Friday, July 10, 2009

Why I'm such a home-birth nut...

When I was pregnant and I told people that I was going to have my baby at home, I got one of two responses: "Wow, you're brave," or, "Yeah, that sounds like you!" I wasn't really sure how to respond to either of these. What I really wanted to say was something like, "No, I'm not brave. In fact, I think the women who have their babies in the hospital are braver than I am." Of course, that would have sparked a full-blown dissertation on the safety of home birth and the dangers of hospital births, and I really was never up to that, what with the morning sickness and all. Of course, I'm not sick anymore...

So let's talk a little about homes, births, hospitals, and paranoia. I'll get to each one in turn. It's quite obvious that the comfort factor of the home birth is unrivaled. Be it ever so get the idea. There are no I.V.s, no hep-locks "just in case", no fetal monitors, no elastic girdles, no hospital gowns, no adjustable beds, and no interference from the woman laboring down the hall. What is there in a home birth setting? Whatever you want! Candles? Incense? Your own bed? You got it. Your baby is monitored intermittently, which (according to every study on the matter) is equally as effective as continuous monitoring, but has a LOWER rate of c-sections. That is because there is such a margin of error for misinterpreting the fetal monitor readings and thinking the baby is in distress when it's really just going through normal birth. So there's a plus.

Of course, you CAN have just about all these things in the hospital as well, if you're up for a fight (or just happen to be lucky enough to find a mom-friendly hospital). But there is one thing present in a home birth that will NEVER be found in the hospital. Know what it is? GERMS! That's right - YOUR germs, to be exact. You know, the ones you've been getting used to for months and months and building up an immunity to. You make antibodies to fight off the harmful germs in your own house, and you pass those on to your baby. So no matter how "clean" the hospital is, unless you've lived there throughout your pregnancy, you're not immune to what's out there. What you ARE immune to are the germs in your very own home, and since that is what your baby is exposed to during a home birth, HOORAY, no infections! I know, I know, I'm stepping on a LOT of toes, but it really just make sense to me. Why would I want to take a newborn baby - whose immune system isn't functioning on its own - into a big building full of sick people? Whose brilliant idea was this? I can't tell you the number of people I've known or talked to whose babies have had MRSA. This is a hospital infection, everyone. You don't get it from your house. You get it in places where they've killed off all but the strongest of bacteria and thus created an army of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that you can't get rid of. This is exactly why I no longer have antibacterial products in my home. You can't kill them all, and if I'm going to have bacteria all around me, I want them to be weaklings! I shall not be exposing my newborn to staph any time soon.

And we won't even go into the statistics on the OUTRAGEOUS rates of c-sections and unnecessary interventions in hospital, or the astonishingly high rate of injuries and deaths caused by medical intervention (the stats on that one are hard to find, but they ARE out there). Seriously, a 40% c-section rate is ridiculous.

"But what if something goes wrong?" I love this one. You know, it takes 20-30 minutes for them to prep for surgery when you need an "emergency" c-section. If you live less than 30 minutes from the hospital, you can call when you leave, and they'll be all ready for you when you arrive. Same waiting period. Either way, if you need help in less than 30 minutes, you're screwed, even if you're in the hospital. And that's IF you need one. There are so many things you can do for various "complications" (as they are often erroneously called) that don't require surgery or panick. Seriously, people need to relax.

Now I'm not one of those people who think that doctors are just out to "get you." I don't think that at all. They really do want to help. I think the problem is no one told them that birth is not a medical condition. They are trained to help when things go wrong, and of course, they want to be helpful, so they tend to see things that maybe really aren't there - or aren't what they appear. I've done it, myself, in other areas. It's hard to feel helpful when there's nothing to fix! It's only natural - of course, so is childbirth. We have all been trained to think of birth as a medical emergency. Thank television and cinema for that! Most doctors have never even seen a normal, natural birth. It simply is not their area of expertise. Midwives, on the other hand, ARE trained specifically in natural childbirth. A certified nurse midwife has a Master's degree that includes years of training in birth only. Doctors have a rotation for a little while and then move on to something else. They simply do not have the training necessary to assist a natural birth. Just because they have the "higher" degree does not mean they are right for the job. When my car breaks down, I don't take it to a neurosurgeon! I take it to my mechanic who, although he hasn't had as much "schooling" as the neurosurgeon, is the expert in fixing my car. It's just common sense. Midwives do normal birth - doctors do surgery and emergency fixes. Go to the one that specializes in what you're going to do!

When I recently went to the emergency room (for an unrelated ailment) the triage nurse asked me if I had a primary care physician. I said that I didn't and she asked who my O.B. was. I replied that I didn't have one. With a confused frown, she asked, "Who delivered your baby?" "I did," I said, "after all, I carried him. Ain't no one else gonna have him for me!" She kind of laughed a little and just said, "wow," like I had accomplished some great feat of daring and bravery. I am not brave. I like to think I played it safe by having a home birth. I didn't do it because I wanted to be a "hero" or because I wanted to "prove something." I did it because I wanted my baby to be born in the safest place, in the safest manner, and with the best of care. I did my research, and I made my decision. Women have been having babies at home for simply dozens of years and the human race has not died out.

I am, indeed, a "hippy jungle girl" (as I like to refer to myself) and think life would be wonderful if we just lived a little more simply and didn't get so worked up over little things. If having my baby at home makes me brave, then having a baby in the hospital must make one a superhero, and you couldn't pay me enough to do it! If home birth is safe, comfortable, relaxed, simple, natural, and beautiful, then yes, home birth definitely "sounds like me," and I consider that a compliment.


  1. Don't hate me for saying this, but I do think you're brave!! Mostly because I never even considered this and I hate hospitals! My labor nurses both times were really rude. If I knew I didn't have to clean up afterwards, I would really consider doing it at home if I ever had another baby. Convincing Eric would be a totally different story, though....

  2. Haha, yeah, Brandon had to deal with clean-up, and was not happy about it, but mostly because the midwife was yelling at him to clean up right away when all he wanted to do was see his son! We shall not be repeating that mistake. Next time I think we'll invest in a pump to remove the water from the tub, but other than that, it wasn't bad at all.

  3. Another great post! I intend to do a post putting together some of the stats from homebirth safety studies. It's been done before but I feel the need to do it on MY blog too. I don't know if you read my birth story, but I wanted to HB but moved to Korea in the 3rd tri and couldn't get it together in time. Check out my story and you will understand how I truly feel about this because even after all that we went through, I still want to UC my next one. Your mw comment above is the kind of crap I want to avoid. Plus I am just a solo laborer anyway.

  4. And since you apparently like to cook and are vegan ;) here's a recipe I am trying this weekend...