For Better or For Worse? Childbirth in Popular Culture

After watching the live cesarean birth on the TODAY show last week and then the commercial for Jennifer Lopez’s new movie The Back-Up Plan during the Superbowl*, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way childbirth is portrayed in popular culture – on TV and in the movies – and how that influences us. In a perfect world I’d like to believe that women (and men) would learn about childbirth from reading books and websites and talking to their care provider (doctor or midwife), to a doula, to their mother, aunts and friends, but the truth is that unless ya live under a rock, women (and men) also learn about childbirth every time they are bombarded with images on TV and in the movies that depict childbirth as something scary, painful and out of control. Whether we want to believe it or not, our perceptions of birth are bound to be influenced – for better or for worse – by what we view and hear in popular culture.


Movie: The Back-Up Plan, photo credit: Jezebel

On Rixa’s blog Stand and Deliver she lists 61 film clips she compiled for a conference presentation about depictions of childbirth in cinema. That’s just movie clips. Think about all of the episodes of A Baby Story, or ER and many other TV shows where women are giving birth. Each one further reinforces popular culture’s birthing stereotypes.

Birthing Beautiful Ideas believes:

it’s pretty foolish to dismiss the effects that popular culture has on a woman’s beliefs and decisions about pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, I would venture to say that these effects are pretty widespread. Of course, I’m not saying many of us literally turn to pop culture when we’re deciding whether or not to consent to an episiotomy or to request pain medication in labor or to choose one care provider over another. That would be stupid, right? But that doesn’t mean that what we see on television or read in a (non-birth-related) book or watch in a movie has no effect at all on our thoughts about pregnancy and childbirth. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Because every time a woman reads that she “won’t be able to make it without an epidural”…

…every time she sees natural childbirth portrayed as something only for hippies and freaks…

…every time she sees a movie in which birth is a crisis or a catastrophe or a comedy of errors in which the mom is a crazed, expletive-hurling woman who is seriously out of control…

…those images and words start to affect the way she thinks about birth in general, and they may even have an effect on her specific beliefs about birth.

She goes on to give a real-life example (a positive example) of how a TV show changed her beliefs about birth. She describes an episode of Sex and the City where Miranda gives birth. Miranda asks Carrie to be there for the birth and tells her that when it’s time to push, she doesn’t want everybody getting all “cheerleader-y” on her and shouting “PUSH! PUSH! and shit like that.” She said that when she saw that scene, “it signaled a major change in the way I thought about how I was going to give birth some day.” Her birth paradigm shifted and she believes she has the ladies of Sex and the City to thank for that. She’s currently a doula and future lactation educator who’s working on a PhD in philosophy.

Not all examples of how popular culture influences women are as positive though.

Heather from A Mama’s Blog told me that watching TLC’s A Baby Story – which she described as “high drama” and ending more often than not in a c-section – “seriously warped” her view of childbirth.

The Feminist Breeder said:

When I first found myself pregnant, I was just like the vast majority of pregnant American women who never get truly informed about the birth process, and instead spend their pregnancies watching “A Baby Story” and reading Jenny McCarthy books. I got my hands on “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” by Vicki Iovine, which told me that Lamaze was useless, as were all other birthing classes, and what I really needed to focus on was how quickly I could get the epidural.

Yeah — I got the epidural. The epidural that only went down half my body, that caused me uncontrollable shaking, that shut down my labor, that necessitated more pitocin, which put my baby in distress, which then necessitated a nice, traumatic cesarean surgery. Yep. That epidural.

Honey B., in her post Childbirth: Hollywood’s Take, wrote that after year of watching A Baby Story, 18 Kids and Counting, Knocked Up, Four Christmases, etc., she realized how much of what she thought she knew about childbirth was based on TV. She then shares sarcastically all that Hollywood taught her about birth. (The descriptions are longer on her blog.)

Natural Birth: The choice of masochists, women who don’t shave their armpits and have children named Moon Flower, and optimistic first-time mothers who don’t know any better. (My note: Case in point, The Back-Up Plan‘s home birth scene)

Birth with Epidural: This is the smart woman’s choice. This is what she does for the second birth, after going through the above ‘Natural Birth’.

C-Section (Emergent): These are completely normal, and happen all. the. time. And the doctor always knows best.

