Thursday, December 30, 2010

Experiences with Birth

Let me give you a little background about my first birth experiences.
When I was 16, my mom was planning a homebirth. I was horrified, and had no problem expressing my displeasure about her plans. She would only smile and say "That's okay. You're not invited to the birth anyway."
Then one October morning my dad woke me up before he left for work. He told me that my mom was having some light braxton hicks and he wanted me to check in on her every now and again.
I walked into my parents bedroom and the first words out of my mom's mouth were "Go get dad we're having this baby today!"

I ran out of the house like a possessed crazy person. My dad's car wasn't in the driveway. I ran to the street, but it was empty. I slowly made my way back to my parents room. There mom was in full mode. She was frantically scooping clean laundry into a basket. "I never got these put away. Just throw them in the closet and close the door. I don't want to look at them! Oh and I need you to make a lasagna I haven't done that either!" In a rare moment of teenage wisdom, I decided I should just go with the flow. I threw the laundry into the closet and closed the door. When I turned around my mom was kneeling on her bed, moaning softly. All of a sudden there was a baby head. My mom moaned again and said "his shoulder is stuck, I need you to look." I sat on the bed and shifted the baby's shoulder just a little, all of a sudden I was holding my baby brother.
The midwives showed up a few minutes later. They cleaned the room, did laundry and made sure baby and mama were both fine.

When I discovered that I was pregnant, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to have a homebirth. I was young, I knew very little about pregnancy and birth, so I went with what I did know. I scheduled a prenatal appointment with the midwife that my mom had used.
My midwife was WONDERFUL. She took time to answer any question that my husband or I had. Not only that, but when she found out that my mother-in-law was worried about the safety of homebirth, she not only openly discussed worst case scenarios with the three of us, but gave my mother-in-law her email address so that my mother-in-law could contact her anytime she had a concern.

Like my mom, I labored fast, and before I knew it I had a baby boy in my arms. My birth was a wonderful experience, that really set the foundation for our family. My son was premature, so we transferred to the hospital as per state law. Our hospital experience wasn't as nice. I was 18, I had a planned homebirth and I was adamant that I was going to breastfeed. The hospital staff was not pleased. They didn't believe that I had had any prenatal care. I had to call my midwife to verify for the hospital that I had care, and all of the testing done had come back normal. I had to meet with social services so they could evaluate whether I was fit to be a parent. I was cross examined multiple times about whether I was a drug user, smoker or had alcoholic tendencies. I was told breastmilk had no real benefits for preemies. The pediatrician didn't want to release my son because he wasn't formula fed. My La Leche League leader had to stop coming to the hospital because of the harassment she received from the nursery staff.
I realize that experience is not necessarily typical. Not all midwives are wonderful, and not all hospitals are terrible.

I'm not anti-doctor by any stretch of the imagination. I'm currently receiving prenatal care from an OB, and not a midwife. OB's have their place, just like hospitals.

However, I am anti- the mcdonaldization of pregnancy and birth.

Birthing options

After a lot of thought and prayer, I've decided to do a few posts on birth. For those of you who don't know, I became a certified doula after the birth of my son in 2005. While I am not currently practicing, birth and birth education is still a passion of mine.
This post was originally blogged by me on May 5, 2007 while I was in training.

Western medicine is and can be a wonderful thing. But it has also been so abused that in many cases the treatments acan become ineffective. Take for example antibiotics. Antibiotics can be a great thing! And for several years they were thought to be the treatment for everything. Have an ear infection? Swollen Lymph nodes? The Flu? Any type of viral or bacterial infection? Take an antibiotic! Antibiotics became the magic cure all. Then we found out that we should not be treating viral infections with antibiotics. We also discovered that the antibiotics were becoming less and less effective because immunities had been built up against them. This is not an isolated case. There many instances where something that was thought to be great, turned out to have consequences to worse than we could imagine. Maternal medicine is not exempt. Sadly by the time we realize what the side effects could be, it's too late.

Another wonderful aspect of western medicine is our hospitals. Think about the convenience of having one place to go whenever you have a medical emergency. You don’t have to go to independent specialty clinics, you can go straight to a place where you know you can be treated. It is a building dedicated entirely to sickness... But is every patient really sick? I realize that western medicine is fairly new, and there is obviously going to new advances and discoveries as time goes on. In our eagerness to expand our health horizons, and help people achieve a higher level of health, we’ve completely ignored nature.

