As I’m writing this I can feel the little kicks of baby #7. So far I’ve had 3 hospital births, 1 birth center birth attended by a Doctor and a midwife, and 2 home births attended by a midwife and her assistant. Baby # 7 is a planned home birth, and if all goes as planned, will be my 3rd home birth with my midwife who has become a dear friend now.
I wanted to write about the differences I’ve experienced between using a Doctor and a midwife for childbirth, because I’ve had quite a few different experiences in different settings. And years ago I would have loved to talk to someone with such varied experiences as I now have, because after I got pregnant with my first baby I was fascinated with childbirth and pregnancy. I wanted to try things that no one I knew had tried.
From the get go I wanted to use a midwife and was interested in water birth and home birth. But in 2005, when I had my 1st baby, it was illegal for midwives to practice in my state as it was in many states. But by the time I was pregnant with my next child the laws were just about to change and I was able to have my baby in a giant birthing tub at a birth center with a Doctor and a midwife after having a massage and a spa like hot rock treatment that helped me to relax and doze off for a short nap before getting into the tub. That probably sounds ideal for a birth. But what I remember is:
1. Having to drive 2 hours there for every appointment and 2 hours back.
2. Going in debt $4500 (even though that’s still cheaper than the hospital).
3. Having the midwife boss me around during a long night of labor (12 hours) where she insisted I walk almost constantly (all night) to keep the labor progressing. I felt like it just slowed the labor down and exhausted me more. She was normally a sweet, soft spoken, compassionate lady. But when I went into labor I felt like she was just annoyed with me, that I was keeping her awake. She was probably exhausted herself.
4. I remember having the Doctor get nervous after the baby was born and want to reach in and pull out the placenta. I told her no, but she started to reach in anyways, and I was able to talk her down and assure her I could easily push it out. Sure enough, in less than 30 seconds I had delivered the placenta. But I’ve never forgotten the pain and the feeling that I was about to die when she reached up in there. I had a lot of bleeding after that also.
Even though I had gotten to have all the things I had prayed to have in my delivery- except a short labor, I was still a bit discouraged with the experience. The reason I had wanted an alternative birth experience to begin with was because of my hospital experience with my first birth.
I had tried to get a really good woman Doctor at a hospital that allowed water birth with my 1st pregnancy. The closest place was in an hour and a half from our home. This Doctor was supposed to be experienced with water birth and good at what she did. She ended up being kind of strange, and also pushy when it came to medical interventions.
Because we lived so far away it became too tricky to set up a birthing tub and all that came with it while I was in labor. Who was going to do it? Me? My husband, who didn’t know what he was doing? I ended up asking for a epidural and they wouldn’t let me out of the bed to shift positions, and things got more complicated. The baby was born after many hours of “pushing” but I couldn’t feel anything, so I really couldn’t push. An extensive episiotomy is what got him loose, he had shoulder dystocia, and the Dr. ended up breaking his collar bone and pulling his vocal nerve. We healed up great though, I was praying A LOT. Cause after that, I felt like I was being held hostage at the hospital, and we had to pray ourselves out.
By the way, I’m not telling you all the details because I think I probably shouldn’t pour that trauma out on anyone that may be pregnant and looking for encouragement and hope that there can be something better for them. So I’m leaving quite a bit out.
My handsome little guy had a rough start from all the interventions, and I felt like we both “survived” his hospital birth. When I think back on what all God brought us through, I understand why birth and parent’s rights- especially a woman’s rights, became such a trigger for me. I think it can become almost like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for some women.
They kept the baby in the NICU and wouldn’t release him until they said my milk came in or I agreed to feed him formula. I had no idea what to do, and I’m so thankful for the lactation consultant. She was a shining light there. I felt like when she came to see me, hope glowed off of her and encouraged me. There was also another sweet nurse that was so helpful. But quite a few were…not so friendly or nice.
I came to realize that part of my problem was having to drive such long distances to get to some magical place that I thought would solve my mind equations. With my third birth, I went with a simple, close to home (10 minutes away) local hospital. Mostly I went to the hospital because my husband wouldn’t even consider a home birth. This time my prayers for a short labor were answered. After my water broke at home while I was laying in bed and just 37 minutes after getting to the hospital my baby girl was born. It was so fast, the Doctor barely made it in the door of the room and put his gloves on to catch her.
