OPINION – Childbirth is no laughing matter. I learned this the hard way at the birth of our first child.
With my wife deep in labor, as we dutifully followed the instructions we had received in our Lamaze classes, I quipped, “This breathing really seems to work. I don’t feel a thing.”
Becky laughed but our nurse’s icy stare seemed to lower the temperature in the room considerably.
I remembered that stare as I read last week about how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Census Bureau are reporting that home births are on the rise nationally. The Utah Department of Health agrees that popularity of home births in the Beehive state appears to be on the rise.
When the subject of home birth comes up, it’s fascinating how many people default to an expression of concern or skepticism over the choice to give birth outside of a hospital setting. They view childbirth as a serious medical condition rather than a natural, normal, physiological function of a woman’s body.
They forget that less than 100 years ago, the vast majority of births in America occurred at home. By 1970, less than 1 percent of births took place outside of a hospital setting. What changed?
The physiological process of birth hasn’t changed throughout the history of mankind. But our attitudes about childbirth clearly have. We tend to see it as something inherently dangerous to a woman’s physical health; something that requires a combination of state and medical supervision.
This is why in some states, midwifery is strictly licensed and an unlicensed midwife who assists in a birth can be charged with practicing medicine without a license.
To be fair, there can be risks associated with pregnancy and delivery. But the level of suspicion faced by women who choose to give birth outside of a hospital setting is entirely disproportionate to the number of births that end badly.
When the subject of home birth is brought up among family, friends, or coworkers, someone will volunteer a horror story they’ve heard that reinforces the dangers of delivering a baby outside of a medical setting. In fact, mothers and infants can and do die from complications during hospital births. Where is the sensationalism over these tragedies?
As with home birth, such complications are rare but they do happen.
Home birth challenges the cultural mythology that has arisen as government and medicine have become increasingly intertwined. This is why it is sometimes viewed as an antisocial act of rebellion.
Modern society has been trained to see childbirth as a medical procedure that requires drugs to induce labor, drugs to minimize pain or discomfort, and emergency surgery if the labor doesn’t progress in a timely fashion. When a cesarean section is performed, costs rise dramatically.
Home birth operates on a more flexible schedule that is customized to the individual woman’s desires, body type, and needs. The costs are typically much lower than a hospital birth but this is only one reason a woman may choose to give birth at home.
When we were expecting our second child, my wife and I learned that my employer had dropped maternity coverage from our health insurance. The corresponding expense associated with a hospital delivery prompted us to examine our alternatives.
Along the way, we found a number of reasons to consider doing a home birth.
Becky had a less than positive experience with the medications that were used during her first birth. She wanted to go a more natural route. Following the birth of our first child, we had made a commitment to become more self-reliant. Both of us wanted to know that we had what it took spiritually to do a home birth.
We contacted a reputable midwife and met with her to discuss our options. During our first meeting, it became clear that she was screening us and trying to determine if we were the kind of patients she was willing to take on.
She needed to know that we were capable of developing a deep level of trust in her as well as bolstering our trust in God.
We learned a lot about ourselves as we prepared for the birth.
Under our midwife’s supervision, we gathered the necessary supplies and made the preparations for the big event.
The labor and delivery were textbook. The main difference we noticed was the overwhelming sense of peace that surrounded our home birth. Our little girl arrived blinking and alert but did not cry at all. It was a profoundly spiritual experience for all of us.
This doesn’t mean that hospital births cannot also be positive experiences. However, much of the antisocial skepticism directed at home birth is undeserved.
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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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