Many people want a low-intervention birth for the benefit of the baby and mother. Though most of us do it, just leaving your home often acts as an intervention in the birth process.
Two of my births were almost completely free of intervention.
My first “intervention-less” birth happened at a birth center that was actually a furnished home my midwife was renting. Afterward I felt almost indignant: Nobody did anything! I could have had that baby by myself in the woods!
I wandered around the master suite of this home, stopping at intervals to kneel and moo away my increasingly uncomfortable contractions. I got louder and louder. They closed the windows. They just looked at me and said I was doing great.
When I pushed my baby out, I felt her slip into the water and my midwife said, “Reach down and pick up your baby.”
“Geez!” I thought, “I have to do that, too!?”
It wasn’t long before I realized the gift I had been given. I caught my own baby. I was the first person to touch her. Nobody did anything. I could have had that baby by myself in the woods.
The trust and personal power I garnered from the experience have been with me since, a welcome if not necessary rooting in strength for the journey of motherhood.
The other intervention-less birth I had was an accidental unassisted home birth. When I knew it was for real I hid in my bedroom cave belly dancing to Sufi music between trips to the toilet where I employed horse lips breathing generously.
My body pushed without me doing anything. When he was crowning I had to help push, like one has to sneeze, and he was born into his father’s fumbling arms about one minute after I yelled “Get the shower curtain!”
That birth was fun. I’d do it again every month if it didn’t mean another kid.
I really didn’t want interventions. I wanted my body to just do it and not have problems or choices in labor. I really didn’t want to be poked or prodded or strapped down. And I really didn’t want to have to make a choice in the middle of it all.
Hiring a provider that I trusted implicitly was tantamount to a good birth experience for me. A birth plan really wasn’t necessary because we talked at length, and I knew she would do what I would do or want in the moment. I could just let go.
The home-like atmosphere of both births also contributed to my body’s ability to labor and get a baby out without requiring intervention.
[Also luck, I do want to say that. I got lucky. You can do all the ‘right’ things (whatever that means) and still end up with interventions you hoped to avoid and a miserable experience.]
But it’s not all luck. If you go to a provider with a 70% cesarean rate, it’s not your rotten luck that you ended up with a cesarean. If you go to a hospital without mother-baby friendly rooms and staff, and you feel wildly uncomfortable there, it’s not just that labor is really hard.
Labor is hard. But doing it at home makes it easier. If you’re not into that, a home-like environment will usually fill the bill.
In the birth community people sometimes say that leaving home is the first intervention.
Your bodymind wants to feel totally safe while you’re in labor. Traffic, car rides, triage, hospitals, questions, stainless steel technology, equipment made for emergencies, and forms to sign all tell your bodymind to pay attention!
People don’t make oxytocin (the hormone that contracts your uterus) when they are scared, threatened, or highly observed. We don’t make it very well when we have to pay attention and our brains are going a mile a minute, either.
To relax and let our bodies birth, we need to feel very comfortable in our space and with the people who are there. This happens best at home. That’s why many providers don’t want you to come in to the hospital or birth center before labor really gets going.
To your bodymind, leaving the comfort and familiarity of home is an intervention.
Our instinctual selves won’t let our bodies do the work of birthing in an environment that our thinking brain tells us is unsafe. If you feel safe, loved, and cared for, your body will work much faster and more efficiently. It will feel less intense.
The ‘problem’ is that so few of us feel comfortable birthing out-of-hospital. So even if you’re laboring nicely at home, eventually your thinking brain is sending “not safe, not safe” messages and it disrupts the instinctual process. You can circumvent some of this by staying home as long as possible to let the oxytocin train get up to speed before leaving the ultimate safe zone.
Knowing your choices, advocating for yourself ahead of time, finding a provider you love, taking a birth class, practicing relaxation, hiring a doula, and learning to love and appreciate your miracle body (and baby!) can all help mitigate some of the fear and distrust that sends the ‘not safe’ signal to your body.
You probably won’t stay home for the whole thing. That’s just fine. It’s a fine intervention.
Interventions can be labor-saving and life-saving.
Mostly, though, you can do it. You don’t need to be saved or fixed or tested or tried. You can do it. Your body knows how to do it. Let it.
You can have this baby alone in the woods. Nobody needs to do anything. Not even you.