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.