Breathing Exercises

Refuge and Prospect

Posts Tagged ‘birth

Home Birth

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My daughter was born at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills, though, honestly, I can’t remember why: we lived a couple hours away in Pasadena. The hospital was far away by measure of miles, and it was a long way from where we were philosophically: 3 years later, our son was born at our home in Redwood City while our daughter slept in the next room. When I think about the new thing that was born on Saturday night in my home in Los Altos, it was way more Redwood City than Beverly Hills. Of all the ways that comment could be interpreted, none would be bad.

When babies are born in hospitals, almost every potential problem is considered and planned for–the long history and vast community of medicine has had it’s influence on the array of machines and policies that a mother is plugged into. It’s what doctors are trained (and paid) for. But patients can be forgiven for concluding that all this technology is applied primarily so that, should anything go wrong, there can be no questioning the doctors, because they provided the Standard of Care. This is not a criticism of doctors and nurses, who are amazing, no question, but it is a criticism of a wider system that seems to function at such times according to a cover-your-backside ethic.

So when our daughter was being born, the doctor’s first (angry) words upon entering the delivery room were, “Why does this woman not have an IV?”. Answer: we’d refused it on principle–we didn’t want interventions that weren’t expressly called for (note that we wouldn’t have refused any care if child or mother were at risk). But our posture was a problem for this doctor, who was thereafter set in opposition to us, because he knew that if we were refusing the standard of care, he would have to go slightly off his map, which clearly made him uncomfortable. And this wasn’t the only conflict we had with him: there were other moments when we would have preferred to focus on the Awesome Miracle instead of trying to argue the reasoning of our decisions. The only way to avoid conflict in such a setting seems to be to do what’s expected. Maybe our experience doesn’t represent what happens in hospitals today. Here’s hoping.

That’s not sanitary! But it’s awesome.

When babies are born at home, you quickly learn (if you are talking to a good midwife) that pregnancy is not a disease, and childbirth is not a health emergency, so why plan to spend this particular day in the hospital? Women are, in fact, biologically capable of giving birth, and they do a good job of it. If anyone is asking, my vote is to let them keep doing it. It looks painful enough, and I think it would be worse for me. But while pain hurts, it’s not always an emergency. I can hear a mother-in-labor asking, in between contractions, how exactly would I, a man define emergency? How about, a great deal of pain that you did NOT expect. I hope that’s helpful.

To the degree that Something New came into existence this last saturday night, it was definitely a home birth. I lead the meeting, and I did not … 1) follow a map, 2) conduct surveys, or 3)  design a meeting that would offend nobody. If had done that, and someone went ahead and got offended anyways, I could always say that I provided the standard of care, did it by the book — you can ask no more of me. But I didn’t do that. I am naturally wary of standardized systems anyways, so it wasn’t hard to look for a different way. But I still had to resist the temptation to put safeguards in place and follow well-warn routes.

What I did do was trust that coming together in community is something that people are are made for; that community isn’t a problem that needs solving–it’s a miracle that needs a space to happen in. So that’s pretty much what we did: we prepared a space for community to happen. Then we did our breathing exercises.

True, things sometimes go wrong and you need the help of a specialist … the midwife who attended the birth of our son had been an E.R. nurse. That was nice. But we never heard a thing from her about the problems she’d witnessed in delivery rooms or birth-crises that she’d dealt with. I was glad to know she had experience and the training to recognize trouble and respond. But we didn’t need her to prepare us for the worst: we knew childbirth would be painful and that there is always some risk to the mother and child. But that story gets enough air time: whenever childbirth is depicted on the TV, it’s a terrible crisis. If anything, we needed to be reminded that what what we were doing was God’s idea in the first place and a natural thing. Our midwife never said, “You need to have an I.V. because we might need to quickly administer drugs if you’re in too much pain or if something goes horribly wrong.”

She did say, “You’re going to do great.”

We felt confident that between the three of us, we would be able to meet any challenge. Anghelika did experience some serious pain when Timo was born, but she’d decided that her help would be … us. We helped her breath, talked to her when it seemed right to, and when it hurt, she squeezed my hand. I remember that part. Clearly.

So, back to Saturday night. I can already see that God took advantage of the space we made for this miracle … I see blessings I would never have been able to plan for, had I tried to. As with our Redwood City delivery, there was a little anxiety: I found myself briefly worrying that our choice to give birth at home might have put this brand-new life in danger. But ultimately, as with the birth of our boy, I was blessed to see a miracle take place without great constructions of watch-out-for-the-piano safety nets and just-in-case insurance policies.

For the record, a midwife is a very good idea when considering home birth. We have our ‘midwives’ for this new thing. They are sharing our joy and, yes, keeping their eyes on the horizon for signs of trouble. But they haven’t put us in a hospital room of their own design. They’re content to watch the process unfold in our living room. I’m thankful for that. Instead of a fear of what-could-go-wrong, what I feel the most is the freedom to be an awestruck witness, and an excited parent.


Written by dmaddalena

2011/02/24 at 9:25 pm