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.

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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

Knowing Birth Series: Megan Alton (1)

knowing birthGuess 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 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. Now, let’s get started!

Knowing Birth: Megan Alton (that’s me!)

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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.

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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.

IMG_0226What is your ideal relationship with a birth attendant?

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.

IMG_1820Did you feel adequately informed of your options?

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.

photo (25)What do you feel were the most influential factors surrounding your birth? Why?

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.IMG_3036

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 doulamegan@gmail.com 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.

This post featured in Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday