At my first birth preparation class my midwife (who teaches the course) mentioned that in October she had assisted with five home births.
“PLANNED?!” A women with short dark brown hair and glasses blurted out. Her eyes were huge.
“Four of them were planned,” Midwife replied. “One of them wasn’t.”
“People PLAN home births?!” She could not believe that there were people in the world planning home births. Her tone implied that she thought anyone who would do such a thing might be missing a few cards from the proverbial deck. From what the others have said, I seem to be the only one in the class who is not planning on going to the hospital when labor starts.
“I would be happy if every woman I assisted wanted to give birth at home.” Midwife didn’t elabortate, and the subject quickly drifted back to the plastic model pelvis bones she held in her hands. But I remembered her telling me a few appointments before that hospital births were always more stressful than home births. More running around. More noses being stuck into rooms, decisions, and vaginas. More beaurocracy. More pressure, and women who were far less relaxed.
“I don’t understand why people want to go to the hopsital to give birth,” I had said, though it’s not entirely true. Intellectually I can understand the desire for security in the case of an emergency, the fear of making a mistake that will harm the new life for which you are responsible. But—I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I feel more secure in my home with an experienced midwife among trusted friends who know me, my quirks, and my preferences. In the case of an emergency the next hospital is five minutes away (our hospital of choice is ten), so even at home I have the security of hospital access. This is the beauty of home birth in the western world in this time and place. We really can have it all.
“Most women just don’t trust themselves to be able to give birth at home,” Midwife had replied, leaning in the frame of the red Wagen’s door. “They get scared. They don’t believe they can do it. And if women don’t believe they can give birth without a hospital, eventually they won’t be able to.”
So much knowledge is already being actively (intentionally!) forgotten, lost. Doctors are no longer even taught how to deal with a breech birth (ie a baby who is butt down instead of head down when labor starts). Strike that. They are taught how to deal with them. They are taught to reach for the scalpel. Despite the fact that a breech baby can be safely born vaginally. Though probably not with a doctor who hasn’t been taught how.
Alongside my midwife, I’m planning on having two birth partners with me for the labor. The Beard will be my main support. But since the baby is due in February, I want a second set of hands to tend the wood stove. (Or to run for more water or snacks or to take pictures.) I also want a second set of hands there to support me if the Beard needs to go take a nap or a piss. Though you never do know—maybe I’ll be overwhelmed by the presense of so many people and send everyone away so I can labor alone.
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin—a really excellent book for expecting mamas and anyone who might be attending a birth—hasn’t been translated into German, so the Beard is ploughing through it in English. Meanwhile, Frau Doktor has a German copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (German title: Die selbstbestimmte Geburt) to prepare her. Who knows if they’ll make it to the two birth classes to which partners are invited—they are the last two classes in the series, and they fall two weeks and five days, respectively, before my 40-week due date.
The rest of my plans are fluid. The Beard knows what I want if we end up in the hospital with him advocating. We even have a code word for pain meds so that I can curse and rant without anyone coming at me with a needle. The midwife will also know what I want—though we haven’t had the detailed conversation about it yet—and whenever she talks I feel like my birth philosophiy is coming out of her mouth.
I can’t rave enough about how happy I am to have found this woman. Someone who I can actually trust and believe if/when she says, “Sorry Nikki, it’s time for a C-section.” Sitting on a red yoga mat in a room full of watermelon bellies and listening to her talk about birth in class, I have to stop myself from shouting “WOHOO YEAH RIGHT ON LADY!” and running up for high fives every time she makes a statement. She believes women’s bodies are made to give birth, she is against the over-medical-management of birth, she keeps her ladies at home for as long as possible (those planning a hospital birth that is), she won’t induce a birth a pre-determined number of hours after the waters break, she waits longer than hospitals do after the due date before giving labor a push, and she has assisted almost 4,000 babies into the world.
I’m not using her name here for the sake of privacy, but if you are reading this, live in the Mainz area, and want to get in touch with her for your own birth, send me an email and I’ll be happy to get you in touch.
UPDATE! Had another midwife’s appointment before last night’s birth class and SHE’S TURNED!!! Good bye breech position, hello head-down-and-ready-for-launch position! I am giddy. Just hope she doesn’t decide to turn back. Particularly because she was just doing some serious gymnastics in there. My stomach looked like a stormy sea for a good five minutes.