Thursday, March 10, 2011

Home Birth

I understand that home birth is a controversial topic. As Americans we have the widely held belief that childbirth is extremely dangerous and that medical doctors are the only ones qualified to deliver babies. Beliefs doctors hold and are all too happy to have us believe (their livelihoods depend upon it).
"The obstetric tale goes like this: Birth is a risky business. Up to the early 1900's, many women and babies died in childbirth. Then doctors took over maternity care from ill-trained and ignorant midwives, and childbirth moved into the hospital. As a result, maternal and infant death rates plummeted, and today almost everybody lives healthily and happily ever after thanks to the skills of obstetricians and the superior resources available in hospitals.
The only problem with this story is it isn't true.
First, death rates did not decline as birth began to move into the hospital and under the control of physicians. They rose. In the 1920s in the United States, middle-class women began having babies in hospitals with physician attendants. By the mid-1920s, half of urban births took place there, and by 1939, half of all women and three-quarters of urban women, gave birth in hospitals. In 1915, prior to the major changeover, 60 mothers died per 10,000 births. Despite the shift, the 1932 U.S. maternal mortality rate reached 63 deaths per 10,000 births, and in cities, where hospitalization for birth was more common, it stood at 74 deaths per 10,000 births, substantially worse than the overall rate. Meanwhile, between 1915 and 1929, as the shift in birth site and attendant occurred, infant deaths from birth injuries increased by 40 to 50 percent.
Maternal mortality in the United States did not begin to fall until the late 1930s . . . Many factors contributed to reducing maternal deaths, including better living conditions and nutrition, child spacing, and the development of blood transfusions, but moving birth into the hospital and under doctor control was not one of them.
In fact, several studies suggest that the doctor takeover and institutionalization of birth actually retarded improvements in mortality rates." - Excerpt from "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth"
And these are just a few of the statistic. We live in a country where women spend more time researching what kind of a camera to buy, than they do researching where and how to give birth. So after two heavily medicated hospital births I finally got around to doing my research and was compelled to do things differently, for my safety and that of my baby. And in the event of a legitimate emergency I willingly would have went to the hospital. That's what hospitals are for: medical emergencies. Birth however is a natural process, not a medical emergency! Sure you hear home birth horror stories, but I have heard far more hospital horror stories and they are usually caused by some hospital intervention meant to prevent something horrific -- very ironic. And yes, true emergencies do occasionally occur, but far less often than you'd think and sadly most of them could be prevented with the right know-how. Knowledge that is being lost because medical doctors don't learn the information in medical school.
So call me crazy, but until you've actually read the facts you're likely to fall victim to the plethora of misinformation out there as I did (twice!).
Knowledge is power so do your homework. And don't assume that just because "everybody is doing it" makes it your best option. And try not to judge others (as I used to) until you have ALL the FACTS.

A few resources to start with:
Watch: "The Business of Being Born" (I've heard you can view it for free on Netflix.)
Read: "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth" by Henci Goer
"Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" by Ina May Gaskin

Monday, March 7, 2011

The play-by-play

I can hardly believe my little Oliver will be a week old tomorrow. He is the sweetest little baby and I am enjoying every minute with him. Anyway, I promised more details on the birth so here is the play-by-play:

Last Tuesday morning I woke up with some stronger-than-your-usual-Braxton-Hicks-contractions. But I didn't think much of them until I had a bought of diarrhea (a sign of impending labor) so I started washing the dishes and cleaning up. I even told my girls that maybe they'd meet their brother in the next day or two. I don't know why I told them that, because at the moment I really didn't think he would come so soon. I wasn't due for 12 more days. Then around 10:30 a.m. I lost my mucus plug and got a little giddy at the idea of having my baby soon, since when I lost it with my first pregnancy I went into labor the next day. So I called Mark and I called my mom just to give them a heads up that things might start happening in the next day or so. At 11:30 a.m. I met with my midwife, Chris, and told her about losing my plug, but she didn't seem too impressed since she'd seen women lose it as early as 6 weeks before delivery. She did, however, check her schedule for the next day to see how many appointments she would have to cancel in the event that I did go into labor. I kept telling myself that it might not happen right away, but I still wanted to be prepared in case it did. So after leaving my appointment I took Millie and Ivy to the grocery store and stocked up on some food. Then I went home and did laundry and some more cleaning. My mom was sure I was going to go into labor and wanted to come up, but I kept putting her off because I didn't want her to make such a long trip for a false alarm. After assuring her I was not in labor, I started noticing some mild contractions and decided to ask Chris to come and check me for dilation. She came around 5 p.m. and said I was around 1.5 or 2 cm. but still really "thick" and that the baby's head was not well applied. But since I never dilate much (if any) in advance, I still couldn't rule out the possibility that I was in early labor. Chris suggested I write down the contractions and see if there was any regularity to them. Meanwhile, she would be across the valley with a laboring woman in Hyde Park.

