We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong
- Laura Stavoe Harm
I think it's important to start here: Labor is hard, intense work. No, wait. I think it's more important to start here: Women are amazing. And, labor is hard, intense work. And, whatever way a woman decides to bring a child into the world should be respected and, frankly, commended - because it is a hard, intense process. Molly is only three weeks old but so far, our two mantras have been "one day (and night) at at time, and "our parenting philosophy is whatever works." This post is about how and why Lee and I decided on a home birth - it ended up being what worked for us but I don't think it's the end all and be all to a successful birth. As you'll see, there is no such thing as a "textbook" birth (or after birth...) and in the end, every mama and partner should make the decision that works best for them.
So. Why home birth? Hmm. Where did we start? Probably with me reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. That book set me on the path of low-to-no intervention birth, for sure. It actually made me want a home birth, but at the time I was going to a OB who was connected to CPMC, the "nicest" hospital in SF (with views!!). This meant that we got to do all the prenatal genetic testing at a fancy hospital with cool 4D movie screens, which, hi, first time parents! We could see the baby's brain and heart chambers and spine and count fingers and toes! Anyway, CPMC has excellent technology but they are also known as a "baby factory" in SF - which means they deliver 500ish babies a month. And, they have a 50% caesarian rate and a 95% epidural rate (note: stats are from Berkeley Parent's Network, so who knows how accurate they actually are). Whenever I expressed concerns to my OB, she would reassure me that "It wasn't the 70's" and if I wanted to have a natural birth, I could do so at CPMC no problem. So, Lee and I decided to find a doula. "What is a doula?" you may wonder (because I did). A doula supports the mama and partner before, during, and after the birth. In a hospital birth setting, doulas can help advocate for the parents, keep everyone calm, and generally just be an extra support person in the room - and, in a hospital where epidurals are the norm, we thought it would be great to have an extra advocate in the room with us. Except, it turns out that CPMC is the only hospital in SF that doesn't allow doulas (or home birth transfers, for that matter). Well then.
In the middle of all of our thinking about labor and delivery, we found out that I had gestational diabetes. I decided that, since I had to register for a diabetes program to get the blood testing kit and go for frequent check-in appointments (which ended up being not too frequent because I essentially kicked gestational diabetes’ ass. But that’s another story.), it would be easier to go to St. Luke’s, which was much closer to my house and also happened to have a much lower birth rate (maybe 50ish deliveries per month), epidural rate, and c-section rate, in additional to a midwife model of care. Okay, so St. Luke’s is not a brand new fancy pants state of the art hospital, but they do support natural childbirth and have a staff full of midwives. And they let doulas in and allow home birth transfers as walk-ins. So about the time we found Shannon, we were already thinking about alternatives to CPMC and/or whether we wanted a hospital birth at all, and once we chatted with her, we came around to home birth as an option. From there, we interviewed a few midwives and decided that we wanted Maria to be ours. Once we started learning about home birth, it kind of just clicked as our best option. Neither Lee or I had ever been admitted to a hospital, and just the thought of going made me feel anxious. I couldn’t imagine being in active labor and having to get in the car, ride to a hospital, check in, and get settled in a hospital bed to push out the baby. I also really couldn’t imagine having to stay in the hospital overnight. It sounded terrifying to me (not rationally terrifying, but terrifying nonetheless).
Leah is a San Francisco based new Mama who writes about her family adventures at http://teamspringer.com. She is currently practicing typing one-handed while nursing her daughter, Molly.