Dispelling Myths About Natural Birthing

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As my first baby turns five this week, I’ve been reflecting more and more on the birth of my babes and I want to take a minute to celebrate the beauty of birth itself and shed some insight into my personal choice to birth my kids naturally at home.

Birth is a beautiful, natural process that women’s bodies were literally created for.  It has been untouched and uninterrupted for billions of years.  Our hospital birthing culture has managed to industrialize birthing to the point where its not only lost its sacred beauty, but somewhere along the way, its been interwoven with a sense of fear, which has prompted women to lose faith in their bodies ability to do what it was designed for.

For so long I literally feared even telling people I birthed my children at home, which looking back now seems silly since it’s all such a big part of who I am.  I think the difficulty I had at the time sharing with others about my choice was people honestly didn’t know much about home birth and because of this, they most likely assumed it was risky or unsafe.  I wrote this post to dispelll this common myth about natural birthing.

How I Really Became Interested in Home Birth in the First Place

Let me just get this out there first: I’ve been a strong willed woman since the time I exited my mothers womb (my father would contest to this fact).  Not in so much in a defiant way, more in the independent thinker sort of way.  I’ve just never felt comfortable with people telling me how I should think or what I should do without doing my own research first.  And when I set my mind to something, it’s darn near impossible to change my mind.

And I always always always wanted to know the root cause of every medical practice and every disease.  I became interested in natural birthing methods far before I was even in a position to have children or even in a commited relationship.  I watched The Business of Being Born, a documentary about the birthing system in America, when I was 20 years old, as a junior in college (If you haven’t seen this documentary, its on Netflix and will blow your mind).  C-sections just didn’t sit well with me way back then.  I was ranting about the wild C-section rates in the US and correlating infant mortality rates to my friends in undergraduate school. I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy back then but that’s totally ok with me.

But when it came time for me to make an ultimate decision in how and where I would birth my own son about 8 years later,  it really came down to two factors: I had previously witnessed all three of my sisters have traumatic hospital births that ended in C-sections that they didn’t want and on top of that, the specific county I lived in at the time had higher c-section rates than even the national average (which is 31%, in case you were wondering).

I had wanted a child for so long but yet I was terrified at the prospect of giving birth from the moment I found out I was pregnant.  Not because I was afraid of the actual birth itself, in all of its unknowns as a new mom, but more so because I was afraid of having a medicalized birth that was unplanned and with interventions that were unnecessary and because I really, really didn’t want to have a C-section.

I was extremely healthy and able and I felt there was no need for me to deliver in a hospital, given that my pregnancy was so low risk.

I had witnessed how my sisters were bullied into interventions they didn’t want and ultimately had birth experiences they were disappointed and traumatized by.  I was fearful because I really didn’t want my birth to spiral from one seemingly innocent medical intervention, like pitosson, to the next, like painful contractions, a difficult labor, an epidural and ultimately a C-section.

After months of research, I realized quickly that my chances were pretty slim for having a natural, uninterviened birth at my home hospital, and that made me very afraid to enter into my pregnancy. I’ve always hated hospitals, needles and didn’t particularly trust doctors.  There were also no natural birthing centers in my area at the time but there was an amazing midwife home birth practice.  While I really wanted a natural birth, I had always envisioned it in more of a birthing center situation, rather than a home birth.  Even as a person who considered myself educated on natural birthing methods, I was still ignorant enough about homebirth to wonder about its safety and feasibility.

Since it was really one of my only options other than the hospital in my small town,  I decided it couldn’t hurt to go meet with the Midwife and see what she has to say.  I prayed my husband would be open to the idea.

We went together to meet her, my husband and I.  We asked all the questions she probably always gets from first time birthers.

My first question was what do we do if the cord is wrapped around the babies neck?  She calmly stated that a large percentage of babies are born with some degree of nuchal cord wrapping, that this was completely normal and non-life threatening.  She explained to me how babies receives o2 through the umbilical cord during birth, something I never realized or thought of.

What to do in the case of an emergency? She explained how close monitoring throughout my pregnancy would be the best indicator if I should stick with the home birth plan or choose a facility with emergency care.  In other words, had I or the baby shown any red flags for a complicated high risk birth, my midwife would suggest that I change providers.  She reminded me we were just a ten minute of a drive to the nearest hospital.   

