Jan 7, 2011

Home Birth

The Home Birth DecisionI chose to have a home birth for both of my children. One of the first things people tell me when they hear this is "Wow, you’re brave." Bravery is a relative thing. My mother has eleven children and all but eight of them were born in the hospital. After experiencing a home birth with her fourth, she knew that this is what she wanted for all of her children, and as the oldest in my family, this is what I grew up knowing. I was living at home while attending the university when she had her last home birth and my youngest sister was born. I loved my mother's midwife and greatly desired to have her assist in the home birth of my future children. I felt comfortable around her, I was impressed by her expertise, her calm, confident demeanor, as well as her spiritual gift she for her work. I never actually attended one of my siblings births, but I knew that my parents cherished their home birth experiences. Add that to the fact that I am scared of hospitals, and you can see that bravery had nothing to do with the home birth decision.

Choosing a Midwife

It is good to check out a few different midwives and see who you and your husband feel most comfortable with. Some midwives are more medically oriented, which is better for some, whereas my midwife, while having that training, is much more natural in her approach, which is great for my family. Most midwives are more then happy to meet you before you make a commitment. Your midwife is a person you're going to be trusting your life to, inviting into your home, and sharing one of life’s most spiritual experiences with, the home birth of your child, so its really important that you feel comfortable around them and that you can trust them.

Prenatal Care

The most important part of prenatal care is to take care of yourself and to eat healthy foods when you feel hungry. I love this article about staying healthy as a parent from all-about-motherhood.com. Prenatal visits for a home birth typically last about an hour. The first one is done at about 10 weeks, and you fill out some paperwork and hear the heartbeat. She'll also help you check your due date. She does a basic check-up with every visit, makes sure you're feeling all right, answers questions, etc. That's one thing I really like about having a home birth (with any midwife), you really get a chance to get to know your midwife, and ask questions with personal time you don't get in the hospital. My midwife knows a lot about homeopathics and herbs, and during the checkups she often recommends things that I should do and eat to help me take care of my baby. I know the homeopathics that she gave me really helped a lot. I didn't know much about them before childbirth, but now I'm a believer. I really learned a lot from her. She is also a very spiritual person, and she has a calming presence during labor, which really helps with the sacred atmosphere. I truly believe that birth is sacred, and all babies are miracles. She was very good at reminding me in the midst of everything that I was giving birth to a baby, and that really helped me stay focused. I went to her house for most of the prenatal visits, and toward the very end she came to my home so she could get be familiar with the route to get here. After she delivered the baby that was due before me, she actually brought most of her equipment to our home, so that it was quick and easy for her to set-up for my home birth. My Mom had eight home births with three different midwives, she was the last, and since my freshman year in high school I was hoping she'd still be doing it when I had a baby, so I didn't shop around at all, and still don't think I had to.

Water Birth

Both of my children are water babies. I first heard about water birth while taking a hypnobirthing class and became interested but hesitant. I asked my midwife and she told me that about 80% of her client’s births are water births. After a little homework, I became excited about the idea. What a beautiful, gentle thing for the baby to go from one water environment to another. It was wonderful for me too. Water is so relaxing, and it was much easier for me to work with my body in an environment that invites you to relax. With my second labor, once I got in the water, my back pain was gone, but that wasn't entirely the case with my first.
My midwife has a great tub. She purchased a NEW cattle watering trough, and it actually worked great because it was very sturdy and large. I know some of the inflatable tubs aren't as sturdy, but with this one I was able to really lean on it for support without fear of breaking it or pushing the water out. I love telling people that my children were born in a cattle trough. It really opens the window for discussion! My midwife calls it a cowboy jacuzzi. It's made of plastic, so it was light; two people can easily carry it. I've seen tubs like it from 70-100 USD. I was in the water during all of hard labor and it was wonderful. She put a lot of different essential oils the water. I don’t know what they were, but they smelled great and helped me relax. During my first birth I was surprised at how intense labor really is, and being pampered really helped me feel secure and safe in those vulnerable moments.
Having a water birth in the hospital has become more and more popular lately, although others, like my local hospital, will not allow it. There are some amazing tubs created solely for water birth. My local hospital has two jacuzzies for labor, but they don't allow you to bring your own tub. Some hospitals do. Your other options for having a water birth are to find a birthing center or to have your baby at home.
My mother-in-law also showed me this birthing photo. Maybe it's a little bit graphic, but I enjoyed it.

My Home Birth Stories

Peter's Home BirthPeter was my first child, and his home birth was the first birth I had ever witnessed, aside from birthing videos I had seen on the internet and during my hypnobirthing class. I was very optimistic about the experience and somewhat naively went to the birth expecting it to be like some of the videos I had seen. Well, to be honest, IT HURT!! I was not exactly the perfect patient. I screamed, I cried, at one point I even hyperventilated while a coach tried to help me do some breathing exercises. But, in the end, I held a beautiful, healthy baby boy. There were no complications except for some tearing which my midwife expertly took care of. During his birth I verbally stated that I was having second thoughts on having a large family. "How did you do this 11 times?" I asked my mother, and she wisely told me "one at a time, which is what you're doing right now. Just focus on this birth." Within a week I knew I still wanted a large family, and that I would choose a home birth again, as I discovered the joy of motherhood.
I came away from that experience a little bit scarred. I knew that birth could be more beautiful that what I had experienced. I knew that it could even be pain free, and even wonderful. There was a part of me that told myself that I was a failure. My husband likewise had that impression in himself, for he knew how important being a labor companion was, and he had shrinked, feeling helpless, and hurt by seeing me in so much pain. Of course, both of us assured the other that we had not failed, but those impressions were very real, and needed to be worked through. I was not a failure! I had given birth to a beautiful baby boy, given him a water birth, and provided him with the best environment to meet his needs that I could provide. I had given birth naturally, and my determination and love for my child had carried me through. I had become a mother. And my husband had become a father. He held my hand during the hardest moment of my life. He was in the tub with me to support me and hold me. He was there.
Helen's Home Birth
  Although I had overcome my feelings of doubt from my first birth, I was very determined to have a better experience with my second child. I went to a birthing conference where I heard Valerie Halta speak about birthing (She is a famous midwife. If you do a search on her name, you will find many excellent articles written by here about home birth). I read several books about natural birth, including Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, (highly recommended, even though I'm not quite as crunchy as she), and whole-heartedly embraced my pregnancy. I reminded myself that a balloon is much easier to blow up the second time, and that likewise my body already knew how to give birth. I would have a better experience this time.
During my third trimester, while I was worshiping in the temple, I entertained some of my fears, and admitted that I was frightened of giving birth again. It was the first time during my pregnancy that I had allowed myself to admit it. I remembered how intensely it had hurt, and I was scared. I said a little prayer to my Heavenly Father and asked him to strengthen me. Then I had a beautiful experience. I felt the spirit whisper to my heart, "What is the opposite of fear?" Immediately I knew that faith is the opposite of fear. I felt a calm, peaceful feeling as I realized that I had perfect faith in my ability to birth this baby. I had faith in my body. I had perfect faith in my midwife, that she would know what to do, and that if there were any complications, she would know how to handle it. I had faith in my husband, and I had faith in our decision to have a homebirth. What was the source of my fear, then? Ultimately, I was afraid of pain during childbirth. That was it. That was the only thing I was afraid of. Even with Peter's birth, the pain had an end, and what a beautiful ending it was. I realized that my overall impressions and hopes for this second birth were surrounded by faith, and not of fear. Again I felt a sweet prompting, "Thy faith hath made thee whole. Go in peace." And I did. From that moment on, I had no fear for the birth experience, and looked forward to meeting my child.
My faith was well founded. It was a beautiful birth. The only real pain I experienced was during crowning, and at that moment I knew that I was almost done. Most of the labor was truly pain free. Intense, yes. Work (i.e. "labor"), yes. Painful? Actually, no. I was amazed at how I was able to work with my body, how I was able to embrace the calm, beautiful moments in between contractions. I used those moments to relax, regain my composure, and strengthen my spirits. It worked beautifully.

Singing During Labor

Have you ever read about how the human heart works, only to discover that your heart is pounding? Our thoughts have a profound effect on our body. In medicine we hear much about the placebo effect, but we hear very little of the nocebo effect, where negative thoughts adversely effect our body's power to heal itself. I experienced my own nocebo during Peter's home birth when I was told to breathe, "hee hee hooooo, hee hee, hooooo", and other similar exercises traditionally used during birth. For me, it was a bad idea, for instead of gaining control over my breath, I started hyperventilating, and my midwife had to get the oxygen out for me, and all breathing exercises were wisely abandoned.However, breathing properly during labor is essential for mother and baby. I thought a lot about this during my second pregnancy, and having been trained as a vocalist, that correct breath support comes naturally to me when I sing. I didn't have to think about it. In fact, I could instead focus on peaceful images surrounding the song. I created a CD for labor for me to sing to, and during every contraction, I sang along. There were a couple of long instrumental parts that were playing during some of the contractions, and it was those contractions that were the hardest for me. Next time, I'm going to edit those parts out. Singing was invaluable to me. The music I chose consisted of spiritual music, like some of my favorite hymns, as well as jazz tunes. I secretly plugged in the Ewok song from Star Wars because I thought it would be funny, and I knew that humor could help during labor. It was indeed very funny to see my midwife and mother change expressions entirely when the Ewok laughter filled the room. One contraction made easier...

