Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why I Chose a Homebirth with a Midwife

Almost four years ago when I was pregnant with Avery, I wrote a post about the five reasons why I was "going" to have a homebirth with a midwife. Fast forward 4 years and now I've had two home births, first with Avery, then with Mila and I continue to believe birthing at home was the best option for ME. In case you're wondering, we're done having kids so before I threw in the towel of the topic of pregnancy and birth I had to do one final post in honor of homebirths.

So whether you are a die-hard hospital fan, or on the fence about where to give birth, or maybe even a fellow homebirthing mama, today I will share with you my top eight  reasons as to why I chose a homebirth with a midwife.  Now if you are not a homebirth fan, that's okay too. I'm not trying to persuade anyone to choose the same as I did, I just want to share what my experience was like to hopefully help others who want to learn more.

About Midwives
Before we begin, let me give you a rundown of what it's like to have a homebirth with a midwife. My midwife takes the place of a traditional obstetrician, and my specific midwife does homebirths. Midwives view pregnancy and birth as a normal process of life, not as though there is something wrong with you that they need to “fix”. They simply support and monitor women during their pregnancy, labors, and births among other things. So for both of my pregnancies, my midwife Lisa from Awakened Birthing, did all of my prenatal visits in my home, when I went into labor, I labored here at home, and when it was time, she came over, helped us deliever both girls, and then she came over for several postpartum visits as well. Her services (which included all of the visits above) cost around $3,000 which was not covered by insurance. We paid this out of pocket, but when you figure the cost of co-pays for office visits, and then the cost of a c-section or natural birth at a hospital, I'm sure they are somewhat close in cost. And even if our home visit was more expensive, I would gladly pay that money to have the experience I did with both my homebirths.

With Lisa my midwife shortly after Avery was born.

When you think of the word midwife some people have this image of some old lady coming to a birth with a towel and a bunch of snake oils to treat the mom and baby. When in reality, they are very well trained and prepared medical professionals. My midwife came to me with a number of qualifications and training. She also has a list of “Transfer Criteria”  which laid out in detail anything that might come up during my pregnancy, the labor, or with the baby that may cause for us to transfer to a hospital…a common question that was often asked of me. Granted there are some women out there that are considered “high-risk” and their circumstances are such to where they need to be at a hospital. But for about 80% of pregnant women, who are considered low-risk, why get treated as though we are sick or at risk?

With our amazing midwife Lisa and the two girls she helped me give birth to.

With each prenatal appointment, my midwife tracked my progress, checked my vitals, and the baby, and went over a number of health questions with me. If at any time she were to see something that signaled a complication, we would then discuss the possibility of moving the birth and the remainder of my prenatal care to a setting that would more appropriately support it. But since nothing did ever come up, we were able to stay here at home for both births.

Showing me how to feel where Avery
is positioned.
One of my favorite aspects of using a midwife was the prenatal visits nearly all of which took place on the couch in my living room.  Usually we spend the first 30 to 40 minutes of our appointment chatting, and then it's time to check the baby! We checked their position, their growth, and their heartbeat with a doppler (my favorite part). And although I don't have any pictures here, you can see in the video that these prenatal visits became even more memorable once Avery was here and I was pregnant with Mila because she got to be a part of them. She would help feel where Mila was or help measure my belly. I loved having her around it all.

Using the doppler to hear Avery's

Now I didn't always feel this strongly about natrual childbirth and homebirths. When I was in my teens, we had to watch birthing videos in a "Family and Realtionships" class I was in and it was at that time that I swore I wanted to be "put to sleep," have the baby taken out, then I would wake up. Mainly it was the impression put forth by the media of how PAINFUL childbirth is that scared me to much so that I wanted to numb myself from it completely. 

But a year before Brandon and I started trying to get pregnant, I beegan to research (like I do for most big life events or just everyday things) what pregnancy, birth, and taking care of a newborn was like. Two of the most influental books and documentaries I read/saw were: The Business of Being Born and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Both of those opened my eyes to the idea that birth was something to felt and experienced, not numbed and or blocked out.

I saw and read about women in the book and documentary that were having these births at home and at birth centers and although I could tell they were in pain, they viewed it completely differently. They saw it as part of the process, something that came with the territory. They used unique methods to work through their contractions and instead of being in a hospital, some were in their own beds with just their husband and their midwife, something about that clicked with me and I knew that's what I wanted to do with both of my births.

Now that you know some of the basics of using a midwife, here’s my Top 8 Reasons Why I Chose a Homebirth with a Midwife: 

No time for the video? Here's a list of my reasons:

1. Less stress. Hospitals and doctor offices stress me out. Maybe it’s the sounds, smells, and formal-ness of it all, but all I know is that I don’t like it. Even back before I was pregnant, I would stress out about going to the doctor, even if it was just for my annual checkup. So when it came time to think about my prenatal care and my baby’s birth, I knew I’d be most comfortable outside of the hospital. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a more relaxing place than my own house.

