Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our Home Birthing Experience

It was curious in how I went from denying my wife any children for 9 years, to having 3 boys... and all were home births. My hesitation to having children, I am sure, was related to my (at that time) decade of hospital experience working as a respiratory therapist. Several of those years was with assignment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I enjoyed the work with the littlest of babies, but it did in the long run have an impact on how I viewed newborn infants. I did develop a fear or a certain view point that by and large, infants are born sick. This of course is far from the truth, but when you are immersed in that environment for 8 to 12 hours a day, for several years, it can indeed have an impact on your view of newborns.

I cannot even remember the name of the book now, but the overall thrust of the author/physician was to point out the many short-comings, errors, and other problems within the American health care system. This was in 1980. I am sure his writings would still ring true today. And of course there are a whole host of books today that are discussing that same issue.

The author had an entire chapter just on what he considered to be deplorable birthing methodologies in the American hospitals. I was quite struck by his words, and passed the book on to my wife... She also was a health care worker, and after reading the book, she also was intrigued by the statistics that the writer presented, showing that having a baby with home birth was many times safer than having a birth in a hospital. I would bet that although we are 3 decades since the writing of that book, that the stats are probably still pretty dismal for the birthing in the hospital settings. I will not take the time to quote birthing statistics, comparing hospital to home birth, as a simple web search will provide current information. Take the time to research!

The basic fact is this. Having a baby in the hospital increases the chance of injury to infant and mother, increases the chances of infection to mother and infant. Take note! I Do Consider unnecessary c-sections and episiotomies to be injuries to the mother. And I consider anesthesia or the many pain medications given during birth to be an injury to the infant. The amount of carnage related to these procedures is appalling.

With this stark information, I was slowly coming around to the fact that I should not and could not any longer deny my wife of her desire to have children. So I asked her if she would be willing to consider home birthing with either a midwife or physician present. Without hesitation, she agreed. And it was not much later that my wife was pregnant with our first child.

We started reading all we could about home births as well as going to the local Lamaze class. We were the only Lamaze students in our class that were considering home birth. We found a local physician that was willing to do home birth, but he bailed on us a few months before the birth.

We sought out a midwife and received excellent information and instruction from her, but as the time grew near, she too informed us that she would not be able to guarantee her being present for the birth due to travel time. She encouraged us to continue with the home birth plans, but to plan on managing it ourselves. She recommended seeking out others in the community that had home birth experience and see if there were any that would be interested in being present during the birth. We had some friends that lived not too far from us in the country. These two sisters had both had several children by home birth. When approached, they both were very excited about the prospects of attending the birth.

My wife of course had regular prenatal check-ups, we attend the Lamaze classes, and assembled the basic items together we would need for the birth. Again... I will not go into detail of what our reading and instruction and equipment consisted of, but I would say, we were pretty well prepared as one should be. Our physician gave a green light on the home birth as all looked very normal, and we should expect a normal birth with a healthy baby.

It was 4:00 am when she started into labor. I called the gals later in the morning to let them know that it looked like she was in labor. They would be standing by, but it looked like it might be a very long labor. We took walks up and down the drive and busied ourselves with making sure all was present. My brother and his wife would also be attending to provide assistance and photographic services.

The day drug on and it was not until late in the evening that my wife had started dilating, indicating that the birth process was starting to move along. Yes! I did the Pelvic Exams... Her contractions were getting strong, but the process was still proceeding slowly. The babies heart rate remained strong, and my wife remained strong despite the length of the labor.

It was about 2:00 in the morning that I started to question what the hell we were doing. My wife was working so hard, and it seemed that the moment of birth would never come. Yes... A true moment of doubt. I stepped outside into the cool dark air for a break. I flashed my flashlight into the woods, and there! Not 10 foot from me was an Owl sitting on a branch in the beam of my light. The Owl just sat their in my beam of light with an unflinching gaze as if he were imparting a message to me. I stood transfixed by this apparition, and after several minutes of me staring at the Owl and the Owl staring back, I slowly turned the light away and headed back to the birthing.

I had my resolve back and was indeed ready for our baby boy to be born into my hands. He was born with eyes wide open and without and distress or crying. I cleared his nose and mouth of mucous and presented the boy to the waiting arms of his mother. Within seconds he was contently nursing while a tearful mother stroked his head. I clamped and then cut the umbilicus, and we all gave each other great big hugs.

Without a doubt, this was one of my most intense experiences of my life. Not sure what to say about the visit from the Old Owl, but I will take that as a good omen. The sisters were wonderful through the process and assuring me that everything that my wife was experiencing was normal.

Our next two boys were born at home as well, but the stress level was less each time. We would have only one other person on hand to assist, and all went very well with the births. The most interesting aspect of the birth of the three boys was the alert wide-open eyes, and the lack of distress or crying. So many of the births I had attended in hospital settings were very different.

Now, I am not suggesting that home births are for everyone. Pre-natal check ups will identify most issues that would eliminate consideration for home birth. If there is a health concern, then the hospital is your best environment. If you do choose a hospital birth, seek out a facility that provides the best in natural child birthing methods. If you are interested in Home Birthing, there is a lot of information available on the Internet. The more prepared and educated you are, the more confidence you will have.

All the boys are grown now, and I await the day I will be a grandfather.

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