Friday, September 16, 2011

Is It Bravery?

Yesterday, a MOMS club friend asked me if I was planning to have another home waterbirth with our newest little one. When I said yes, she said:

"You are so incredibly brave."

I get that a lot. In fact, that's pretty much standard response when people hear that we're planning a homebirth. Would you other homebirth mamas concur?

But is it bravery?

Nope, it's not - in my case, at least. As a matter of fact, I am the worst kind of coward when it comes to childbirth. Just ask my midwives and doulas, who have had to put up with my squalling during labor. I can't even get though a healthy Braxton-Hicks contraction without wishing fervently for an epidural. I am the world's biggest wimp when it comes to pain.

(As a matter of fact, my own cowardice is one reason that I choose to birth at home. I know that I want unmedicated births, but there is no way that I could refuse the lure of easily-available drugs in a hospital. I just couldn't do it. Mothers of the world who have unmedicated hospital births, I take my hat off to you. I really don't know how you do it. You are made of stiffer stuff than I.)

But the real reason that I birth at home?

I birth at home because I don't want to have to fight - for my birth, for my body, for my baby. Going to the hospital seems (from the common experience, not personal experience) to be more like entering a battle zone and planning for a war than preparing for a gentle and sacred life-transition. I don't want to spend my birthing time fighting for what I want and what I need.

I don't want to have to fight to maintain mobility. Many hospitals still seem to want mothers confined to bed, tethered by monitors and an IV. I don't want to fight to remain untethered, IV-less, upright and mobile.

I don't want to have to fight for my space - for dimmed lights, for non-intrusion into the labor space, for having people be silent and gentle around me (rather than peppering me with questions) so that I can labor undisturbed. 

I don't want to have to fight against other hospital policies - against routine vaginal exams, against hospital protocol time limits on labor stages, against routine AROM. I don't want to have to fight for the right to eat and drink during labor. I don't want to have to fight to have my family near me (most hospitals have now banned children under 12), to have a doula, to have limits on who can be with us.

I don't want to have to fight to keep my baby with me, instead of being whisked away for tests, shots, and baths. I don't want to have to fight for delayed cord clamping, for delaying or avoiding newborn procedures, for avoiding formula. I don't want anyone telling me that I can't take my placenta home with me (this is so common in the hospital that it seems to be almost routine).

I don't want to have to fight a continual battle against hospital policies, against caregiver policies, against matters of routine hospital practice that have proven to be bad medicine but are still entrenched in the hospital culture.

I don't want my birth to be a battle.

When I am at home, I am surrounded by family and by a midwife and a doula whom I have come to know intimately. I am monitored constantly, with one-on-one care that is second-to-none in quality.

When I am at home, I won't be given an IV, confined to bed, or tethered to monitors (midwives use intermittent monitoring with a fetoscope or Doppler). I won't have any vaginal exams unless I request them or the midwife feels that they are truly necessary (and asks first). I will be automatically given everything that I need for an undisturbed labor (silence, darkness, constant support). I will be constantly offered drinks and snacks to keep my strength up. Unless there are signs that something is wrong (and midwives here transport when that happens), I can labor for as long as I need to. My body and my birth will be respected and kept sacred.

When I am at home, my baby will be handed to me immediately - even if there is resuscitation needed, it will be done while baby is on my tummy. There is total respect for my decisions regarding newborn procedures (vitamin K, eye antibiotics, newborn screen, etc.), and I don't have to worry about his cord being cut immediately (midwives here just don't do that), poked, jabbed, or taken away routinely.

Basically, I can relax and know that I don't have to guard myself. I can get down to the business of birthing without feeling that I need a birth plan, a doula-as-bodyguard, or any other sort of battle plan. My birth can be a birth, and not a series of boundary wars.

None of this is to say that every mother should birth at home or that every baby should be born at home. (And I know that there are many hospital providers who work at providing quality experiences like that described above for their mothers.) But this is why I birth at home. It's not because I am brave (I am not), but because I want my birth to be safe and sacred - not a battle.

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