C-Section (Planned): This is the choice of the truly enlightened woman, the Real Housewives of Orange County type who view pregnancy as an invasion of their body. (My note: Perhaps this is why, according to the most recent data available (from 2006), the United States’ c-section rate was 31.1%, ranging from 21.5% in Utah all the way up to 37.4% in New Jersey. The World Health Organization actually recommends that the cesarean section rate should not be higher than 10% to 15%. When the rate is higher than 15% there is some research which shows it results in more harm than good. But who wants to talk about that in movies?)

Mallory who blogs at Pop Culture believes, “Childbirth in Hollywood movies is from a male perspective; rarely does childbirth show angles from the female viewpoint during the actual birthing.

We show killings, bombings, shootings, rapes and torture in movies, so why not show a woman giving birth accurately? Is it really that obscene and disgusting?”

Naomi, a birth doula, wrote her top 10 suggestions for an easier birth. Number two is “Prepare for an easier birth, now!” She cautions:

Don’t watch A Baby Story! Instead (if you are interested in watching birth videos), watch movies like The Business of Being Born, Orgasmic Birth, Pregnant in America, Water Birth, Special Women, and normal birth videos on YouTube which represent birth as it usually is. TV specials on birth are designed and promoted to offer drama and attract viewers, not to support women preparing for birth.

I also want to add What Babies Want and Birth Into Being to that list.

Teba told me that her sister was there when she had a home birth two months ago. “She said after seeing birth in movies she never imagined it could be so peaceful.”

That’s just it. Birth can be peaceful. It doesn’t have to be a hysterical emergency, but as a result of popular culture, most women are never exposed to anything that suggests a peaceful birth is even a possibility.

How has popular culture affected your beliefs and decisions surrounding childbirth?
* I didn’t actually watch the Superbowl, but have Lynn to thank for telling me about The Back-Up Plan commercial.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Home birth advocate’s baby dies during free birth, prompts questions

Janet Fraser, a home birth advocate and founder of the site Joyous Birth, recently experienced a personal tragedy when her baby died at her home in Australia on March 27 during her free birth or unassisted childbirth (where a woman gives birth at home without the aid of a midwife or doctor).

When a tragedy like this occurs, people are often left scratching their heads wondering how something like this could happen, what went wrong, and lastly, who’s to blame? I don’t know if we need to point a finger to make ourselves feel better, but it seems to be human nature to ask, “why did this happen?”

While I did not consider giving birth at home without a midwife in attendance for my home birth, I know a handful of women who chose an unassisted birth and I respect them for it. I believe these women did a great deal of research in advance, knew what they were doing, trusted their bodies and their babies and were prepared to go to the hospital if any issues arose. Although I don’t know her, I trust that Janet Fraser would fall into this category as well. Not everyone agrees with me though and some, like Amber Watson-Tardiff, are suggesting that what Fraser did by having her baby unassisted was “reckless, neglectful and borderline criminal.”

Jessica Gottlieb of Eco Child’s Play says, “I support women who chose a home birth. But a free birth? I cannot see the wisdom in it. Neither can Ms. Fraser’s baby.”

Watson-Tardiff goes on to say, “I hope she is at least subject to an investigation for child endangerment.”

Ronda Kaysen of MomLogic says she sees the value of home birth as a way of reducing medical intervention, but believes giving birth without medical assistance is “absurd.”

Fraser’s “free birth” argument, which on the surface appears feminist, is actually the opposite. It doesn’t empower women to take control of their own bodies. It sends them and their babies into the dark ages of medical care – where women give birth with no medical care at all and face the very real possibility of death as a consequence.

For the record the police are investigating the death and have said “it was not clear whether the baby was stillborn or died after delivery. If a baby is stillborn, there is no autopsy. If a baby is alive at birth and dies soon after, it is considered a matter for the coroner.”

I guess I give Fraser the benefit of the doubt and assume that like most mothers she was doing what she thought was in the best interest of her baby. Although she coined the term birth rape (birth interventions done against the woman’s wishes), I don’t believe she would put her child in harm’s way rather than accept a potentially life-saving intervention. Then again I don’t know Fraser and have not spoken to her, so I can only speculate just as others are doing, but I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt. However, I do believe that whenever a child dies, there should be an investigation into the death.

