Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why I Choose Natural, Out of Hospital Birth

I’ve had a few people ask why I chose childbirth out of the hospital. There are many reasons for my decision, but these are just 8 of the main ones. Like anything else someone does, it’s a personal decision. Natural childbirth is not for everyone. I was blessed to be able to experience it, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who is healthy enough to do it. But as it is, I can’t make someone’s decisions for them. I can just tell them my reasons and try to educate myself enough to be able to back up those reasons.

I want to preface by saying that not all of these reasons might be true to everyone. I was very blessed to have the midwife I do and the care that I received. This is neither a doctor bashing post, nor an anti hospital/medical post. I’m just stating the reasons for my choice in an out of hospital birth and how much of a great experience it was. Not all doctors are bad and not all midwives are good. It comes down to the pregnant mom, what she wants and what she’s comfortable with.

My “OB” is my family doctor. So in order for me to find someone to deliver my baby, I would have had to find a new doctor. I’m not a fan of changing doctors and I am not comfortable with meeting someone for the first time and have them be in such a personal relationship with me right off the bat. It’s not something that I ever wanted to rush into just because I was pregnant. It would have required way too much research that I didn’t really want to do at the time. Plus, I really like my OB. Now, I realize that most people will have to meet a new midwife if that is the route they want to take, but for me, I already knew which one I wanted to use. I feel that the bedside manner of most midwives is something totally different than any doctor I have ever met. I could be wrong, but it’s from my experience and from stories of other people.

Labor how I want
For most women in hospitals, they are required to stay in bed and on their backs while in labor. For most, this isn’t the best way to labor. It doesn’t let gravity work with your body to allow for the baby to come down the birth canal. In fact, it can slow labor. In the birth center, I was able to get up and walk around (which, it just so happened, was not my favorite position to labor), sit on a birth ball, take a hot shower, and pretty much be in any position that was comfortable to me. I was not restricted to a bed. As it was, I was able to get in the tub and have the water birth that I have wanted to have for years.

No pressure for drugs/interventions I don’t want
I knew straight off the bat that I did not want any epidurals, Pitocin, C sections or any other interventions that the hospitals would have wanted me to have. When you are in labor, you really have a hard time making decisions. That’s why it’s important to have someone that knows what you want that can speak for you. If I was at the hospital during my transition period, I would have wanted an epidural. Which they probably would have given me, but it would have been too late for it to give me any relief. If I had gone to the hospital too early, they would have admitted me and if I was still in labor after 12-24 hours (depending on the hospital) they would have given me meds to speed up the labor or told me that I needed to have a c section to get the baby out. It wouldn’t have been necessary as my body knows what it’s doing. God doesn’t make mistakes when it comes to His creation.
An episiotomy was also something I did NOT want. I feel they are unnecessary unless it’s a dire need. But most of the time, it’s not necessary. I feel that most doctors perform them to speed things up. But in reality, if they would take their time and let the process happen naturally, then they can prevent severe tearing and the need for an episiotomy. There are certain circumstances where one is necessary, but I feel that most of the time, it’s the doctor’s impatience that makes them “necessary”.

No hospital protocols
Once you are admitted to most hospitals, they put you in a hospital gown, start an IV (or at least put one in place in your hand), and put an electric fetal monitor on you. All of which restrict your movement. Plus, I hate needles more than anything and the idea of an IV is something I am not a fan of. I would have also been restricted to ice chips and water only. Labor is long and very hard work. How are you supposed to stay energized without food? It’s impossible. The reason they restrict your food intake is because they are preparing for a c section, which is major surgery and you aren’t allowed to eat before major surgery. The C section rate in the United States is 31.8%. The World Health Organization recommends a rate between 10-15%. Most women who end up having to have “emergency c sections” is because they were denied food for their long labors and got worn out and were no longer able to go on. They would have also taken the baby away from me as soon as he was born to do all the check ups and stuff like that. It is so important to have as much skin to skin as possible as soon as possible to promote bonding and breastfeeding. I’m not saying that you can’t bond with your child after a c section or anything like that. I’m just saying that is it recommended by most doctors and midwives, but so many of them make the mother wait. All the weights and measurements and stuff like that can wait. The baby will still weight the same and be the same length after a few hours. As it was, I was able to spend as much time with Aaron as I wanted to before the midwives took him to measure him.

Nurses and doctors are busy
When you go to the hospital, you are not the only patient. There are many other women that nurses and doctors are dividing their time between. Sometimes it gets hectic. So you might not have the same nurse throughout labor. In fact, you might come in a few hours before a shift change and then you have all new nurses that might or might not be up to date on you and your situation. The doctor basically acts as a catcher. He comes in right before the baby comes out to catch him. Then he leaves to deliver another baby. Sure you’ve talked with him during appointments and know him ok enough, but he might not know who you are if you saw him at the mall. He might even want to induce you early because he has a vacation planned. I’m not saying all doctors do this, but I’ve heard of it happening. Or, if something happens and he’s out of town, then you have a whole new doctor to deal with.
From the beginning, Lisa informed me that her best friend was getting married on September 11, 2 days after my due date. So we had a back up midwife in mind and I was ok with that. About 2 weeks before my due date, she wanted to go out of town for the weekend. She called me to make sure that was ok with me. Someone women freak out if their midwives go away a few weeks before they are due. But I thought it was very thoughtful of Lisa to call me to ask if that was ok. What doctor does that?
When I arrived at the birth center, I was the only person there. I was her only priority. She got me anything and everything I wanted or needed. She personally cleaned up my vomit off the carpet. After delivery, she spoon fed me yogurt so I could continue to hold Aaron. She was in no hurry to be anywhere else that day. When I called her at 3am, she cleared her schedule so that she could focus on me. Although I’m not sure how busy her schedule was on a Sunday, but either way, I was her focus. I came first.

