Exploring your options for birth and becoming informed is one way to reclaim and ensure an empowering birth
Disclaimer: This blog is solely based on my experience. Not all women are able to have homebirths. I have the most respect for women who give birth no matter the setting or outcome. I am not speaking about women's preferred birth choice here, but I do speak on the medical system and how it fails women giving birth. Traumatic or negative experiences with birth exist in and out of the hospital setting. I had a positive homebirth experience and this is why I chose to have a homebirth.
Note that this article may be triggering if you had a traumatic birth or may have had several interventions that unknowingly led to complications.
Homebirth Was Not My First Choice
I remember always saying that the only reason I would ever want to be in a hospital was when I gave birth. When I became pregnant, I started researching more about birthing options. I wanted to become as informed as possible. With my past conventional experience working in a pregnancy center and after becoming a Holistic Health Coach, I directly witnessed how the conventional medical model fails so many of its patients. It fails women by not providing full informed consent, not giving women the trust and power to prepare for birth, and not offering a personalized approach for women to have an optimal and healthy pregnancy. I am not talking about the medical providers here because I am sure most providers are wonderful. There is a systemic medical problem across the United States.
In most cases, pregnancy is not an emergency situation, although there are a few instances where it does become an emergency, and a hospital emerges as the safest and best option for the family. Many people I know have given birth in a hospital. I didn't anticipate doing anything different for myself. Giving birth at a hospital is the norm in the United States (which I am not against). I was hesitant to consider a homebirth as my first option because I perceived it as "risky." The truth is, I didn't know enough about the subject of homebirth. I had my own preconceived ideas and judgments about what a homebirth entailed.
The Moment Homebirth Became My Choice
I began considering homebirth after becoming more aware of the conventional medical system's approach and becoming knowledgeable about their standard practices during pregnancy and birth. I recognized that if I wanted to learn more about homebirth (even though it seemed intimidating), I needed to hear about the experiences of women who had positive homebirths. One of these women, thankfully, is my maternal grandmother. I had the privilege of asking her questions about all her homebirths. It's astonishing how just a few generations ago and in other parts of the world, homebirth was the primary method for women to give birth.
Searching for a homebirth midwife was not an easy task and took time. I initially scheduled an appointment at an OB/GYN office to confirm the viability of my pregnancy. I didn't want to completely rule out the possibility of giving birth in a hospital setting, so I went in with questions. Seeing an OB/GYN first turned out to be a wise decision because it helped me make a clear decision about my plans for the rest of my pregnancy and birth. After the appointment, I felt that I would have to advocate more for myself and my baby based on the questions I had asked and the responses I received from the midwife there.
My Homebirth Midwife
The following week after my OB visit, my husband and I had a consultation with a homebirth midwife, Jenny Zaner, LM CPM, from It's Your Birth Midwifery Services. I have never felt more relieved, understood, and validated during an appointment. My instincts immediately confirmed that homebirth was the best choice for me and my family. I had no doubts after our first consultation. I remember walking out of that appointment and telling my husband, "I feel like she speaks my language." What I meant by this is that it's incredibly challenging to find experts in the field who have a more holistic perspective and offer a personalized approach. The conventional medical model is primarily what dominates today's medical system.
During the consultation, my husband and I were still quite naive about homebirth. This was all the more reason for us to ask a few questions. Alongside our wonderful midwife Jenny, I continued learning about homebirth by listening to podcasts, reading numerous books, and watching many videos on positive homebirth experiences. I was incredibly grateful for the women who shared their birth stories. While we can't predict the exact outcome of birth, it's important to understand that you can greatly influence a more empowering birth when you prepare and explore your options.
Homebirth Midwifery Model & The Medical Model
Let's delve into some distinct differences in care. If I hadn't conducted the research and posed numerous questions, I might have permitted my OB to have complete control over everything concerning my body and my baby. Without inquiry, I would have acquiesced to a multitude of routine procedures for myself and my baby after birth. I would have opted to "trust the expert" over "trusting my body and my instincts." I would have aligned myself with whatever my doctor favored, without considering that as a pregnant individual, I held the ultimate choice in how I wanted to give birth. I would have continued to normalize what is already standard in the medical model. The contrast between pregnancy care and birth is stark. Below are a few reasons why I opted for homebirth.
In the conventional setting, appointments are brief, hurried, and impersonal. These appointments are often hurried due to the need to attend to other patients and maintain a strict schedule. The type of care you receive is often dictated by your insurance. Typically, the same routine is followed for all pregnant women. Consider the glucose drink, for instance. This drink is administered to all women between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy without exploring other potentially better options. Unless you advocate for yourself and inquire about alternatives, you're left assuming that you must consume it solely because it's been recommended. In my case, I ended up monitoring my blood sugar for a week under Jenny's guidance. Jenny offered me informed consent before proceeding with anything and provided multiple choices. She placed her trust in me, and I reciprocated that trust.