While many are blaming Fraser for her baby’s death since she did not have a doctor or midwife in attendance, no one seems to mention the fact that babies die in the hospital, where doctors are present, all the time.

Laura Shanley, author of the book Unassisted Childbirth and owner of the Bornfree! website who blogs at Letters from Laura – Thoughts on Unassisted Childbirth, brought up that point and shared another perspective many of us may not have thought of when she shared the following statement with me:

I don’t know Janet, but of course my heart goes out to her. An Australian friend of mine has told me that despite what the media is saying, Janet’s baby was stillborn and the outcome wouldn’t have been different had the baby been born in the hospital. Regardless of whether or not this is true, I find it sad that so many people are blaming Janet for her baby’s death. A baby is stillborn in an American hospital every fifteen to twenty minutes. According to a story on my local newscast, this is double what it was ten years ago. Yet almost no one blames hospital birth mothers (nor should they) for these babies’ deaths. This is because it’s assumed that if a baby dies or is stillborn in the hospital, everything possible was done to save the baby’s life. The possibility that at least some of these deaths might have been caused by early inductions, c-sections and other interventions is rarely discussed.

I can tell you, however, that as a homebirth advocate I have received numerous letters over the years from grieving mothers who wonder if their hospital born baby might have survived (or avoided injury) had they been born at home. The fact is, in most cases we may never know. Sometimes medical intervention saves lives, and sometimes it takes them. This is why I encourage parents to do their own research and decide for themselves where and with whom they want to give birth. In my case, I chose to give birth at home unassisted because from the research I had done I felt that the majority of problems in birth – both now and in the past – could be traced to three main causes: poverty, unnecessary medical intervention, and fear which triggers the fight/flight response and shuts down labor. Despite what most people believe, the act of birth itself is not dangerous. But our cultural beliefs and practices can make it so. In the end, it’s a personal decision. And just as the death of a hospital-born baby doesn’t mean that no baby should ever be born in the hospital, the same should be said for babies born at home. Regardless of the outcome of this case, I will continue to speak out about unassisted childbirth as I believe that in most cases it’s the safest and most satisfying way to give birth.

Genie, an Australian blogger who writes at Home Is Where the Heart Is, blogged extensively about her thoughts regarding Janet Fraser and defends her choice to have her baby unassisted at home. She feels the insinuation that women who birth at home do it to feed their own ego at the expense of their child is “a crock.”

Women choose to homebirth with their baby’s best interest at heart. They do it FOR the baby, not in spite of the baby. Yes they want to feel empowered and blissed out, but the lack of trauma and the satisfaction a mother gets after a natural birth all benefits the baby too. A mother’s health and well being has a HUGE impact on the baby. So why should we ignore the interest and well-being of the mother?

In the wake of this tragedy and surrounding media coverage, some feel the need to point out that there is a difference between home birth and free birth. Dr. Meredith Nash of The Baby Bump Project says homebirth and freebirth are not the same.

The media has failed to differentiate between freebirth or unassisted birth (no midwife or doctor) and homebirth (a birth at home, usually with a midwife or homebirth doctor). For the most part, for low-risk births that are attended properly, homebirth has been proven to be a safe alternative to hospital birth. Freebirthing is significantly more risky (sorry, I’m a supporter but also a realist). It is essential to make this differentiation. Now that homebirth is on the precipice of being banned given that independent midwives are likely going to be denied indemnity insurance from next year, the suggestion that all women who homebirth are crazy radicals or that homebirth represents the majority of birthing women in Australia (only about 2%) is ridiculous. If anything, midwives and their ability to attend homebirths will be the saving grace of the Australian maternity system. Rather than convincing the small proportion of women who avoid a medicalized birth, why not support these women in their choices by making homebirth safe and easy?

Summer Minor, who blogs at Wired for Noise and gave birth to her daughter at home a little over a week ago, references the recent Nederlands study that says home birth is as safe as hospital birth. “A new study is out from the Netherlands that gives us home birthing mothers a nice little pat on the back. Despite the labels of ‘dangerous’ and ‘unsafe’ by some, once again it’s been found to be just as safe as giving birth in a hospital.” From the BBC:

The largest study of its kind has found that for low-risk women, giving birth at home is as safe as doing so in hospital with a midwife.