The Role of Laughter

Speaking of which, laughter is another technique you can use during labor that can help tremendously. During the first phase of labor, I was whimpering during my contractions, and my midwife told me that I was bouncing, which was really helping the baby, so I should try to bounce as I cried. This hit my funny bone, and I laughed really hard while she was checking me. She said that I dialated almost four centimeters during that contraction alone, from 4.5 to 8 centimeters. Why was that so funny? Because in High School, I played the part of Ermengarde in Hello Dolly, and every scene I was in, I had to cry a different way. One of the scenes had me crying to my fiancé as he practiced polka dancing across the stage. He assured me that things would be alright, and then asked me to cry a little faster because my slow cries were throwing him off. I pouted a bit more enthusiastically, and with more prompting, I cried with a regular rhythm that helped him dance across the stage, as the curtain opened for the next scene. So here is my midwife asking me to cry in rhythm, and my laughter opened the door for an easier labor. Who knew that high school drama would help me with a home birth years later?Another funny moment during labor was when the song "You're the Top" played on the CD, and the words "I'm a toy balloon that is fated soon to pop" came on, and I thought about it in a whole new way. Other songs have likewise changed for me during pregnancies, such as "I've got you under my skin", and Mr. Roger's "It's such a good feeling to know you're alive, it's such a happy feeling, you're growing inside." Even when I didn't have anything funny to laugh about, forced laughter made my contractions easier and more efficient. Shortly before Helen was born, I commented that it hurt too much to laugh anymore. My midwife told me that it didn't matter much because the baby was coming fast no matter what I did, and within 10 minutes I was holding my beautiful daughter.

In Summary

If you are thinking about it, this home birth website will dispel some of myths surrounding home birth and give you some answers to your questions. I know that a homebirth is not for everyone, and that health reasons can make it impossible for some. I respect that, and I acknowledge that modern technology has its place. There are definitely scenarios where I would be grateful to have a hospital birth. Birthing centers for some are the marriage between the home birth privacy and atmosphere, and the technology of the hospital, and more and more hospitals are offering a better environment for birth. However, interventions in the hospital are becoming more and more common, epidurals are the norm instead of the exception, and some hospitals have more than a 50% C-section rate, which is entirely unnecessary. Litigation, fear of liability, and the ease of scheduling have more to do with the high rates than the medical need for surgery from the patients. There are also fantastic doctors who take good care of their patients and help them make the best decisions for their babies.

Reducing Infant Mortality from Debby Takikawa on Vimeo.

I'm going to make a personal comment and observation now. You may choose to agree or disagree with me, but I wish to make this point. I think that home birth is a lot like homeschooling. Under some very rare circumstances, it can be a total flop, yes, but generally speaking, what normally happens is that the mother is informed and educated about the process, and the environment can be tailored to meet the needs of the family. The needs of the mother and child. And when you look at the big picture, the statistics come highly in favor of the home environment. Birthing Centers, like private schools, can offer more, or may offer less, depending on the private institution. Finally, while there are fantastic doctors out there, and wonderful teachers, who really care about their patients and students, they are working against a system that simply doesn't work. Institutionalized birth and education are not in the best interests of the individual. In the home you can have the best control over the environment, and have the freedom to allow what nature intended to take place. I have faith in my body, I have faith in my children, and I have faith in my ability to raise them well. I have faith in the home birth experience.
Helen Faith Spackman was born on a beautiful spring afternoon. She was 7 pounds, 5 oz, 19 inches, and a very healthy baby. I look forward to having more children in the future, and the next time I approach the birthing experience, I will indeed have no fear.

1 comment:

Julianne said...

I love this. Your experiences with your home births are beautiful. I'm 24 weeks pregnant with my first child, and I'm having a home birth. I've always known I want to have my babies at home. My mom has always been into natural remedies, and that's what I grew up with. Five out of six of my parent's children were born in hospitals, but the youngest, my little sister, was a home birth, and I know my mom wishes she'd had all her children at home. Like you, I don't feel like I'm being brave to give birth to my baby at home. This is an idea I grew up with. It's normal to me. I want to be in a comfortable environment where everyone present is personally concerned with me and my baby, and that isn't going to happen in the hospital. Home births feel natural.

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