I am 6 months pregnant with my first baby. This has been an interesting journey filled with some mild nausea, fatigue, incredibly tender breasts, moderate mood swings, a growing waistline (that initially challenged some of my body image issues), and finally a growing belly with a real live moving baby inside! As you can imagine this journey has also led me to a whole new area for me to learn about in my life: childbirth.
Earlier on in my pregnancy, I had decided (but not definitively) that I wanted to try for a home birth. I was somewhat unpleasantly surprised at some of the responses I got from people; I really thought that there would be a more supportive atmosphere about the whole thing. That isn’t to say that everyone has had a negative reaction, but more than I thought would. It seems to me that a lot of people feel that there are too many risks involved with the choice to birth at home. As I began to learn and read more, I learned that although there are risks, some of the perception of childbirth is partially due to the way it has been either handled in the recent past and how it is portrayed in films and television. The unrealistic portrayal or sensationalized stories shown on TV have contributed to a general feeling of fear around the whole idea of giving birth.
Just so that you know, before I carry on, I have now settled on the idea of a home birth and am feeling very confident with my decision. That being said, I have told my midwives that if they see any reason between now and the time my labour begins that I should change my plan due to any risk of complication I am 100% open to it. I trust in my care providers and want them to be the ones to use their professional judgment to guide me through this process. As they educate and inform me with my options, I will then draw upon my knowledge and make the best decision for my baby and me.
Our culture relies heavily on the western medical model to take care of us and have all of the answers, especially during times of vulnerability. Giving birth is one of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life. The problem that I have noticed around relying on the western medical model for childbirth is that hospitals aren’t the most calming environments. And, although there are a lot of amazing Doctors and Obstetricians out there, often they see things from a “seek and diagnose” perspective. This can be extremely helpful when you have an undiagnosed medical problem that needs medical attention, but that isn’t always the case with pregnancy and childbirth. When you are pregnant and giving birth (in a situation with little to no complications) there is absolutely no medical problem at all. There is no disease, no dysfunction, no need for a cure; it is a completely natural part of the life cycle that has existed for as many years as mammals have been alive!
The prenatal class that I took really educated and inspired me. During and after the course I felt compelled to learn more, so along with the course material, I did some further reading. I learned that when a woman feels safe in her environment, has low lighting, people speaking quietly and positively, and has the appropriate support with no negative emotions or influences around her, the chances of having a less complicated birthing experience increase. This can include the potential for less pain due to less stress and tension and quicker birth times. A woman has to feel like she can completely trust her body and allow herself to open up to the experience instead of fight the feelings or the fear that may come up along the way. Fear will always come up, and that is OK. What isn’t OK is unnecessary added fear from others or outside influences such as an accepted cultural notion that women are merely the patient and should do what they are told because they haven’t been given all of the empowering information that they deserve.
This brings us back to the hospital environment. Hospitals often create a more fear-based environment, with the possibility of individuals including doctors, nurses or midwives entering the room and, without meaning to, do or say something that induces fear into the woman. When a woman goes into fear, her body can actually react by slowing or reversing the birthing process. When this happens to a woman, the care provider may wonder what is wrong, go into their “seek and diagnose” mode and then introduce interventions. When ironically, if the atmosphere hadn’t been negatively affected, none of these things (aka potential risks) would have entered the equation. As I mentioned before, a woman and her newborn are extremely vulnerable during this process and it doesn’t take much to have an effect on her, positive or negative. So, why not offer the most positive support possible!
I feel like if I chose to give birth at home, I have more control over my environment. It feels safe, familiar, quiet, and I can control who enters the room (or house).
Well, wish me luck. I may end up birthing in a hospital and I may end up having necessary interventions to aid in my experience, but I feel so good about the fact that I have educated myself on this topic and get to make informed and educated choices.