Research from the Netherlands – which has a high rate of home births – found no difference in death rates of either mothers or babies in 530,000 births.

I think that Shanley said it best when she said, “In the end, it’s a personal decision. And just as the death of a hospital-born baby doesn’t mean that no baby should ever be born in the hospital, the same should be said for babies born at home.” We all must do our research and make the choices that we feel are the best for ourselves and our babies and then, find peace with our decisions.

I offer Janet Fraser and her family my deepest sympathy. My thoughts are with them.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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One year later – Julian’s (footling breech) home birth story

NaBloPoMo – Day 28

It’s been just over a year since my baby boy made his amazing entrance into the world, and yet, I never posted his birth story on my blog. So here it is one year later – in it’s full, unedited (LONG) glory (altered only to change the midwives’ names to first initial) – for your reading pleasure. :) I think you birth junkies out there will especially enjoy it. :)

Julian - 1 1/2 hours old - 11/23/06

Julian Emerson’s birth story

Recorded on Nov. 29 and Dec. 11, 2006

My labor began around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006, (41 weeks to the day) when I woke up to a real contraction, not the typical toning contractions I’d been having for the past several months. This was the night after I went in for some serious acupuncture (with electronic stimulation) at the acupuncture college to bring on labor. I was excited when I had another and yet another contraction and it started to sink in that I was in early labor.

I mentioned that I thought I was in early labor to Jody when he came to bed around 2 a.m. He got me my HypnoBirthing Rainbow Relaxation c.d. sometime during the night and I listened to it with my headphones on to help me stay focused and relaxed. I went through most of the night sleeping in between contractions. When I did have one, I breathed through it and reflected on something I’d read on a Mothering.com message board. One mama said that each time she had a contraction, she thought of her body giving the baby a big hug. That thought made me smile when I read it and so I focused on all the hugs my body was giving my baby for the last time while he was in utero.

I woke up a bit before 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23). Jody and Ava were still sleeping. I continued to have contractions though they weren’t really regularly spaced. I decided to go have some breakfast and watch TV. I had some yogurt, peanut butter toast and Pregnancy Tea and watched a bit of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade while I breathed through contractions. I found the TV to be a bit distracting so I turned it off and mostly lay on the couch. When I got up and moved around, my contractions picked up, but while I laid on the couch, they slowed down a bit. I was feeling pretty tired so I decided that hanging out on the couch was a good thing for now, to save up my energy for when I really needed it.

I called K, my midwife, around 10 a.m. and told her that I was in labor and what was going on with me. She said to check in every few hours – like around 1 p.m. – and let her know how I was doing. She also said she would probably come by to check on me later in the day and take my blood pressure and draw my blood so she could make sure that all was going well with me and there were no signs of HELLP syndrome (which I developed when in labor with Ava). In the meantime, she said I should go eat a big breakfast.

Jody came downstairs (and Ava soon after) and made eggs, turkey bacon and toast. I didn’t feel much like eating, but it tasted good and I slowly ate it all.

After breakfast and watching some of the parade on TV with Ava, I was still feeling really tired, so I decided to go back up to the bedroom and take a nap. That was around noon.

Before I went to sleep, I briefly talked to my sister Carrie on the phone and told her I was in early labor, but I had no idea if the baby would be born that day or when. I just wanted to give her a heads-up since she was planning on being here during the labor (once we needed her) and birth to watch Ava.

Again, I slept between contractions while I napped, but somewhere in that hour or so that I lay in bed, my contractions shifted significantly. They started to get very intense and I had to start vocalizing (or moaning) to get through them. I called out to Jody and told him that things were getting really intense and right around then the phone rang and Jody answered it. It was K (midwife) saying she was on her way by to see how things were going with me. Jody mentioned that it was good she was coming because I had just said that things were getting intense. (I later figured out that I must have been in “transition” during that time.)

I don’t recall if I asked Jody to apply counter-pressure to my back around that time or if he just instinctively did it, but it helped a lot to relieve the back labor I was experiencing.

