is the United States of America right – where women have an endless array of reproductive choices and “it’s your baby your body” is the female national anthem? Except when it isn’t; reproductive rights only apply to sex, contraception, and abortion…not childbirth.
Here’s a clue, there weren’t any other options because today’s births are tailored towards the 2% of women who are considered high-risk and require a controlled, medical, delivery. That’s great for them but detrimentally harmful to remaining 98% of us.
This could be why the United States has a c-section rate that is over three times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended threshold of 10-15%, why we are ranked 30th out of 31 for infant mortality, and have the highest maternal mortality of any industrialized nation.
Despite spending more on healthcare than any other country, it is five times safer to deliver a baby in Greece, four times safer in Germany, and three times safer in Spain. Two women will die today in our country during childbirth and more than a third of all women who give birth (1.7 million each year) experience some type of complication or adverse effect to their health. Yes, please sign me up for that.
But wait, it gets worse, we also have the highest first-day infant mortality rate of all industrialized countries, and rank 131 out of 184 countries for pre-term births. We are squished between Congo and Nigeria people. This is bad.
Of course, the remedy for these issues is always more intervention, more drugs, and more technology. That sounds like a great idea since all of the countries that rank higher than us use less technology, fewer interventions, and have higher natural birth numbers. Many of them encourage home births and midwifery for low-risk pregnancies.
And then there’s America. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology holds that a woman has autonomy over her birth, but we all knows that’s not true. They also have this stance towards home births and midwives:
“ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) reiterates its long-standing opposition to home births [...]. ACOG acknowledges a woman’s right to make informed decisions regarding her delivery and to have a choice in choosing her health care provider, but ACOG does not support programs that advocate for, or individuals who provide, home births. Childbirth decisions should not be dictated or influenced by what’s fashionable, trendy, or the latest cause célèbre.”
A home birth (circa day 1?) is fashionable and trendy, yes that’s totally why more women are going rogue. It couldn’t be because a planned home birth attended by a registered midwife is associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death, a substantially reduced risk of obstetric interventions, a 50% lower risk of pre-term birth, significantly lower rates of mother mortality, and a 97% birth experience satisfaction rate. It couldn’t be because modern obstetric practices applied to the population have made birth more dangerous.
There are thousands of studies that can confirm the above, yet, it’s slightly amusing that the few studies that show results to the contrary are done by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and state something to the effect of: “Yeah a home birth reduces your risk of everything but significantly increases infant mortality three-fold.” They cut right to the heart don’t they? Do all this or your baby may die.
Not only is that data conflicting to the thousands of studies out there that show otherwise, it supports the degrading, and frustrating medical birth that lines their pockets, justifies their poor stance on pre-natal, maternity, and postpartum care, and gets impressed upon every pregnant woman in America.
We do not have to tolerate this. If you were given the option to have a natural birth at home, it might look something like this:
The Natural Birth, Home Birth Experience
Somehow you managed to find out about a natural birth. It wasn’t at your doctor’s office so maybe you heard from a friend who knew a lady who had a home birth and used a midwife who through begging and pleading disclosed her top-secret name and phone number.
If you choose a natural birth (whether at home or at a center) you will establish care with a midwife who will work with you throughout your entire pregnancy. You’ll build a relationship with her and she’ll answer all your questions, lessen your fears, and calm your concerns. There’s no pressure, minimized testing (that you can easily opt out of without a speech), and the freedom to birth without confines preferably in the comfort of your own home.
If you hit 40 weeks and nothing has happened you’ll remain in this mode of nothingness until something does, usually around 41 weeks and 1 day since that’s actual gestation. Silly babies, they’re unpredictable and your body knows best, not your healthcare provider. Hopefully you’re still not hanging out at 43 weeks although this is perfectly safe for most women. You might do gentle things to encourage the process along like sex (not gel, stripping membranes, or pitocin), reflexology, walking along the street with one foot on the curb and one off, herbs, tea, or a little castor oil.
You’ll eventually go into labor and you’ll move about in your own space in your own time. Maybe you’ll watch “Swing Vote” on the couch or put cookies in the oven. You might want your man meat to rub your back or hold you during contractions. Maybe you’ll lose the pain in the tub. Maybe you’ll have an orgasm (seriously though, I can’t quite wrap my mind around that one).
Your midwife will be there doing what she does best, watching and waiting. You have a relationship with her so you feel comfortable with her in your space and peace because she is there. Your contractions will build and with that the pain and the amazing hormone concoction (that’s inhibited by the epidural) that keeps your body in constant communication with baby’s.
Your uterus isn’t forced to contract so your baby gets plenty of oxygen and rest too. Oh, you’re hungry? Go ahead and stuff your face. It’s your house, your body, and your rules. But what about the enema and pooping? Hey, no worries because there’s none of that going on here. You could care less if you poop because you’re zoned in to giving life breath and you’re going to give birth in the anatomically correct position so there will be less pressure on your pooper anyway.
You’ll want to die, but your support knows your intentions were to have a natural child-birth and they’ll respect it and empower you to finish strong. And baby is born (in any position you want) in the quiet of your sacred space (tub, bed, floor) and immediately placed into your arms to nurse. You’re way too high to think about the pain you just went through and your uterus is already shrinking. Your midwife nurtures you as you nuture baby. No medical intervention was needed and the emergency plan a good midwife always has in place can remain on the dusty shelf because it’s rarely ever used.
Your man meat wasn’t binging on chips. He was holding you because you needed him. You needed each other and it was a moment you shared together.
My body. My baby. My birth.
A home birth may not be an option for everyone but a natural birth should be. You should be presented with and have the opportunity to employ the best maternity care whether that be from a midwife, doctor, or both. I say “employ” because your doctor (or midwife) works for you and like any boss, you call the shots.
You should be able to opt out of any interventions you choose, and should be able to give birth where and however you want. You should be empowered and encouraged to truly experience birth, not fearful, threatened, or ignored. Your birth plan should be respected and revered as holy.
Until birth is geared towards the 98% of women who do not need a medical birth, I’m going to go with the “fashionable and trendy fad” that’s been around since circa day one. With or without midwife, unless life or limb is in peril, you’ll find me on the bedroom floor – because it’s my body, my baby, and my birth.