What if I couldn’t handle the pain? She told me epidurals are not an option.  She explained how she would teach me ways to deal with the pain and be there to comfort me through it.  

She reminded me of how pregnancy isn’t an illness and doesn’t really necessitate hospitalization, it’s just what’s normal in our culture. 

On and on it went.  Every fear was quenched with an honest answer, that calmed my soul.

She was knowledgeable, factual, scientific, competent, experienced, realistic and she presented me with so much helpful information. She taught me more about my own body than I had came to realize in my entire adult life.

For the first time since becoming pregnant, I actually felt calm as I approached pregnancy and birth.  I felt I was in the right place and had finally felt legitimate trust in a provider as I walked through my birth.

I felt for the first time that my dream to have a natural birth was not just a reality, but the best thing for me and my baby.

What I Want You to Know about Homebirth

My births at home were both very different and nothing short of amazing.  My first son was born within 5 hours of my water breaking, which is considered a very quick labor for a first time mother.  My second baby had a few complications that made labor more difficult for me, but in the end, she was born in the water, and my midwife and doubla helped and empowered me through my difficult labor. 
I received the most amazing care and encouragement from my birth team, who took care of me, monitoring the health of both me and my children, far after the birth even occurred.  They cared for me so much during that post-partum period and answered all my questions, about healing, breastfeeding, post partum anxiety, etc.  They ultimately gave me the type of care and support I could never in a million years receive in a hospital setting.

Here are my top 8 things I want you to know about birthing your children at home: 

  1. It’s less scary than a hospital birth. Why? Because it’s more predictable and you’re more in control of the outcome and the interventions that will or will not be performed on you or your baby.

  2. It’s not more risky than a hospital birth.  There is literally no body of evidence, that has any factual information stating that having your baby naturally with a midwife is more risky for the health of the baby or the mother than a hospital birth.  To the contrary, the hospital culture of birth in our nation has created a national disaster in terms of birthing safety for both babies and mothers.  The US is not only the most dangerous place in the entire developed world for birthing mothers (we have higher death rates of birthing mothers than any other developed country) but we also have the highest rate of infant mortality than any other country in the developed world.  See the International Comparisons of Infant Mortality and Related Factors: United States and Europe, for some alarming statistics.

    A study from the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health (JMWH), a landmark study** confirms that among low-risk women, home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies.  This study, which examines nearly 17,000 courses of midwife-led care, is the largest analysis of planned home birth in the U.S. ever published. 
    Some standouts from this study: (homebirth cesarean rates of 5.2%, a remarkably low rate when compared to the U.S. national average of 31%, lower rates of intervention in home births, 97% of babies were carried to full-term in the homebirths, babies were healthy averaging 8 lbs at birth, 98% of homebirth babies were breastfed at 8 weeks post-partum, only 1% of babies required a hospital transfer after birth for non-urgent issues, and there was no higher risk of death during labor for home birthing mothers).

    If anything, I would guess you and your babies are in better hands with an in-tuned midwife than delivering in a hospital setting.

  3. Homebirth midwives are extremely selective which screens out high risk situations. Why? Because they don’t take high risk pregnancies and advise women with complicated medical histories to birth in a hospital setting.

  4. Your prenatal and post natal care will be luxury VIP in comparison to a hospital birthing scenario. How? I’m sure I’m unable to really do this comparison justice, but let me just name a few of the perks of working with a midwife:

    • Extensive pre-natal monitoring with a hands on approach (midwives use their hands to tell the position of the baby and monitor growth of the uterus and the baby), that teaches and educated you along the way
    • Regular growth, heart rate and position monitoring for baby
    • Birth plan coaching and management
    • Bi-weekly to weekly hour long prenatal visits in which all your wildest questions are answered
    • Pre-natal coaching for labor pain management
    • Extensive education and preparation for birthing and labor
    • Vaccine discussion and information
    • Post partum home visits with incredible post natal care for baby and mom
    • Breastfeeding help
    • Monitoring of babies weight gain
    • Monitoring of health of the mother
    • Emotional support, screening for post-partum anxiety and depression
    • Post-partum care until 8 weeks after birth for both baby and mother while the care is being transferred to a pediatrician.

    I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never in my life heard any type of OB provide this type of care to a birthing mother.