K arrived around 1:10 p.m. She took my blood pressure, which was normal. (She never got a chance to draw my blood, but it turned out not to matter.) Then I had another contraction which I vocalized through and told her that it really hurt. She wanted to check me then to see how dilated I was. I was thinking that I hoped I was at least 5 cm dilated so that I could get into the birthing pool (which hadn’t been set up yet) or this was going to be a very, very long labor. I can’t remember if she said I was fully dilated when she checked me (though she later told me that I was complete), but she commented that the head was still really high. She felt around a bit more and then excused herself. (I found out later that that was when she discovered what she was feeling was limbs and that the baby was now breech. She excused herself so she could call A, the assisting midwife, and tell her to get to my house ASAP.)

K came back in the room and whispered to Jody that she had felt feet while she was checking my dilation. He didn’t quite realize what that meant at the time. At some point he said something aloud about the baby’s feet, which I heard and replied “feet??” (although I don’t remember this). And K said yes, the baby is breech, which I remember. I didn’t have any weird reaction to this news. I thought I remembered reading stories of babies being born vaginally in the breech position in “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth,” so I knew it could be done. I wasn’t fearful at all. It was all just very matter of fact in my mind – the baby is breech and I’m going to have to get him out.

Somewhere in there, Jody called Carrie (three times) to come to the house. The last time he talked to her, she said she would be here in 20 minutes, but Jody said at the rate things were going that might be too late. So in the meantime, Ava hung out with me, K and Jody in the bedroom. She never seemed scared or worried for me and I think it helped a LOT that we had watched birth videos and read the “Welcome With Love” book (about a home birth) many times in preparation for the birth. In the book they mention that sometimes moms have to yell and scream and make a lot of noise when babies are born and I am thankful that it said that since I ended up making a LOT of noise myself – something I didn’t expect because I never got vocal while giving birth to Ava. At one point, K asked Ava if she could go downstairs and get her purse for her. Ava did it without missing a beat. She was a great helper.

Anyway, I think it was after K left the room to call A that I felt the first urge to push. It was a completely involuntary urge and I yelled out, “I need to push!” I remember K yelling back to go with whatever my body was telling me to do. I think it was on the next contraction or the one after that that my water broke, all over the bed. I had not planned on giving birth in bed, and because things had progressed so quickly at the end, we hadn’t even put a waterproof cover down. I remember thinking, “Oh no! I’m soaking our new mattress!” (Our mattress was only six months old. Thankfully, it cleaned up and dried out nicely.)

The baby’s feet were born first without too much pushing on my part. Jody left the room during that time and I yelled to K, “Where is he going?!” furious because he was no longer applying counter-pressure to my back. She said, “He’s getting the camera.” And I yelled, “I don’t care about pictures!” He did snap a few of the baby’s feet coming out, but only one turned out because K’s hand was in the way of the others.

Jody called the professional photographer we hired to photograph the birth around the time I started pushing, but got her voicemail. By the time she called back, the baby had been born. (We opted to have her take family pictures a few weeks later instead.)

Carrie arrived after his feet were born and took Ava downstairs since things were very intense in the bedroom.

After his feet and legs came out, K said I needed to move to the end of the bed, so that gravity would be on our side. I said, “No” emphatically, not wanting to move a muscle. K said I *had* to move, so she and Jody picked me up and scooted me to the foot of the bed. She then told Jody that we needed to get into a supported squat position, so he held me under my arms while I began to bear down with everything I had.

I started out pushing with contractions, but it didn’t take long for K to say she wanted me to push whether I was having a contraction or not. I’ve heard enough birth stories to know this meant that I needed to get the baby out ASAP, so I pushed and pushed, taking breaks just long enough to catch my breath.

While his body was being born, A (the assisting midwife) arrived.

I don’t remember birthing him as being painful per se, but it was really, really intense work. I vocalized through every push and couldn’t imagine doing it without making noise. I think I opened my eyes once and then closed them again so I could focus on pushing. I also remember moving my right hand to the top of my belly. It helped me feel more connected with the baby and the job we both were working on.

Once his body was born (but his head still inside me), at K’s urging I pushed with everything I had to get his head to come out. I remember wondering if I was pushing enough or if I would be able to do it, but his head emerged with one really hard push.

