April 19, 2012

Defining Moments - Jennifer

Not only do birth stories and choices vary widely among women, the same woman can have different experiences with each of her births. We saw that yesterday with Anne. For Jennifer, today's featured mom, her birth plans evolved as she had more children until eventually she was comfortable delivering her third child at home. 

Home births increased 20 percent from 2004 to 2008 in the US. In Canada, where Jennifer lives, out-of-hospital births increased from 0.8 percent of births in 2003 to 1.1 percent in 2005 and 2006 (latest data available). There are many reasons women are choosing this birth option. Jennifer tells us a little bit about hers...

What were your plans for the delivery of your first child? What did an ideal birth look like for you?
Well, with all of my children I chose midwives for my obstetrical care as I wanted to have as natural and intervention-free pregnancies and deliveries as possible. With my first I had complications and ended up in the hospital with an epidural and a pit. drip. With my subsequent two pregnancies my midwives and I was able to have fully natural births, and by the third I felt very comfortable with a home birth.

What factors influenced the decisions you made concerning your delivery?
I used to be a nurse in the hospital in my city. I know the obstetricians and how free they are with episotomies and c-sections. I did not want either. Also, as a nurse, I knew all about the virulent bugs running through the hospital (c. diff, MRSA, VRE, bacterial meningitis, a friend's baby contracted necrotizing fasciatis in the NICU) and I wanted to limit my exposure to those things so a home birth made a lot of sense to me. Also, the very speedy delivery of my second made me realize how much more comfortable I would be staying at home for my third time.

Tell me a bit about your actual birth experience...
You can refer to my birth story blog post for full details. But long story short: I had a 2-week long prodromal labour and then about a day of active labour with a babe in my arms before suppertime without ever setting foot in a hospital.

How did that experience shape any future births/birth plans you may have had?
My first birth with it's complications that extended into the month following birth made me realize that I "needed" another try to vindicate myself and help heal from what happened the first time. I couldn't even breastfeed my oldest baby due to developmental delays so nothing really happened according to any plan I held in my mind.

Have you ever felt judged for the way you gave birth?
I have to explain myself a lot, especially since in my community there is a group of women who are advocates for unassisted home births. I spend a lot of time explaining how safe one can be when followed by a certified nurse-midwife and how much expertise (and equipment) they bring into your home for the birth itself and immediate post-partum period.

Have your decisions been questioned, or have you felt bullied for your choices?
I mostly had to explain myself to my mom. When I first chose a midwife instead of an OB for my prenatal care and birth my parents were very concerned that I was not seeing a doctor as well. They thought that as long as I gave birth in a hospital I would be ok. They warmed up more and more to the idea that midwives were ok with every baby I had but they were still not ok with the idea of homebirth.

For that reason I waited until the very last minute to tell them that was the plan with our third. In fact, I was hoping not to tell them at all, but they visited the same day as my midwife at the end of my pregnancy and she asked my dad to help her bring the home birthing supplies into the house (oops. busted!) A few of my friends were also concerned but they were largely quite supportive. A few told me how "brave" I was to be so far from an epidural needle. And that they couldn't believe I would even consider giving birth without drugs. My Mother in Law, bless her, kept her mouth shut, despite being a judge on a case that involved a home birth going wrong in another city close to us. She just hoped for the best for us and didn't confess her worry to me until after Matthew was safely born.

The biggest hurdle I had to and still have to jump over is explaining the difference between my midwife-assisted homebirth and unassisted free birthing which is becoming prevalent in my community. Another myth I often have to bust is that if you are across town giving birth, or across the hall in the hospital, you are always around 20 minutes away from a C-section in my city, so if you think you are safer in the hospital if something goes wrong, a crash C doesn't happen like it does on TV. A team has to be called in and an OR prepped, so you still have to wait.

My favorite part of Jennifer's birth story involves apple pie. It brought such a smile to my face. You'll have to go read her post to see what I am talking about. 

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your experiences with us! 

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