I am discovering a lot about myself during this pregnancy process and it is hard to focus on writing about just one thing! But I will give it a shot in the hope that it is helpful for someone! It certainly is cathartic for me. So lets start with opinions and influences of society and others and our choice of where to give birth… As much as I don’t want others opinions on my choices, I also need to accept that people may choose differently than I do, and that their offering of advice or experience comes from a place of love and interest as well as ego. People love to have their life choices validated. Myself included. I have this expectation that women will realize that it is their responsibility to question everything when it comes to their pregnancy and make the best educated decision for themselves and their family. The difficulty here of course is outside influence and conflicting information.
I refuse to just accept this concept that giving birth will be this terribly unnatural, horribly painful process where you are just another number. I also don’t believe that giving birth should and must occur in a hospital. A hospital that exists for reactionary purposes rather than preventative and natural purposes. While I am thankful for the availability for hospitals, I am also weary of them. I have trouble trusting that doctors, whom you’ve only met a handful of times will know your body better than you do. But we are so complex. We are more than just a physical body and that needs to be taken into account as well. Who is to say that one’s choice of a birth is the correct one? And even if a woman doesn’t know it herself, her choice has been influenced thousands if not millions of times over her life up to this point. We live in a society where many topics are simply accepted as fact. A place where it is exhausting and more importantly, overwhelming to question the authority of professionals. It is daunting.
I am not so, holier than thou, to think that hospitals don’t have their place, and that they aren’t essential! One cannot predict when they will need their services. I also do not dismiss the intensive training, education and experience of doctors! Don’t get me wrong. But there is a certain lack of well rounded education as well. There are also personal opinions that come in to play. For example, the other day at my monthly routine appointment with my GP, my doctor and I were having the same conversation… I want to have as natural of a labor/birth as possible. Bless his heart, he says they will do what they can but you never know. And then adds, “I just think it is inhumane to give birth without an epidural!” This perplexed me so much, and was so opposite of my thinking. To me there is nothing more human and normal than a women giving birth. Painful, maybe, maybe not.
Now, I could go down a rabbit hole here, but I am going to try to learn from Alice’s mistake, and stay on point, which is to emphasize the difference of opinions and that is okay! It truly depends on the woman going through the experience at the time. I don’t know what it will be like for me, nor am I trying to predict it. Instead I am trying to prepare myself for the fact that change is constant and I don’t expect this to go one perfect way. All I can do is prepare mentally and emotionally to allow whatever emotion, pain or thought that comes up to present itself and be there until it is ready to pass. Move through it, if you will.
All of this leads to the question, will we do this at home? Or will we do this in a hospital? We knew our answer. It was a no brainer. Home Birth. All the way! Firstly, I can be a little, shall we say crunchy, in my approach to health, fitness and daily living. When I found out I was pregnant, I donned the nerd spectacles and jumped into so many books, articles and studies on birth, hospitals, and options. I can’t help it! If it has anything to do with the body, especially mine, I want to have an understanding of it. Researching away, I became more and more adamant about having a home birth, with no protestation from my husband. When I started researching midwives in the area I was excited to have one highly recommended to me! Fantastic!
I met this woman and loved her spunk and energy. She was very skilled and experienced. I was on cloud 9. So far this was all going according to plan. But as time went along, something just wasn’t sitting right. Keep in mind I am 6.5months along, out of what is proving to be a very short nine months. Living in Italy, is firstly, a dream and something I never could have seen happening to me. But it also poses its own unique challenges. The language barrier being one of them. Here in lies the problem. My major goal of having my baby at home was to have a midwife who I had developed a relationship with and would be at ease with throughout the process. But that proved to be difficult because we cannot speak with each other. My Italian is poor at best and her English, though better, isn’t enough either. It is difficult for both of us to communicate, and that is the last barrier I would want while in labor. A few other issues crept up, though not such an issue that we couldn’t have a home birth, but enough to factor in to our decision making. One of those things was, the cost of doing it at home.
Don’t think I’m crazy! I know that having a baby at home is WAY less expensive than going to a hospital! But for us military folks, we don’t have to pay for the hospitals services, one of the many amazing things about being a service member! Using a midwife out in town is not what the military recommends and so, it comes out of our pockets 100% and is therefore a contributing factor. Could we do it? Sure. But it does add a bit of stress to an already expensive process (having a baby in general, not just the birth). The other concern was the “What if’s?”. I want to be clear when I say that I think there is a MUCH higher chance of things going really well during a birth, than things going south fast. But in the case of the latter, we would need to be close to a hospital out in the city of Naples, where lets face it, in an emergency, things would be very stressful and with the language barrier my wants and needs may not be communicated effectively.
My ideal scenario is a home birth. One where I can create the environment around me to give myself and my child the best odds of relaxing through and actively participating in the process that is labor, without sterile and stoic intervention. My husband wants this for me as well. Lucky gal, I know. But the major concern is communication on all levels. Because of this we took a tour of the facilities of the hospital on the base. It was quite different than I expected, I have to admit. I will also admit that I wanted it to be so cold and uninviting that we would just know, this isn’t for us, so lets fork over the cash for what we want. Instead, the nurses were wonderful, patient and answered all of my questions. Because this hospital is not very busy they can be more attentive, allow me to have the birth I want and even bring in my own lighting, music, clothing etc. I was pleasantly surprised, and admittedly a bit disappointed that I couldn’t poo-poo the idea more. Ego much? Thought I do have a few more concerns that I need to address with them, it went way better than expected. Can we have the “best” of both worlds?
All of this being said, I am still avidly researching. I want to be prepared. Prepared to stand my ground on issues where I feel I need to, not be intimidated into a decision and understand when certain language is being used in a way to influence my decisions and emotions. I also want to make room in my sometimes closed mind for concessions I may need to make if the situation presents itself. At this point, it looks like we will be proceeding further with a natural hospital birth. Not at all where I thought I would end up, honestly. The socially influenced part of me feels like this is the most sensible option. The granola part of me really wants this home birth and isn’t thrilled. If we were in the states, I would have far more resources at my disposal and this would be an easy choice! But this is where we stand at present. I am still wrapping my mind around it… It’s not my dream experience, but it isn’t my nightmare either. More on this to come I suppose…
Lastly, a few books/podcasts that I have really enjoyed and would highly recommend! There is so much amazing information in these references and I could nerd out all day. I have so much respect for the people behind these books and podcasts because I continue to learn, question and get inspired. Dive right on in folks.
Ina May’s Guide to Child Birth – Ina May Gaskin
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding -Ina May Gaskin
Spiritual Midwifery – Ina May Gaskin
Your Baby, Your Way – Jennifer Margulis
The Mindful Mother – Naomi Chunilal
Natural Hospital Birth – Cynthia Gabriel
Exercising Through Your Pregnancy – Dr. James F. Clapp
The Conscious Parent – Dr. Shefali Tsabery
When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron