Monday, January 4th, 2010

Meet My Rockin’ Midwife & Why I’m Choosing a Home Birth

by Kristen Suzanne in Uncategorized

Today, I’m introducing you to the midwife who will be in attendance at my home birth. Her name is Shell Walker (here’s her website, which is under construction right now, but still has some information on it), and let me just start by saying that she is so great. She’s sweet, smart, capable, experienced, responsive, cool, and a perfect fit for my needs.

Midwives have been attending home births for a long, long time. In fact, a majority of births in many parts of the world use midwives and home births for the norm as opposed to hospital births, unlike our country which relies on hospitals. I recognize that hospitals can have their place in some births and they can very much be needed at times, but for the most part… a healthy woman can birth successfully in the comfort of her home, and in some cases have better outcomes than if she went to the hospital. Here is an article detailing a Canadian study discussing the safety of home births with midwives.

I find that when I tell people I’m planning to birth at home, I get looks of either shock or disbelief. Then, I find myself rattling off statistics supporting my choice… one of which is that the United States has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the developed world. One of the highest! Furthermore, our C-section rates continue to climb at an alarming rate, accounting for almost a third of all our deliveries. That’s double what the World Health Organization says is safe for moms and babies. What is going on with our culture and the views of childbirth?

But, you know what? The bottom line is that I feel a home birth is the best thing for me to do. I am excited beyond belief to bring our baby into this world gently and softly. I have total confidence in my body and my baby to do something that we women have been doing since the beginning of time. It’s natural. It’s wonderful. And, the pain we often see reflected from TV or from women birthing in hospitals isn’t an accurate portrayal of what can happen with a home birth. There might be pain, there might not be much pain. I don’t mind either way. I’m confident that if there is pain, it’s not the kind of pain we see exhibited on TV shows or the stories we hear about from women with hospital experiences. One of the reasons for this is simply because stress prolongs labor and a home birthing mom can avoid all kinds of stressors, such as an unfamiliar, uncomfortable environment, harsh lights, cold hands, poking and prodding from total strangers when personnel change shifts… not to mention the potential snarky remark from a nurse or doctor who doesn’t share my values or concerns (I hear about this from your emails all the time!). The home birthing mother can change positions when she’s in labor, she can walk around, she can take a bath (lounging, or even giving labor in water), she can dance, she can sing, she can eat and drink, she can wear her own clothes (or no clothes at all), she can have music playing softly with candles lit and the lights dim (or heck, she can have Nine Inch Nails playing in the background if she wants), she can have her doula or birth partner use various ways to help relieve pain such as acupressure, massage, etc. The mom is empowered, and that alone can make a huge difference in the experience.

The list goes on and on for ways that a home birth can be so much easier in the pain department versus a hospital birth. In fact, check this out… from Ricki Lake’s book, Your Best Birth, Ricki writes, “… when you’re in labor and they lay you on the hospital bed with your feet in the stirrups, the way 67 percent of American women give birth, they’re actually slowing your labor down. Lying on your back closes the pelvis by 25 to 30 percent, and in that position gravity no longer works in your favor.” Unfortunately, I’ve also read that this is the best position for the doctor. Hmmm. Not the best for mom and baby, but the best for the doctor. Nice (I write that word with dripping sarcasm). Well, one way to change that is to have more healthy women birthing at home where it’s “mama-led” not doctor-led.

The more I’ve learned, the more I’m glad that I researched all of this and became enlightened early on regarding hospital births vs. home births. I suspect that if more women did, they’d lean toward home birthing, too. Once you hear the statistics and stories, and get your team lined up, the alternative (hospitals) starts sounding like the scarier option. It did to me, anyway. Remember, birthing in hospitals is a very new thing. “Traditional,” by any reasonable definition, refers to the thousands-year-old history of modern humans birthing at home.

But I digress… I could go on and on about the topic of just home birth, but the real point of this blog post is to introduce you to my awesome midwife. If you’d like more information regarding natural childbirth, home birth, or the choices you have even if you choose a hospital birth, then I recommend the following reading and watching (there are many others but this is a good place to start):

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Sarah Buckley’s Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering
Ricki Lake’s Your Best Birth
Ricki Lake’s documentary The Business of Being Born
Check out Ricki Lake’s great online community My Best Birth and check out Cindy Crawford’s videos where she discusses her home birth.

And, here’s a quick video of some celebrities who have home birthed.

So, back to the story of my midwife. Well. Here is what happened. When my husband and I decided to start trying to conceive, I felt that the best time to find a midwife was sooner rather than later (same goes for finding a doula, but that’s a post for another day).