So during dinner (eggplant parmigiana cook by my sweet husband and of which he informs me I ate quite a lot) I had Mark keep track of contractions, which were not regular but were getting increasingly more painful during the meal. When I told Mark that they were starting to hurt he half-jokingly said, "You're going to scream." After that my memory goes a little fuzzy. I was indeed in labor! At some point (mom's phone says 7:23 p.m.) I called my mom and told her to start driving and had my in-laws come and take the girls. Then I had Mark get to work on getting the birthing pool ready. But I was hesitant to call Chris because I knew she was busy. When I finally decided to call her around 7:30 p.m. her student/assistant, Robyn, answered the phone and told me that the baby there was being born at the moment and that Chris would have to call me back. When she did call back it was between contractions and I was super pleasant. So when I told her that my contractions were 1.5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute, I don't know if she really believed me. But when Mark called her back 8 minutes later (at 8:15 p.m.) to report that my water had just broken, that got her attention. At which point she asked Mark if he was ready to catch. He laughed and said, "I have my glove ready."

OK, so some of you might be freaking out by this point in the story, but just so you know, neither Mark nor I were the least bit worried. The empty house felt very peaceful and Mark even said that he had always kind of imagined it as being just the two of us. And I was just focusing on staying . . . well . . . focused.

At the beginning of each contraction I would mentally ask myself, "Is it OK that I'm having this?" I would reassure myself that it was with a, "Yes" and then let my body go limp so the contraction could do its job. Then I would engage in a number of soothing activities including counting and visualizing quick progression. I could literally feel when I dilated (it felt like tingles or pin pricks on the cervix). Although the contractions were intense I knew that the "pain" was doing something good and was not actually injuring me so there was no reason to be afraid.

I think it's funny to note that between contractions I was busy trimming my toe and fingernails in the likely event that it would be a long time before I was able to get around to it after the baby was born. I even insisted on taking a shower so I could shave. Perhaps that was more of the nesting instinct kicking in to make sure I was ready when baby arrived. Haha.

At any rate the pool finally got full enough for me to get in. It was pretty hot (since we had anticipated it losing heat as it sat there but I needed it sooner than expected!) but it still felt good and helped with the contractions. I labored in there for 10 minutes at which point the baby's head started to crown. After that contraction it was the strangest thing to reach down and be surprised to feel the top of my baby's head. While we waited for the next contraction we heard Chris pull up in the driveway and were relieved she let herself in the house. We really would have been fine delivering without her (and knew she was on her way) but I was glad she made it in time. And 5 minutes later our little Oliver was born. Mark caught him as he came out and lifted him out of the water then handed him to Chris as I moved from kneeling to sitting. Then Chris handed my baby to me and instructed me to rub his back and talk to him to get him to breathe. I said, "Hi Honey. We made it!" Moments later he let out the saddest cry and Chris called for the time of birth; 8:37 p.m. Mark dimmed the lights as I continued to sit and fall in love with my baby. Mark called to share the good news with our parents and with Millie and Ivy who had only been gone long enough to watch one movie at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I stayed in the water and waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing while Chris worked to cool me down with a cold wet towel, since I was turning red from the heat of the water. When the pulse stopped Chris clamped the cord and Mark cut it. Then Mark held Oliver as Chris helped me out of the pool, dried me off and got me into bed. Then in just a short time we had Oliver nursing which was the greatest thing since both my girls had a very difficult time with that in the beginning, but Oliver has been so good.
I felt a little rushed through the whole experience since it went so fast (only 3 hours of noticeable labor). But it was an amazing experience that I will cherish forever. And there was no screaming, swearing, or crying; just a lot of moaning and some grunting. All my preparations paid off and I had my very first conscious, fearless, drugless delivery. And it's all on tape if you don't believe me. :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

He's Here!

Oliver Mark Weston joined our family Tuesday night, March 1 weighing 8 lbs. 14 oz. and measuring 21.5 inches long. Both mom and baby are doing well. More on the birth to come.