Knowing Birth Series: Dawn of Small Footprint Family (2)

knowing birth

What is knowing birth?

Here is the link to the original Knowing Birth post.

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 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.

That led me to what I call Knowing Birth interviews. I have come up with a handful of questions that, moms, dads and care providers will answer. I’ll then take their answers and put them directly on this blog.

The only requirement is honesty and openness, and maybe a few pictures too. If you would like to share your experience and answers to the following questions, please email me at doulamegan@gmail.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.

This Weeks Interview Is Thanks To…

Dawn, from the blog Small Footprint Family. Dawn writes about health, nutrition, green living and gardening. Her posts are insightful and her recipes are yummy. Definitely check out her handy work at www.SmallFootprintFamily.com

"Me and Babyzilla! (whose "Big Girl Bed" is the bed she was born on."
“Me and Babyzilla! (whose “Big Girl Bed” is the bed she was born on.”

Where did you choose to have your birth and why? What are your feelings about that choice now?

I chose to have my baby at home in my apartment. I wouldn’t have had it any other way and I am eternally grateful for the experience.

How did you prepare for your birth?

I took Bradley birthing classes with my partner, maintained a strict Brewer diet with prenatal vitamins, received massage, chiropractic and acupuncture often, regularly saw a midwife, and tried not to vomit all the time. I read copiously and worried way too much.

Who was invited and present at your birth?

I had two girlfriends come by during the early part of my labor, but then it was just Papa and me until the very end. We feel birth is a very private experience.

If it was not your first birth, please compare/contrast your experiences.

n/a

What qualifications do you look for in a midwife/OB/primary care provider?

I looked for someone with a good reputation who would come to my home. In Washington, D.C. that gave me about 3 midwives to choose from. My midwife from Maryland was in fact not licensed for homebirth in D.C., since it is not permitted there.

I guess I had an illegal homebirth!

What is your ideal relationship with a birth attendant?

My ideal relationship would be one of support and camaraderie. Someone who can quietly assist, assuage and gently inform during a natural, but scary process.

Ideally, if I had another child, I would want a midwife with more of a background in nutrition, holistic health and/or acupuncture.

If you have received maternity care from both the medical and midwifery models of care, what are the biggest differences? Pros/cons of each?

When I went to the city clinic for prenatal care, I was treated like a number by incompetent nurses, some of whom were downright unprofessional. It was not uncommon to have to wait 2-3 hours to be seen for a scheduled appointment.

After one nurse failed to find a fetal heartbeat on my second visit, she brightly announced to me and Papa that she thought I had miscarried, even though the only sign of it was that she couldn’t find the heartbeat. We had to wait eight days in grief and terror until we could get an ultrasound. The ultrasound merely confirmed that the nurse was incompetent with a stethoscope.

The attending OB/GYN at the clinic was very nice, but overstretched and largely unavailable. She would whiz in and whiz out after answering a few questions. The most frequently she could see me was once every three or four months.

Later in my pregnancy, I went to the emergency room because I couldn’t stop throwing up and needed an IV. In addition to the 6-hour wait, I couldn’t help but feel like I was treated like a machine in need of repair. The doctors and nurses, while nice enough and seemingly competent at the technical skills they were required to perform, seemed oddly detached and dismissive. The place just felt soulless.

I left the allopathic model as quickly as I could find the right midwife, which was a bit of a challenge in Washington, D.C., where the region has some of the highest C-Section rates in the country.

After I hired her, my midwife saw me monthly or more frequently, as needed. She took her time examining me and talking with me, was accessible by phone, and was so relaxed about the birthing process, she put me at ease just with her presence.

She rented us a birthing tub, and helped me through a 63-hour labor that would surely have ended in a Caesarean at the hospital. My baby had her fist trapped beside her ear within my pelvis, and couldn’t turn face down, prolonging my labor greatly. I think I walked a half-mile of stairs trying to get her to turn!

But her heartbeat remained strong, and so the midwife was patient. I delivered her “sunny side up” and despite our best efforts, I had some tearing because I delivered her fist and arm with her head.

Papa caught Babyzilla, and the midwife untangled the cord and helped place her right onto my chest with the cord still attached. She latched on to breastfeed almost right away. Then, a bunch of other stuff happened that I barely remember; there was my newborn baby girl on my chest! I was a mom!

Finally, my midwife did the most amazing thing: She stored my placenta in the freezer, emptied the birthing tub, cleaned my house, fed us all from the food my friends had delivered, and tucked me, Papa and Babyzilla into bed! Wow!

Given the length of my labor, the challenge of my baby’s presentation and the fact that her fist was caught in the birth canal, I would surely have been a C-section in the hospital. But with patience, wisdom and an experienced stethoscope, my midwife enabled me to have the birth I dreamed of.

Did you feel adequately informed of your options?

Yes. I did a lot of homework around having a homebirth. I had no doubts and did everything I could to ensure I had a low-risk pregnancy.

Describe your ideal birth environment at this point in time.

Home.

How do you feel about the safety of birth in a hospital vs outside of a hospital?

I feel that in a hospital I would have had a nightmare birth experience. I am frankly phobic of allopathic doctors and hospitals. I utilize them only when I have an emergency that warrants chemical or surgical intervention, and then I do so reluctantly.  If I had to give birth there, I would have been extremely stressed out, which is not conducive to having babies!

Is there anything you would change about public policy relating to birth/maternity care? Why/how?

Homebirth and birthing centers and prenatal chiropractic and massage should be covered by all insurance plans. (My entire midwife-led birth experience, including prenatal visits cost only $2,500!) Payments to providers should be outcome based, not treatment-based. Birth curricula should be overhauled in every medical school to reflect a new paradigm of birth as a natural process.

What do you feel were the most influential factors surrounding your birth? Why?

