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Okay, so now you know Cora’s textbook-perfect hospital birth story. And you have read my intellectual overview of why homebirths are not nearly as risky as doctors would have you believe. Which means it’s finally time for me to share all my personal motivations for this big decision.

Wonder woman pregnant1. Nathan (and Cora)

Nathan wants nothing to do with the birth (“I just want to be out of the house!”), which is ironic, because it was seeing him separated from Cora by a wall of glass that made me want to not do a hospital birth again. Just because he wasn’t 16, he wasn’t allowed to come and meet, see, and hold his brand new baby sister. Of all the stupid %##@! rules… How ridiculously arbitrary is that?

What I envision instead: Baby’s siblings allowed to be present (or not!) for the birth… Cora playing in the birthing pool with me, asking “What’doing?” and checking out the birthed placenta. Nathan going to see a movie with grandparents and coming home to hold and rock his littlest brother.

2. Michael.

Husbands seem to be second-hand citizens in a tight-on-space hospital. He was always present in the first birth, but actual involvement was pretty limited to hand-holding and verbal encouragement. Then, after the birth, he has to go home? Two nights in a row? Are you kidding me??

What I envision instead: Michael beside me in the pool, or me hugging him as I stand and sway through a contraction. Him catching the baby as it emerges and us cuddling in bed after: newborn snuggled between us and the older kids piled on top.

3. Comfort & Care

I’m  not going to dance around the point — giving at birth just sounds so much more enjoyable than in a hospital. I don’t have to scramble to put clothes into a bag and drive through the cold at any hour of the day so I can filled out reams of paperwork and sit uncomfortably in a chair  to wait among a crowd of strangers under fluorescent lights for the attention of an overworked staff member who only knows me by the marks on a chart.

Also, pre-natal care. The first time I went to see Dr. A, I sat in his waiting room for TWO HOURS before he saw me. At which point, he examined me for 10 minutes and left. The first time I went to see my midwife, I also sat for two hours — on her sofa, talking about me and my pregnancy and my concerns — and received plenty of personalized care. At the birth, I will have the undivided attention of three women (who have all had their own homebirths) attending to me and the baby.

What I envision: Experiencing my first contractions and taking a walk around the property with Michael, keeping track of duration and timing. Calling the midwife and letting her know how I’m progressing so she and her assistants can come to my home where I have an indoor jacuzzi (thanks to the Argenbrights!!) filled with warm water, jets, and soothing essential oils. My family and friends coming in to check on me and offer me encouragement in a casual way, maybe stopping to chat, or simply give me a hug. Playing my “Inspiration” playlist at full blast or listening to the soothing voice of my Hypnobabies tapes. Bouncing on my ball or climbing into the tub or squatting in a doorway or holding onto Michael for dear life as I scream or cry, or laugh or sing.

I envision doing this My Way.

4. Inter-Connectedness.

Several years ago, Michael’s great-grandmother was ill and we were considering taking her into our home for her final days. I had to be okay with the fact that Death would be present in our home. And you know what? I welcomed it. Somehow, our migration to urban-life and modernity disconnected us from the two points where our present lives intersect with Eternity — all of our births and deaths occur outside of the home, in a sterile hospital, surrounded by strangers, connected by wires instead of prayers.

What I envision: A home that has sheltered Life in the Raw. Children who have experienced that life can be messy, but have found beauty in the blood.

5. Empowerment.

Because a doctor has years of medical training, we trust him to know better than us how to get a baby out safely and efficiently. And I’m sure that he knows exactly everything that could possibly go wrong and what to do in those situations.  Unfortunately, what he does not have is a body that has been created to make humans, a body that has evolved with instinctual knowledge about how to bring life into the world. Don’t get me wrong — I love epidurals with the best of them, but I want to go head-to-head against the Curse of Eve… and WIN.

Any woman who has carried a child knows that it is a pivotal turning point in one’s concept of one’s self  as Woman. Suddenly, “goddesses” make sense — we achieve the Divine. We are Givers of Life. This is my way of embracing that.

What I envision: Me standing fully in my power, trusting in the grace of God, knowing exactly what to do. Me listening to my body and my baby; reason and instinct united, moving in rhythm with the wisdom of the ages.

…I’m sure there are more reasons and clearer visions, but that’s a good start.  🙂

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“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” ― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Considering that for the 10,000 years humans have been reproducing, at least 98.5% of births were conducted in a non-hospital environment, I feel that a better question than “Why a Home Birth?” should be “Why Not a Home Birth?”

All of the best reasons for having a hospital birth boil down to the principle that there is less risk of mortal complications for both mother and infant when conducted in a medical facility with trained medical professionals. Right?

