Friday, August 27, 2010

Home Birth... Why I Did It (& I'm Not a Hippie)

Not sure about where to birth, hospital or home? When trying to decide where to birth I always advise my clients to look deep into their hearts and listen to what it is telling them. Where will you feel safest? For some moms that is the hospital and for others it is at home.

Recently I had a client who was preparing for the birth of her second child. She was having a difficult time deciding between Sierra Vista or French Hospitals. She had a lot of negative feelings about her first birth but was choosing to return to the same hospital, even though she dreaded it, because of fears about safety issues for her baby. Her heart was conflicted. I encouraged her to listen to her heart and decide. She planned to return to the hospital of her first birth. That was the plan. It was all settled. Everyone knew that was the plan . . . until she was on the way to the hospital. Then her heart spoke to her again and said, "you have nothing to fear for your baby. She is fine and healthy. Go to the hospital where you think you can labor best." And that is what she did. She changed her plan.

Read one Illinois mom's thoughts about making her choice posted August 4, 2010 on Ireport at

I gave birth to my son at home.

And no, I’m not a hippie. I’m a college educated, business minded woman who made an informed choice about the labor and delivery of my second child.

Giuseppe Massimo “Max” entered this world at 11:46 pm on March 4th, 2010 in our bedroom of our Northbrook, IL home. I wouldn’t change a thing about the labor and delivery. It was one of the most incredible moments a family can have. I’d like to tell you a little more about what led up to that special moment.

When my husband and I first learned I was pregnant a second time, We weren’t even considering a natural birth, let alone a home birth. My first child was born in the hospital, I had been given an epidural, and I just assumed I’d do the same for the second. A few months later I learned that one of our neighbors had delivered all three of her children at home. I’m sad to say that my first reaction was “why in the world would anyone ever want to do that??” But something kept creeping up in my mind, I was truly intrigued by the idea. A few weeks later I talked with a friend who had done a natural birth. I’ll never forget the day when we met over coffee and I heard her birth story and the emotions she had around her natural childbirth. I was amazed by her story and yet sad when I realized my feelings about my first birth were nowhere near that happy, passionate or memorable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter dearly, but her birth was not as I had always envisioned. I then started to open my mind about the idea of natural childbirth and began doing some detailed research. What I found both elated and saddened me. I was thrilled to learn about all of the wonderful benefits for both mom and baby when childbirth is left to naturally run its course. But I felt so dismayed that the majority of women are never exposed to this information. They don’t really know they have a choice. Society puts so much pressure on them to have a fast labor, make sure it’s painless, and get in and out of the hospital quickly. There are so few natural birth advocates out there, likely because hardly anyone is doing it as its not likely to be covered by insurance or endorsed by your OB/GYN. Plus there’s a stigma. As I mentioned, I’m not a hippie, but everyone assumes you are some free lovin’, incense-burning, crazy lady that has no regard for her or her unborn’s health when you tell them you are having a home birth. The reality is that for healthy women with no pregnancy complications, natural childbirth is much safer and healthier for both mom and child (when the birth is attended by a certified midwife). If you think about it, people go to hospitals because they are sick, childbirth is the only thing they go there for that is a completely natural process. Why is that? Well, it all has to do with the mighty dollar. It’s a big business and insurance companies and doctors solve for the riskiest cases, and then apply that logic and methodology for all. Patients assume this is best, but its simply not. History has shown this time and time again.

I encourage you to do your own research on childbirth, but I’ll give you a bit of the basic info that I’ve learned over the last year. There’s more to childbirth then simply getting the baby out. A complex chain of events occurs with the mom and baby as labor and delivery progress. When left untouched, natural hormones enter the mother and baby that make the birth easier for both and also create a stronger bond with mom and baby. Natural birth babies are more responsive and much more likely to successfully breastfeed. Passage through the birth canal helps squeeze all of the fluids out of the baby’s lungs enabling better breathing after birth. The benefits of natural birth go on and on, all leading to a happier, healthier baby and mom.

So, why at home then? Sure you can have a natural birth in the hospital, right? Not always. You may go in with a birth plan, but hospitals have their own agendas. They minimize the risk and get you out quickly so they can get a new mom in. With 1/3, yes ONE THIRD of women in the US now having c-sections, I didn’t want to take my chances. The rate was under 5% in 1965 when hospitals began to keep track of the numbers. Now it’s over 30%! What happened? Well it’s not that women are smaller, or babies are that much bigger, it’s now a matter of convenience. But not for the mom, its for the hospital, doctors and insurance companies. C-section rates are actually highest at 5 pm and 10 pm. Why? So doctors can get the birth over with and get home for dinner or bed. They can opt for the c-section and be out of the hospital on their way home in less than 30 minutes. And at that point, weary moms are likely not to argue. You simply assume the doctor knows best.

I’m guessing that even with my natural birth plan, if I had been in the hospital I would have ended up with Pitocin (drug used to speed up labor, but reduces the mom’s natural birth hormones) and likely a c-section. At home it took me 30 hours to labor Max down. And at 9 lbs, it took me over an hour of pushing. Likely not something a doctor would have the patience to wait out. But my midwife stayed calm and relaxed, she knew the baby would eventually emerge. She was a great coach and I felt confident she had the experience to handle any situation. This is important to note, as I don't believe in unattended home births. A home birth should always have an experienced midwife present.

And sure, it was painful, REALLY painful. But the instant my son was born, I felt 100 times better than I did with my first baby. My connection with him was instant and he immediately latched on to breastfeed. My husband also enjoyed the experience much more at home. First, he always wondered why I didn’t seem to show a strong connection with my daughter when she was first born. With Max he was in awe of the immediate deep bond. Additionally, he was able to really participate. He was able to help much more at home and actually catch the baby as he emerged. Plus, we all got to sleep in our own bed that night. We wouldn’t trade the entire experience for the world.

My hope is that by sharing my story, I may encourage at least one mom to do her own research so she can make the best decision for her childbirth experience. Women need to start reclaiming their baby’s births. I’m certain almost all women are capable of a natural birth, and if they take back that right, we will have healthier and happier moms, dads and babies out there.

What speaks to your heart? Where will you feel safest?

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