***Warning: this article contains some
explicit references to childbirth. If you are the
least bit woozy at the thought of this, you should probably re-think
I have three wonderful children.
When I was very young and newly
married, I became a mother for the first time. My OBGYN was a very strict,
humorless woman, who had delivered thousands of babies including myself
and my husband. In her opinion, giving birth was a medical condition, and
you listened to the Doctor with no questions asked.
After attending a few hospital-run
"Natural" Childbirth classes, I decided that
a) I was not attending any MORE
hospital-run "Natural" Childbirth classes, as they frankly made me want
to hurl and
b) Drugs were a good thing. I
told my OBGYN to empty her black case, I wanted at least two of
everything, preferably washed down with some stiff spirits.
Due to some minor medical
difficulties, however, when my lovely Erika made her debut I did not get
my drugs, was bossed around and terrorized by the hospital staff and
endured 12 hours of unwanted natural childbirth. After the fact, I was
grateful for the natural childbirth part, since immediately afterward I
felt wonderful and was ready to walk out of there with my new daughter. Because this was back in the "old days" , they insisted that I remain a
guest of the hospital for 3 days. The woman in the next bed had had a
c-section and received all the drugs I thought I wanted. She spent
the first 24 hours of motherhood sick as a dog.
Lesson #1: Drugs are not as great
as they are cracked up to be.
Five and a half years later found
me back in the same hospital for the arrival of David, who appeared after
less than six hours of labor. This time my OBGYN was a wonderful man whose
office walls were literally lined with photos of "his" babies and who was
of the opinion that birth is natural and wonderful and that his role was
basically to be on hand just in case. Also to catch if the daddy passed
out. He firmly believed that hospitals are the worst place in the world to
have babies because they are full of germs. Unfortunately, Wisconsin was a
state that was keeping it's residents safe by making home births illegal,
so the hospital was our only option. This time I was ready for the
de-personalizing that every birth-mom goes through from the hospital staff
and with the blessing of my Doctor was much more vocal and adamant about
what I would and would not endure at their hands to make THEIR jobs
easier. After Erika, I knew I could have this baby without drugs and
didn't request any. Insurance attitudes had also changed and they started
a timer the second that baby took his first blink and escorted me out the
door 24 hours later.
Hospitals are mostly superfluous to the
Fast forward 14 years.
Different state: Texas.
Different husband: one with no
children, and what a shame is THAT?
Different circumstances: no
My interest in midwives and
homebirth that my last OBGYN had sparked became suddenly extremely
relevant upon learning at age 39 and 10 months that I was to become a
mother again. Added to the above lessons learned early in life and my gut
feeling that giving birth at home was just a "righter" way to go about
this, was the financial aspect: a hospital birth at right around $20,000
compared to homebirth of $1,200. Yes, the comma IS in the right spot and
no I DIDN'T forget a few zeroes.
Enter Thalia; professional
midwife, tireless coach, and dear friend.
On our first visit, we went over
my history. Given that I had given birth twice naturally with no major
complications, she saw no need for alarm. Because I was over the age of 35
(read "High Risk Birthmother" to the medical community), she gave us the
option of going to an OBGYN she worked with for an ultrasound or
amniocentesis if we desired, and we declined. She told us we could
deliver either at her birth center or at home if we lived within a 30
minute drive of a medical facility, and we do.
Midwives follow much the same
procedure as an OBGYN with regard to scheduled appointments. They have the
same schedule, they test for the same things using the same lab
tests, and they monitor the baby's growth in the same ways. The difference
is in the presentation. Their offices resemble (or truly are) their homes. The exam table is a real bed complete with comforter and pillow. There's
not a stirrup, 2 year old magazine or paper gown in sight. There is no
waiting room full of other pregnant women. When you have an appointment,
you are the patient. Period. The entire pregnancy is treated not as some
deviant medical condition, but as a personal wonderment to be nourished
and celebrated. What a concept.
Near the end of pregnancy, we
gathered together supplies from a list provided and prepared for our
birth. These items were readily available at the local grocery and drug
We were encouraged to take home
and watch a video of an actual home birth, which I slipped into the VCR
with much trepidation (the video of an actual hospital birth is what sent
me over the edge years before). I needn't have worried. Instead of the
brightly lit, fast paced, sterile delivery room full of serious brisk
hospital staff who seemed to consider the birthing mother as an
inconvenience to be tolerated was several hours of a family at home. The
mother-to-be spent a lot of time in her rocking chair, reading to her
other children, and walking with her husband. She drank some tea. Eventually she went to bed and proceeded to have her baby.
Here's why it was so important to
see this after having 2 hospital births.
Doctors are trained to see
everything in the Worst Case Scenario. When you have a hospital birth you
may not walk around—you must be hooked up to the baby monitor. You may
not eat or drink—you need an empty stomach in case they have to do a
c-section. And once that little person hits the birth canal, look
out- the hospital staff WILL deliver him/her within minutes, whether you
and the baby are ready or not.
More and more it seems that
Doctors also are performing c-sections or inducing labor for "over-term"
pregnancies and even (I think shamefully) inducing so a woman will deliver
to suit his or her schedule. Many of these "over-term" babies need to stay
in the hospital or be treated for things that have traditionally been
Preemie Problems. Obviously they weren't "done" at all.