Relaxed environment
From the very beginning, Lisa (our midwife) made sure we were comfortable. Not just with her, but with the whole natural birth, out of hospital experience. I never felt rushed during our appointments. On contrary, I felt like she would have kept us there for hours to answer every question we had. I never had to deal with random nurses that I didn’t know. Lisa was always the one we dealt with. She was not above taking my vitals, weight, belly growth, or anything else like that. She did it all herself, or the help of the student midwife that was working under her. She even invited my in laws to the birth center to have a tour and answer any questions they had about her or the birth process. My mother in law had a bad experience with childbirth with her first born and so she had some concerns about not having a baby in the hospital.
When I came in while in labor, it was the same calm atmosphere. We chilled out in the bedroom before we got bored. Then Lisa suggested we watch a movie downstairs so we wouldn’t be so bored. Once it became too hard to concentrate on the movie, we moved back upstairs to the bedroom and I was able to labor in silence. There was no nurse that was coming in every hour to check me. Lisa would wait until I was ready before she did anything. She talked in a soft voice and even quoted me scripture when I felt like I couldn’t go on.
When I got into the tub, it was the same calm environment. Even the other 2 midwives stayed quiet and talked in hushed tones so I wouldn’t be distracted by them. There was no, “PUSH PUSH PUSH”. I was able to push when I felt like it and stop when the desire went away. Lisa tried to help me with relaxing and breathing but wasn’t pushy about it. Nuge was by my side the entire time. He was able to catch Aaron and put him on my belly. He was able to cut the cord and he was the one who found out if Aaron was a boy or a girl. The whole experience was family oriented. When it came to checking how much Aaron weighed, Nuge got to do that too. We were not rushed into anything.
After delivery, Aaron and I took an herbal bath and could stay in there for as long as we wanted. It was a great bonding experience and very relaxing. After the bath, I was able to wash my hair and feel clean again. We were able to stay at the center for as long as we wanted or leave when we wanted. As it was, we decided to leave about 4 hours after giving birth. What kind of rest do people really get in the hospitals? Probably not much. The birth center knows that people rest better at home in their own beds and in their own environment. Of course, they made sure Aaron and I were both ok enough to go home. They also gave us a packet of information on how to care for a newborn and how to take his temperature and other vitals at home to make sure everything stayed great.

Love my midwife
I first met Lisa when she delivered my niece 3 years ago. I also went with my sister to her appointments when she got pregnant with her 2nd baby. So I knew how great Lisa was even before she became my midwife. She was, and still is, very encouraging and filled with knowledge. She loves Aaron and is never shy to hold him and kiss him and talk to him. She has a calm demeanor that was very helpful during labor. She came to the house 2 days after delivery to check on Aaron instead of us having to go to a doctor’s office. She loved on him so much and it was very sweet to watch. You can just tell how much she loves her job. She also came back to the house a few days later when I was having trouble breastfeeding. She worked with me and gave me suggestions and names and numbers of lactation consultants that she knows personally.

7. Drugs CAN do more harm than good.
I’m not naive enough to know that drugs only cause troubles. But for a lot of women that have normal pregnancies and no history of high risk issues in their family history, medications can cause trouble that is unnecessary. If a woman is induced with medication for whatever reason, it makes labor so much harder. The hormones that the medications provide are a lot more than what the body will provide naturally causing the contractions to be so much harder and intense than if the body had gone into labor naturally. This almost always causes the woman to need an epidural. Sometimes, the combination of the medications can cause the labor to slow down. This then requires more medication to help speed it up. Sometimes breaking of the water is “necessary”. But from what I’ve learned, the water bag acts a cushion for both mom and baby. Instead of the baby’s head pushing directly on the pelvic bone of the mother, the bag is used to cushion the push and make it more comfortable for both. Also, the combination of the meds can cause heart rate problems for mom, baby or both. When that happens, it almost always requires an emergency c section because someone is in trouble. But if the mother was able to go into labor on her own, deny the drugs to make it more comfortable for her, then most of the time, emergency surgery isn’t required. Now, of course, there are exceptions to all of these. I have a friend who was 15 days past her due date, her baby wasn’t growing, and her midwife was worried. She was required to go to the hospital to be induced. She had an epidural, and there were heart rate problems with her baby, but by the grace of God, she did not require a c section. And of course, if you are a high risk pregnancy, then none of this applies. I’m talking just about healthy moms, pregnancies, and babies.

I’ve never met someone who had a terrible birth experience at a birth center
In our birth class, most of the moms there were 2nd or 3rd timers, but first time out of hospital. Almost all of them came to the birth center because they had a terrible experience at the hospital. Some of them, it was their 3rd birth with the same midwife. When talking to people, it’s a hit or misses on if they liked the hospital experience. For most of my friends, it was a terrible experience. Some of them liked their doctors, but not the way they were treated at the hospital. Some of them loved every bit of the experience. But, in all the people that I’ve talked to or met who had birth center or home births would not do it any other way. Some of them have used the same midwife for all of their kids. The treatment is so different than at a hospital.