Minutes after Julian’s breech home birth - 11/23/06Mommy and daddy look at Julian - 11/23/06Our son, Julian Emerson, fully entered the world at 2:14 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006, after about 13 hours of labor, only one of which was really intense, and about 45 minutes of pushing. It was approximately 1 hour after K had arrived to our house.

It turned out that Julian’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times. It is for that reason, my midwife and I believe, that he ended up turning into a breech position in the days or hours before he was born. It was as if he “knew” he couldn’t safely be born head-down with the cord as it was, so he flipped to a safer position – in an act of self-preservation.

Also, I later learned that his right arm was tucked back behind his head and K had to reach inside me and pull it down so that he could be born without damaging it or getting stuck. She also reached in while his feet were being born to make sure they both came out together and one didn’t get wedged in.

Jody and Ava cut Julian’s umbilical cord - 11/23/06Julian scored a measly 3 on his first Apgar, then an 8 on the second one done 5 minutes later. A gave him a few puffs of air mouth-to-mouth to help get him breathing, while they encouraged us to talk to our baby. It didn’t take long for him to start breathing, and in the meantime, he was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord that was left attached to the placenta until it stopped pulsing. Jody and Ava cut the umbilical cord together a little over an hour after he was born.

Julian weighed in at 9 lbs., 8 oz., was 22 inches long, and had a 15 inch head. What a big boy!

After the intensity of that birth and such a large baby, I ended up with only a first-degree tear, requiring four stitches. Not bad at all.

Amy and Julian after breech home birth - 11/23/06Giving birth to a baby in the breech position felt so different from birthing a head-down baby (as Ava was). With Ava, once her head was out, it felt like the rest of her just slid right out. With Julian, I felt like I had to work for every ounce of him to be born – saving the hardest part – his head – for last.

It was an amazing, incredible and very intense experience, but, if you ask me, it could not have turned out more perfectly. We have so much to be thankful for. We have a healthy baby boy and I had a great home birth with our amazing midwife. It is a Thanksgiving Day our family will never forget!

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Related Post:
How we made the decision to have a home birth in the first place: Planning for a home birth

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Planning for a homebirth

By now you may have gathered that instead of choosing to have an OB-attended hospital birth this time around, we are planning to have a midwife-attended homebirth. There are a number of varied factors that have led me down such a different path with this baby and I’d like to share some of them here.

I have to first admit that I’ve been a little reticent to post about this, not because I’m not excited about it, but because homebirth in our culture is not seen as a safe or wise choice (though in reality it is as safe or safer than hospital births in most cases – there are a number of studies that indicate as such). I am open to questions about why I’ve made this decision or things specific to homebirths, but I don’t wish to be attacked for my choice. I have no desire to get into a debate over which is better – hospital or home. Rest assured I’ve done a lot of soul searching and research to come to the conclusion that planning a homebirth is right for me. In the event that a condition arises during my pregnancy or labor that indicates that a homebirth is no longer a safe, responsible choice, I have no qualms about going back to my OB (whom I like and respect) or being transferred to a hospital (which is literally less than five minutes from our house) if necessary.
OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive in, shall we? :)

First of all, I believe that – in the majority of cases – birth is a normal, natural and healthy process. I believe in a woman’s (and my own) ability to give birth naturally, normally, without intervention, as women have been doing for thousands of years.

I am drawn to the midwifery model of care because it feels normal and natural. I like that a typical midwife prenatal visit lasts 60 minutes (as opposed to the typical 6 minute OB prenatal visit) and does not feel rushed. I like that I am getting to know the woman who will be there for my labor and birth and that she will gain my trust so that I feel comfortable with her while laboring and birthing. I like that my midwife is interested in my nutrition and in suggesting preventative measures (such as acupuncture) to help ensure that I have a healthy birth.

My midwife in particular has a 15 year background as an EMT (emergency medical technician). I feel her experience in that capacity has helped her develop critical thinking skills and the ability to think quickly on her feet. After all, how can you be an EMT without that ability? So I feel very comfortable that if a situation should arise that is beyond her comfort level, she will know what steps to take (i.e. a hospital transfer). Because of my history of complications with Ava, this was very important for us. Both Jody and I feel very confident in her experience and abilities.

