Monday, May 24, 2010

Ask Busca: Arizona Birth Activism?

Diane said:
I am getting ready to deliver baby number 3 and this will be my first delivered at home with a midwife. I have been learning and trying to digest everything I can get my hands on regarding midwifery care and home birthing, and I have been absolutely stunned and appalled at what the women in this country have not been told about giving birth. I myself had no idea how things should/can be, and had always assumed that the doctors know best. 

So on to why I am writing to you. My husband and I have been moved by our desire to get the word out to other women, and to also encourage an overhaul of our maternity care in the US. I believe you are in AZ too, and I was wondering if there are activism groups here? Or am I riled up about nothing? I just feel like we should DO something.
Thanks in advance for your time.
 Busca's Babble:

Diane actually sent me this email back in March, so first I'm going to apologize that it has taken me two months to respond.  But I am thrilled that you have had a fire lit under you and want to do something to help other women discover the truth, Diane.  You're definitely not riled up about nothing.

I think the first place I'll direct you is the Arizona Birth Network.  They hold monthly Birth Circle meetings at locations throughout AZ where you can meet with other like-minded women to discuss a variety of topics and brainstorm.  I haven't gone to any of the Birth Circles yet, but I am definitely planning on doing so.  Hopefully soon.

You also might consider attending your local La Leche League meetings.  I have friends who attend the meetings and have formed friendships and support networks through them.  The other women attending those meetings are also likely to either share your desire to share truth and knowledge or be open to further truth and knowledge that you are excited to share.

Another thing you might consider is starting your own group.  One of the fellow doulas-in-training at my doula workshop decided to create West Valley Birth Advocates.  I have attended and hosted meetings for that group.  You might consider hosting viewings of birth films or discussions of birth books in your own home for your friends and other women in your area to learn more.

You can also get involved on a more national level with groups such as Lamaze, Citizens for Midwifery, Childbirth Connection, and others.

I hope that helps, Diane!  Any of my Arizona birth junkie readers, please comment if you have any other ideas or tips.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rising up

I got married in the summer of 2001. When I was a newlywed, I had only known one woman who had given birth outside of a hospital by choice.  (And I never could have imagined I'd eventually do the same!) 

Nine years later, I can't believe how much has changed.  I can't even count the number of people I know who have given birth at home (or would be open to the possibility).  So many women! That is partly because I have sought friendships and attracted friendships with like-minded people.  But I don't think that's the only explanation.  I think giving birth at home is becoming more and more common.  In fact, I know it is.

Did you see that report back in March from the CDC?  Amy Newman from RH Reality Check summarizes it's findings:
Over the last five years, out-of-hospital births (which includes home birth and birthing at a free-standing birth center) rose 3 percent and home births rose 5 percent after having sharply declined between 1940 and 1969 and then remaining static over the last few decades.
Clearly women aren't abandoning hospitals in droves.  We're talking about a tiny percentage of the total births in the U.S.  But I expect that trend to continue.  Not because hospitals are BAD.  They're not bad.  They serve an essential purpose for women who experience birth complications.  But I expect home births to continue to rise because more and more women are realizing that, being low risk, they can have an equally safe but likely more satisfying birth experience staying home.  And the more women choose that path, the easier it becomes for their friends and family members to choose it... and on and on.

I often wonder what maternity care will be like in the U.S. when my daughters reach their childbearing years. 
Will the cesarean rate have decreased?  Will home birth midwives be able to practice legally in every state?  Will hospitals be more mother-friendly? 

I know my daughters may not choose the same path I have chosen.  I will support them in whatever they choose.  But watching them both scramble to get on my lap whenever they hear the unmistakable sounds of a YouTube birth video, seeing their complete and utter fascination with every detail, their comfort level and curiosity as a baby head emerges from its mother... all of that makes me hopeful that they will at least not enter their childbearing years fearful and uneducated. 

When my oldest daughter does tell me, on occasion, that she doesn't want to have babies because "It will hurt,"  I always smile and respond, "But it's SO COOL!  I love doing it!"  I hope that hearing my love of birth will, with time, ease her fears. I plan to school them all their lives in the beauty of birth and teach them how to help each other and other women through that process.  It makes me so happy to think of them doula-ing each other some day... and their friends... and their daughters... and grand-daughters. 

When I got married in 2001, no one in my family or circle of friends would have ever dreamed of giving birth at home.  Ever.  And now I'm surrounded by home birthing mommas... and looking at the possibility of generations of my own daughters joining those ranks.  What a beautiful sight.

Change is good.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"I don't agree with home birth"

I've encountered several statements similar to this one over the last week:

"While I do not agree with home birth..."

A few things come to mind when I hear this statement.

1) How can you "disagree" that home birth was right for me or anyone else?  Do you know my medical history?  Do you know my midwives' level of experience and the quality of their outcomes?  Do you know your own care provider's?  How many home birth studies have you examined? ....

Check out the rest of this post over at my new website!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bearing life and bearing witness

I couldn't restrain myself from proclaiming via blog comment the burning testimony in my heart.  And I figured I'd share it here as well. I use terminology and lingo familiar to members of my faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but I hope any and all of my readers will be inspired and uplifted by this expression of things near and dear to my heart. 

