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Home birth.

A home birth is a decision that should not be made lightly, but here is some information for those considering it

As a midwife in rural Oklahoma, I was pleased to see an article in Countryside extolling the virtues of home birth.

Three of our four children were hospital-born. My first was an eye-opening experience (as most first-births are). I don't believe there is anything anyone can do or say that fully prepares a woman for her first birth.) But the second and third were "natural deliveries" - or so I thought, before I had a birth at home.

Katie was born in the same bed she was conceived in, and the three of us (she and I and my husband) all settled back into the same bed to sleep just three hours after she was born. There is simply no comparison. My hospital births were considered "wonderful experiences" - as far as hospital births go. I had no drugs, no shave, no enema, minimal time on the external fetal monitor, and use of the birthing chair (except that it was tipped so far backward as to be an effectual lithotomy position - for the doctor's convenience). I left the hospital 24 hours after the children were born. I really had nothing to complain about, but...

The wonder of home birth

I cannot describe the wonder of a home birth. It is something one has to experience. As Catherine Checkie said, the difference is in being where you are "comfortable, respected, and loved." It is a matter of not being controlled by someone who can't possibly know (and may not really care) what you need.

In the average hospital experience, the comfort and convenience of the staff - especially the doctor - is the foremost consideration. If your needs fit into that framework, they are happy to accommodate you. If not... you are a problem patient and the nurses may cop an attitude toward you. I've seen it happen many times. I've also seen, and have been blessed with, nurses who understand and do their very best to bring your birth experience as close to your goal as possible. And I have heard of one very controlling midwife. But much more often than not, the birthing couple directs the flow of a home birth, and the staff directs the flow of a hospital birth.

The most pleasant memories

The aspect of my home birth that gives me the most pleasant memories is that of my older daughter waking up to see and hold her baby sister before the cord was even cut. My boys were sleeping undisturbed in their own beds. And everyone went back to their own beds for a good night's sleep.

With my hospital births, the babies went down the hall to the nursery because the staff needed to observe them. Daddy went home because there were no facilities available for fathers to stay the night, and the other children were at a babysitter's house - where they slept little, if at all. At home there were no nurses coming in to tell me that the baby had to go back to the nursery for whatever reason. (Once it was because I "left the baby unattended" in his bassinet while I went to the bathroom.) No scheduled feedings for the convenience of the nursery staff. No strangers coming in and out of the room to visit my roommate.

As safe as hospital births

I would not try to talk anyone into a home birth. It is a decision that should not be made lightly. But I would like to offer some information for those who are considering a home birth.

In three studies, home birth has been found to be at least as safe as hospital birth. Home births have an average 4% C-section rate, with no corresponding rise in infant or maternal mortality or morbidity. Anyone interested in these statistics can read the book Safer Childbirth? by Marjorie Tew. She set out to show that moving the birth place from home to the hospital had improved the infant mortality/morbidity rate, and found the opposite. The Farm in Tennessee (42 The Farm, Summertown, TN 38483) has also compiled statistics which bear out this finding, as has NAPSAC (National Association of Parents and Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth) Rt. 1 Box 646, Marble Hill, MO 63764.

I would recommend reading as much about home birth as possible. There are many excellent books. I will list a few, and recommend that you contact the Birth and Life Bookstore and ask for their catalog "IMPRINTS." It is an excellent resource, with many book reviews in each edition. Their phone number is (206) 789-4444 or (800) 736-0631. The address is P.O. Box 70625, Seattle, WA 98107-0625.

Some books to get you started: Immaculate Deception by Suzanne Arms; Silent Knife by Nancy Cohen; Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin (mother of the modern home birth movement and resident of The Farm); Special Delivery by Rahima Baldwin; Heart and Hands by Elizabeth Davis; Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan Rosegg; and just about anything by Sheila Kitzinger or Michel Odent.

If you are far enough along in your decision-making that you would like to talk with a midwife, you can get a partial listing of the midwives in your area by contacting the Midwives Alliance of North America. They will put you in contact with your regional or state representative. Midwives do quite a bit of networking, and most states have a midwifery organization. It may take a few phone calls to find them, but there are home birth midwives practicing in every state of the union. MANA's address is 600 Fifth St., Monet, MO 65708. I have a partial listing of LDS (aka "Mormon") midwives throughout the country, and anyone is welcome to contact me directly for that info.

Know your rights

Wherever you choose to birth, the important thing is to know your rights, to be educated about procedures and their attendant benefits and risks, to be able to voice (again and again) your needs, and to prepare yourself physically and mentally for the birth.

Many who do not feel comfortable with accepting the responsibility for home birth are hiring a doula to be with them. A doula is usually a woman who has had children of her own. Her responsibilities include caring for the mother's non-medical needs during labor and delivery, and two or three days postpartum. She can act as an advocate in the hospital situation, keeping a clear head when the laboring couple may be unable to, and voicing their needs and wishes to the staff. Studies have shown that having a constant female companion during labor and delivery can reduce the incidence of complications and cut labor time by an average of four hours. The national organization of doulas is DONA. Their address is 1100-23rd Avenue East, Seattle, WA 98112. They would be happy to hear from anyone seeking a doula or who is interested in becoming one.

Whatever your choices are, I wish you... gentle birthing.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Mabry, Ellen Rae
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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