Our second little girl is due in the middle of November… just six weeks away. Yikes! We still need to empty the nursery of all our junk (we currently call it “the pit of despair”), paint it and bring all of the baby stuff up from the basement. I’m already in serious nesting mode, but a lot of it is about things I want to get done that aren’t actually necessary for the baby’s day to day care… like this post!
I am writing this, not to defend our choice, but to encourage other parents who may be considering homebirth and to share what I’ve learned for those who just want to understand homebirth better. When I first heard a rumor about women having their babies at home, I was shocked. Why on earth would they take that risk? The hospitals had doctors, drugs and technology to keep them and their babies safe, so why not use them?! What if something went wrong? Honestly, I thought they were nuts! Then, I had a baby.
Our first daughter was born in March of 2008. We had no insurance (due to the waiting periods from my husband changing jobs) and saw no doctor until I was over seven months pregnant. Apart from really bad morning sickness (I lost nearly 15 pounds), I was perfectly healthy. We found an excellent doctor’s office on the second try. Although I was initially horrified at the thought of having male doctors, both of them were wonderful. They were supportive of our desire to have our baby in the natural birth center at the hospital and they were understanding of our plans to have everything be as non-invasive as possible. The doctor who attended the birth was calm and quiet and he never said or did anything that caused me concern (although there was a nurse-in-training that I could have thrown things at for her noise and rudeness!). He allowed me to labor in the tub and was completely comfortable with me staying in the tub to give birth, when I decided that was where I needed to be. He respected our wishes to delay cutting the cord and he didn’t pressure us to “move things along” so he could get home. I really appreciated his medical expertise and his discretion in choosing not to do anything unnecessary. All of that being said, why wouldn’t we just use the same doctor and hospital birth center for this baby?
Although there were many positive things in our birth experience, it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Before the doctor was called in, the nurses pressured me to keep moving, non-stop, because that’s what gets the baby to “come down”. My back labor had started nearly 24 hours before we came in and I had been moving all day. I was tired, it was night-time, I obviously had several hours yet to go, but it never occurred to them that I should try to get some rest. In spite of the wide-held belief that you have to keep moving for labor to progress, many women are giving birth using methods like hypno-birth. They focus on relaxing, not getting an all-day aerobic work out before birthing. I’m not saying a woman shouldn’t move around during labor, but she should not be pressured to if she wants to rest… and I REALLY wanted to rest! I thought I would get that rest once I got into the tub, but by then I was near transition and that just isn’t very conducive to resting. Once I started pushing, the well-meaning nurses got in the way, again. I was leaning back against my hubby and they decided to “help” by pushing my legs up and yelling at me to “PUSH”!! Well, my hips are not textbook. They rotate kind of funny and it does absolutely NOTHING for me to have my knees up by my ears like that. Maybe that actually helps other women, but all it did for me was cause a cramp in my foot. On top of that, they told me I had to pull on this doggy chew rope so I would “use the right pushing muscles”. I later learned that the abdominal muscles contribute less than 10% of the “pushing” force. The rest is from the muscle God designed exclusively for that purpose: the uterus. My hands were cramping and my arms were shaking from pulling on that silly rope. And then there was the yelling… I am not one of those people who is motivated by being told to do what I already know I need to do. It does nothing for me but cause stress and distraction. When I’m working hard at something, I like quiet.
I truly believe that if I had been able to rest while I could, had not been man-handled like a Stretch Armstrong, hadn’t been ordered to waste my energy and focus on pulling on a rope, and had had a calm and quiet atmosphere, our daughter would have been born hours earlier. I was exhausted, not so much from labor and pushing, but from following the textbook labor steps of “staying active” and doing silly things (like pulling on a dog’s chew toy rope) to “use the right muscles”. In spite of the nurses’ “help” our daughter was born.
In the end, I remember thinking, “I could have done this at home and it would have been so much better!”