Women have been birthing babies since the beginning of time. Isn’t that incredible to think about? How about when you add to it, that most of those women had their babies without a hospital, without a doctor, without umbilical cord clamps, and without medical interventions. It is amazing to think about, isn’t it? Pregnancy and childbirth is a natural part of life. It’s like breathing, your body automatically knows what to do.
I am not saying that things will not go wrong. This is not a perfect world, it’s the real world. Unfortunately cord prolapse, footling breech babies, and other complications are not unheard of. But they are also not the normal situation. I know I am grateful that when these situations occur that there is a place where we can go for help.

Why should you have your birth in a hospital? Hospitals are literally sick houses, would you want your newborn to be in a place where different diseases are on every where? Sure the staff changes their gloves between patients, but what about their clothes? What about the visitors that are coming in from everywhere? What about social workers that don’t have to wear gloves?
An Institute of Medicine Report indicated that 44,000 - 98,000 people die in U.S hospitals every year, as a result of medical errors. That is more than the number of deaths from AIDS, breast cancer, and car accidents every year!

In contrast homebirths can offer you the comfort of your home. Most of the germs you encounter there have been around your entire pregnancy and you do not have to worry about getting sick. You can hire a midwife with years of experience. If an emergency arises most midwives have a doctor at the hospital that they can transfer to. Midwives can take care of hemorrhaging, they stitch up tears. They are trained professionals! They are not going to needlessly put your life in danger. Most midwives that offer homebirths give care to both mother and newborn for 6 weeks following the birth. In contrast as soon as a baby exits the mother, the OB does not provide care for it. That is strictly for the pediatrican's responsibility.

Repeat c-sections? Did you know that your chances of having your uterus tear when attempting a vaginal birth after a cesarean are less than 1%! That number does go up if you are medicated. But the chances of having a c-section in general, go up if you are medicated. Did you know that Utah had the lowest c-section rate in the United States, and their c-section rate is 22.2%. Cesareans offer a whole extra category for risk. It is major surgery. You have a higher chance of getting an infection. It can affect your fertility, your normal body functions and your ability to have sex. Those are just a few of the side effects.

What about drugs in labor? I think they have their place, but routine usage? Every body is different. Why would we expect them all to react the same way? Some drugs used in labor have warnings on the label thay they are contraindicated. Meaning they aren't safe for pregnant women. There are alternatives to drugs while you are in labor. You can do relaxation techniques, counter-pressure, change positions, or my favorite, jump in the shower or the bathtub. Water is a natural pain reliever. When you burn yourself, you automatically run water over the burn, why? Because it helps!

Just because our generation is expected to leave the thinking to the professionals, doesn’t mean we have to. You are ultimately the one responsible for your health and wellbeing. As a consumer of the healthcare options offered, please educate yourself.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's been quite awhile since I've even attempted to write anything. November shaped up to be a very busy month for our family. My baby sister was married the weekend before Thanksgiving.
I offered her a wedding dress from my "collection" and volunteered to do the alterations. I finished the dress at the beginning of November and prayed that it would fit right. She only had a chance to try it on once before I started the alterations. The next time she was in the same city as the dress was the day before the wedding.

No sooner had I finished the dress, than I remembered I owed my younger brother a hat. So I broke out my knitting needles and whipped out a hat... Only to have Alex inform me he needed a hat and scarf as well. I actually finished his hat during the drive to New Mexico.

We returned home the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which gave us just enough time to unpack, brine the chickens and bake some pies for the Thanksgiving dinner we hosted at our house.

Then came December.

Alex had his first public performance with his tap dancing class. We took him to see the Nutcracker, celebrated my wonderful husband's birthday then had a BIG family gathering at our house for Christmas. We had so much fun. Of course now that everyone has gone back to their homes, our home seems sadly quiet and empty.

My mom surprised me by bringing a tub of Alex's baby clothes an dhis old cradle that I had in storage back in New Mexico. Alex and I have been slowly going through the clothing and laundering them. The cradle is tucked away in my closet. That I won't set up until after Spain arrives.

Now I'm compiling my wish to-do list for January. It involves a lot of sewing and knitting....