Now after reading this book, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, I had a whole new reason to feel relaxed during my labor and birth, it’s because of something called “Sphincter Law”- which is the idea that your cervix is like a sphincter, the same kind that you use when you urinate or have a bowel movement. Can you imagine doing either of those things in a setting other than a private room where you feel at ease and stress-free? I know I couldn’t!

My favorite thing she says, “If you can’t poop and have a whole group of people watching you, it might be a bit difficult to have a baby in that same atmosphere.” I can’t even imagine being spread eagle and naked on a hospital bed with various doctors, nurses, and interns filtering in and out… there’s no way this sphincter of mine would open one bit! Ina May says that sphincter’s are shy, and if the owner is scared, they will close right up…exactly the thing you don’t want your cervix to do when you are trying to have a baby! So how do you avoid that? Go where you’re comfortable, relaxed, and your sphincter feels safe. For me, that place is at home.

2. Choices- For a long time I thought that when you have a baby you just have to go with the system in place and hope it works out for you. Little did I know… you can take control of your birth and choose exactly what it is you want. After watching dozens of birth videos on YouTube and reading several birth books, I started developing several strong preferences for the kind of birth I wanted to have. Some were: to try birthing in water (this birthing tub is what I used for Avery's birth), have dim lights, quiet voices, relaxing music, as few people present as possible, to wear my own clothes and not a hospital gown, the freedom to move around wherever I wanted…whenever I wanted, and uninterrupted bonding time right after birth, just to name a few. Pretty lofty goals and ideas right? Yes, maybe if I wanted all this to take place at a hospital, but change the setting to my house and it all becomes a little bit more realistic.

This is where Avery's birth took place, in her actual room. Dim light,
birthing tub, relaxing music...check, check, check!

3. Having my choices honored. Clearly if I felt passionate enough about some of my choices for my labor and birth, I defiantly wanted those choices to be honored. But I wasn't sure how much of a guarantee I would have of them all happening if I was at a hospital. I'm sure some of you have had hospital births where you've had all your choices honored and supported, but I've also heard from others who have had their birth plans thrown out the window by a mean nurse or demanding doctor. But with a homebirth I only had two people to worry about: my husband and my midwife and I trusted that they would honor my choices as best they could as long it was in the best interest of myself and my baby. 

4. Safer. While most people may think a hospital is the safest place to have a baby, I disagree because my home is cleaner than a hospital, not because I am a super-green cleaner, lol, but because my baby and I have already been exposed to all the germs currently present in my home, thus decreasing the risk of infection. Put me in the hospital where there are diseases, viruses, parasites, you name it…and no matter how many chemicals they use to kill all those germs, there’s no telling if they got them all. I just feel better staying out there in the first place. Even better, I can be as green as I want- no toxic cleaners, soaps, lotions, and other products I use.

5. Avoiding the Cascade of Interventions. This ties right into the “safety discussion” I had above, in how I also feel safer having my baby at home because the chances of me being given common labor drugs like Pitocin, having an epidural, or having c-section are greatly reduced. Granted if those are all things that you want to have, by all means…go to the hospital. But, for me personally, I want to have my baby as naturally as possible, so drugs and major abdominal surgery are out of the question for me. Now if an emergency were to  have come up and I had to have these things for my health, or to help my babies, I would do it in a heartbeat, but I preferred going into the labor as optimistically as possible and not seeing these things as an inevitable part of the process.

One of the main reasons, I have higher chances of avoiding this cascade of interventions is that there is much less pressure to “make progress” when I’m at home, as compared to being at a hospital on their time schedule. “What! You’re only at 4 centimeters dilated?! It’s been 7 hours…we better start you on some Pitocin to speed things along!” Those were not conversations that occurred at my births.  Oh and it probably helped to not have the anesthesiologist popping by every hour, seeing if I am ready for my epidural yet! By being at home the pressure if off to make those choices unless they become medically necessary and for me they never did.

6. No pressure to have the baby by my due date.  This was one of the biggest lessons I learned in my births and that was to TRUST MY BODY!  From the beginning, my midwife reassured me that my due dates are not set in stone, they are just windows of time from which the baby could be born before or after. She explained that certain women have longer cycles and others have shorter cycles so their due dates may be off by a few days. And even more, everyone is different!

Avery ended up being 11 days late and Mila was only a week (after being given the due date at the ultrasound I self-adjusted the due date because I knew my cycle is longer than most and so Mila would most likely be later as well).  Don't get me wrong, during the time I was waiting for Avery specifically I remember a flood of emotions, "What if she doesn't come out? Do I have to go to the hospital? Am I doing something wrong? Is that a contraction? Where are the contractions?" Even more, to be that far past my due date, most people at my work started asking me daily, "Why are you still here? When is your doctor just going to induce you? Is it healthy for her still to be in there?"

