Why We’ve Chosen A Home Birth
Hang on, no, this one’s not ours!
We have another four weeks until our due date, but isn’t he just gorgeous?
This little guy was probably born a very short time frame before this shot was taken; I’ve been attempting to memorize what babies look like at every stage from our extensive research above and beyond the work we’re doing with our doula, our childbirth class teacher and our midwife and I’d guess this little one is a pretty recent arrival!
What struck me about this image was the natural beauty of this photo; surrounded by water, cord and placenta still attached and what appears to be a very peaceful entry into the world, from one aqueous medium to another.
Which is precisely the way we’ll be welcoming our baby into the world, a mere 28 days from today!
Just as I’ve devoured any opportunity to share valuable information on the significant impact of what we eat and how it affects us, mind, body and soul, since I began this blog back in 2007, my newfound niche of learning and subsequent education on the vast field of childbirth has become a topic about which I am equally as passionate.
Some of the things we’ve learned along the way weren’t that surprising, such as some of the textbook dietary recommendations both for pregnancy as well as for what foods to introduce first to babies, while others were eye-opening at the least, and alarming, even terrifying at the worse.
Specifically, the entire process of giving birth, we have learned, in the US, is presented from a fear-based, medical viewpoint, so much so that even we initially planned on having our baby in the hospital, for no other reason than that’s just what you do.
I vividly recall a conversation I had at 4 months pregnant during which a family member asked if I’d be having the baby at home, to which I replied, “absolutely not… too risky.”
But was it?
With time on our hands, hubbie + I dove deep into this topic, in addition to all the learning we’d already planned on doing in advance of actually become parents to a tiny human, as much as one can do prior to birth that is.
Having seen case after case of clients being put through the ‘health care’ system, getting sicker, more medicated and more frustrated prior to beginning our work together, never having been asked once about what their food sourcing, type or intake looked like, I gather I should not have been quite as surprised that the business of being born, as the documentary with the same title shares, but I was.
Simply put, it is a business and not only are we not given all the information we need in order to make an intelligent decision about how and where we’d like our babies to be born, we’re also presented with the notion that it will be traumatic, it will be so painful that we will want to be medicated and quite possibly could be the most awful thing we’ve ever experienced.
I can’t help but make parallels to sport, having been an athlete for most of my life. For you runners out there, do you recall being told before you ran your first marathon that it goes without saying that at mile 16 you’d hit a wall and that certainly, at mile 22 you’d ‘bonk’?
Neither are facts yet both, when presented as such, plant a seed of an unfavorable outcome of what is sure to come and in many cases, does manifest since the runner is quite sure it will.
These are all sentiments shared with me by real women and while three statements on their own might not seem like a lot, knowing that these emotions are far more typically seen versus approaching this magical time with a mindful and calm headspace imparts a sense of sadness for what will easily be taken away from so many women.
How about instead, remembering that the body knows what to do and that if we treat our pregnancy mindfully, eat properly, rest and exercise, we’re setting the stage for less complications.
If, in addition, we learn to spend more time in a space of positivity and trust, we can invite in and experience fully what is one of the most powerful things a woman’s life can present.
Let me preface what’s to come by stating that I believe every woman, every family must make their own decision as to what is comfortable to them when opting for a home versus hospital delivery.
Certainly, there are times when, for example, a C-section is a medical necessity when mother or baby’s health or life is at stake and ’m not anti-medicine by any means and acknowledge that I’m writing this prior to giving birth.
My emphasis is simply on getting more of this invaluable information out there, so that we can all make our own best informed decision for what can be a beautiful welcome into the world.
Some of the stats to be cognizant of which I found most alarming:
- Less than half of American women who gave birth in a 1-year period surveyed in a study were allowed to have labor begin naturally, as opposed to being induced (1). Letting labor begin on its own with the optimal number of oxytocin receptors and optimal levels of natural oxytocin on board increases the likelihood that labor and birth will progress successfully and that breastfeeding and attachment will get off to the best possible start. Once pitocin is introduced, increased incidence of postpartum hemorrhage occurs as does a decreased chance of being able to begin labor with optimal levels of endorphins. It can also affect lactation and latching as well as increase risk for respiratory problems at birth and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.
