You have to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.
-Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom
The first time I saw Holly Mae I was overcome by tears.
I looked into the eyes of my best friend Sarah, her radiant mother, “This is Holly,” she quietly said and motioned to the tiny babe asleep in her arms. They both looked so peaceful, so healthy, both glowing with something otherworldly. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was dizzied by the amazing twittering of my mind around the fact that less than a week ago, in the living room that we were standing in, Sarah had given birth to little Holly without drugs, without surgery, without doctors, without a hospital. This was not accidental, no, this was part of a very well thought out plan. And like she planned, Sarah was the first person to hold her baby, she scooped her in her arms and has since not let her go. Now here they were standing before me, a blushing, incandescent testament to the thing that caused us all to be amazed and quite honestly, a little nervous:
giving birth at home with a midwife.
So what exactly is a midwife? And what’s wrong with hospital birth anyways? Isn’t it sort of dangerous and medieval giving birth in your house without doctors and nurses and beeping machines and without DRUGS?? Especially DRUGS?? You mean you gave birth without DRUGS? You, like, felt all that pain and stuff and saw all that icky liquid without DRUGS?!?
So I was a little doubtful at first. But, the more and more I listened to Sarah and Nick tell me about all the facts that they were discovering about birth in our country the more I began to realize that this idea isn’t as crazy as I thought.
So first, what exactly is a midwife? For this I’ll take a definition from a midwife herself, Sarah’s midwife Yelena. Her website (www.tobirth.com) says:
Midwife means “with woman” – it is an ancient, woman-centered practice which honors a woman’s right to be informed, respected, honored, and nurtured–not only during childbirth, but throughout her life. Midwives are the guardians of normal birth.
Midwife’s educate and encourage soon to be mothers on how to take control of their own health care. They offer prenatal care and guidance, they assist during the birthing process and “guard” the mother and child in the postpartum period.
Borrowing from Yelena’s website again,
“Birth is a rite of passage for mothers and babies – an initiation.
It is the ultimate expression of a woman’s physical, emotional and spiritual power.”
A midwife recognizes and respects this and helps guide the mother through the time in her life when this manifests.
So, why a midwife? Lets look at some not so well known facts:
- The percentage of U.S. births attended principally by midwives: 5% The percentage of European births attended principally by midwives: 75%
- America has one of the highest infant mortality rates than any other country.
- Drugs to induce labor, drugs to subdue the pain caused from the induced labor and surgical removal of the baby are all “normal” parts of hospital birth.
- 1 in every 3 births in an American Hospital is a C-section
- Average price of a US hospital birth $9,000-$14,000
- Average price of a midwife’s service $4,600
These of course are only a FEW of the alarming facts about birth in our country. Hospitals are wonderful institutions that can offer emergency care and save lives. Period. But, it simply isn’t necessary for all women to give birth in a hospital. Lets face it, pretty much every facet of our society has been taken over and manipulated by a pursuit for money. This is definitely true in the food industry and sadly it is no different here. A birth in a hospital costs a lot of money and the more medical intervention needed the more money made and the quicker the birth happens the quicker a new patient can get seen and cycled through like clockwork. This isn’t to say that hospitals, and more importantly the nurses and doctors working there, are simply trying to milk you for your money with no care for your well being. But there are very solid procedures that have been set in place on the assumption that birth is a terribly dangerous, frightening occurrence that requires drugs, surgery, lots of pain and distress and is definitely not something that a woman can handle on her own. I just don’t buy that. Certainly not after hearing Sarah tell me about her birthing experience and speak about it with wonder, awe, excitement and reverence. “I feel like a warrior,” she said.
She told me about how she got to listen to her body and move around in positions that helped her with the pain, which isn’t something that is possible in a hospital. She walked, sat, laid in her birthing tub and eventually gave birth on a “birthing stool”. Something that she could squat on! Doesn’t that just make sense? Helloooo?? Gravity much? Why would I lay on my back when I gotta push something out? Not to be crass, but anyone take a crap laying on their back? Let me know how that works out.
She recalled with wonder how her body let her know that she had to push, how she could feel it change. She told me about her deep breathing and how she fell into a rhythmic dance between her breath and contractions. She got to have her amazingly supportive husband, Nick, right by her side the whole time. Her midwife was right there with her as well, not forcing or manipulating the situation but being there as a guide and a well of experience and wisdom. She was in her peaceful and comfort filled home. She got to take her time and let her body do what it knows how to do. And, so beautifully, she got to “catch” her baby girl as she came into the world. The first hands that touched that baby were her mothers.
Oh, and little Holly Mae. She is such a sweet and quiet baby. She hardly cries, only when she is getting changed, when she’s away from Mama or Papa, does she let out a few whimpers. It’s not surprising though. That child has never experienced anything but comfort and love in a loving environment. In a hospital she would have been pulled or, literally vacuumed into the world, wiped down, poked with needles and prodded with tubes in a loud, bright room full of anxiety. Eventually she would have been given to her mother, but not for long. There would be a separation, rooms apart. How can that be anything but traumatizing for a baby that has never known anything but her mother and the love that surely she can feel? Holly has had a different experience. She has known nothing but the care of her mother and father and the amazing love that bellows between them onto her in a safe, friendly place. Call me crazy but I think that can make an immense difference in a child’s life.
Nick and Sarah did plenty of research before they decided on home birth. They spent a lot of time with all the fears and uncertainties that I’m sure we all have on the subject. I asked Nick, but isn’t it scary giving birth at home?
“But the whole thing is pretty scary, you’re bringing a life into the world. But I’m more afraid of not getting all the research about how to give my wife and my baby the safest experience…when I first heard about midwife’s I immediately got this image of a witch doctor in a cave biting off the umbilical cord,but the more information I sought about what goes down in hospital birth, the more confident I felt about midwifery.”
I asked Sarah if she could give one bit of advice to soon to be mothers and she said, “do your research. Question everything, because these companies are not about your health. They’re about making money, fast.”
Both of them watched a documentary called, “The Business of Being Born” which I just saw and HIGHLY recommend to anyone who EVER plans on having a baby.
So. Do your research, I know I’ll be doing mine. Again, it seems to come down to that little thing of personal choice and the immense power that resides there. There isn’t a more important thing that we could do for our lives or the planet than bring a loving and balanced human being into the world. It’s a major choice with many implications-a hospital or home? For me, it is reminiscent of my decisions when it comes to food-conventional or organic? fast food or home cooked? What, with my choice-my support-my vote, do I want to create more of in the world? One day I’ll be blessed and trusted with a life to guide through this world and the choices I make today, and especially this one down the road, will lay the bricks on the path that my child will tread. It’s definitely something to think about…something to dream about…
“What happens in the womb and how we are born is significant in our lives”