The contrast between my conventional medical experience and my experience with a midwife couldn’t be more stark.

For me, a birth experience in a hospital would have been tantamount to torture, and I am so grateful I had no complications that warranted birthing there.

Who owns birth?

Every woman who chooses to give birth owns birth, and no one else. Everyone else should play only a supporting role or get out of the way.

Want To Know More About Dawn?

Check out her blog Small Footprint Family to learn about gardening, nutrition, green living and health. Thanks Dawn!

How To Join The Knowing Birth Series

Email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I’ll send you the questionnaire directly. There are no requirements, only that you have a voice about birth and want to share it openly and honestly.

Thanks for following and be well!

This post featured on Party Wave Wednesday, Tasty Traditions, Thank Your Body Thursday, Small Footprint Friday

7 thoughts on “Knowing Birth Series: Dawn of Small Footprint Family (2)”

  1. “Birth curricula should be overhauled in every medical school to reflect a new paradigm of birth as a natural process.”

    As a medical student, I am curious as to exactly what Dawn’s knowledge and experience with the ‘birth curricula’ in medical school entails and what should be done to change the curriculum. Or maybe more relevant, that of OB/Gyn residencies, as most medical students do not go into fields in which they will be dealing with the birthing process in any way. Frankly, I don’t actually think I’ve ever learned anything other than that birth is a ‘natural process,’ so I am curious as to exactly what the writer means.

    I understand there are differences between the allopathic, osteopathic, and midwifery curricula, as some of my best friends are osteopathic students or residents and midwives; however, I would be curious to know the amount to which the people that make comments or generalizations such as this actually know about the differences that they discuss. Also, I would love to hear from midwives about their thoughts. I know there a lot of midwives that do not do home births such as that described in the article and would be curious about their experiences. Or conversely, I would be interested to know if the writer went to any clinical visits with a midwife, as I would be curious as to how similar or dissimilar her experience in such a clinic would be compared to an allopathic medical setting.

    1. Hi Taylor,
      While I can’t speak for Dawn, I thought I’d try answering some of your questions from my own perspective, which is similar to hers. From my experience as a doula and mother (who also birthed out of hospital) most of the hospital births I’ve witnessed, or spoken to my hospital-laboring friends about, birth was treated more scientifically than naturally. While it’s of utmost importance to regularly monitor a laboring woman/baby, the standard use of IV’s and extended use of monitoring equiment in hospitals does not help facilitate “normal” labor. Artificially breaking the water bag and the increased use of pitocin to make contractions stronger and therefore “speed up” labor is also not normal, but is systematically used in hospitals. Personally, I can only assume that the reason these non-normal birthing practices are in place is because they are taught to doctors/nurses in medical schools. This article by Dr.Righard speaks to this more in depth:

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1523-536x.2001.00001.x/abstract;jsessionid=92B285FD4F62A4911939519B1FA1B75F.d02t04?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

      I’m excited to say that I have a midwife who volunteered to answer the practitioner version of the questionnaire and am curious to see what she has to say. You’re a medical student, and while you may not be studying OB/GYN, I would LOVE your perspective on this topic. Perhaps you’d like to fill out the questionnaire? Or maybe you know another doctor with more experience in this subject that would be willing? Truly, I’d like to get as many perspectives on the topic of birth as possible. It would also be interesting to see what a younger doctor vs an older doctor would have to say since there are always changes happening in any science and curriculum. If you want more info you can email me at doulamegan@gmail.com

      Thank you for your thoughtful response Taylor. I’m happy to dialogue with you further about this topic anytime.
      ~Megan

    2. My experience with the allopathic model was extremely discouraging. I found myself constantly treated by doctors and nurses like a number in a queue, or a machine in need of tinkering by someone who “knows better.” I need a medical partner to birth safely, not a mechanic.

      Had I given birth in a hospital, I would not have been allowed to labor for 63 hours–which was MY natural birth process–because doctors/hospitals have quotas and time limits. In the DC area, 8 hours is about as long as they will let you labor before giving pitocin/epidural. Furthermore, you are not allowed to eat or walk around at all once hooked into a fetal monitor. And you need to birth on your back, which for me was EXCRUCIATING. Instead I gave birth on all fours–totally against hospital policy. All the policies and procedures that the allopathic doctor must adhere to are about as UNnatural and medicalized as a birth process can get.

      And given that my daughter’s hand was caught next to her head, I would surely have been a C-section, because allowing me to birth naturally would have taken too long and been too much liability for the hospital. Plus, the cord would have been immediately cut, instead of the better choice to allow it to pulse the remaining blood into my baby. And my baby would have been taken away and cleaned up instead of immediately placed on my chest for breastfeeding, while the cord finished pulsing and the placenta delivered itself naturally. Again and again, the medical process would have completely disrupted the natural one, for the sake of the doctor’s convenience and the hospital’s profit.

      This is what I mean by teaching doctors/changing the curriculum to reflect that birth is a natural process, not a medical one. Doctors do not birth babies in most cases; mothers do. And, as inconvenient and unprofitable as it is for the doctor, we don’t need a room full of technology and drugs to do it.

      Barring an emergency or at risk pregnancy, the doctors and nurses should actually be trained to get out of the way almost entirely (except for minimal monitoring) and learn to wait and let nature do its work-—even if it means they actually “do” almost nothing till the very end.

  2. what a beautiful eerepixnce, i’m 22 years old and i’ve always been so scared of even getting pregnant cus i have been horrifed of the hospital horror and pain and plugs and the doctors all around u during the labour and delivery, wow u have opened my eyes to the blessing of having a baby, the love and patience for your bundle of joys arrival just letting nature takes its course YOU ARE MY ROLE MODEL THANK YOU FOR POSTING YOUR EXPERIENCE. God bless

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