Because, I mean, when you think about it objectively – no one LIKES hospitals. I have yet to  find anyone who goes and hangs out in the emergency room because of the comfortable chairs or intelligent conversations; no one dines at a hospital cafeteria because they offer gourmet food and a soothing ambiance.  No. We go to hospitals because something is wrong that we can’t fix ourselves. It’s a last resort for people who are sick, injured or dying. It’s a house of aberrations.

So the question becomes: Is giving birth natural or unnatural? A sickness or celebration?

“But…” you say, “just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous! Women and babies die all the time when giving birth at home.”

You’re absolutely right. And women and babies die in hospitals as well.

You know me –I love research. Unfortunately, my research was kind of thwarted, because I discovered that this issue is really difficult to study and compare scientifically for several reasons.

1.  In general, because of regulations, planned home-births tend to start with a lower-risk pool of candidates. In the state of California, for instance, midwives are not allowed to serve women who:

  • are over 45
  • will be having multiples (twins, etc)
  • have a baby in a “breach” position at term
  • have “pre-existing” (but heretofore un-identified) medical conditions
  • are under 37 weeks or over 42 weeks

…because these all qualify as “high-risk” pregnancies.

2.  Not all midwife care is created equal.  Each state has its own regulations and there are different levels of medical training – licensed midwife (LM), certified professional midwife (CPM), and certified nurse midwife (CNM).

3.  Not all homebirths are planned, and not all planned homebirths end at home.

4.  There is a smaller number of homebirths to study than hospital birth data.

All that said, the least biased scientific journals I could find gave some version of the following results:

“Perinatal mortality was not significantly different in the two groups (OR = 0.87, 95% CI 0.54–1.41). The principal difference in the outcome was a lower frequency of low Apgar scores (OR = 0.55; 0.41–0.74) and severe lacerations (OR = 0.61; 0.54–0.83) in the home birth group. Fewer medical interventions occurred in the home birth group: induction (statistically significant ORs in the range 0.06–0.39), augmentation (0.26–0.69), episiotomy (0.02–0.39), operative vaginal birth (0.03–0.42), and cesarean section (0.05–0.31). No maternal deaths occurred in the studies. Some differences may be partly due to bias. The findings regarding morbidity are supported by randomized clinical trials of elements of birth care relevant for home birth, however, and the finding relating to mortality is supported by large register studies comparing hospital settings of different levels of care.

Conclusion: Home birth is an acceptable alternative to hospital confinement for selected pregnant women, and leads to reduced medical interventions.

For fun, let’s compare our hospital-preferred system to another developed country which highly advocates midwife maternal and natal care.

In the United States, where midwifery was effectively banned near the turn of the 20th century, we still have a very low percentage of midwife-assisted births (7.6%) and only 0.72% conducted at home (as of 2009).

United States Infant Mortality Rate: 5.90 per 1000 births (.59%)
United States Maternal Mortality Rate:  21 per 100,000 births (.021%)

Compare that to the Netherlands, which has the highest rate of home births (29%), plus 13.4% more hospital births also attended by midwives.

Netherlands Infant Mortality Rate: 3.69 per 1000 births (.37%)
Netherlands Maternal Mortality Rate: 6 per 100,000 births (.006%)

Now some people want to quibble with these statistics by pointing to the fact that in the Netherlands, midwifes are fully integrated into the health system, but that instead of invalidating the power of the data, it seems instead to pose a very strong argument for integrating midwives more effectively into the United States health care system, doncha think?

So, given that the risks of death for mother and infant (given normal, low-risk pregnancies) seems to be comparable between obstetrician observed hospital births, and planned home births overseen by trained midwives — plus there are significantly fewer medical interventions — my question, again, is:

Why Not Have a Home Birth?

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When I decided (and announced) that I would be giving birth at home, I got the whole bell curve of reactions — bewilderment, horror stories and admonitions to NOT do it… but the majority of responses expressed strong support and encouragement.  Unknowingly, I seem to have stepped into a trendy new space in parenting.

But for the Unconverted, the question — spoken or unspoken — is “Why?”

For some: Why would I give up the comfort of Drugs?? For others: Why would I put myself and my baby at risk by giving birth so far (20 minutes) from an operating room?

Let me start by stating that my decision was not a running away from anything, but a running towards something… My first live birth two years ago with my daughter, Cora Joy, was a picture-perfect hospital birth. My OBGYN, Dr. A, is a personal friend and one of the highest rated obstetricians in our region. Nothing goes wrong on his watch, mostly because nothing is left to chance.

I began my pregnancy with 25 unique blood tests — I asked the lab technician if she’d ever taken so many vials from one arm, and nope, I set the new record. This was most likely because I had miscarried about six months previously and he wanted to rule out all possible complications. Makes total sense. And fortunately, they all came back normal.

We had monthly check-ups where I was weighed and examined and told to not eat any sugar. He was very concerned by my 30-pound weight gain.

