Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I Choose Homebirth

Birth should be empowering. It should be safe. It should be allowed to progress as naturally as possible, without intervention, without obstruction. When it came to making an informed choice about birthing my daughter in 2010, I chose the only option I felt could meet these needs: home birth.

Now, its obviously not for everyone but here's a few reasons why it will always be my first choice.

The Best Care

Right from the start of my pregnancy, I felt completely respected, honoured and involved in my medical care. My midwife would visit me in the comfort of my own home for our regular check-ups, usually staying for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. In that time, not only would she thoroughly check my blood pressure, test a urine sample, listen to my baby's heart beat and discuss my health/pregnancy in a holistic way, she would talk to me about the emotional aspects of pregnancy. Like my fears and doubts. But also my excitement, my joy at this marvellous process making my body fuller and more life-containing with every passing day. I came to look forward to these visits immensely, particularly as the third trimester approached and I was getting closer to meeting my baby.

The Chance to Labour and Birth Naturally

I read A LOT before and while I was pregnant, about birthing options, the nature of each birthing environment. It seemed to me that the only place I would be allowed to birth without constant monitoring/pressure to accept pain relief/pressure to be induced if I went overdue (and I did go overdue), and in a way that was natural and nurturing, was to labour and birth at home. When I did eventually go into labour 4 days after my due date, I was able to move around my house, in whatever position I wished, and feel completely comfortable in my own surroundings. I was reassured that I could combine the safety and comfort of my home environment with the expertise, knowledge and experience of my midwife attending me there.

The Best Outcomes for Baby and Mummy

With a home birth, I knew I was guaranteed to have my baby placed skin-to-skin on my chest straight after birth. I knew I would be allowed to birth my placenta when it was ready, without being given syntocinon. I knew my baby would be given the chance to find my breast as nature has programmed her to do and initiate our first breastfeed. And I knew all of these elements would ensure I received that lovely cocktail of hormones that ensures my baby and I bond instantly. I was not convinced that I would have these elements in a hospital setting.

As it turns out, I was right.

Though I did labour at home to full dilation, my labour halted after physically exhausting myself, fighting against the contractions instead of surrendering to them. As a result of this extreme exhaustion, my blood pressure skyrocketed and we decided to transfer to hospital. I was blessed to have lovely midwives and a very patient obstetrician attend my birth in the hospital, all the while allowing my home birth midwife to keep 'running the show'. With her determination and fortitude, she helped me avoid the cesarean that was being suggested as a result of my halted labour. Thankfully, not long after we were admitted to the labour room, my urge to push finally kicked in and I was able to birth P. naturally, without drugs or medical intervention.

But much to my distress, after a brief moment of skin-to-skin contact, the on-duty pediatrician (who seemed to know very little of my birthing experience and the way in which P. came very quickly down that birth canal) determined that my baby needed to go immediately to special care for 48 hours of intravenous antibiotics. This was to prevent a possible infection, indicated by some nostril flaring after the birth. My mothering instincts knew there was no infection, that P. was just trying to recover a bit after coming out a little too quickly and having lots of birth gunk in her passageways. But I let myself be bullied, told I would risk her dying if I didn't agree. So we missed that first breastfeed, we missed those first precious hours of bonding. And in the end, no bacteria were cultures were grown, there was no evidence of any infection. This, I am certain, would not have happened at home.

When all is said and done, I got to birth naturally, I birthed a healthy, beautiful girl and I was supported throughout my birthing journey by a midwife (and her wonderful student midwife assistant too) who genuinely cared for me, my birthing wishes, my baby, my family and my overall experience of becoming a mother. While I ultimately ended up in a hospital, I benefited from all the supportive elements of a planned home birth. But I also got to experience what I never thought I would - how birthing is treated and managed in a medical environment.

I now have even greater confidence in my body's natural ability to birth a baby, despite difficulties, despite pressures for it to be augmented and taken out of my hands. I understand now, from personal experience, what it feels like to be caught up in the risk-management culture of modern obstetrics/pediatrics - to apply a procedure or medicine in a situation that did not call for it, that interfered with the natural post-birth bonding with my baby. I feel blessed to have walked the path of home birth, even if my ultimate destination was the hospital. And I have even greater resolve to walk that path again when we conceive our next child.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Mummy Hulk

I've been channelling the Hulk this week. At least the mummy version of it.

(reader has bemused look on face)

Have I developed enormous muscles, I hear you ask? Am I ridding the bad ol' Brisbane 'burbs of criminals? Am I a luminescent shade of green?

The answer is no. And no. And, definitely no.

Instead, I've found myself progressing from ordinary, garden-variety grumpiness to throwing-a-tantrum, eye-bulging RAGE!

Okay, it wasn't exactly eye-bulging rage. It was more eye-twitching irritability, mixed in with a good dollop of stress. But for someone not used to feeling angry - I've always been more of a teary crybaby than a wall-punching aggressor - I might as well have turned into some green beast, rampaging the streets.

It all began to go wrong on Tuesday.

I was dealing with a 3-day old headache while trying to get myself and darling daughter ready for her weekly swimming lesson. We managed to somehow get out to the car before being horrendously late, and as I fastened P. into her car seat, I put the towels and my wallet (BIG mistake!) on the roof of the car. I managed to remember to grab the towels and threw them into the front seat. But the wallet, sadly, went for an unexpected rooftop ride.

Now losing your wallet is not usually fodder for meltdown rages. But it signposted for me the turning point at which my week went from fairly good to fairly crap.

After driving back and forth along the same route after swimming was finished, the wallet could not be found. I immediately cancelled my cards and mourned the loss of my relatively new wallet, a cutesy aqua-colored one with a wide-eyed owl embroidered on it. I also felt somewhat embarrassed; I regularly tease my lovely husband for misplacing his wallet somewhere in the house. Here I was losing mine altogether.

(side note: when someone tells a lengthy, boring anecdote in our house, we ask them, at the conclusion of said anecdote, And then, did you find $20? It denotes that the anecdote was so boring, finding $20 would have been a more interesting story. It's at this point I find myself asking myself, So Kate, did you find $20?)

I swear it gets more interesting from here. Or at the very least, more disgusting.

That afternoon, after finally coming to terms with my lost wallet, P. turned around, arms out, appealing to me to pick her up, then proceeded to vomit all over my shirt. That delightful gastro bug that's been doing the rounds came to our place for an unwelcome visit.

We had a dreadful night's sleep that night (if you can really call it sleep when you're wakeful far more than you're slumbering). And not long after we crawled out of bed that morning, P. vomited on me again. This time in my hair.

Thankfully, after 24 hours of being P.'s projectile-vomiting target-practice (and, in case it isn't clear, being a loving, concerned mother to my poor, sick darling), the voms were over.

And the diarrhea began.

The upshot (or is that upchuck?) of it all is this - shit happens (that pun was TOO easy!) and those who survive it intact do so because they stop fighting so hard against it. Once I'd had a good cry to darling husband about the constancy of it all - not just the voms and poos but holding sick daughter round the clock, not getting any sleep, not getting five seconds to just be alone! - I surrendered to my situation and reminded myself THIS WILL NOT LAST. And tried to see the lighter side of things.

And you know what happened immediately after this?

I got a message on Facebook from the guy who lives in my old house in Bardon saying that my wallet was posted to that address, intact, by some lovely, honest, anonymous person.

So while I started the week in Hulk mode, I certainly didn't end it that way. Isn't it nice how things turn out sometimes?