- About 1 in 3 American babies are born via cesarean. According to a 2017 Consumer Reports study, about 26% of healthy women with low-risk pregnancies and full-term babies positioned headfirst (therefore typically considered equipped to deliver vaginally ) end up undergoing c-sections (2) This is well off from the 10 to 15% that the World Health Organization considers a “normal rate” for safeguarding against maternal death. Countries with rates that go beyond that, WHO says, don’t show any improvement in birth mortality rates.
- Women are often presented with the option to have a C-Section for reasons such as, “It gives you a lot more control over childbirth than waiting to go into labor naturally; you can choose the day, the surgeon, and you know exactly how it will happen” (3) or that somehow this major surgery will involve less potential pain than a vaginal birth. Are these women also educated on all the side effects that a C-Section brings, including that Caesarean birth prevents important bacterial functions from being passed on, impacting immune stimulations during the first days of life and may explain why caesarean-born children suffer more frequently from chronic immune disorders (4)?
- The umbilical cord is often immediately cut in a hospital setting (5); cutting the cord too soon after birth might stress the baby’s heart, increase the risk for bleeding inside the brain, and increase the risk for anemia and iron deficiency (6).
- Erythromycin, an antibiotic, in the form of an eye ointment is typically applied to the eyes of newborns in order to prevent ophthalmia neonatorum (“ON”) which causes blindness in 3% of affected infants (7). However, Adverse effects can include chemical pink eye, blurred vision which could potentially interfere with bonding by disrupting early eye gazing between the newborn and parents. Plus, erythromycin is not 100% effective at preventing gonorrheal ON; it had a 20% failure rate due to growing resistance and may not be effective at preventing chlamydial ON or ON from other non-gonorrheal bacteria.
- Historically, it has often been hospital protocol to bathe the baby in the first few hours after birth, in order to remove amniotic fluid and blood from your baby’s skin. But bathing doesn’t only remove the aforementioned fluids from your newborn’s skin, it also removes the vernix caseosa, which is a white substance found on your baby’s skin and leaving it on your babe has many health benefits, including natural antimicrobial properties, temperature regulation and moisturizing properties to baby’s delicate skin. Even if you only delay the first bath for 24 to 48 hours, your newborn benefits (8).
That’s only the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t even factor in some of the fundamental basics.
How would you feel in your own home, your own clothing, free to move around as your body dictates, focused on a calm mindset compared to being hooked up to medical devices, numerous people checking in on you repeatedly and possibly being rushed and urged to introduce intervention which may be unnecessary?
For us, the first step was deciding to hire a doula, a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible (9).
The great thing about working with a doula is that she or he can be present at any birth scenario, from home to birth center to hospital, and is there completely to be your advocate.
Our doula also happens to be an experienced yoga teacher and it was a comment she made which really sparked the idea for us to have our baby at home. Without suggestion to any of the students present in one class, and not even during a prenatal class, she merely asked us whether we were making decisions from a place of belief and trust… or from fear.
It was then that I realized that for us, opting to have our baby at home ‘just in case’ or ‘what if’, wasn’t the right fit.
Fortunately, Chris felt the same way and just to be sure, we still took the tour of the hospital with which the OB I’d seen for years was associated with and we knew immediately our decision was the right one.
Through our doula we have found an incredible midwife and through here, our childbirth / lactation teacher.
Further, we’ve received some incredible recommendations for resources to learn more and below, I share three of the documentaries we’ve found crucial to our own learning and subsequent decision:
- The Business of Being Born, an exploration of the maternity care system in America
- Orgasmic Birth, a film about creating a space for a woman to labor and birth with privacy, respect, support and confidence so that her body is able to release the hormones, which nature so wonderfully designed, leading to a more satisfying and even pleasurable birth experience
- Birth Day, Midwife Naoli Vinaver joyously gives birth to her third child, Tamaya Okumura Vinaver, at home, sharing her exquisite and intimate home birth in the lush mountain countryside of Xalapa, Veracruz.
We are in the minority, undoubtedly, with only 1.5% of Americans opting to have a home birth (10), but for us, it is our best decision and we couldn’t be happier or more peaceful about it.
Again, it is my hope that this post serves only to stir some thoughts and to help encourage readers to do as much research and learning as possible in the months leading up to the birth of your babies.
Certainly there are many who have healthy, happy hospital births with zero complications and I truly feel that’s fantastic.
It’s personal choice and we’ve all got to approach with whatever rings true to our heart, soul and beliefs.