I didn’t want an enormous list of things to do when I was pregnant, so I thought I’d start researching midwives and home birthing options before conceiving. I started by Googling midwives in my area. I immediately found one who looked promising. My husband and I interviewed her and we liked her well enough. She seemed very nice, competent, and experienced. So we decided to go with her and not interview anyone else.

Over time, we found that we had a hard time trying to conceive. And, during that time, I found myself emailing the midwife to get answers to various questions I had. Now, I want to say that this midwife was very sweet. And, I suspect she’s a great fit for many women. However, I found through our experience that my instinct was telling me perhaps she wasn’t a perfect fit for me. I had a lot of questions, more than most women (so I’ve been told… haha) and I started to sense that my high maintenance might not be the best fit for this particular midwife. After a while, I started to question whether we should have interviewed other midwives.

In contrast, when I interviewed my doula (the mother’s helper and advocate during the birthing) I fell in love with her immediately and just “knew” instinctively she was the one for me. This showed me how I should have felt when I met my midwife, you know, when you just “click” with someone. There is no reason to settle for anything other than a perfect synergy when it comes to choosing a birth team. So I started asking for recommendations for alternative midwives, and that is how I found Shell. This time, when we interviewed Shell, I had a great feeling like I did when I met my doula. And, as I communicated with her via email and phone during the following weeks, I was ecstatic to have found “the one.” Ahhh…. I had the most amazing birth team picked. I felt complete peace. I was so excited!

When I originally interviewed Shell, I was pregnant with our first pregnancy at about 5 weeks. We lost that pregnancy shortly after, but Shell was there for me every step of the way, touching my soul and helping me through the process. When I became pregnant the second time (my current pregnancy), she continued her amazing care for me.

We’ve had a couple of pre-natal visits and they are so fun! I actually get bummed that I have to wait a month between them to see her. Both my husband and I go, and the first two visits both lasted for about 2 hours each. I don’t know how prenatal visits are with most ob/gyns, but I suspect they’re not that long. (Please describe your experiences in the comments.)

That’s a picture of Shell showing me my uterus. Midwives tend to be extremely thorough, relaxed, and there is no hurry with them. Shell cares not only for me and the life growing inside of me, but she cares for my husband and takes the time to talk with him, too.

Shell supports my diet and lifestyle – gotta love that. She trusts that I’m getting adequate nutrition and she’s always there to answer my questions when I have them. We chat via email, text message, and/or facebook a couple of times a week. She doesn’t mind all of my questions!!!

During my first visit, Shell drew my blood and did a urine analysis. Both tests came back with excellent results. Yay! And during our second visit, my urine analysis came back great again (apparently I’m very hydrated). My urine was more alkaline this time, most likely from my very alkaline diet. Shell also rubbed my feet and head to further relax me – so nice. Midwives rock. (Do ob/gyns rub feet? Just sayin’. Haha.)

I’m extremely grateful to have found a such great fit with Shell. I can go into my child birth with a relaxed heart and mind, knowing that she is there for me. Having a midwife and pursuing a home birth is what feels right for me. It might not be right for everyone, but I hope that more women will look at all options thoroughly before deciding. And, for women who want to go the hospital-ob/gyn route, I hope you’ll research the options, write a solid birth plan, and challenge your doctor to support a more gentle birthing experience. Stand up for your rights, and choose a doctor that gives you more support and control with birthing issues by giving all the right information, at the right time, to help you make informed decisions. The more we speak up, the better. Remember, there is no better advocate for your baby and your health, than yourself.

I’d also like to add that I feel grateful for the support of my husband and mom in my desire to home birth. I’ve received some emails from women who want to pursue this route but their families don’t support it. My recommendation is to get the materials recommended above and read the books together with your partner. In fact, if you can read in the car without getting car sick (my husband tells me this strange ability of mine is a bona fide superpower), then read the book to your husband (or partner) while he’s driving or at night before bed. It’s important information that might help educate him in understanding why you want a home birth. I also highly recommend getting a hold of (gotta love Netflix!) Ricki Lake’s DVD documentary, The Business of Being Born (or buy it on Amazon). Watch this with your birthing partner. Lend it to your family to watch. It’s quite eye-opening and can help get the dialogue going. And, finally, take the time to watch some videos on YouTube of home birthing, hypnobirthing, water birthing, etc. They not only paint a picture of real options you may not have known existed, but they are also truly inspiring.

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