Optimal Prenatal Nutrition
There are numerous outdated discrepancies within conventional prenatal nutrition. Optimal nourishment for pregnancy and postpartum is not thoroughly explored in traditional settings. Mainly discussed in prenatal nutrition are the do's and don'ts of pregnancy diet. However, conventional prenatal vitamins do not provide the necessary nutrients for both the mother and the growing baby. In fact, they lack essential nutrients such as iodine and choline. These conventional prenatals are also not easily absorbed by the body, meaning that the nutrients are not efficiently utilized. You might be familiar with folic acid, which is often used instead of L-methylfolate. Folic acid isn't the ideal choice, as it's a synthetic form of folate. Many women struggle to convert it into the active form. However, the conventional medical model solely focuses on folic acid and doesn't take into account the bioavailability within a woman's body, nor the nutrients crucial for maternal and fetal development.
Fortunately, as a health coach, I recognized the significance of genuine nutrition and how to properly nourish both myself and the developing fetus. Additionally, Jenny was knowledgeable about the types of foods that offer comprehensive nourishment. This reassured me that Jenny was the right guide for us. I recommend reading "Real Food for Pregnancy" by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of whole nourishment during pregnancy and postpartum. Jenny delved into topics not often discussed in conventional settings, such as glyphosate and soil depletion, as well as the actual bioavailable supplements for pregnancy. Before getting to know me, she showed genuine interest in my nutrition and my baby's. She even requested a week-long food log to ensure that I was consuming a good amount of protein and obtaining optimal nutrients.
Cascade of Interventions
The cascade of interventions is something I was familiar with prior to my consultation with Jenny, and it was indeed a significant reason I chose to avoid a hospital setting. The cascade of interventions includes instances where a provider breaks the water using tools instead of allowing the process to unfold naturally, the administration of an epidural, intravenous fentanyl, Pitocin (a synthetic version of oxytocin), the use of forceps or a vacuum, and non-emergent cesarean sections. The cascade of interventions is the phenomenon wherein a particular intervention leads to subsequent interventions due to the consequences of the initial intervention.
Oftentimes, this may involve inducing labor at 39 weeks of pregnancy even when the woman isn't in labor. Pitocin is used alongside other medications to initiate labor, leading to strong and regular contractions that can become overwhelming. This might prompt the request for an epidural. However, epidurals have been linked to fetal distress, increasing the likelihood of a c-section. Frequently, women are unaware of how this cascade of interventions can lead to unintended consequences. While this is just one example, it's important to note that not every mother experiences this sequence during childbirth. I'm not opposed to these interventions, but I reached a point where I began questioning and weighing the pros and cons, especially upon learning about Pitocin's association with increased postpartum hemorrhage. I also became curious about why the c-section rate is as high as 32% in the United States. Many women are induced when it might not be necessary.
Do Your Research
In the midwifery model, labor unfolds differently. Allowing labor to progress at its natural pace often results in lower complications and fewer issues. Many women feel a sense of relief in a hospital due to their initial experience, without realizing that the experience was influenced by a prior labor intervention. In the midwifery model, you receive comprehensive informed consent regarding every aspect of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I was provided with up-to-date research on topics such as the vitamin K shot for newborns. Unfortunately, the conventional system often relies on outdated research, as it takes an average of 17 years for new research to influence policy. Many routine interventions performed in the conventional setting lack evidence-based support.
For these and many other reasons, I believed that homebirth was the best choice for me and my family. However, this is my personal experience, and it's possible that giving birth in a hospital was the right decision for you and your family. Homebirth isn't an option for every woman. I believe that the setting itself isn't the primary concern; what truly matters is preparing and educating yourself about your choices. I want women to understand that they have alternatives and don't have to conform to societal expectations. Conduct thorough research during and after pregnancy. Delve into topics that might not be widely discussed, such as weighing the pros and cons of Pitocin, epidurals, antibiotics, the cascade of interventions, delayed cord clamping, the vitamin K shot, circumcision, midwifery care, aluminum in vaccines, vaccine inserts, risks of infant Tylenol, Weston A. Price, MTHFR, breastfeeding, postpartum healing meals, fluoride in water, the golden hour, and more. I know firsthand—I spent most of my pregnancy educating myself on these matters rather than concerning myself with tasks like nursery decoration.
Ultimately, trust in yourself and your instincts, whatever you choose it's the best for you and your family!