Feb 26, 2009

Home Birth Manifesto I--You're Going to WHAT?!?!

Part II; Part III; Part IV; Safety; Logistics

Some of you know this, some of you don't. It's not something I've made widely known, mostly because I wasn't sure how much I wanted to get into dealing with people's wide & varied reactions. But I've decided that this is an appropriate venue to share with friends and strangers about the decision we've made to have a home birth with this kiddo.

I know, I know. Just stay with me.

It's precisely because of the wide & varied reactions that I want to put down, all in one place, my processes & reasons for wanting to do this. I don't think everyone should necessarily do it this way, and I hope I come across as respectful of all women's decisions regarding the childbirth. It's a beautiful thing about living in the USA, after all, having the freedom to make so many choices based on our individual situations and circumstances.

I guess the best place to start is with my own philosophy on childbirth. Being the nerd that I am, I imagine the possibilities as a spectrum. At one end you have the all-out, all-natural, "labor is bliss" birther, and at the other the one who says "I prefer to just get it done with a planned, 20-minute surgery, thanks." And then you have everywhere in between, which is to say that there are as many ways to do labor & birth as there are women.

As for me...simply put, I'm a crunchy birther. I do childbirth naturally; that is, I give my body every chance to do what it was designed to do--start labor on its own, continue the process at its own pace, etc--and use coping techniques other than drugs to manage the pain. And there is pain. While there are some along the spectrum who attempt, and even achieve, a natural and painless birth, I'm not one of them. But it is endurable. Like many physical feats, natural birthing is largely a mental challenge. Birth is oftentimes compared to running a marathon, something that most people don't simply show up for. Considerable time is spent in preparation, knowing that much work lies ahead, and that in order to complete the race one will have to accept and even embrace the work that is to be done.

Another phrase commonly heard is "pain with a purpose." There is pain associated with injury, when your body is telling you something is wrong, and then there is pain associated with normal processes. Athletes experience a sort of pain they call "intensity." Getting in shape means working through the intensity to achieve conditioning. With labor and birth, knowing the source and cause of the pain enables the mother to relax and work through it so that she can have the natural birth she hopes for.

But why? Why not take advantage of the relief available with drugs? Everyone knows there's risk with any drug, but lots and lots and lots of mothers labor with drugs with no trouble. In fact in some cases the relief from the drug allows the mother to relax, which helps labor to progress faster.

Well it boils down to a couple things for me. First, I really, really, really don't like needles. A lot. I can handle them when necessary, like for having blood taken and getting vaccinated and whatnot, if by "handle" you mean I shut my eyes and make the bearer of the needle count to three before doing the deed. Then I do alright, except sometimes with having blood taken I get lightheaded and have to lie down for a minute. That hasn't happened in almost 2 years, but it doesn't make me like needles any better.

Second is that when I ask the old "risk versus benefit" question, for me the benefits of having the drugs do not outweigh the risks. I know that most likely I would be fine and the baby would be fine, but while drugs can help labor progress, in some cases they relax the mother so much that labor slows way down, which increases the chances of a c-section. And assuming I'm fine and the baby is fine, it's really important to me to avoid a c-section. Surgery, needles, longer recovery, blah blah blah. Plus for me specifically, strong abs help me to manage my SI joint dysfunction, so not cutting the abs is ideal.

Consequently, I do a lot of mental preparation for the work of giving birth. Around the third trimester I can sense myself turning inward. I give myself little mini pep talks about how I can do this, and I will take it one step at a time. I visualize myself working through contractions, I visualize my body doing everything bodies do during the process, and I visualize the baby working his way down & out. And yes, I even talk to the baby some, telling him that it's going to be hard work for both of us, but that we're going to work together and get through it just fine. Cheesy at times, perhaps, but effective. Personally, I do give thought to "what if something goes wrong," because it comforts me to work through the contingencies and know what I would want to do if such-and-such happened.

Anyway, this seems like a good stopping point. I'm going to close comments for now, but I'll open them up again once I get more of the story in place.

Up next I will share about my experiences surrounding His Highness's birth...

UPDATE--3/8/09--I'm opening the comments. Please no horror stories until May or so. :)


Smiller said...

Oh, run of the mill homebirth is SO mainstream. How about in a teepee on the wild plains of Wyoming? Or, you could just have him before the midwife gets there... ;D

Skerrib said...

HAHAHA! I'll settle for run of the mill this time. Maybe the next time we can shoot for sensational, like our friends whose babies aren't into waiting around for anyone. =)