Friday, June 28, 2013

Is Homebirth Brave?

English: Ágnes Geréb, Hungarian midwife and do...
English: Ágnes Geréb, Hungarian midwife and doctor checks the heartbeat of the fetus during labour at a homebirth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every act of motherhood is brave. Taking charge of one's own life experience is brave. We all have the ability to create our circumstances. Sometimes we just forget and let things happen to us.

Do you want to be an active participant in your baby's birth? The reality of hospital birth is that it involves a routine that may not suit you.

Some people feel that it is brave to have a homebirth because pharmaceutical pain control isn't available. For some having medication at the ready is a comfort, but it is not the only way to have a comfortable labor and birth. Pain medications commonly used during childbirth are not always effective and they do carry serious risks. Most people won't tell you how painful it is to receive an epidural or how dizzy, sick, and tired you may feel after receiving pain medications. What if you are one of those women who would actually enjoy a natural birth? What's brave about preserving your right to the birth that makes you happy?

Are you taking a big risk by having a homebirth where life-saving technology is not right at hand?
Technology commonly used in birth is a double edge sword. It lowers risks when applied to high-risk situations, but in everyday, low-risk births all of the risks inherent in the technology are there but then there are no benefits.

Pregnancy is a very good time to take charge. You are in charge of a fragile new life and your life is in a state of change. What happens to you happens to your baby. Your stress is theirs.

When all is said and done, you have to be comfortable with your birth experience.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pain in Childbirth

ThreeFigures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I believed that achieving a natural childbirth without pain medication was a simple matter of pain tolerance, I wouldn't be studying to become a midwife. Why tout the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of natural childbirth if it's something only some women can achieve? It would be just plain mean to imply that some women are strong enough and others are not.

The bad news is that you can't talk yourself out of the pain of childbirth. It can be sharp and incredibly intense. There may be times when you can't handle it. Even if you don't scream, you will probably feel like it at some point. And no, you probably won't forget all pain the moment you see your baby.

Some natural birth advocates try to say that labor isn't painful. Contractions are just pressure waves. Painless birth is just another technique to be learned. Sorry, I'm not buying it. Self hypnosis and rhythmic breathing can be useful tools in coping, but I wouldn't trust my entire birth experience to that alone.

Now for the good news: You can do it! Seriously, your body was made to give birth. You will have breaks after every contraction. People go on and on about the pain, but they don't tell you how great you can feel during the breaks. You can talk, eat, sleep, or even be intimate with your partner if you want.

Natural childbirth may not be easy, but it is empowering. You can cope. It starts within you and with the choices you make ahead of time. The first choice you make is where you will give birth. Where would you feel most comfortable birthing? If you know you won't feel comfortable in a hospital, don't birth there. Focus on alternatives and plan to go to the hospital only in an emergency.

If you decide that the hospital is best, consider which routine interventions are most likely to cause you the most stress. If you hate needles, an IV will probably upset you during labor (duh!). It can be confining and is almost always unnecessary, and if it is necessary it can be disconnected or even removed if need be after you receive necessary antibiotics or other medicine. If your labor isn't short, you will need to have brought your own food and drink. With newer anesthetic techniques, even if you end up in surgery you won't aspirate (which is the unfounded reasoning behind starving laboring moms). Believe me, I can say from experience that if you do vomit during labor, it will be less painful if you have had light food and liquids. You need to move so being strapped to a monitor is unacceptable. Demand periodic monitoring, preferably with a handheld device. Most importantly, if you don't like pain, avoid pitocin or any other drug to induce or speed things up.
Your second consideration for making pain manageable is to decide who will support you. Don't expect your husband to be your sole support, he may become overwhelmed too. A female family member or friend who has experienced birth is ideal. If you can find a doula you are comfortable with you should add her to your support team. Don't be afraid to ask for support. Most of the moms who had a terrible natural birth experience due to pain (not because of interference) were unsupported and not encouraged to move, eat, drink, vocalize, and express emotion.

Water is a very effective means of making labor easier. Those who have had a waterbirth are overwhelmingly happy with the experience so it is worth whatever you need to do to allow that.

Learn to relax. Practice meditation.

Overall, consider your needs and make sure you are set up to have them met. Keep a positive attitude. Look at birth as a joyful transition.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

Why Birth Matters

"Birth of the Messenger" by Viktor
"Birth of the Messenger" by Viktor (Photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography)

Why Birth Matters

As long as mother and baby are healthy in the end what does it matter? That induction, c-section, episiotomy, vacuum delivery, IV, epidural, narcotic pain medicine, continuous monitor, confinement to bed, forced pushing, lying flat with feet in stirrups.... may or may not have been necessary, but it's no big deal. Why are some women getting so bent out of shape? Why are some people fighting so hard to have legal professional midwives attend them at home or in a home-like birth center? Isn't it “crazy” that some women would rather have an illegal birth attendant or no trained attendant at all rather than go to the hospital? Can't they just ask for they want in a hospital and be “safe”?

It's time for a different line of thinking. What if the whole idea that pregnancy/birth is a medical condition is wrong? What if the hospital isn't inherently a “safe” place for birth? I (along with many other midwifery students and professionals) believe that pregnancy is a normal state of being and birth is a sacred event. Birth is rarely complicated so we should work on the assumption that it will not be problematic until something tells us otherwise.

Hospitals do wonderful, life-saving things for those with serious medical problems. If a pregnant mom has a serious medical problem or an unborn baby is in distress, the hospital is the right place to be. However, there are many many things a hospital can do but usually don't to make birth as gentle as possible for those moms who need medical intervention (like the mother centered cesarean). Many people have good hospital experiences. Some people are comfortable with routines and medications. That's okay, but the rest of us need options too.
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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Want To Be a Midwife

A midwife measures the height of the mother's ...
A midwife measures the height of the mother's fundus at about 26 weeks to determine the probable gestational age of the fetus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I Want to Be a Midwife

Why? Why now?

I have a passion for well-being. I believe in joy.

Every woman should have pregnancy, birth, and well woman care that empowers them.

Every woman's journey is different. I want to be there to preserve the sacredness of birth for individuals and society as a whole. The medical model of care is still there when wanted or needed. A big part of midwifery training is to recognize when a situation is potentially dangerous.

I didn't have empowering care. I had fear mongering. No one deserves that. Everyone should have the right to a choice. To have to choose between hospital or unassisted birth (or even a birth with an illegal attendant) is not a fair choice. I want to see the options in women's healthcare change (birth centers and legal home birth midwives) so I need to be the change I want to see.

Non-nurse midwives weren't legal in my area until very recently so it was off my radar in terms of professional options. I deeply admire those who risk their freedom to give women the option of compassionate care, but I couldn't be part of it. I was raising children and not able, ready, or confident. Now it's time for me to get the training and be not just the midwife I wish I had had, but the midwife who can adapt to any situation and be there when needed and make myself nearly invisible when not needed. It's a tall order, but I'm believing in myself. Far more importantly, I believe in women and their ability to heal themselves and to birth without routine intervention.

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