About 5 years ago or so, my friend Erica introduced me to the documentary The Business of Being Born. Though neither of us planned on having children at the time, we were both enthralled with it.
(Ironically, Erica is pregnant now too, with a due date only two days after mine. No joke.)
The movie had an enormous impact on my thoughts about pregnancy and childbirth, as did my mother’s telling of her experience when I was born (she proudly declares she slept through most of her easy 3-hour labor!). Because of that, I never feared childbirth. However, as I got older and my friends started having children, I started to notice how many of them were having c-sections, often for seemingly unnecessary reason. Why? Once I saw Business of Being Born, the pieces started coming together, and then I started reading more books and articles on the subject.
The more I educated myself on hospital births in the US, the more convinced I became that, in normal/healthy circumstances, a hospital was NOT the best option. (At least, not for ME.) Mike took a little more convincing. When I found out I was pregnant, he watched The Business of Being Born with me and I think was pretty surprised.
I started seeing the midwives at my OB/GYN’s office while I interviewed homebirth midwives and Mike was part of the whole process. I found out quickly that though my OB’s office had “midwives”, they were starkly different from the home birth midwives or those that work out of independent birthing centers rather than hospitals. While individual midwives at my OB’s office were NICE, their level of attentiveness and care didn’t come remotely close to that of the home birth midwife, V, that we decided to work with. (I was incredibly grateful, too, that Mike very quickly became fully supportive of my desire to give birth at home.)
On multiple occasions, my OB’s office would tell me things but never EXPLAIN them, even when I asked questions. For example, a nurse called me and informed me I tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS) and that they’d be calling in a prescription for me. She didn’t tell me what it WAS (even when I asked) except that I’d have to have IV antibiotics during birth. I was left to research it on my own and discuss it with V, who went into great detail explaining it and even gave me additional printed articles and information to read and educate myself. There were also blatant mistakes in the charts from my OB’s office — for example, they had me marked down as having been a former smoker, which is completely inaccurate, and they also had me flagged for “high risk” even though they never TOLD me I was “high risk”, nor could we find any reason in my charts that I should be designated a such.
By contrast, I actually look forward to my prenatal appointments with V. They last substantially longer (about an hour, as opposed to 20 minutes) and we talk about all sorts of things ranging from my physical to mental well-being. The last time I was there, V got right on the floor with me and showed me different stretches that could help with the round-ligament pain I was experiencing. Though she’s attended hundreds of births, V always seems excited for me, which means a lot too. Her knowledge and experience is a HUGE comfort to me, being a first time mom and having lots of questions.
I would never argue that every OB/GYN’s office is bad, or that every home birth midwife is the best, but I think it’s extremely unfortunate that more women don’t have the opportunity to explore both options fairly and figure out what’s right for them. There’s an incredible misconception in the US that hospital births are much safer, and it’s just not the case. In almost all cases, home births are JUST as safe, if not safer, when a trained midwife is present. I won’t go into statistics here (feel free to research them; I’ve recommended some good resources below), but I can tell you that I am far more scared of this country’s infant and maternal mortality rate and skyrocketing c-section rates compared with fearing the pain of childbirth. On a personal level, I’m extremely happy with the decision we made to give birth at home. My anxiety level is a LOT lower knowing I’ll be home with people I love (Mike, my mom) and trust (V).
The only fear I have is that some complication will force me to go to the hospital in the end anyway. I’m not afraid of getting to the hospital in time,just that my grand plan of a beautiful home birth might not work out. I’m trying hard to prepare myself for that possibility, because though V’s transport rate is only about 3%, it still could happen. There’s also the possibility I won’t be strong or brave enough to get through the pain and I’ll ask to be transported. Again, I’m trying to prepare myself mentally and physically as best I can to avoid that, but I just won’t know till I’m there!
If you’re interested in home births, I can recommend the following documentaries (all available on streaming Netflix) and books as great resources:
+ The Business of Being Born
+ More Business of Being Born
+ Pregnant in America
+ Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block
+ Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein & Jacques Moritz
+ Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin