When it came to birthing babies, I knew I didn’t want to do it in the hospital. I had all 4 of my sons at home with my dear midwife who is still one of my best friends almost 20 years after the birth of my first son.
Now I can’t remember how I knew that I could have a midwife assisted birth. It seems to have been something I knew about all my life. I realize that many people don’t even realize that birth doesn’t have to be done in a hospital setting, and probably even less realize that you can hire a Doula to help you with your birth whether you choose a hospital or a home birth. I didn’t know what a doula was until I was in my late 20s, early 30s.
Before we go any further I want to say that I am grateful that we have hospitals in the event of complications in the birth process. It is tremendous to know that if something goes wrong there is a place where people are trained to handle those emergencies.
The midwife assisted c-section rate in Arkansas is 3%. Nationwide the midwife assisted c-section rate is between 3 to 4.4%.
That means 4 women out of 100 have major cesarean section surgery with a midwife. Nationwide. Pretty good odds.
Here in Arkansas in hospitals, the rate of c-sections (in 2012) was 35.7%. That’s 11,486 general anesthesia, cesarean sections in one state in one year.
That means 36 women out of 100 (or more than 1 in 3) have major cesarean section surgery if they give birth in a hospital. Wow.
There are lots of reasons for that that I won’t go into right now. Suffice it to say that just with those numbers if you are in your child bearing years, you might want to weigh your options. Or maybe you didn’t know you had options.
In Europe, midwives attend over 70% of births. In the U.S. 7.9% of births are attended by midwives.
The United States is 36th in the world for infant mortality rate among developed countries.
What are we doing wrong?
Well, it’s complicated. I won’t go into depth about the complexities right now, but I will say that our babies are coming too early. Whether it is a planned cesarean, or a poverty stricken mother unable to carry her baby to term. We need to care for our mothers better and stop treating birth like an emergency (unless it is one), and more like a process.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax in the cold white, cement block walls of an institution with people I didn’t know running in and out of my birth room on their own agenda, peeking up under my carriage and feeling around whether I was ready or not, telling me I had to lay down so they could monitor my progress from the nurses station. Giving birth was the most primal thing I have ever done in my life. I wanted to do it at home, moving around at will, standing, squatting, pacing, surrounded by people I love (my mom, husband, kids, friends, midwife), while my mom baked cinnamon rolls.
That’s how we do birth at the Finn house.
And I’m loud when that baby is coming out. There is a sound that comes out of a woman when she is giving birth that is like the portal between two worlds. If I hear that sound now it makes me cry. I’ve heard a similar sound in the wailing after the passing of loved ones. It’s uncanny, and I could never imitate or recreate that sound again. It’s like something opens up inside of you that is not of this world.
I can’t imagine doing that in a hospital.
I can imagine that if I were in a setting where I didn’t feel free to open up my body and turn completely inward, supported by the people I love, that I would be more susceptible to needing a c-section. If I couldn’t move about the way my body wanted me to, if I had to submit to timed cervical examinations, if I were self conscious about what was happening, I know I would have been more susceptible to having a c-section.
Some people just feel more comfortable with the idea of giving birth in a hospital where all the emergency equipment is (midwives also carry emergency equipment, but not for major surgery). And we’re lucky now to have more options with the Birth Center that just opened up in Northwest Arkansas. That way you get the best of both worlds, a medical facility with mama and baby centered care in a comfortable setting.
On April 28, 2014, Arkansas Medicaid Director William Golden said “nearly half of the babies born in the hospital statewide in 2009 were born prior to 39 weeks because of elective delivery. Frankly, the data was pretty bad,” Golden said.
All of these things just to say that you have options. Just because the majority of births happen in the hospital in the United States doesn’t mean that it’s been good for our mortality rates. More information is better. And we are fortunate to live in an area with a thriving community of midwives, doulas, and educators about birth. (But we also live in an area where the medical school UAMS has a 39% c-section rate, and one of the main birthing hospitals has a 35% c-section rate).
Which brings me back to what I really wanted to talk to you about in the first place. I love Jessica Crass. She has worked with us at I.M. Spa for 3 and a half years and we are so lucky to have her. She is a talented massage therapist, ex-social worker, traveler, and farmer. Last year after helping a good friend through her birth process, the attending midwife, Jennifer Creel (from Terra Tots) mentioned that Jessica should consider training as a Doula.
Jessica is a member of DONA International and Northwest Arkansas Doula Connection. She has one more birth to attend to be a certified Doula, trained to offer physical, educational, and emotional support during the months leading up to birth, as well as during the birth process.
If I were ever going to have a hospital birth I would definitely want a Doula, somebody who knows my birth plan, who knows what I want and don’t want, somebody whose sole job is to help me make it through the marathon that is birth. I would want somebody who knew the ropes sticking up for me when I’m not in the best position to stick up for myself.
And if I were to have another home birth(which ain’t ever gonna happen again praise the lord. I love the birth process, but enough is enough), having a Doula would be icing on the cake in the supportive atmosphere of my home.
If you are examining your birthing options, don’t rule out a midwife assisted birth, because it is by the numbers the most reliable, best track record kind of birth you can have. But also, consider hiring a Doula. There is so much to learn about birth, and there are so many decisions to make.
Giving birth is like running a marathon. You need a support crew on the way. You can do it! Go team! Go team go!
Wendy Finn is the mother of 4 boys, owner of I.M. Spa, a Raw Food Enthusiast and educator, a world traveler in pursuit of superior massage education, a Master Massage Therapist of 20 plus years, a gardener, and a nursing student. She’s passionate about touching people and sharing health.