Thursday, January 5, 2012

As Polar As Politics

In which we discuss things that have to do with girl parts and Big Choices.  Be ye warned.

The other night I got suckered into the first couple of minutes of One Born Every Minute, a show on TLC inspired by a teaching hospital about births.  Right there in the beginning of the episode was footage of a laboring mother who had no less than half a dozen faces shoved so close to her nether region I'm surprised the reason the baby wasn't coming more quickly was because there simply wasn't enough room to emerge.  A moment later during what must have been the height of her pain and already intense effort the educating doctor was forcing all of his weight between chest-compression hands (visualize CPR, one over the other), trying to force the child out.  It made me feel like I was watching a body builder squeeze a toothpaste tube as hard and fast as he could to go for a distance record and couldn't have been a better advertisement for having a home birth.

I shared the comment on Facebook in passing, just something I saw and felt like sharing the moment, never imagining the discussion that would commence.  Such is the importance of such discussions and sharing of experiences and opinions from both sides of the fence that I wanted to continue it here. Let me first address the very first question that was asked of me:  No, that post was not some backwoods way of sharing any exciting news.  Clif and I are not counting down to Then There Were Three.  Yet...

I turned 30 last month and for the first time experienced a birthday that brought me great anxiety, not because 30 is so old (it's not, I know) but because there were Things I wanted to have done by now, one of which has been tugging on my reproductive strings.  Clif and I have been talking about the big B-word and I've been less than silent about voicing my readiness to get on that bandwagon.  We still have some things to take care of first, but in the meantime I've had plenty of time to daydream and start thinking about those important decisions that will come along.  One of the biggest being hospital vs. home birth.

My exposure to different birthing methods has been both ample and limited.  Obviously I've never gone through the experience myself but I have lots of friends and family who have, especially in the last couple of years and have hit just about every check box on the list of ways to have your baby.  One family member planned for a natural birth in the hospital and ended up having two c-sections while another has had three children successfully at home (the last I was blessed to be present for).  Both (I feel) would say they had great experiences, even if they are on different sides of the fence, and have fabulous, healthy children. 

Part of why I analyze and discuss this topic now when I don't have a scheduled reason to is because it's a complicated decision to make with plenty of pluses and minuses on both sides.  It's stressful enough to think about without the influence of hormones and a deadline, I like to pretend I'm giving myself a head start.  And so I will share my current standing on the topic:

I am a fence rider.

One of my best friends had her first baby a year ago in the hospital.  Overall things seemed to go swimmingly for her and the family and getting to visit her gave me an impression of hospital births that I found quite appealing.  From my perspective it seemed to be a little bit of a smoother transition into life with a baby.  There were nurses and staff on hand to help provide care, infant transportation, and allow the chance for some stolen extra sleep for a night or two.  Again, purely my inexperienced interpretation.  The other benefit is well wishers can visit my hospital room where I won't have stress and anxiety about the presentability factor of my home should someone wish to visit.  At this point Clif would roll his eyes at me and tell me not to worry about how clean or not clean our house is but I'm simply not wired that way and the anxiety of it would case hives.  So, another check for hospital.

Another friend who had her baby around the same time, however, shared stories of having to fight with an inept nurse and is to this day still working on recovering some medical issues from her stay at the hospital.  Big deduction.  Another big deduction: a woman once asked on a birth advice board if there was such a thing as a "manual episiotomy" which initially caused confusion as there is no magic machine that performs the procedure.  Her clarification indicated that the "manual" part meant literally by hand.  As in two hands and ripping.  It's bad enough someone might want to come at me with sharp objects with intent to slice, but for a woman to express that such action NOT be taken and then to have her doctor override her decision not only by doing it but by doing it WITH HIS BARE (gloved) HANDS is terrifying.  HUGE deduction.  One of my biggest fears is laying out my expectations and what I would and would not want to happen during my birthing experience then have it all ignored or overruled, not being allowed to do what feels right for my body because someone says it should be done another way.  Labor and delivery is stressful enough, I wouldn't want to have to also fight for my choices.

My sister had three babies at home with the help of her husband, an aquadoula, an actual doula, a midwife and an assistant.  Her first daughter came in a posterior position (in other words face up and not helping) after 72 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing.  If she had been in a hospital I'd keel over from shock if they didn't do whatever they could to get her into surgery.  She persisted and accomplished her goal.  Check for home birth!  On the other hand she persisted for 3 days without any medication.  Deduction!  I admit I would like to think I could handle that kind of pain but I have my fears and doubts.  With a home birth you're also left alone, just two new parents suddenly thrown into figuring out how to make it work.  An hour ago: no baby.  Now: baby!  And, go!  A little less transition time is what I'm thinking.  I guess there's also a part of me that feels if we try it at home and something goes wrong or I feel like I need more help the hospital is just down the road.  Perhaps based on ignorance but feel I it would be easier to get TO the hospital than OUT of it should the decision change before the point of no return or someone comes at me with their ripping hands.

I suppose what I've learned so far is that I have no idea what decision I'll end up making and won't know until it's made and even then nothing is carved in stone.  Based on stories, experiences and opinions the bottom line is good and bad can happen anywhere for any reason.  What works for some won't work for others and everyone has to make the decision that is best for them, regardless of what was better for someone else.  I do feel, however, that it is crucial to be able to talk about it!  Everyone who shares their story is providing one more piece of information that can help an uncertain expecting mother make a potentially intimidating decision.  That said I invite you all to share your stories, your research, your reasoning.  It's all valid and it's all important.


  1. There may not be a nursing staff on hand post-delivery at home, but I've had experience in that department and can provide service as long as required. Then I can go home and not be in the way when that is what is needed.

  2. My disclaimer: Because of my experiences at home, I'm a big advocate of homebirths. That being said ... :)

    The main thing is for women to feel comfortable and safe. Though not all, a lot of problems that arise in hospitals (the ones that result in c-sections otherwise the mother and baby would have DIED) are caused by interventions, monitoring, and not letting the labor advance or subside naturally. When a woman feels truly safe and supported, and when her wishes are respected, she can usually give birth without every one up in her business.

    Two books helped me IMMENSELY in this area: Ina May's Guide to Natural Childbirth, and Hypnobirthing.

    Labor does hurt, but millions of women gave birth without medications ever since humans have existed. I don't think our generation gives women enough credit these days. We are strong! We can push a baby out!

    Another thing to consider is whether or not you want to breastfeed. Hospitals often push formula because of monetary support, and if you want to breastfeed, you have to be VERY proactive about saying no to pacifiers, formula, etc. Not saying there aren't wonderful lactation consultants out there, but it's easier for everyone to pop a bottle out.

    Last thing, the fear that something can go wrong during birth is totally normal. Because something CAN go wrong. Having a plan for when that happens is key, and living close to a hospital helps. That's what hospitals are for, after all. :)

    When the time comes, do with whatever YOU feel comfortable with. You know how much you can handle! (Although, after giving birth myself, I shocked myself with how I handled the pain. After you give birth, you seriously feel like you can do anything!)