I love the idea of birthing at my own home, where I am comfortable and able to relax without worrying about who’s going to be walking in the door next (nurse shift changes, etc.), where Ava can play or sleep or do whatever she needs to (in a safe environment) and still be in close proximity to me and Jody. (My sister will be her primary caregiver while I am in labor.) And when the baby is born, Ava can chose whether or not she wants to be present. (Yes, we will be preparing her with regard to what to expect when mommy is in labor, etc. We actually watched a birth video – “Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices” by Suzanne Arms – this week.) I’d like her to be there, but I’m not going to force her. If she is meant to be there, she will be. After seeing her interest in watching the birth video though, I am pretty certain she’ll want to see baby brother join us.

I also love the idea of being able to sleep in my own bed after the birth. That was one of the hardest things for me in the hospital, not being able to sleep. I eventually had to ask for sleeping pills because it’d been something like three days since I’d slept for more than a few minutes at a time, and having hallucinations while trying to care for a newborn is no fun. Having my own bed will be heavenly. And I’m sure Jody would agree as well after sleeping on a flimsy mattress on the cold, hard hospital floor for 5 days after Ava’s birth.

Another compelling reason for me to have a homebirth is I’d like to labor and possibly birth in water and my midwife has a birthing pool that we can set up right in our house.

Because of all of this and more, I feel planning for a homebirth makes sense for us.
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The following information was taken from The Homebirth Choice by Jill Cohen and Marti Dorsey and further illustrates why I’ve decided a homebirth is the right choice for me and my family. I cut and pasted some things that I feel are particularly important to me.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MIDWIFERY:
“Midwife means “with woman.” Traditionally, women have attended and assisted other women during labor and birth. As modern medicine emerged in the West, birth fell into the realm of the medical. Since women were barred from attending medical schools, men became the birth practitioners. Having never had a baby themselves, they were unable to approach women and childbirth with the inner knowledge and experience of a woman. Childbirth became viewed as pathological rather than natural; unnecessary, and often dangerous or unproven, medical techniques and interventions became commonplace.

During the 1960s and 1970s, along with the women’s movement and renewed interest in homebirth, the midwifery movement rekindled. It has been growing steadily ever since. Midwives are becoming more and more involved with birthing families and have been instrumental in redefining birth as a natural event in women’s lives.

Midwifery empowers women and their families with the experience of birth.”

PRENATAL CARE:

“Prenatal visits may take place at the midwife’s home or clinic or at the family’s home. Prenatal visits are a time for the midwife to get to know the family and friends, neighbors, or other children who plan to be present at the birth.

Prenatal care for the pregnant woman includes discussion of nutrition, exercise and overall physical and emotional well-being, as well as overseeing the healthy development of the fetus.

Midwives include the family during prenatal care, inviting them to ask questions and to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Intimate involvement of the family throughout the pregnancy allows for early bonding of the newly emerging family unit.

The midwife and family will often discuss the mechanics of birth. The more people know what’s going to happen, the more comfortable they may be while awaiting the birth.”

LABOR:
“In the safety and security of her own home, the mom is likely to be less inhibited about trying different labor positions and locations. She can sit on the toilet or go for a walk outside. She can eat or drink whatever she wants. She writes her own script. When it’s time to deliver, she can often try whatever position she wants: on her side, squatting, sitting or kneeling.”

BIRTH:
“Homebirth allows for full participation of family members. Under the guidance and assistance of the midwife, the opportunity is available for husbands or partners to “catch” their child as it is born. These moments can be very powerful and transformational in the lives of the new parents.

At homebirths, babies are usually immediately placed on the mom’s stomach or breast, providing security, warmth and immediate bonding between mom and baby. This contact provides security for both mom and baby.

In the rare case when the baby has difficulty breathing on its own, midwives are fully trained in infant CPR. Usually, putting the baby right to the breast and having mom talk to her baby will encourage it to take those first breaths.

Putting the baby immediately to the breast helps reduce any bleeding the mom may have. The sucking action stimulates the uterus and causes it to contract. This closes off blood vessels and reduces bleeding.

Some members of the medical community have recently acknowledged that having a homebirth decreases the mother’s and baby’s chances of contracting an infection. The mother is used to the bacteria in her own environment and has built up immunities to it. This is passed on to the baby through the colostrum. Even when women are segregated in maternity wards, infections are much more commonplace after hospital births than homebirths.”

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