Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crunchy home birther

Yesterday as my screen saver was flipping through random pictures from our lives, this picture popped up. As I looked at it, I realized, for the first time, just how bizarre and unreasonable this picture must seem to anyone who believes giving birth in a hospital is the right way to do it, and who thinks home birth is dangerous, crazy and just plain stupid.
So a brief explanation. Turner will be one year old this Saturday, the 21st, and I have his full birth story available here and pictures here. He was born, very peacefully and beautifully, at home, in our farm house in Missouri. His birth was attended by 3 amazing midwives, Rachel, Cheryl and Lisa.
The picture shows me still on the floor holding my minutes-old baby son, and my very-pregnant (she gave birth just 2 days later, although I don't believe she was due for 3 more weeks) midwife starting to clean up, as well as the environment in which I gave birth. Yes, I gave birth on our living room floor, which was how and where I wanted to be. You look around, you see a space heater on the floor to warm the room for the baby (it was a warm spring day, but got chilly at night, and we wanted to have it nice and warm for the baby's arrival). You see a toy box full of Guthrie's toys against one wall. You see a futon right there, a nice comfy soft place where I could have given birth had I chosen.
Our society firmly believes that babies need to be born in hospitals, attended by specialists, with all the bells and whistles and the machine that goes "ping." I won't go into the politics surrounding birth, and how bogus this whole idea is for the vast majority of women, and how it is the hospital environment itself which causes so many of the complications which now occur in birth and especially the shamefully high c-section rate, because there's just not enough room here, and I doubt it would accomplish much anyway.
Giving birth at home, in my own space, with access to all of my own belongings, my own bathroom, my own food, was an absolutely incredible experience. My first child was born in a hospital, nearly 12 years ago, and my second was born in a freestanding birth center (a home birth in someone else's home, in many ways). If we have any more children, which is still a distinct possibility, they will be born in whatever home we are in at the time.
It now seems as bizarre to me - as strange as this image must seem to most of the American population - to think of going into labor and immediately packing things up to go to a hospital. To imagine being tethered to a bed, to not be able to go into the kitchen and eat a bowl of Frosted Flakes (as I did at 3 a.m. when I realized a baby would be coming soon), to not be able to turn up the iPod and belly dance through contractions to the Culture Club and Duran Duran and Prince and The Cure, and to not be able to leave your sleeping children asleep in their own beds as long as possible, seems so unnatural, so inconvenient, and just so wrong. To be poked and prodded, and on someone else's time frame for delivery, and to be surrounded by rotating shifts of strangers is not something I can imagine anyone ever choosing, if they knew the options available.
Within minutes of Turner's birth, I was drinking a cup of coffee, eating a pb&j, and having some of the cookies Eric made while I was in labor. Turner was only separated from me for brief moments while I used the bathroom. He nursed immediately, we lay together in our own comfy bed, and we had visitors come to our house to see the new arrival. Turner was welcomed by his family - his parents, siblings, and his grandmother - and later we all lay together in bed and napped peacefully together, and life was just life, as it should be, as it has been. Bizarre only in a society that sees birth as a medical event, as a disaster waiting to happen, as something women are not capable of doing on their own.


karrie said...

Cool! I've never read the birth story, so I'm off to do so.

Abby said...

I can not give birth on my own. My kids do not fit out of my hoo haa. Emma was an emergnecy c-seciton and Davis I just scheduled.

My ob was careful when I was pregnant with Emma to say that it was a narrow opening down there (and she still says this every time I get my yearly exam) but she never once said that we would just do a section. After Emma never engaging, yes I said she never dropped into my pelvis, water breaking on its own first and not being dilated after that, I labored for about 10 or so hours with no progress even with Pitocin, we did the section.

I guess my point is that for some of us, the only way we can have kids is through intervention. I am not sure what would have happened if a c-section was not an option for me. I know there is a word for when your pelvis is not big enough to get babies out and I am not sure that would be my "offiical" diagnosis. But to this day my doctor's exact words when she does my exam are, "you could not push a wet noddle out of there." I am just small.

This baby will be born in a hospital, via c-section as well. For me it is the only option.

Judy said...

Well, of course I am happy that c-section is an option for those cases where it is truly needed, and I know that in this culture most women still "feel" safer in a hospital, and will therefore on some level "be" safer in a hospital.

There is just no way that 1/3 or more of the women in this country are physically unable to give birth the natural way. And you, as a devout Christian, must not believe that God would create that many women without the ability to give birth.

I have no doubt you need those c-sections, and I've read Karrie's birth story and I'm sure she did too. But 1/3 of women? NO WAY!!! If I'd gone with an ob in the area where I lived, they would have tried to convince me Guthrie was "too big" (he was over 9 pounds) for me to deliver vaginally, and probably would have tried to induce or schedule me for a c-section. He was born naturally, no meds, without a tear, in a birth center.

I just think the entire culture surrounding birth in this country is very, very sad. I find it very sad that women who do what they are biologically supposed to do - give birth naturally, vaginally - are viewed as trying to be some kind of martyr or are told they are "brave" or stupid for going without drugs. I think it's sad that the baseline is viewed as a medicated hospital birth, and doing what is undeniably natural is seen as a deviation from the cultural norm.

Of course I'm glad you were able to have c-sections. But I am outraged that tehre is ever a single case of a woman having one that she doesn't need, and I know that is all too often the case.

thordora said...

I agree Judy, and I wish I would have been brave enough to try it at home the first time (I've always wondered just why my first post partum hemorrhage happened).

There will always be births that need to be managed (the two people I know who almost died from preeclampsia come to mind) but most women are able to birth with little or no consequence. We wouldn't be here as a race is this wasn't the case.