Friday, July 22, 2011
The Real Reason I Birth At Home
Do you really want to know why I choose to have my second child out of a hospital? There were actually a few factors. But I actually had a great hospital birth experience. I had nothing to complain about. I pushed for four hours in many positions. Nobody even mentioned drugs or a c-section to me. The midwife was wonderful and the nurse was quiet and kind.
No I didn't choose an out of hospital birth because I had a traumatic birth experience or because I was afraid I couldn't do it in hospital. I figured I could show up late enough and be committed enough to have the baby naturally. The reason I choose to never go back to a hospital was because of the post-partum experience.
This video shows a great example of a very typical postpartum experience for a baby and mother. (Note that this is not the case in all hospitals- some can and do wait for some of these procedures if asked to. Some are actually much worse than this but this is probably pretty typical.)
You know what, I think most women don't even remember this happening. It all just takes a few minutes but those few minutes are precious and can not be replaced.
I actually was able to hold my baby right away and attempted to nurse him while I was being stitched up. I know some things were done in the room but I don't remember quite what. He was not ready to nurse right away though and once I got cleaned up I was moved up to the recovery floor of the hospital. Once there the nurse asked if they could take my baby to do all the typical newborn "stuff" or "procedures."
I had her assure me that they would bring the baby back quickly. I had my husband go with him to keep him company. I thought that it would be fine if at least his dad was with him to keep him safe and to be a voice of comfort.
But it wasn't quick. My son was gone for at least an hour. I honestly don't know how long it was in the haze of post birth hormones. I know they told me to get some sleep. You would think that after three solid nights of labor during which I never got any solid sleep I would have just hit the pillow and been out. You would be wrong. I was on that natural birth "high" and was almost jittery. I had so much energy and I just wanted to hold my baby.
I realized afterwards that my baby probably just wanted to be held too. My husband stayed with him and he was poked and bathed and scrubbed and heated and had goop applied.
By the time they brought my swaddled little baby back to me he was sound asleep. I was exhausted by then too, the birth high and brief time of awareness having passed. He slept and slept and slept. He was difficult to even wake to nurse. Thus began a vicious cycle of jaundice, sleepiness, and lack of interest in nursing.
I wept over him for hours trying to get him to nurse.
I was lucky enough to have support and a strong desire and everything worked out in the end and he nursed well and until he was two. But I understood why women quit in those early days of struggle.
I also wept because I felt no connection to him. This is awful to say and don't often admit it but it is so important that it be talked about. I just looked at him and felt like he didn't like me. It did not even make sense. It wasn't rational and it wasn't fun.
My husband on the other hand felt so bonded with him. That time they had spent together while he was being bathed and cared for in the infant nursery (or baby concentration camp as it has been called) was special for him. Our son would calm and stop crying when he heard his daddy's voice. He recognized him from when he would read to us while I was pregnant.
I am so glad they had that time to be together and the special bond it gave them. But I should have had it too.
Now this may sound like some useless rant. Maybe I am some overwrought housewife complaining about nothing that happened years ago. But I don't think I am. I think what we do to babies in the minutes and hours after their births matters deeply. We are fine, my son and I- but if I could prevent one mom from having her baby uselessly taken from her for procedures that are either unnecessary or can be put off, then this is all worth it.
I can't prove to you that there is anything wrong with every infant being scrubbed, poked and having various foreign objects stuck into various orifices just as they come into a new world. I can't prove that it is terrifying or disturbing or harmful. But I can tell you that as a mother it is sickening to watch a baby be treated this way.
They have just emerged from a dark, fairly quiet, calm and protected watery place. They have been near (OK, inside) one person this whole time. They have heard her heart and her voice. They have been constantly fed by her and gently rocked everywhere she went. They will recognize this woman and her voice from birth.
There is something deeply twisted about going from that place and that one person into the hands of countless rough and scrubbing strangers rather than to her- that woman we call mother.
No matter how you feel about most of these infant "procedures"- even if you happen to think some of them are necessary- (most are not, most of the time) they can all pretty much wait. They can wait even for an hour or two. In fact, many of them don't need to be done at all.
No - your baby is not born filthy and in need of a vigorous bath. No he does not need a plastic bracelet on his writs. He does not need to be wrapped in a blanket, have tubes stuck down his throat or goop in his eyes. He will in fact survive if he is not weighed- EVER.
He will survive without all these things- and he will probably survive with them too. But the moments after birth are delicate and sacred. We as mothers and women must start protecting them both for our babies and for ourselves.
There are too many of us who feel like our babies are strangers. Too many of us struggle with breastfeeding. Too many of us have people whose names we can not even remember touch our babies before we do. Too many of us fail to question what are obviously upsetting procedures to the newborn.
Our first job as a mother is not to be polite and work with the system in every way. Our first job is to protect our babies from unnecessary harm and pain. We can change the way babies enter the world. Maybe they are right, peace on earth does begin with birth.