Somewhere during this time, I watched a documentary called “The Business of Being Born.” (It’s available on Netflix) I can definitively say, though I didn’t know it at the time — that movie was the catalyst for my impending ideological shift. I started a very dangerous practice, which has gotten many people into a lot of trouble over the centuries — I started asking questions.

I informed Dr. A that I did NOT want a cesarean section unless my life or the baby’s life were in danger. He explained all the different scenarios of why they do C-sections and how he might not be able to identify the danger before it was “too late.” But that was pretty much one issue that I was not budging on.

On the other hand, my desire to “go natural” was soon laid to rest. Dr. A informed me that going past one’s due date was very risky and because the baby would be growing daily, I might NEED a C-section if we went past the 40-week mark because the baby would be so big. And since he is only in the hospital on Tuesdays or Thursdays, I was scheduled for an induction two days before my due date.

We also discussed epidurals. I didn’t want to “drug” the baby accidentally, and was told that because an epidural stays in the spinal cord, it in no way affects the baby. He told me there is really no reason to go without one, except to “prove something” — that the epidural relaxes the woman and in his experience, seriously speeds along the birthing process. So I planned on having an epidural.

December 15th arrived and we had to be at the hospital at 6:00 am to begin the induction process. I got up early, took a shower, did my makeup and french-braided my hair (not the least of my accomplishments that day!). I video taped us parking and walking into the lobby — it was fun! I was excited — I was going to have a baby today!

The huge advantage of having a scheduled induction is that it makes logistics SO SIMPLE. Everyone knew what to expect. I had stopped volunteering the week before and had a farewell party. Michael had scheduled his time off. My family was able to notify their employers and book their hotel rooms in advance. (Let me interject — I  MISS THIS. As a plan-loving CEO of a flourishing start-up company I would REALLY love to know exactly when this new baby will be arriving. More on this, I’m sure, in a later post.)

Of course, even though WE had scheduled our pregnancy, it turns out the rest of our community had not. The whole birthing wing was full and Michael and I were seated, anticlimactically, in the hallway. I had a chair, Michael did not. Since this was only 10 days before Christmas, I started comparing the situation (probably blasphemously) to Mary and Joseph with no room in the inn.

(can I interject again and just say that if Obama told me, in my final trimester, that I had to get on a donkey and return to San Diego so I could be counted — I would have done so much more than write hate mail… Assassination attempts may have been considered.)

Finally, we were given a bed in a room with 5 other women, separated by sheets. And what followed was seriously the worst part of my day (guys, if you’re reading and are not comfortable with graphic details — skip the following paragraph).

A very nice, very efficient nurse whom I’ll call Phyllis, arrived with my “induction gel.” I still don’t know what was in that gel, but the woman laid me down and stuck her latexed finger up my vagina, probed around for my cervix, which must have been lodged way the hell up there, managed to hook it with her finger and pulled – it – down, so she could swirl it around and “strip the membranes” before injecting the gel. I kid you not — this was the worst pain I experienced that day. I wasn’t screaming, but I was literally clawing the walls like a cat; I wanted to hiss at her to get the hell out of my business….      But didn’t. Instead, because I wasn’t progressing adequately, she had to do this same process TWO MORE TIMES.381509_679002347377_2143211019_n

During this time, I was just supposed to lie down. No sitting, no walking, nothing, because they didn’t want the gel to come out.

Finally, the contractions started coming fast and hard and Dr. A strolled in around 10 am to see how I was doing. Unfortunately, because they didn’t have any private rooms and were unable to monitor me, I was not allowed to get an epidural. But I guess Dr. A pulled some strings, because I was finally moved to a private room with a lovely view of the back parking lot, and at 3:00 pm — bless her heart — the Anesthesia Angel arrived. She rolled me over, swabbed my back, poked me with a long needle and — sweet bliss! I fell almost instantly asleep and had a nice nap during which I dilated from 6 to 9.5 centimeters. Talk about efficient! I woke up refreshed and ready to bring this baby into the world. My sisters arrived to say hi, but soon we were ready to push. Dr. A was called, Phyllis was there to coach me, Michael was holding my hand… the epidural drip was dialed back so that I could be an active participant without feeling too much pain, and sure enough, in less than 10 pushes, at 5:48 pm (almost 12 hours after we’d arrived) my slimy, red-haired infant slipped into the world. Michael got to cut the cord, and the baby was whisked off to be cleaned while Dr. A used the cord to pull out the placenta and sac, and stitched up the episiotomy (something I had forgotten to mention I did NOT want). Sisters and in-laws were allowed into the room while Michael and I weighed “Cora Fox” against “Cora Joy” as a name. I remember feeling euphoric and a little disconnected from reality; as I imagine being high feels.

