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Staying home when it counts

It looks like Heather, who's annoying blog I DON'T READ, was convinced to try natural childbirth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's book Your Best Birth. For our part, Dan and I were convinced that homebirth by midwife was our only option after reading the book Pushed by Jennifer Block, which I picked up last summer on a whim from the new nonfiction section of our local library. It should be encouraging to activists and journalists everywhere that books-length exposes still have the ability to blow people's minds and completely alter people's behavior. That, or maternity care in the US is just THAT BAD.

As big hippies, (and Christian hippies at that) it wasn't a huge leap for us into the homebirth polemic. We are suspicious of doctors, we hate hospitals, and we think that God has a pretty solid plan for making more people.

Still, the decision for me was more based on stats based than faith. For low-risk mothers, the home is a safer place than the hospital. 8% of home births end in C-section, while 30% of hospital births do. There are other benchmarks to compare: episiotomy rates, length of labor, etc. But or me, the risk of C-section was the kicker. This is an intervention that decreases the safety of each subsequent child, eventually leaving the size of your family up to a doctor's judgement. Many of these procedures happen as precautionary safety measures, but I wasn't interested in mitigating microscopic risks with one-in-ten-thousand occurrences by taking on a three-in-ten risk of abdomen surgery. For me, that's a dumbass way to play the odds.

People's first major argument against homebirth is fear of complications that can't be managed in the home. In terms of medical preparedness, I have in my mind this image of stepping out of the tub immediately after giving birth and seeing the baby's changing table covered with rows and rows of labeled syringes, all at the ready with blood clotting agents and adrenaline and who knows what else. I looked around the room to see trays of sterile instruments and oxygen tanks, and all I could think was "When did this get here?" While I was closing my eyes and biting a towel it was like a staging crew from NBC's ER flooded the place.

The second sticking point that makes woman smile and back away when I mention homebirth is the pain issue. Yes, birth is painful. As someone with a very low pain threshold, I firmly agree that birth is painful. It's very very painful. But then it's over. I compare it to the experience of passing the worst Mexican food you ever ate; just as you think you are about to die from discomfort, the whole thing is done and you think, "Glad that's over with! I'm so happy to no longer be on the toilet!" Well, that was what birth was like for me: uncomfortable, and then done. And then I wasn't in the hospital, I wasn't all drugged up, and I had my baby right with me ready to bond. Also, I had the vindication that my body really did do what God created it to do, but that's a personal matter.

So I'm glad that crazy people like Heather are following the lead of crazy hippies like us. Who knew we could unite over something?

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