Guess what? I think pregnancy and birth are so cool. Right now I deal in human birth, but any animal birth thrills me too. My fascination started when I was 4 years old and my brother was born. My mom was always very happy to share her own pregnancy and birth experiences with me and I really feel that her honesty helped pave my road to becoming a doula and birth advocate.
In The Beginning
The first birth I ever saw in live and living color (as opposed to the NOVA: Miracle of Life on TV which I watched countless times as a kid) was when I was in college. My roommate and I had illegal hamsters in our dorm room, Beefcake and Cheesecake, and as hamsters are prone to do, Cheesecake made babies.
One day I noticed she was nested up in a small alcove of their cage, and then birthing of 5 baby hamsters commenced. I was her hamster doula, although I’m sure she wanted me to just go away. It was riveting, and that was just a hamster birth. Eventually I became a doula, I’m in the process of becoming a childbirth educator and since this post, I’ve also become an advocate for out of hospital midwife assisted birth.
It’s Time For The World To Know
Now I have a son and am even more enthralled with other families stories of birth and what they think of birth in general. As something of an anthropological study I decided that I need to interview as many people, who have a relationship with birth, as possible.
There are so many books and studies claiming to know the truth about birth, but what I’ve found in my conversations with mothers and birth professionals is that there are so many unique experiences surrounding each birth. A book or study can’t possibly take into account the actual voices of individuals. So what better way to find out than to simply ask.
Finding Our Voices
That leads me what I’m calling “Knowing Birth” interviews. I have come up with a handful of questions that, hopefully, moms, dads and care providers will answer. I’ll then take their answers and put them directly on this blog.
It’s time to give voice to anyone who has one regarding birth. There are no requirements about the when, type and location of the birth(s) and I also plan on interviewing birth attendants, midwives and doctors to get their unique perspectives.
You know you wanna do it too!
The only requirement is honesty and openness in your answers, and maybe a few pictures too. To set a good example, I’m going first. If you would like to share your experience and answers to the following questions, please email me at email@example.com and I will get the questionnaire to you directly. Anyone can participate and there’s no judgment from me about your answers. I promise to keep a close eye on the comments and keep ’em clean. Now, let’s get started!
Knowing Birth: Megan Alton (that’s me!)
Where did you choose to have your birth and why? What are your feelings about that choice now?
I chose to have my birth at The Baby Place (now New Beginnings), a birth center in Meridian, Idaho that is run by Certified Midwives. I opted for this location for a few reasons:
- As a doula I had been to other births there and they were always gentle and beautiful
- I knew the midwives and that made me very comfortable
- I’ve always known I was going to have an out of hospital birth, always
My experience was phenomenal. Everything I wanted, caring prenatal visits, gentle guidance, education, personal freedoms and the peace of giving birth there was provided. I had my ideal birth and everything went according to plan (love when that happens). The safety, security and trust that I felt was paramount to having a satisfying birth experience.
How did you prepare for your birth?
I’m a doula and so I had a keen insight into birth long before I got pregnant. My husband and I planned for our child and were thrilled to become pregnant. We took the Hypno Babies childbirth education course and I found the affirmations to be particularly helpful through my pregnancy. I also received acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments on a weekly basis through my pregnancy. I worked as a kindergarten teacher until my 8th month and then took the last 2 months to be pregnant and take it easy. All prenatal exams were provided by my midwives. As for my diet, eh, we ate out a lot and I had a major addiction to Oreos. Next time around I’ll do it Real Food style.
Who was invited and present at your birth?
My husband and good friend Sarah (my doula). Holly was my primary midwife through my birth however, there were 3 other midwives present for the delivery of my son.
If it was not your first birth, please compare/contrast your experiences.
I’ve only had one birth, but compared to the hospital births I’ve attended as a doula, my perception is that my out of hospital birth was calmer and less directed.
What qualifications do you look for in a midwife/OB/primary care provider?
I expect my care provider to have an understanding of (completely) natural pregnancy and birth. Any midwives/doctors that I see are expected to have appropriate credentials from legitimate certifying agencies. I expect my care providers to be active and passionate in their practice.
I’m the consumer. I expect the same of my birth attendants as any customer service provider. What I want for my experience should be central to their care for me and my family. I expect them to treat me with respect and to be open and honest about EVERY SINGLE PROCEDURE and expectation that have of me. In return I promise to educate myself, ask questions and have a respectful open dialogue with them.
If you have received maternity care from both the medical and midwifery models of care, what are the biggest differences? Pros/cons of each?
Personally, I have only ever received maternity care from midwives.
It helped that I knew a ton about birth before I even got pregnant, but yes I felt very informed of my options. When it came time to make choices, they were left to me and my husband. Any question I had were directed to my midwives and we openly discussed pros and cons. It was so nice to be treated as an equal in my healthcare.
Describe your ideal birth environment at this point in time.
Any location out of the hospital. Low lights, warmth, access to water (tub preferably), no access to pain mediation or other birth altering drugs, privacy, soft place to land in between contractions, food/drink on demand, singing/moaning and the ability to vocalize, no separation from baby or family, quiet voices and the confidence of those surrounding me in the process of natural childbirth.
How do you feel about the safety of birth in a hospital vs outside of a hospital?
Obviously, I feel that out of hospital birth is safer than in hospital birth for all normal and healthy pregnancies and births. Due to the lack of pervasive technology, which I believe is a good thing in this case, and the confidence of out of hospital attendants, I believe that in the case of birth less is more. I also know that trained midwives know when problems arise and when pregnancy/birth becomes outside the scope of normal that they will correctly advise mothers when to take their care to a doctor/hospital. I know they always have the best interest of the mother/baby at hand.
Is there anything you would change about public policy relating to birth/maternity care? Why/how?
Midwifery and out of hospital birth should be legal in every state. It should be entirely up to the mother/family how and where they give birth to their babies. This is an issue of reproductive choice. Health insurance should cover ALL costs of ALL births, especially since natural midwife attended birth costs way less than hospital birth. In my opinion, Certified Nurse Midwives should take the place of gynecologists for all (normal) well woman care.
Knowing my mom’s birth stories and being very comfortable with birth initially, shaped my view of normal natural birth. Having a supportive husband, who himself was born at home, and a super supportive extended family made it easy to make my maternity care choices. Certainly being a doula and having witnessed out of hospital midwife attended births GREATLY affected my view of how normal and non-interventive birth can be.
Who owns birth?
First and foremost, as sentient beings and keepers of their own bodies, mothers own their individual births. Obviously this comes with the input of the father/partner (assuming they are playing a primary role in care giving). The medical and midwife communities don’t own any woman’s birth experience. Their sole purpose is to provide necessary expert care for the wellbeing of the mother and child.
There you have it! It took me about half an hour to answer the questions honestly and without going into great detail. If you’re interested in being interviewed (anyone is welcome) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the questionnaire and all pertinent information.
Thanks for following and be well!
*Photo credit for all pregnant, newborn and family photos goes to Ashley Romero.