All these thoughts and comments started driving me insane! But luckily my midwife was very calming and reassuring and she said the longer Avery is in there the more grey brain matter she's building. And that she'll come out eventually, they always do! Her cut off for taking more active modes of stimulating labor would wait until 2 weeks after my due date. But on day 11, labor began and Avery was born that night. This was such an amazing lesson to me because despite all my worrying and stressing, my body knew what it was doing and I gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Here's a quote that really helped me get through that waiting period, so if any other moms are out there waiting for a baby to make his or her appearance as well, use this quote, it's my favorite:
"Slow down, 
calm down, 
don't worry, 
don't hurry, 
trust the process."
-Alexandra Stoddard

7. For transformational effect it's had on my life. When I first decided I wanted to have a homebirth, I knew it would be special but I had no idea what a lasting effect it would have on me. Truthfully it's taken me a few years to really come to terms with just how proud of myself I actually am for what I did. I have moments where I'm like, "Wow, I really did that? I had two babies at home without drugs? Are you sure?" These moments give me strength when I'm doubting myself and what I'm capable of doing or my self-worth. They remind me that I am stronger than I know.

But those aren't the only lessons I learned from my birth. Another lesson I learned was how it was okay to let someone help me. During Avery's birth I was scared, I didn't know what to expect, how long it would last, or if I really could do this whole "home birth thing". I was so convinced I had to tackle it on my own so I actually sent Brandon down to make lasagna (of all things) while I was in labor and just a few hours away from giving birth. Nice one mama!

And although I ended up accepting help from him later in the birth, I never really came to peace with the process of birth and instead I just wanted to rush through it and get it done.  So when Mila's birth came around I knew things had to be different. This time, without much thought on my part I found myself wanting to be with Brandon. It began as me just holding onto him during contractions. And from there I actually started kissing him during the contractions, a tip I learned from good ol' Ina May Gaskin, that was really helpful! It gave me something to do during the painful part of the contraction and even more, it helped me let my guard down and allow someone to support and help me. It's sounds boring and basic here when I type it but it made for really special moments between us that I will never forget. Granted it makes us blush a little when we tell it, but what better way to bring a baby into the world than in a room full of love right? ( :

I truly think this experience has brought us closer as a couple and I'm so thankful for it.

8. For the babies- No list would be complete without some benefit being mentioned for the babies.  My favorite part was that right after birth my girls were not rushed away from me to be cleaned, weighed, clothed, and swaddled. Avery's post-birth moments were truly my favorite of all time because she didn't even cry when she was born. She simply came up out of the water, and was placed on my chest. She just looked up at Brandon and I with the most innocent little eyes as to say, "Hi Mom and Dad."  We melted and fell in love instantly.  

Shortly after Avery was born.

I'd like to think Mila's was just as special, which it was, but she had her first bowel movement in a matter of seconds after being placed on my chest so it was a bit messier! 

Unlike at the hospital, things move slower in a homebirth. Obviously my midwife still checks the baby and me immediately after birth to make sure we are okay, but after that we wait to cut the cord until it stops pulsing and we don't even weigh her for a good half hour or so. These are some of my favorite pictures of Brandon because Lisa always allowed him to be the one to weigh the babies. 

Beyond that immediate post-birth period, I loved that my postpartum days were spent at home. I can't imagine not being at home, probably because I never experienced it at the hospital, but I just love that I was able to be in my bed with my blankets, my clothes, and my bathroom. For me the transition of having a baby is hard enough to come to grips with,  it just adds to it for me to not be in my normal location and with my some-what normal routine.

With Mila the day after birth.
Brandon with Mila getting some skin-to-skin time the day after she was born
in our bed.
Even more enjoyable the second time around was the fact that Avery got to meet Mila much sooner than at a hospital. Granted she did not take part in Mila's birth. Instead my mom came over when I went into labor and watched her the whole time as I was giving birth to Mila. Avery is kind of my freak-out girl and I didn't think that having her see me in pain would be helpful. Instead I think she would start to cry and worry about me. So instead we had her come in the next morning (Mila was born at night after Avery was already asleep) and that's when she got to meet Mila. I just loved how she just walked down the hallway from her room to our's and...surprise! You have a little sister now. That's one of my favorite video clips as you can see in the video is when she got to meet her for the first time. 

Meeting Mila.

With Mila the day after birth. 

So there you have it, the top reasons why I chose to have a homebirth with a midwife. If you have had a homebirth or used a midwife, share your experiences below. Or if you have any questions, post them there too!

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