Friday, November 04, 2011

Going Against The Grain

Addendum to my mentioning home birth in my post yesterday:

1. I have given birth 4 times without medication or epidurals (I had one with my first; I tried to have one with my second, but it didn't kick in until after she was born. That made me realize I could do it). I also did it unmedicated while on pitocin (all of them). Unmedicated child birth is not new to me. I'm very low risk. I have large babies, but rarely need stitches. My babies are good nursers. I've never had gestational diabetes, severe water retention, or problems throwing up. Everything about me is, quite frankly, normal --when it comes to labor and delivery.

2. My midwife is not a doctor, but she is beyond competent. Not only does she have 10 of her own children, but all she does is child birth. She doesn't do infertility or surgery or high-risk pregnancies. She focuses completely on the home birth experience. Between she and I, we will have all the supplies. She brings the tub. She brings the oxygen. She brings the materials needed to clean up and to resuscitate if necessary. She brings at least two other assistants or apprentices with her. She is trained in the art of pain relief, hypnobirthing, massage, essential oils, homeopathic remedies, and the anatomy of the woman's body. She is prepared for emergencies (except the surgery) and will not do anything stupid. if I need to transport to the hospital? She will do it. But she will know BEFORE the emergency happens that I'll probably need a transport. She won't put my life in danger over a lifestyle or an experience.

3. Home birth is statistically safer than hospital births. (Trust me. It is.) The reason we don't hear about the tragedies in hospitals but we DO hear about the tragedies at home is because when it's outside the hospital, it's a news story. In the hospital? The norm. The statistics are skewed based on sensationalism and societal prejudice over "going against the grain." However! One midwife, who has delivered nearly 1,000 home birth babies in Utah, has only had to go to the hospital for 2% of her patients, and they weren't for c-sections --they were for pain relief (requested epidurals). I could go on forever with the studies, the results, etc. but instead, I'll point this out:

There are women who have emergencies, who sincerely, desperately, and gratefully are put into the hands of competent and kind doctors who have saved their lives and their babies' lives. We are lucky to have such medical care! But those are the exceptions. The majority of women are not high risk. They do not need medical intervention to labor and deliver a baby. What they have is not a disease. What they need, instead, is a relaxing environment, a strong support system, and a chance to let their bodies do what they were made to do.

So, I don't have a problem with the medical world intervening when it's necessary --I know of at least 4 of my friends who would, literally, be dead without it (ruptured uterus, fused pelvis, etc.). But they are still the exceptions, and I get upset when women are treated like the exceptions. Or are told they should be treated that way. Or EXPECT to be treated that way. The majority should never be treated as the exception --especially when the majority could actually be harmed by it.

There is actually a pattern that happens:
Woman goes into labor. She is strapped down to a bed with fetal monitors and contraction monitors and iv's sticking into her veins. She sits on the bed. Her labor is "slow", so they start her on pitocin. The pain gets intolerable (see pitocin) and she hasn't prepared for unmedicated childbirth because epidurals are handed out like candy. Or if she did prepare, she can't handle it (see pitocin) and the epidural is administered. She continues to labor on her back (the worst position to labor in, hands down). She pushes when they tell her to, but she can't feel it. Again, she's on her back --worst position to deliver in. She keeps pushing --no progress. Forceps come out. Fetal heart-rate starts to drop. She pushes and pushes and after a few hours, she's told that if she doesn't have a c-section, she will die. Her baby will die. Someone will die! She has a c-section. It's over. And the c-section was completely unnecessary. It's a snowball that begins with being strapped to the bed with monitors (and even though you can move around with the monitors, it's mentally being strapped down. Most women don't realize they can, or it's stressful to keep the dang things on!).

Again, this is not the true emergency. If it was, I wouldn't mock it. I'm not talking about ruptured uteruses or lack of heartbeats or fused pelvises or prolapsed cords. Those are real emergencies! This scenario is the majority of women being treated like the exceptions.

Now imagine, instead:
Woman goes into labor. She labors while walking, sitting, lying on her side. She labors in the bathtub (the water is a natural stress/pain reliever). She has no monitors or iv's --she doesn't have strangers coming in, poking and prodding, and making her sign waivers, and try to convince her to get the epidural. She labors slowly and works with her body. There is no time limit. Nobody is rushing her. She is prepared mentally and emotionally. She's learned to not fight the contractions, but to breathe and relax through them; to trust her body, to trust the process, to trust her baby. When the baby emerges, it's usually after 4 or 5 pushes. Each one is powerful because each one is felt. Is it easy? Of course not. It's LABOR. But it's easIER because of the environment and the preparation. The baby is then handed directly to her when she is born (or the woman herself pulls her child out). She can nurse right away. For nearly an hour or more, mother and baby bond. The baby is not whisked away to be measured and weighed within seconds. In fact, the cord is not even cut for a long period, making sure baby receives any nutrition left.

I've ALMOST had the second experience 3 times. ALMOST. But not quite. Because I was still strapped to monitors and iv's, and I was still lying in a bed.

Not anymore!

I know why people are nervous about my choice. It's because of the exceptions. It's because they were in the first illustration and they refuse to acknowledge that it could have turned out differently --because their doctors told them they would die. And doctors are gods to our society. Women aren't ready to believe that maybe there's another way to give birth. Because of the exceptions.

My awesome sister, whom I love and respect, had this conversation with me once:

Her: "I tense up too much. I need the epidural to calm me down so I can actually progress."
Me: "That makes sense. But, did you think that if you ever took the time to learn how to relax through the contractions and progression that maybe you could do it without the epidural?"
Her: "Yes. But I don't want to learn how to do that."

Fair, enough, dear reader. Fair enough. At least she knows there COULD be a different way. That she chooses not to learn it? Doesn't bother me. It's her choice. I respect it. Another friend:

"I've had babies without the epidural and with the epidural, and I prefer the epidural."

Again, fair enough.

I will not judge a woman for choosing different than me. I promise --no matter how this post sounds. It may sound like I'm judging, but I promise I'm not. I'm just trying to illustrate how I came to MY decision, and how all of these things have influenced me.

Me being frank: I didn't stumble upon these ideas. I truly had great friends who pointed out to me how my experiences could be different. I didn't listen right away, but I did tuck their knowledge and experience away, and when I was ready, I pulled it all out and applied it. And I'll be forever grateful to those friends, dear reader, who didn't worry about sounding "judgemental" --because they changed my life for the better.

All done. For now. :) Have a great weekend!


Esther Noelle said...

Great post Cheryl! :) I think most women just don't even know about these options! And most doctors haven't even ever seen what normal childbirth can be like (sans monitors, lying on back, etc)! It's great to educate people on the fact that homebirth is a safe option. When I meet with Sherri for our hour long visits I feel so bad for women who don't even realize this kind of experience and care is an option. I'm just so grateful I have discovered it!

Cheryl said...

Thank you, Esther! Isn't Sherri the best? It's so fun that we are both going to her... :)

And I think you are right --most doctors never see a "normal" childbirth because they are always in hospitals (even in medical school) following "exception" protocol. Good point!