Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thoughts on our home birth

First I'll start off by saying that a home birth isn't for everyone. We were 100% committed to an un-medicated birth, and I was low-risk. It really worked for us, but I believe that expectant parents should only choose a birth location where they feel comfortable (home, hospital, birthing center, or wherever).

Nick and I took an interesting path with our pre-natal care. We actually started at an OB office. I've never had an OB so I asked a friend who was pregnant at the time who she was using. The first ultrasound at 6 weeks to confirm a heartbeat was easy. They scheduled all of my pre-natal visits throughout the nine months and even mailed me a copy. The office was schmancy and the front desk staff were all super helpful. 

Our first actual doctor visit at 12 weeks was with a nurse practitioner. Nick had the flu and had to stop on Michigan Avenue to throw up. Nice, eh? The NP was knowledgeable and friendly, but she seemed really stuck in her routine, like she had memorized her whole 12 week appointment shpeal,  and didn't make eye contact with me or even address Nick. It just didn't feel right, for either of us. I was really looking for a more woman-centered care model. 

So I looked into a few midwifery practices and we transferred our care to the midwives at Prentice Women's Hospital (at Northwestern). The midwives work in a rotation so you meet with all of them before you go into labor. Everyone we saw there was great: they took their time with us, asked me questions about my well-being, interacted with Nick, and seemed to take an interest in us as people, not just as patients. We had a brief period around 22-24 weeks where I was having weird cramps and started to dilate and the midwives were awesome. I really felt cared for and knew that I was in good hands. .

Then Nick and I started our nine week Bradley Method BirthCourse. First of all, I highly recommend a Bradley course for anyone who likes information. It's a lot of information. Yeah, nine weeks is a long time, but when we finished, Nick and I felt as prepared as we could have been at the time. Nick joked that he could now deliver babies for a living. 

Quick digression. I was born at home and had been pro-home birth from the start. Nick wasn't quite onboard, so I didn't push it. 

After each Bradley class we would talk about what we learned and what choices we wanted for our birth. It became clear to both of us that a hospital birth, especially one at Prentice (a hospital with soaring c-section rates), didn't seem right for us anymore. I'm a bit of a control freak so I wanted us to be as in control of our birth as possible. I didn't want to be pushed into anything based on a doctor's schedule or hospital preference. Both Nick and I wanted our birth to be un-medicated and intervention free. I wanted to know and feel familiar with everyone in the room with me during labor.

One day after class, Nick turned to me and said, "I'd like to look into home birth options." So we did. I was around 36 weeks at the time and there are really only two certified nurse midwives who do home births in the city, so we were hoping they could take me as a new patient that close to my due date. We really clicked with Sarah Simmons (New Life Midwifery) AND she had availability around my due date. So we transferred our care again. I'm sooooo glad we did.

The pre-natal visits with Sarah were night and day even from the midwives at Prentice. They often lasted 45 minutes long. Sarah would ask me questions or listen to my concerns, she'd take a look and feel my tummy, listen to the heartbeat, we'd schedule the next appointment, she'd give me a hug, and then I'd be on my way. I really felt like I was being cared for as a complete and complex woman instead of just a baby-vessel. 

After all that...our home birth was awesome and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Our midwife, Sarah, was amazing. She made me feel like I was in control and always presented me with options. She was calm and supportive. We felt safe in her care, and confident in her decision-making skills should an emergency arise (plus we live ten minutes away from a hospital). We were in our own home. We didn't have to worry about when to go to the hospital or even getting to the hospital. I labored in the dining room and in the bathroom and on the floor and in the birthing tub and on the futon. I got to labor in familiar surroundings, with people that I knew and trusted, and after Baby Jo was born we went to sleep in our own bed. She didn't leave my arms once. This home will be special forever because Jo was born here.

When I asked my mom why they chose a home birth with me, this is what she said:
Having a home birth was a choice we made based on our value system at the time.  We wanted to be at home with friends and people we knew, in the comfortable, familiar surroundings instead of a hospital room which screamed, "Institution".  The vibes and energy present were positive and caring. Nothing clinical. We wanted to deliver you as naturally as possible.  You know, woman have done this for years in a simple way with minimal to no medical support. No drugs, no unexpected changes due to circumstances out of our control. We could control the process as much as was possible....which is very little actually.  Maybe more of what we didn't want at the time. Since the birth went just fine and there were no complications, we were able to hold you and googoo you as much as we liked.  No medical intervention needed.  No IV's to trip over, no enema, nothing other than the basics. 
I love that our reasons for planning a home birth were so similar.

I'm still working on my birth story, but plan on posting that as soon as its done. In the meantime, here's a lovely picture of Jo, our midwife Sarah, and me.

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