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There's No Place Like Home...To Have a Baby

by Becky Jackson

Some mothers are lucky or wise enough to realize the beauty and logic of homebirth the first time around. But others, like myself, take the long road in arriving at this decision.

After three hospital births, complete with the usual episiotomy, induction, ridiculous interventions and humiliating procedures, I have many reasons for desiring to give birth in my own home. Some of these reasons are proactive, but many are in reaction to prior hospital birth experiences.

One of the routines that now sounds unbearable to me is being strapped down to the table, not allowed to stand or move around. This is in direct contrast to the standing and walking that are so helpful (and much less pain-inducing than pitocin) in speeding along the natural process. Hooked up to monitor, blood pressure cuff, and fluid IV, moms are not allowed to even go to the bathroom, but must either use a bedpan or hold it. This stone age practice is still used in my local hospital, and often adds difficulty to delivery when mom's bladder is too full for baby's head to properly descend.

Often, mothers' only choice of position for giving birth in the hospital is the flat on their back, feet in stirrups position that is most convenient for the doctor and staff. But for easier delivery and less tearing, moms should really be in a squatting, hands and knees, or sitting upright position. Squatting provides much more room for the head to pass through and is the favored birthing position of tribal women.

Another experience I won't miss is having instructions yelled to me concerning when and how long to push. Contrary to what some doctors and nurses believe, there is no set number of required pushes or the need to count to 10 in order to deliver a baby. An unmedicated, laboring woman's body tells her exactly when and how to push.

And how about some dignity and privacy for the laboring woman? Imagine trying to perform other bodily functions with an audience that periodically sticks their fingers in to check your progress, often hurting you in the process. The practice of checking dilation does little to benefit mother or baby and is usually more a matter of determining how long the doctor can nap and how soon drugs can be administered.

Once baby is born, the medical staff can be just as intrusive. Baby will be whisked away to a warming incubator if his temperature does not measure up to perfection. Mother's body heat and pleas to hold her baby carry little weight with the hospital's rigid regulations. Thereafter, baby may be given bottles of sugar water for one of many contrived reasons, and is pricked and bled to test for jaundice and receive his first shots. Too often, this is welcome to the world in a hospital setting, rather than a baby being left alone to snuggle in his mother's arms.

Ever try to get some rest in the hospital? Impossible!! Nurses come in every hour of the night to check blood pressure and temperature. Visitors pour in during naps and nursing sessions. Then there's bags to pack and load in the car for the trip back home.

The cost of all this is $4,000 or more for an uncomplicated delivery, even though mom does the work. This enormous cost limits family size for many. A family may long for another child, only to sigh and dismiss the idea because they don't have thousands of dollars or maternity coverage.

Homebirth has appealed to me for quite some time, even before my second and third children were born. But I was frightened by the widespread myth that homebirth is dangerous. That was before I found all the statistics in which homebirth shows equal, and in some studies lower, infant mortality rates compared with hospital births. The reason for this is largely because a doctor can cause as many problems with intervention as he solves. Babies die in hospitals every day; if there is a major problem, an OB and a hospital are no gauruntee against it.

A normal, uninterfered with birth is not a medical problem. It is a perfectly designed process that almost always works when left to proceed naturally.

This time, I trust that process. This time, I will do things my way. It's my baby, my body, my home. I will not be condescended to and ordered around, but will be treated as an intelligent, capable woman who is well equipped and perfectly designed to have a baby. Isn't that how we all should be treated?

This article was first published on Suite101.com and is reprinted with permission from the author.
Copyright 2002 by Becky Jackson


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