Before we address the best place for you to have your baby, I would like to appeal to your own intuition. These days, many women decide to have a child later in life. If this is the case for you, you might be told that you could be (or are) in the high-risk category. I personally don’t believe age in and of itself makes a difference; a more comprehensive assessment of your medical history is more informative than the number of your years and a bunch of statistics. Your attitude and self-confidence are also a big part of the equation. If you feel strongly one way or another, please have enough information and seek several professional opinions before you abdicate and allow yourself to be labeled high-risk. Giving birth is one of the most important events in the life of a human being.
Some women spend thousands of dollars on their wedding dresses, yet when they find out how much it costs to have a baby at home, and that their insurance will not cover it, they feel they just cannot justify the money. I even hear such arguments for the cost of a doula, which is a lot lower. Consider how important your child will be for the rest of your life. Think of how you will feel about yourself, empowered to have the kind of birthing experience you truly desire. Having a successful birth has been shown to make a substantial difference in the postpartum stage. A confident mother takes care of her child better than one who has relinquished her powers to any other authority figure. Go inside and ask your child how he or she would like to come into this world.
I had two homebirths and am admittedly partial to them. It was very important for me to me to know that all the people who were going to be around me and my child at home would not only be there to care for us, but that they deeply loved us. Knowing that my child would never be handled by an overtired, underpaid, and overworked nurse also made me feel better. Knowing that the lights could be lowered, the atmosphere could be gentler, and the transition more natural made me stand by my decision. Yet, I respect anyone who feels more confident at the hospital and do not challenge their choice. I also believe that you can bring a little home into any institution, for indeed, home is where the heart is. I have observed that when we live in a state of unconditional love and compassion for ourselves and others, people are transformed by our love.
In an article entitled Home Births Safe for Most,
researchers compared the outcomes of 862 planned home births attended by midwives with those of planned hospital births attended by either midwives (571) or physicians (743) during the years 1998 and 1999. The results of the study showed that women who gave birth at home attended by a midwife had fewer procedures during labor compared with women who gave birth in a hospital attended by a physician.
Women who give birth at home usually have a healthy, normal birth. Drugs are not an option, and it is amazing how women step up to the challenge and have a wonderful, un-medicated birth. Most emergencies are handled successfully with no-risk, low-tech strategies and instrumentation. For thousands of years, women of all ages have given birth at home and have had perfectly healthy children.
Of course, there are precautions to be taken in the homebirth process. The first and foremost is that your caregiver is well trained and competent. It is also important that a hospital is not farther than approximately thirty minutes from your home.
At home, you can enlist all the support you need to achieve a natural childbirth. You can use a water tub, you can have your music, your comforts, your family and friends. At home, you can eat and drink as much as you wish, you are surrounded by familiar images, and you know where and how to calm yourself. Once you give birth, you will not need to go anywhere. If there are other children, they can participate, or they can simply wake up to their new brother or sister without much of a shock. At home, your baby will snuggle up with you and your partner from the very first night (more on co-sleeping in the tenth chapter) and the three of you will bond divinely. It will be up to you to prepare your sacred space to birth your baby, and you will feel empowered and supported by your ancestry.
Unfortunately, the number of birthing centers available in the United States is decreasing. Nevertheless, if one is available to you, a birthing center is certainly a good alternative to a hospital. Birthing centers generally encourage the birthing woman to handle her contractions using natural methods, and the absence of drugs allows her to focus on the labor process, rather than be numb to it.
Most emergencies at birthing centers are handled on site, with low-tech equipment, and most centers are usually no more than thirty minutes away from the hospital. Other advantages of using a birthing center are access to a whirlpool or birthing tub, and of course the bonus of having someone else clean up. In most cases, the baby is not separated from the mother, but depending on the birthing center, you might be handled by several different people on several shifts.
A birthing center is a great choice when you feel uncomfortable with your home setting or if you live far away from medical facilities. Birthing centers have either a medical doctor on staff or guaranteed medical back up and are well equipped for minor emergencies (just like midwives). Birthing centers also provide a sense of legitimacy for family and partners who are worried about a homebirth.
As soon as you enter the hospital in labor, you are offered a wheelchair. In an instant, it seems as if you are transformed from a beautiful laboring mother, with nothing wrong but the onset of the natural waves of labor, to an incapacitated patient who needs to be evaluated, hooked up to machines, and automatically medicated. Later in this book, we will address how to handle arriving at the hospital. For now, let’s simply weigh the pros and cons of the hospital as a birth setting. In a hospital, a nurse will care for you, but she will leave at the end of her shift (usually a twelve hour shift from 7 AM to 7 PM and vice versa), at which time a new nurse will take over. She will likely be in telephone contact with the doctor, who will choose the course of action based on her evaluation, not on your desires. In addition to taking care of you, a nurse will be responsible for up to three or four other laboring women. Her obligation to different patients limits her abilities in personal and emotional care, two factors that are so important to the comfort an expectant mother. As much as most nurses are giving, kind, and experienced people, many are highly overworked and overburdened with patients, and doctors’ orders.
If choosing a hospital birth, I appeal to you to make a connection with your nurse right away. Making her/him an ally from the start can make your birthing experience easier. However, if the chemistry is simply not there, it is a good idea to ask your partner to get in touch with the head nurse and ask to be assigned to another nurse. It is your right to have a supportive nurse by your side.
In the hospital, the doctor usually arrives at the last pushing phase to deliver the child. On average, this is thirty minutes to two hours before the baby is out. Indeed, if something were to go terribly wrong, the hospital is the best place to be. However, be aware that the proximity of all the high-tech equipment can result in its overuse. The fact that drugs are readily available and are constantly offered makes this place one where you will have to use a lot more will power to stay the course for a natural childbirth.
Remember, hospitals are businesses and they run accordingly. The primary goal of an efficient business is to process you as expediently as possible, so as to have the room/bed open for the next patient. Thus, there is often an underlying tendency to not allow, and even to discourage, the wait for the natural course of birth to happen. If you do not progress according to a standard timeline, you might be offered Pitocin, a synthetic hormone that increases or starts contractions, often offered to speed up or kick start your labor.
For the most part, many hospitals are trying to create a gentler environment with home-like birthing rooms. However, at the hospital, you may feel really alone unless you bring someone aside from your partner with you, like a doula, friend, or birth coach.
No matter what your logic tells you, your unconscious mind will probably be on alert, because the hospital environment is often associated with negative past experiences. Until now, it is likely that you have gone to the hospital only if there was something wrong. Your body, mind, and spirit will remember these past experiences and you’ll have to work hard to calm them down. I have had clients who literally used the hospital for only one to two hours to birth their babies, after having labored at home for the greatest part of their labor.
Once we have decided where and with whom we are going to have our child, we need to find out if there is anything inside ourselves that needs healing. We must heal our mind, soul, and body as we prepare for this new phase in our lives.
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