  5. A natural birth isn’t something to be feared. Once we fully embrace the natural ability of the body to perform its innate capabilities, we can let go of this fear based mentality, fueled by the industrialization and hospital culture of birthing in our nation. Our bodies are extremely strong, capable and powerful vessels, created to sustain and deliver life into this world. And women have birthed their babies naturally for hundreds of years without hospitalization and intervention, with the help of midwives.

  6. You can still deliver vaginally with a midwife if your first birth was a C-section. Yes, VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean delivery) are possible with a midwife (depending on the state you live in). If your OB has managed to convince you that you are physically unable to withstand a vaginal delivery because you’ve already had a C-section, that simply isn’t true. Midwifes take clients on a case by case basis, and I’ve heard many successful vaginal delivery stories following a C-section.

  7. You should be in control of your birthing experience. I’ve seen and heard so many stories of how women have been taken advantage of in the process of birth by their providers. Whether it be a quick change in the birth plan, an administration of a drug that occurred against a mothers will, or having an episiotomy down there against your will. What I’m saying is, make sure you feel right about your provider before you commit to working with them and make sure you have a birth plan in place and openly discuss all aspects of how your birth plan could change prior to birth with your provider.

  8. If I can do it, so can you! I’m just a regular gal, with a strong willpower whose always had a low threshold for pain. If I can do it, you certainly can too!

The Real Reasons I Chose a Natural Birth at Home

Contrary to what you might think, I didn’t chose to birth my children at home because I’m crazy.  Or because I didn’t do enough research prior to birth to find out all the complications that could arise.

Or not even because I felt I was better, stronger or braver than any other birthing mother.

And certainly not because I think you’re a bad mom if you had an opted for or emergency C-section or any other type of hospital birth.

I made a choice to birth my kids at home because I believed in the beautiful and perfect design of our Creator who literally sets life as we know into its place.

I birthed my kids at home because I trusted my body to do what it was created to do.

Because I chose faith over fear.

Because I researched more than you know.

Because I found it was actually a safer option for me and my babies.

Because C-section and infant mortality rates are higher in the US than any other country in the developed world, despite being one of the wealthiest nations in the entire world.

Because maternal care is also worse in the US than any other country in the developed world, despite the fact that we spend more money in healthcare than any other country.

Because the area I lived in at the time had even higher rates of C-sections than the national average.

Because a “natural” uninterviened birth in a hospital setting in this situation was highly unlikely and very unpredictable.

Because I had witnessed all three of my sisters have traumatic hospital births that ended in C-sections.

Because I didn’t want to be in a vulnerable position when someone challenged me to make rash decisions about my birth plan.

Because the United States has birthing backwards and the medical system teaches women to distrust their bodies and fear the process of birth.

Because babies aren’t designed to be too big for their mothers birth canals.

Because a cord being wrapped around a babies neck during birth (nuchal wrapping) isn’t even a fatal situation (both my babes were born with wrapped cords)

Because heart rates drop often as they relate to outside intervention and pressure through the birth canal when babies not in the correct position.

Because birthing a child into this world is beautiful and sacred and holy and a hospital scenario over medicalizes it.

Because my body is strong.

Because I don’t fear pain.

Because perfect love casts out all fear.

Because I was perfectly healthy and had zero pregnancy complications.

Because the pre and post-natal maternal care and support of a midwife blows every single hospital maternal care unit out of the water by light years.

My home births were by no means painless but they were without fear.

They weren’t easy but they were empowering.

They were challenging but not impossible.

My births brought me closer to the Lord, helped me figure out who I was and filled me with so much faith over the beautiful design of my body.

Birth is beautiful and wild, a natural process we were literally made for.  It shouldn’t be feared, hindered or intervened if it doesn’t have to be.

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My first time holding my daughter after her water birth

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My son, just a few days old

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The first time I held my first son, after a fairly quick delivery at home

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About 8 months pregnant with my second baby

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My Birthing Team with my second delivery of my daughter, a few minutes after her birth 
Angela Love, of Midwife Love, practices at an incredibly successful Midwifery practice in Vero Beach, Florida and she delivered both of my babies with the most excellent care

Resources:

  1. MacDorman M, Declercq E, Mathews TJ. Recent trends in out‐of‐hospital births in the United States. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2013;58(5):494‐501.

  2. International Comparisons of Infant Mortality and Related Factors: United States and Europe, 2010 <found at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr63/nvsr63_05.pdf>