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Entries in birth center birth (2)


Love Letter

In my email today. Just in time, too.

"Hi, Barb.  You don’t know me. We’ve only communicated a couple of times, and by email or blog comments at that.  But you changed my life. 

I had a hospital birth with my first child – a great hospital birth, honestly, even knowing what I know now.  At the time, I chose family practice OB care and a hospital delivery as not just the safest option, but the ONLY safe option for delivering my baby.  Through a combination of lucky factors, I ended up with a low-intervention OB (who had apprenticed with midwives!), a baby-friendly hospital, and a quick labor with few interventions outside of an epidural, IV, and continuous fetal monitoring. But when my sister-in-law chose to deliver her first child at home, I knew I had only two choices; I could either get on board with her decision, or I could remove myself emotionally from her pregnancy and birth. It’s not OK to be constantly dogging someone’s pregnancy with doubts and fears, and I wasn’t going to do that. 

In my homebirth research, I found your blog, and I read it avidly, and I started to question some of my assumptions.  Between your blog and lots of other research, I learned that the incidence of birth complications that can’t be resolved outside of a hospital AND that come on very quickly with no warning is, actually, incredibly low. Like, you’re probably at a greater risk when you drive to the hospital.  (Further research and some NTSC number-crunching showed that yes, for the majority of Americans, you take on a greater risk of substantial complications by driving to the hospital for a low-risk delivery than you do by delivering at home; the likelihood that you’ll get into an accident while driving distracted for 20+ miles is higher than the risk of a problem developing at home that can’t be fixed by a transfer.)  I emailed you and told you my birth story, and you said “Oh hell yes, when you asked for the epidural, you were in transition, 4 cm or no 4 cm.  You were right there. You could have done it.”  And after talking to my husband and realizing the degree to which he HATES hospitals, I decided that if I could ever get pregnant again, I would deliver at a birth center, with midwives. 

I did get pregnant again.  (After two more miscarriages, totaling four.)  My pregnancy was completely textbook and uncomplicated, modulo a couple of borderlike GDM screens and some preterm contractions that were stopped pretty easily.  At 39w2d, my prodromal labor started amping up and regulating, and after some discussions with the midwife, we decided it was time to head to the birth center. . . 

. . . and then I got the call.  For the first time ever in my midwives’ practicing history? The birth center was full. FULL.  No room at the inn.  We could either drive to another birth center 40 minutes away, with strengthening contractions that I was feeling largely in my sacroiliac joints and a history of precipitous labor, or we could do this at home.  After some quick discussion, we decided to convert to homebirth.  My husband and my doula scrubbed out our giant tub and tidied the hell out of my master bedroom, my mother bought plastic tablecloths and triple-wrapped the mattress, the neighbors brought over a plate of sandwiches, and we sent my daughter over to her best friend’s house. 

I am so glad we didn’t go to the birth center.  My contractions were kinda strong but irregular, and the midwives advised amniotomy (I was having a LOT of ligament pain and couldn’t really walk or change position very easily, and the thought of doing that for hours was very exhausting).  They broke my water at 6 cm, which threw me basically instantly into transition; after 25 minutes I got in the tub, where I instantly began to feel pushy, but my midwives didn’t want me to deliver in the water because I’m heavy enough that in the case of a dystocia or other emergency they couldn’t lift me without risking their own health, so I tried to hide it. (HA.)  But after 20 or 30 minutes in the tub, I had a contraction that I just took a deep breath and bellowed through for 90 unbroken seconds without changing pitch or tone, or pausing, or taking a breath, and they said “Yeah that’s your last contraction in the tub.” I said “I will fucking CUT you if you make me get out of this tub” but they did anyway – my doula had to count me down like a recalcitrant toddler – and got me onto the bed to push.  That was at 3 PM.  My son was born at 3:08, after I just hollered him out of my body. 6 lbs 12 oz of amazing miracle; 78 minutes since the amniotomy. 

It was so lovely. It was so peaceful.  When we were done, we were home. . . he was born in the same bed where he was conceived.  I had very little blood loss, no tearing, and his apgars were 8 and 10.  I’m still not in love with unmedicated labor, but it was worth it to stay out of the hospital.  And my GOD I felt good afterwards. 

Without your blog, without your passionate advocacy, would I have had the courage to deliver at home? Maybe. Probably, even; I had a lot of other resources on the web.  But it was definitely an easier decision to make having read your accumulated wisdom, in large part because you tell it like it is and don’t shy away from the risks.  

My son is ten days old, sleeping on my shoulder as I type this, tummy full of milk.  He’s been out of the house a handful of times already, but every time, it was by my choice. I could have kept him here, at home, in my arms, since the instant he was born.  He is my second and last baby. . . I am so grateful to have had this gift of having him at home.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. 


Thank YOU, Kathryn! You were the salve I needed today. Bless you and your family. Enjoy your BabyMoon.


I'm Offensive...

... and oh, so proud!

I don't know about y'all, but when I find a blockade, I love to knock them down. See a warning about a site? Gotta know what's so dang bad (good? juicy!) about it!

American Prayer was sent to me this morning. Not just because I am (obviously) voting for Obama, but because Dr. Wonderful is in this star-studded video! 3/4 of the way through, after the homeless vet, right after Woopi Goldberg, Dr. Wonderful is holding a baby. He's also writing a book about birth (in the vein of "Babycatcher") and was supposed to be on an episode of Scrubs, but had a baby that night. That man's connected!

The issue of birth trauma (something that needs a label put on it if I ever heard one) came up over the weekend in two different types of articles. The first addresses birth trauma directly, the second, indirectly.

GUERILLA MOTHERING: Mama’s baby drama doesn’t have to cause trauma says,

"The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in new mothers. Evidently, traumatic hospital births with a lot of medical interventions are leaving moms severely emotionally scarred. Imagine that! Someone comes into your hospital room, you’re already half-naked, scared, and in pain, and tells you that the baby you’ve carried and dreamed of for so long might die if they don’t do a certain procedure right away-and even then, no guarantees you’re going home with your little one. Yeah, I’d call that a little traumatic."


"...he was born out of my numbed-to-the-point-of-paralysis body after a long night of drugs, having my water broken, and lying around practically tied to a hospital bed, as nervous as though a firing squad was waiting for me on the other side of labor. The very moment he was born, I held my arms out for him, desperate to hold him — but the Dr. took him away immediately to be examined on the other side of the room. I still tear up, just thinking about it, seven years and two additional births later. Is that a sign of trauma?"

And after her third, a homebirth,

"There he was. Healthy, serene, perfect. There is a photo of me, smiling, holding him in my arms, immediately after he was born. I had finally outrun those birth demons, and what a prize.

"It was the most beautiful thing I have ever done, and it truly changed my life. I went on to change careers, write a book, visit a monastery for a week, play roller derby — all kinds of things that I still think are not as cool as having a homebirth, but I would perhaps not have had the confidence to do, had I not named and claimed the birth of my third miracle child. That is the total opposite of trauma, without a doubt."

What's so sad to me is that she had to swing all the way to a homebirth to find the birth that empowered her the most. I am so frustrated, knowing Dr. Wonderful births, watching/hearing, over and over, the birthrape, birth trauma and birth abuse that happens in hospitals when it simply doesn't have to be that way. Keeping women and babies safe (the whole explosive reason/explanation for the massive amounts of technology and "inconvenience" to women in hospitals) just doesn't have to be so damned dramatic/traumatic! If I hadn't seen there could be other ways, I would never believe there could be other ways. But, I have - and there can.

Should We Push for Better Birth on Television as Well?, a blog post by the Massachussetts Friends of Midwives talks about how birth on tv is incredibly over-dramatized and how helpful it would be to see a variety of midwives in a variety of birth situations so women could see how birth can (and should!) be.

I wrote one of the most profound sentences in the comments section (if I do say so myself):

TRUE natural birth needs an agent.

The article speaks about the over-dramatization of birth shows, yet sings the praises of House of Babies, a show about a birth center in Miami, Florida. While the births are unmedicated and, compared to hospital births, the women are permitted free movement, the actual births are almost always in the lithotomy position (not flat on the back, but close to it) - even in the birth tub.

Shari Daniels trained and worked in El Paso where, for the most part, women birth on their backs. In fact, unless a woman precip'd, she delivered on her back. Easily 99% of the time. While on House of Babies it might seem the women are on their backs for good camera angles, I can hear the imploring of the midwives in almost the same words, English or Spanish, as the midwives in El Paso. I have long felt we are products of our training and experiences; it isn't unusual for Shari to nudge birth along at the end since it seems to work just fine. The urgency is just as palpable on House of Babies as it is on Babies: Special Delivery.

I wonder if I'd want a camera watching a birth I was doing. Talk about being judged for actions! Am I ashamed of what I do? Not at all. But I don't know if I could take the amount of scrutiny I know would happen. I wonder how many midwives would/could want Discovery cameras in their birth arenas.

I assisted at a birth once and the client permitted a camera woman who was photographing Rites of Passages in our culture. She not only took photos of that birth (and I purposefully took none), but also of a Bris of another midwife's client. The photographer, an intern for our San Diego paper, disappeared with the photos - never to be heard from again. I'm a tad wary of bringing in an outsider anymore.

Plus, watching Mindy's birth (Psalm and Zoya) be massacred on Discovery Health, it's hard to trust the media at all!

But, how do women get to see natural births? Is it really only through edited YouTube videos? How does the slow unfolding of birth get portrayed... the mundane-ness, the down-and-dirty boring reality of it all?

(And I don't mean I am bored. I mean that many labors plod along and that is perfectly normal and wonderful. It's one reason why I LOVE the Labor Day Birth Day on Discovery Health; one gets to see births in real time - and how many births really are drugged and end in cesareans. Natural birth can be hypnotizing in its contracting, moaning repetition.)

If women saw birth on its undramatic terms, would women be so afraid of the pain? I don't think so. Even the unmedicated women in hospitals are confined to beds; no wonder they scream! The women on House of Babies moan, but don't often holler.

If our culture could get the taboo issues regarding sexual expression and childbirth out of the way, labor would look much more delicious than painful. Reminding women that sex looks scary to the uninitiated (kids, for example), but really is a delightful journey that sometimes includes moaning and hollering. So, too, can birth be the same. I think our repressed society struggles with the sounds, smells and similarities of birth and sex, hence medicating, covering up with non-descript gowns and mechanizing the whole experience so we don't have to be reminded that our genitals are involved.

Hmmm... where did that come from?

Food for thought, though.

True natural birth does need an agent. Wonder who she is.