This is the second post of the “Opt Out” Series…ideas that can be implemented on an individual level to make a principled stand.
To be fair, there was an underpad beneath her – kind of like those pads you put under a sheet if someone wets the bed. But let’s face the music: my husband and I did a home birth for our first child, and it was the most terrifying, awesome experience of my life (ranks pretty high on his list, too). Now, there have been times in my aviation career where I had a brief moment of terror, or recognized “yep, those rounds are coming towards our plane,” but giving birth was the first time in my life I thought I might actually die. I didn’t die, and now I have the joy of watching a beautiful baby girl grow up much too quickly!
What would prompt me to make a decision like this, especially for my first pregnancy? Why would I opt out of the admittedly advanced technology available in a hospital setting? It’s not because I don’t appreciate hospitals, or medical personnel, or the technological capability that’s been developed in the last few decades. My choice started with a documentary called “The Business of Being Born” which is available on Netflix instant stream, and was finalized after researching and reading a variety of books & articles. The short summary is that a lot of potentially unnecessary interventions (drugs, episiotomies, c-sections, etc) have become the norm, and I did not want to undergo unnecessary procedures. Arkansas rates of cesareans hover around 35%, and it is state law to perform c-sections for breech babies. This was a factor in my decision to hire a midwife (which my military insurance would not cover because I am “government property” apparently…more on that concept later). The current American concept of labor and childbirth is so far removed from the rest of human history that it is almost unrecognizable. We view childbirth like a pathological condition which needs fixing, rather than an entirely natural (and necessary) part of the human existence.
There is a scary side to this issue, unfortunately. The following article highlights a lot of the negative policy and attitude with which choice in childbirth is viewed: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/why-most-brazilian-women-get-c-sections/360589 What is most troubling is that governments, courts, and hospitals have seen fit to choose how a woman will give new life. It is a very slippery slope when a judge decides that someone must be cut open and their baby forcibly removed. I can think of few greater violations of one’s person. I chose to do a home birth because I did not want to be coerced into an experience that I did not believe was best for Baby and Me. I did not want to be another client plugged into the conveyor belt of a standardized birth process.
Labor and birth is an intensely personal, intimate decision. I do not aim to prescribe what other women should do. What I DO advocate is that people inform themselves and assert that a woman ought to give birth in the way she believes is best for herself and her baby. Truly – who has a greater vested interest?