Finally, everyone left and I got to bond with Cora and nurse her. We were moved to a room with only one other woman and Cora was taken away again. Michael was not allowed to spend the night, so fortunately, he got some sleep. That night I remember asking for constant water refills and tried to figure out this whole mother thing… I had heard that not all moms connect instantly with their child and I experienced that to some extent…

For those of you who grew up on “Beauty and the Beast” — I liken it to the moment when the Beast is transformed into the Prince. In your head, you know that Belle being with a human with flowing golden locks is a much better arrangement that her being with an 8-foot tall Minotaur, but… you had fallen in love with the Beast and the Prince, while very attractive, is quite simply not the Beast.  ….that’s what I was experiencing with Cora. Here she was — perfect little independent human — but a stranger. I didn’t really know what to do with this Outside Baby.

But sometime during that first night, as I watched her sleep, the love affair was kindled. It probably took a few days to really catch fire, but it’s now been two years and I’m as head over heels for that little girl as anyone could be for another person.

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I so badly wanted to go home the next morning, but they were worried about bilirubins and so decided to keep us for another night. So my sisters came back to visit with a picnic basket and my best friends arrived to meet the new baby (Becky was leaving for Europe the next day). Nathan was not allowed in because he was under 16, so he and his cousins whom he was staying with, got to say hello through the glass.

All in all, not a bad story. Pretty much the best you can hope from a fully-managed hospital birth, wouldn’t you say?I spent a second night propped up in a hospital bed without my husband, but finally, the next morning, I was free to go. We packed up and bundled Cora in her snow suit; I carried her while being wheeled out to the van, where we strapped her into her brand new car seat and I sat in the back seat with her as we drove home.

…but I wanted more.

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As a kid, I went strawberry-picking for a field trip. I remember standing in the hot fields, looking over at neighboring farms, seeing the manual laborers, and thinking: “They’re getting paid. We’re paying to do this. How does this make sense?”

And yet, now, I have a nostalgic desire to crouch amid crops with a hot sun on my shoulders and pick my own food. More importantly, I want to take my son to do it, too, so he can think to himself, “This is insane. We could buy these same berries in an air conditioned grocery store for half the money and none of the labor.” And maybe one day he’ll have a similar desire to take his kids out.

Turns out there’s a website with a list of farms in Southern California in case you too want to pay someone to work in their fields:

http://www.pickyourown.org

 

Enjoy!

CSD

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Meal Plan

In case you need some ideas…    Sample Meal Plan

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When I first became a wife and full-time step mom, I sailed onto the scene with the full force of an ambitious 24 year old woman, who had just spent four months working full time, taking graduate classes and planning a wedding.  My time management skills were at their peak and there was nothing I could not or would not accomplish.

And then I came to a screeching halt.

It seemed that motherhood did not consist of checking things off lists. There was no academic support system of continual feedback. No corporate ladder with clearly defined rewards for initiative and innovation. No paycheck, nor any hope of a raise.

I soon realized that in the role of Mother, Everything-You-Have-To-Give is simply par for the course. Your very best days are only what’s expected of you. You can definitely let people down, but there’s almost no way to impress anyone. It’s a rigged gig!

I digress.

The whole point of this post initially was not to bemoan the serious ego-slam one endures as Mom, but instead to say, I developed a few tricks of the trade and wanted to share them with other women struggling to imitate June Cleaver in an Arrested Development world.

The following two documents have saved me numerous hours, dollars, and headaches. When used correctly, they should make your life a little simpler too. (Don’t use them if they are a hassle)

The first document is a list of 54 meal ideas I’ve come up with that feature an entrée, starch, and veggie (or sometimes fruit). 54 is not a lot, but the beauty is that you can mix and match columns. It does not include recipes because I Google each item I want to make, look at four different recipes, write down the proportions of the main ingredients, and then make my own version.

Meal Ideas

I use the Meal Ideas document to fill in the second part: my Meal Plan.  I have laid it out Sunday – Saturday, with breakfast, lunch and two rows of dinners. This is because I find it easier to keep my son’s breakfasts and lunches the same each week (he can now make 75% of the items himself) and plan two weeks of dinners at a time. My husband has an erratic work schedule so I type in his hours in the purple bars. When I’m done, I print it out and tape it to the front of the fridge so everyone knows what to expect.  You will notice I have linked a few recipes; I found those while investigating other meal planning blogs. I really like Meal Planning 101.

Meal Plan

Bon appetite!

C.S. Doemner

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On October 26, 2010, I lost my unborn daughter, Madeleine Grace.  I found these songs helpful as I struggled to articulate my grief and wrestled with God.

“Precious Child” by Karen Taylor-Good

“Held” by Natalie Grant

“Glory Baby” by Watermark

“You Wouldn’t Cry (Andrew’s Song)” by Mandisa

“All I Can Say” by the David Crowder Band

“Our God is in Control” by Steven Curtis Chapman

 

“His loved ones are very precious to Him and He does not lightly let them die…”
Psalm 116:15, Living Bible

 

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