Sunday, April 25, 2010

Home Birth vs Hospital Birth

When I was writing about the birth of my third child, Dylan, I became so thankful that I had been at home instead of in the hospital.  I imagine if I had gone into the hospital after having the stomach flu, they would have felt it necessary to intervene in many ways.  They wouldn't have let me eat or drink - that's standard procedure - I might have been able to suck on ice cubes.  (They're concerned if they have to do a C-section that I might vomit and choke in my own vomit, so they keep stomachs empty.)  At home I was able to drink when I was thirsty and I ate a little bit of chicken noodle soup.  I think they might have given me fluids so I wouldn't be so dehydrated.  So I would have been tied to the bed with IV fluids as well as with the fetal monitor.  Nancy used a low-tech "horn" she put on my belly to listen to the heartbeat.  She also had a stethoscope. 

In the hospital I probably wouldn't have been able to walk around or belly dance or sit on the toilet to labor.  I might have had to use a bedpan for the diarrhea.  I would have been perceived as a patient, not a woman doing something quite natural (albeit in a weakened state from the stomach flu).  Nancy knew I'd been sick, but to her I was a powerful woman giving birth - of course that was the normal thing to do.  The flu was tertiary, if that. 

I know hospitals have made progress since 1992.  Doulas attend many births to help women be able to follow their birth plans.  They run interference with the powers-that-be when necessary/possible.  I know that must make a difference.

But still the rate of cesarean sections is 33%.  In 1992 it was a whopping 23%, and that felt awful.  It has increase almost 50% by then.  What that says to me is that birth is becoming ever more medicalized.  It is more convenient to have a C-section - it can be planned.  The time frame is limited.  Everything can be sterile and mostly controlled.  Those are positives.

To me, though, C-sections disempower the woman and the birth process.  Women who have them once usually are told they have to have them again.  Their recovery time is long and arduous, making it harder for them to bond with their babies because of their limited mobility and sore abdomens.  The doctor is in control.  The woman can't see the birth process.  She is anaethesized and can't feel what is going on.

For me, realizing I could cope with the intense feelings of labor was empowering as heck!  Things shifted in me after I gave birth, especially after Laura's birth at home.  I felt like the most powerful woman on Earth!  I could do anything if I could give birth to a 9 lb baby at home with no drugs!  My body became my ally rather than just something to carry  me from place to place.  It was very, very powerful.

I ache for women whose doctors tell them they have to have a C-section at such-and-such a time on such-and-such a day, women who don't know the power they have in their bodies to bring another being into existence without interference. 

I hope that doctors become more acculturated towards the naturalness of birth and become more able to support women in making empowering choices for themselves.  I believe it could shift our society towards a gentler better world.

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