Like most of the women I know who chose to give birth at home, I studied the issue out in my mind extensively--even exploring the views of home birth opponents to ensure that I looked at the issue from all sides and didn't make the wrong choice. By the time I made the decision to give birth at home, I had spent the previous five+ years of my life studying childbirth. But even all of the science, facts, research, numbers, and stories wouldn't have been enough for me to take on the real, though minimal, risks inherent in home birth without fervent, deep, heartfelt consultation with the Lord.

I have never agonized over a decision more than I did over this one. We probably wouldn't have even considered a home birth if it hadn't been for certain financial circumstances in our life, but home birth was clearly the path that made the most financial sense for us. Above all, I did NOT want to make the wrong choice and put myself or my baby at increased risk, so it weighed extremely heavily on my mind. So we studied it out in our minds, worked hard to be completely open to the Lord's guidance, searched, pondered, prayed, and decided that home birth felt like the path we were being led to.

Next we asked the Lord if it was right, and my husband gave me a priesthood blessing I will never forget. It was one of the most tender and beautiful spiritual experiences of my life. I felt the most incredible burning in my heart--like I was being filled with the burning, life-giving love of God. I have never in my life received a more strong, intense, powerful answer to prayer. Then, throughout the rest of my pregnancy, when I had moments of weakness, my husband and the Lord reminded me of that powerful witness, and the Lord, in His tender mercy, promised me that we would be watched over and kept safe as I gave birth. And we were.
Do I think home birth is the right choice for everyone? Absolutely not. Do I think all birth attendants are safe? Absolutely not. I chose my midwives specifically because of their astoundingly superior stats and experience and because safety was extremely important to me. I think all women should drill their potential birth attendants about their stats and experience before choosing to put their lives and their babies' lives into a stranger's hands. There are many excellent doctors and midwives out there, and there are many lousy doctors and midwives out there. It seems like the wisest course to be sure you're getting one of the excellent ones.

Sometimes the Lord's guidance contradicts what the world sees as logical or rational or obvious. But personal revelation always trumps limited mortal understanding.

I love Elder Holland's words: "After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. . . . You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord is doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There’s always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet” (source).

I know that our Heavenly Parents care deeply about birth. I know that God did not send over 1/3 of his daughters to this world with bodies incapable of giving birth vaginally. I know that God is eager to help us make vital decisions impacting our pregnancies, babies, postpartum emotional health, and future health and fertility. Giving birth is one of the most important tasks God has given to women on this earth, and I know that He can and will and loves to help us as we navigate that beautiful journey.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Parturient Relations: PR for Dads

Remember these "Five PR's"--the most helpful things you can provide for your partner while she labors...

1. Presence
  • Sometimes all she needs is your loving physical presence.
    • Be “Rock Steady”—the familiar, strong, soothing rock she can hold on to.
  • Be “present” in every way—don’t let your fatigue or fear take your attention away from her emotional and physical needs.
  • Do NOT fall asleep (unless she’s asleep).
  • Do NOT leave her alone unless she demands it. 
    • Some women prefer to be alone while they labor. (But don't go too far!)
2. Protection
  • Be a buffer between your wife and the rest of the world. 
  • You can’t protect her from the intensity of childbirth or from unexpected complications, but you can protect her personal space and surround her with peace and calm.
    • Close doors.
    • Turn off/down the lights.
    • Take over answering questions so she can keep her energy focused on her hard work.  If someone tries to talk to her mid-contraction, gently ask for them to wait or stand between them and your wife until her contraction is over signaling with your hands for them to wait a moment.
    • No matter what happens or how much stress may arise, ensure that she always feels safe and secure.  Remember Jesus Christ’s calm in the storm that frightened his disciples:  “Peace, be still.”
3. Pressure
  • One of the most helpful hands-on ways to help with the most difficult contractions is counter-pressure.
    • Use your hands to provide firm, strong, steady pressure.  
      • Lower back/pelvis
      • Double hip squeeze
      • Knees while sitting with something against her back
      • Hip while side-lying
    • Do not let up until the contraction ends!  (You will probably get tired.)
4. Prompts
  • Your wife will likely not be in a position to remember all of the ways to increase her comfort, so your job is to prompt her.
  • Remember PURRR
    • P Position: Is she changing position every half hour?
    • U Urination: Is she using the bathroom every hour?  (And drinking lots of fluids?)
    • R Relaxation: Is she as relaxed as possible?
    • R Respiration: Is she breathing evenly and as calmly as possible?
    • R Rest: Is she resting between contractions?
5. Praise
  • All of your words must instill her with hope, confidence, peace, comfort, pride, and power.
  • Think of it as your job to help her get to the “finish line” without giving up.
    • "You are so amazing right now!"
    • "I am so proud of you!"
    • “You are doing so well!”
    • Kissing counts! (Some women find kissing very helpful.)
    • When she says, "I can't do it!" reply with, "You are doing it."
    • When she’s reached the point when she thinks she can’t do it anymore, that usually means she’s almost finished, so shower her with praise, encouragement, and lots of statements like: “You are so close!”  “You’re almost there!”  “The baby is almost here!”
    See also:  Emotional Signposts of Labor