Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home Birthing

There are plenty of people in this world who wonder at my deep commitment to having my babies at home. They question the safety and comfort, and sometimes my sanity.

As I wrote in this post, I was privileged to attend my mom's two home births; the hospital as a 'normal' place to birth didn't really occur to me. Additionally, in my late teens I developed a close relationship with a woman who was, and is, an outstanding midwife. She has been my midwife through this pregnancy, both my other pregnancies and home births (you can read Brother-Bug's story here), a couple of early term miscarriages, and continues to be a force of love and support as my kids grow. But besides this early education, I have my own reasons I have my babies at home, and I thought I would share.

While birth can become a medical event, I believe that a healthy birth is pretty much non-medical and should be treated as a family event instead of a medical situation. I trust my body and my midwife to be aware of the situations that would lead us to seek hospital assistance, and much like my position on ultrasound, I would transport to the hospital if my midwife, my body, or the baby, told me that transport was the best plan.

I want to decide who is with me during each passage and who helps me welcome the baby to our family. This includes siblings (not allowed in hospital delivery rooms usually), my husband, my sister, and a close friend or two to help the kids - and our midwife. It does not include strange nurses, a doctor I've potentially never met, or any other hospital staff. This is the most amazing and intimate thing I am ever going to do with my body; this is the most vulnerable I will ever be. I don't want to share it with just anyone. And that's just during the birth! After the birth there are nurses that have to bathe my baby, test it, photograph it, and poke and prod me and my knitting body.

At home, the midwife and all other non-immediate family members leave the room once the baby is out and obviously well. We just sit in bliss with our baby from somewhere between a half-hour and eternity - time is irrelevant. Eventually the birth team returns to clean things up, help me deliver my placenta, see that the baby nurses well, and check its vitals. We don't bathe the babe for several days, letting its skin gradually sluff off vernix while loving that fresh-baby smell. Papa-Bug holds our baby skin-to-skin while my sister washes my aching and exhausted body in the shower. We sleep naked with baby on my chest, still a part of each others' breathing and heartbeats. Siblings cuddle parents and support people, we all marvel at the details of a newborn, everyone takes candid pictures. Soon after the birth - 2-3 hours maybe - everyone goes home and a magical post-birth stillness descends on our home. We have time and deep peace to get to know our new person; to watch our family structure stretch and change.

I believe that babies need the minimal amount of stimulation and interaction during their first days. Except for our midwife doing important baby-wellness checks, no one touches or holds our baby except for Mama, Papa, and Siblings for the first several days. We never pass a baby from stranger to stranger (because even if you are a grandparent or bestest friend, you are still a completely strange situation to a newborn), respecting a time of adjustment for both Baby and Mama.  We have no visitors besides the people who attended the birth for several days. It's just US, extending that post-birth time until we are ready to open up. We can't know a newborn's perspective on things, but I try to think about what each new experience might be like for this being, and we adjust our behaviors to encourage comfort for this new person. Slowly family begins to hold baby for short times, with us watching for its communications that it is looking for Mama/Papa/Boob.

Besides that, I know that home birth is safer for me. I'm an introvert. I dislike strange situations and interacting with strange people. I tend to shut down in these situations, going on a polite auto-pilot until I feel safe or return to my place. This is not a good thing to do if you are giving birth - nor a good thing to have to override during the intensity of helping a person into this world. I want to feel safe - physically, emotionally, spiritually - and I do that best at home. The very idea of getting in a car when contractions are rocking my body seems insane. There are lots of statistics and studies done on the safety of home birth, and you can look those up. It is statistically safer provided that you've made the decision to stay home, gotten good support from a knowledgeable person, and are prepared for the adventure.

Women birth in all positions, making all kinds of noises. Myself, I seem to like hands and knees and lots of lion-esque roars. I prefer my bedroom, but have found that I like to be in different areas early on in labor. I don't like people to touch me much, I don't want to be forced to eat or drink or rest (unless things are going on and on and its for my & baby's well-being), I don't want to be confined to a single room or position - especially one based on a monitor's best position. At home, I am free to find the most comfortable postions, make as much noise as I want, use whatever space I want, and generally go deeply into my experience with the level of interaction from other people that is right for me. The people with me know me very well, have known me for many years, and can be flexible with my needs in each moment.

These are my reasons for home birthing, and what works for me might not work for everyone or anyone else. I think the most essential aspect of home birth - or any other birth - is that it comes from a place of informed choice. I don't think everyone should default to hospital/doctor assisted birth OR home/midwife assisted birth. I fundamentally believe that babies will come best when the mama feels good about her situation and is able to labor and birth with support, as opposed to falling into a decision based on assumptions or pressure.

Birth is radical and wonderful. I wouldn't say I'm looking forward to the deep, aching pull of contractions that are coming in a couple months... But at the same time, I kind of am. It's an amazing experience and I feel so lucky to have had that experience twice, in my own time, way, and space.

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