Friday, February 3, 2012

First Time Moms and the Hospital Birth

Disclaimer: This post obviously addresses mothers with average, uncomplicated pregnancies who do not desire a medicalized birth.

Okay, so in our society, whenever a woman hears the word "birth," the first thing that comes to mind is usually the hospital (and often, a dramatic scene from a television or movie). Even women who've decided they don't want pain meds for their birth for whatever reason, still automatically think of going to an OB/GYN and birthing in the hospital. Women who've thought of homebirth are often confronted by worried partners who have been similarly conditioned to think of birth as a medical event and convinced to go the hospital route, even though they know it's not the best option for them.
courtesy of stockxchng
When I was a First Time Mom (hereafter referred to as FTM), I thought I needed an OB and that homebirths were illegal in my state. At the time, it was close to true in that the restrictions on homebirth were so great that outside of an unassisted birth, it was nearly impossible (or felt that way) to have one. The first big mistake I made was finding an OB. Admittedly, I did it because I was having fertility issues and I didn't know a midwife could be an option, but it was still a mistake that would ultimately ruin my birth experience (and yes, that matters--a healthy baby is not, despite the propaganda to the contrary, the only thing that matters: an unhealthy mother is not good for the baby).

So I went to the OB. I was then emotionally tortured for the next several months. I would go to the appointment confident and strong and leave hurt and beaten down a little more each time. I tried to leave that practice twice and was thwarted the first time by an insurance snafu with the horrible office personnel of the local midwife practice and the OB I would use with my second birth. The second time, the midwife I was trying to switch to ended up dumping me at 38 weeks, which led to the destruction of my confidence.

My 'natural' birth was destroyed by interventions (the first and most important being the moment I got out of my bath and left for the hospital). While I never had a need for nor received an epidural, the 'intervention domino' still happened. I ended up with a most likely unnecessary cesarean, despite being an informed, educated (in pregnancy and birth at least) and supported (even had a doula) woman.

Many of us think that giving birth in the hospital as a FTM will give us the confidence to have an out of hospital birth the next time. What a lie! The hospital has no interest (nor is it in their interest to) in supporting a woman's confidence in her birth. If they don't 'rescue' us from this or that, why would we go back? We would realize that we don't need them (oh, the horror!) and have beautiful births in birth centers or at home. So they need to create drama, even if that's simply making mom fight against every single thing she doesn't want done to her or her baby.*

Now, this is where my story gets a little different from most: my husband realized what happened with the hospital birth and that the cesarean was not a rescue, but a threat to his wife and child. So he did not feel confident that the hospital was a 'safer' choice anymore. He had always supported my choice in birth, wherever, but admitted to feeling safer in the hospital... until it happened. Unfortunately the intervention domino is actually designed to lure partners in: the partner is in a helpless position. His/her wife/partner has all these problems that 'need' interventions and the hospital 'rescued' her from 'what could have gone wrong.'

Many parents (both!) do not recognize that most of the problems were iatrogenic (meaning that they were caused by the doctor/hospital) and would not have happened at home or in a birth center with a midwife who truly supports natural birth. Even I still wonder (will always wonder) how my birth would have gone had I stayed home. Of course, then I wouldn't have the experience I have: a cesarean following a (mostly) natural labor, a medicated VBAC and a totally natural birth center birth (that was almost unassisted). I now am confident that my long labors were caused by the interventions (especially the worthless cervical checks) considering how fast my most recent birth went.

For this reason, I caution FTMs from making the same mistakes I have made (and others tried to caution me, but of course, I didn't listen, as I don't expect the people I caution to--though I still always try, in the hope that I can perhaps help even one mom get the confidence she's looking for to have the birth she truly wants) and encourage others to examine their previous births (it's so hard to admit that you may have been lied to by professionals you trusted and, indeed, your entire society/culture) that were not as desired and pinpoint what could have been done differently.

Don't just assume you have no options, especially if a doctor (or nurse) told you that. Most doctors don't want you to have options or truly don't believe you do (*otherwise, why would they be doctors if they didn't believe in what they do?). Ask questions. Read. Become educated. Don't be another statistic.

If you truly feel that you need to give birth out of home for that 'confidence,' then look for a birth center option. Preferably detached from any hospital. If there are none in your area, look up your local laws and find out how you can support the addition of birth centers. Don't be afraid to travel a little! And if you absolutely must give birth in a hospital, do it with a midwife who clearly supports real natural birth (and not the kind who seems like they'd have rather have been an OB). CPMs are the best middle ground midwives--they have more training and access than a DEM, but aren't as medical minded as a CNM.

I hope this post can help moms who are looking for encouragement or confirmation for their feelings on out of hospital births and just needed that last little vote of confidence. Peaceful birthing thoughts to all mamas out there. May you have the birth that you desire.

courtesy of stockxchng

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