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 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.
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
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.