Friday, April 27, 2007

Different better

It's a different kind of labor than someone headed for a hospital. Different better. And I'm really not a sensationalist. Nor do I consider myself way-holistic, or uber-natural in other parts of my life.

I was walking and talking with friends and my husband. Wearing my feathered and jeweled "birth crown" (hah). Wearing my water-backpack for hydration. And wearing a skirt, (which I never wear), for comfort and for femininity. Knowing I had nowhere to be. No schedule to keep. It was my second home birth.

I am the one who never dreamed of having my first baby at home--let alone a second. My mother swore by her epidural. Her painless journey had a happy ending. But the more I read about birth, and the more friends of mine, and friends of friends, who fell victim to the c-section check-mate of modern hospital/interventionist birth game--the more uncomfortable I felt with my original plan to follow in my mother's birth-steps.

With the first few sessions of our east coast Bradley(tm) Class under our belts and the book "The Baby Catcher" clutched tightly in our hands, my husband and I waded into the idea of a natural birth, and we ended up with a full-on home birth. Twice. One in D.C. and one in San Francisco. After all--what sense would it make to have a natural birth all hooked up to machines and/or in an aseptic hospital environment with (sometimes) cranky nurses poking and asking you if you're 'ready to give up on that natural birth yet?'

'Oh, but the doctors and the medicines and the intervention in case of disaster would be there', you say. But no... not so much.

The doctors are never there--not until "the end"--after hours of pain and questions, confusion and second-guessing. "The end" is a fleck of time. It seemed like a millisecond compared to the rest of labor.

As it turns out, doctors really know nothing of how to care for a woman in labor. It's simply not what they are trained to deal with or care about. I was so stunned when I finally figured that out. So if your labor is normal--you never see your doctor. A midwife is there with you during labor, by your side for hours, sometimes days, helping you cope, reassuring you, giving you (or helping your partner give you) what you need and keeping away all things you don't. Right through to the birth. And then for hours after that. Not to mention the pre- and post-natal care that builds you up and backs you down to and from the moment of birth with 30-60 minute appointments that are 5 parts therapy, 3 parts hanging-out-with-a-new-best-friend, and 2 parts healthcare.

Then there's the medicines--It turns out, there aren't really any medicines you need. The best medicines are comfort and family and security provided by the caregiver that's been by the side of hundreds of women through hundreds of complete labors--telling you that all is going well. She's seen this pain before. She's seen this stage, this moment, this struggle. She knows. And then you know. You can do it too. Just like all those other women before you. And there is nothing to fear. So different from the kind of feedback that western medicine offers women who labor in hospitals.

Then there's the intervention in case of emergency: And there's some truth to this. But the other truth is that nearly all serious conditions requiring medical management at birth can be predicted during gestation. Your caring midwife would see them in advance and graciously, gently transfer your care over to a physician--and she will stay with you even then. And in the rare case that something would present itself during labor, that same wonderful woman--ever vigilantly observing and monitoring--would hear, measure, or sense that it was time to transfer this birth to a hospital. And by your side she would travel. You would never be or feel alone.

For all these reasons and realizations. We chose a home birth. Twice.

Read this part:
To be cared for by a midwife is decadent.
Go back and read the line above again.

It's the kind of healthcare you can only dream of. It's how you've always wanted to be treated. I've done it twice now, and I still can't get over how much care was lavished on me and my sons. Two different midwives. Opposite sides of the country. Same standard of care.

Midwives are amazing.

Thank you to Eileen and Maria. You are both amazing amazing women. I loved my births. -- Bradee

Ian Gregory

Eli Sydney

Ian and his midwife, Eileen. She's giving breast-feeding pointers during his first post-partum visit

Eli and his midwife, Maria. He's getting is weight checked at his first post-partum visit


amy said...

this is a beautiful contribution to the internet. it articulates what i wish i could tell every pregnant woman i meet so that she could receive care like you received. congratulations on your excellent choice for yourself as a woman and as a mother. tell everyone your story all the time!!!

The Isabeli said...

I got a little weepy reading your post and know now more than ever that I'm making the right choice in having my baby at home. Thank you!