Friday, May 21, 2010

Before I had my baby, I read a lot about homebirth. I read about laboring 'on your own turf' and giving birth 'in your own space' and could not imagine why that was important. What's the matter with these women that they can't breathe and push in the hospital's 'space'?

And I remember reading about all the women who praised their midwives for 'listening to my body' or 'letting nature take it's course' and those women didn't sound any less crazy. My body is the one that doesn't even know when to sleep or be awake. I've had 25 years of daily practice and my body can't guess correctly which of the two it's supposed to be doing at any given moment. Why would I think it could birth a baby? And nature isn't always gentle and it certainly isn't painless or safe. A lion taking down a newborn zebra is nature. Animals hide during labor because nature is out to get them. Why wouldn't I hide from nature in the hospital where I have lots of shiny instruments to defend myself?

I always wanted to plan a c-section. I see no reason for pain. I see no reason for the icky stuff. I could just pick a date, show up, and be put right to sleep. No epidural for me, I want general anesthesia. Knock me out completely, wake me up where there's a baby to snuggle. I am not needed for any of the intervening hours. I may even skip pregnancy too - if the first pregnancy was uncomfortable we'd just adopt the rest of the kids. No problem.

Then I had friends who had their babies vaginally. And without pain meds! Who are these crazy women I let into my life? Why in the world would you choose that? To impress people? Count me as unimpressed. You must be uninformed, and I am unimpressed.

Then I had friends who had babies at home or in a birth center. Are these people trying to make some sort of point? Who cares what you do with your vagina? Are there really enough of you wanting to be so special that a birth center can stay in business?

Some of these friends tried to work on me. You don't want an episiotomy, because cut flesh tears much faster and much worse than torn flesh. Are you seriously asking me to choose TORN FLESH? Disgusting. Someone else: Anything I'll need in a hospital can be brought by the midwife to my house. Why should I have to go to the hospital in labor? Why shouldn't the midwife come to me? Well that one made sense at least. I like being served more than I like cramming myself into a car at 50 pounds overweight and cramping.

And then I inadvertently learned about the placenta. It's less like a smart, discerning barrier and more like a bloody sieve. It doesn't carefully choose what my baby can and cannot have, it just leaks everything I take in to the poor kid.

My husband and I watch a lot of documentaries on Netflix. Maybe we're weird, I don't know. But I enjoy hearing one side of the argument. Even when the arguments are ones I don't care about. Business of Being Born was on the list. So we watched it. I assumed it would be about how hospitals make ridiculous sums of money delivering cute babies. It wasn't. Not exactly. My husband was sold. If what was said in this documentary was true, he wanted me to birth at home. AT HOME. What kind of crazy person had I hitched myself to?

Well, I guess I'll just find out if any of that was true. It was. All of it.

Fewer women die under the care of a midwife than the care of a doctor. Surely, that's only because doctors care for high risk patients right? Wrong. Even when you compare births carefully, matching patients in each category for all the risk factors, homebirth is safer.

Fewer babies die when they're born without drugs. What goes in to me goes in to the baby. Directly and without discretion. Drugs also increase problems during labor. Pitocin can double the risk of an emergency c-section. It changes the contractions and pitocin contractions cut off oxygen to the baby. The human body doesn't make pitocin for labor because it can be dangerous during labor.

Babies need to be squeezed through the birth canal. It's actually good for their development. What kind of craziness is that? Their poor little heads have to be reshaped just to fit, how can that be good for them? Babies practice breathing with amniotic fluid. All that fluid needs to be pushed out of their lungs, and passing through birth canal does that.

Fewer babies die born at home because the home is cleaner. Yes, cleaner! What kind of craziness is this you say! Clearly, you've never seen my home. Well, whatever germs are in the home the mother has already been exposed to. The germs in the hospital are an entirely different sort. And they are much, much more deadly to a newborn. Hospitals are not sterile. They are not glistening beacons of perfection. They employ uneducated people to clean, pay them menial wages, and regularly house sick and dying people. I have nothing against the poor, the uneducated, or the ill. Of course not. But I wouldn't trust a lawyer to count my money and I don't trust someone without a high school diploma to be educated on the latest in germ theory.

Doctors don't know everything about birth. There, I said it. It's true. Ob-gyn's are surgeons. That is their training. They train in the surgical solution to problems of the gynecological nature. They train to surgically remove babies. Some babies need it. And for those babies our training is tops. But lots of babies don't need it. And surgery for those babies is overkill.

That overkill is dangerous. The World Health Organization tracks all kinds of information about all kinds of things. When a country's c-section rate rises to about 15%, maternal and neonatal death rates decrease. (When a country can and safely does more c-sections, more people survive giving birth and being born) When a country's c-section rate rises above 15%, maternal and neonatal death rates increase. (When a country does more c-sections, more people die.) What did Einstein say? "Simplify, simplify, simplify, then stop." Something like that. Do what you can, but stop doing what doesn't need to be done. Just because you have a hammer does not mean that what you see is a nail.

Am I a crazy hippie? Yeah, maybe. But I am also, now, a mother. I've made the switch from 'being delivered' to
pushing, if necessary, for my child. For the rights of my child, for the safety of my child, for the love of my child. This was a huge switch for me. Very emotionally significant. I no longer do as I'm told by the authority figures in my life. For the good of my child, I am learning to think, gather information, think some more, make a decision, and act. The information is out there. Homebirth is safe. Not the only way to birth, but arguably the safest. As a parent, or as someone making the transition from individual to parent, you have a responsibility to get the information and make a decision. Allowing yourself to wind up somewhere or allowing something to 'just happen' with your birth is allowing it for your child too. That's a lot of weight. Think, gather information, think some more, make your decision, and act. But don't skip the first three steps.


Anonymous said...

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