My 4th girl was also a super quick delivery, but I had a hard time getting the nurse on duty to believe that my water had broken and that I was actually in labor. She said I was too calm to be close to delivering and tried to send me home. I assured her that if she sent me home I wouldn’t make it back in time so she let me stay and shortly afterward, maybe an hour and a half later they were again scrambling to be ready. My Doctor didn’t make it to that birth and I got to experience about 5 different Doctors coming and going. It was annoying to have to answer the same questions over and over so many times. Combined with some drama from the nurses criticizing each other over almost sending me home, and threatening that I might die if I didn’t get an injection of pitocen- I was so over hospitals. I was over Doctors, I was over nurses.
The birth went great- fast, uncomplicated. But the environment… I just wanted peace. I wanted simplicity, and quiet. I also didn’t want someone badgering me 3 or 4 times to get sterilized because they thought I had “enough children”. I didn’t want to fight anymore. Not during labor and delivery. You shouldn’t have to fight anyone at that time, and I always felt like I was stepping into a spiritual war zone when I went to a hospital or a birth center.
With my 5th child my husband finally agreed that we should try a home birth. I had a very hard time finding a midwife in my area and was praying for quite a long while until I finally found one. She was a mennonite lady that even had her own birthing cabin next to her house with a big tub. I was told she didn’t usually take clients that were not mennonite. But I was praying and praying. My first appointment with her was when I was 7 months pregnant. We became fast friends, and I really love her now. I found that she’s moving out of this area right before our baby is due, but promised to drive to us for the birth. Which is a relief, but I’m not sure what I’ll do without her now that she’ll be about an hour and a half away.
The past 2 births at home have been so drama free. They’ve been fast, uncomplicated, and just so peaceful. I haven’t had a big tub, but I’ve found that a hot shower works just as good for me when I just distract myself with laundry and cleaning, and whatever I want. I’m in my home, and I don’t really need to go find a babysitter. We can just put a movie on for the children (if they’re even awake). The grandparents can come stay the night, and we’re in our own bed. It’s just so right.
I do have a backup doctor that I’ve seen for an ultrasound, just in case I should need to go to the hospital for some emergency. This doctor works with my midwife as a backup, and even though he’s a man, he has restored my faith in doctors and medicine. He told us he attended his own wife as she birthed at their home. He’s one of those people that glows with hope. After you’ve been in his presence you feel better and hopeful, and like everything’s going to be ok. He’s about an hour away from us.
So while almost every situation is different with all these different variables of hospitals, homes, midwives, doctors. I’ve found that a pregnant woman’s most precious commodity is… peace, and simplicity. I don’t want to be trapped, driving in a car while in labor, I don’t want to be strapped to machines, I don’t want people bossing me around, poking me in uncomfortable places, pushing on my belly, and I don’t want to feel like punching anyone in the face because they think they know better and insist that I follow all their ridiculous instructions, and gratefully accept their every injection.
On a side note I always found it ironic that my veterinarian warned us not to mess with a dog or a cat that was giving birth. They claimed it would disturb the whole process, and insisted that the animal would intuitively know what to do most of the time. We could watch from a distance, but only interfere if it wouldn’t cause more problems, and if we thought lives were at stake. Even then we were cautioned that we would probably cause more harm than good with most interventions.
I honestly wonder why hardly anyone advocates for these kind of rights for women that are birthing. I think it’s time for a change. With the kind of technology we have now a days, we should be able to have birth centers with birthing suites in every community with the option for every mother to be able to birth at home if they want to.
Years ago I prayed fervently for a birth center to come to our community. The only one was 2 hours away from us in either direction And just this year a birth center with a birthing tub and suite and a certified nurse midwife opened in our town! But you know what, I still want to birth at home. It’s just so much more peaceful. But a birth center is really what every community needs. They need practical medical care for families, that includes a doctor, and a midwife. A nurse midwife would be awesome too. Families need classes on fertility, birth, parenting, finances. These kinds of classes are going to be offered at this new birth center here. I’m really excited, and I want to find some creative ways to help fund this new place. It’s really amazing to see your prayers from almost a decade ago finally being answered. I’m encouraged to pray for some more things, big things, needed things in our community, in our state, in our country, in our world.
Some of the most helpful resources I’ve encountered in my childbirth journey so far: