Monday, February 20, 2012

Homebirthing and Empowerment

As I'm getting closer to Tiny Blob's due date, I recently received our Homebirthing Checklist. I heard from a friend it's called being "empowered", and I actually do feel pretty empowered. Yet the list is very, very down-to-earth and makes me think of cleanup more than the beauty of childbirth.

My last birth experience was frantic, quick and extraordinarily painful. I got the unmedicated experience I'd been hoping for, but spent so much (10 hours, give or take) of the labour pretending to myself I wasn't in labour that the labour ended up being more about getting through than anything else. If I watch a TV show while I'm in labour this time, it certainly won't be Glee. Moments after the birth, I remember Eug disappearing with Noah  and the nurse and finding myself alone, in a fair amount of pain, in the storage closet at Mt Auburn, and wondering what I was supposed to feel or do. Wishing I'd forced them to let me breastfeed or told someone I couldn't get the stupid gown off to breastfeed because of the blood pressure cuff and being pathetically weak at that point. Eug called his mom and my parents; I think I wrote an e-mail to EeCheng on my iPod and told her to come over, and waited for what seemed like infinity before Noah and Eug returned. In the end, it didn't matter so much- these things are trivial compared to the enemas, shaving and episiotomies of our mothers (or worse, complications)- but this time round I get to stay with my baby.

Proof of the blood pressure cuff they wouldn't take off.

I do feel empowered to make choices, and I wonder if this sense of choice helps to make the experience a little less alienating. I wonder if being at home will make me less distracted by the hustle and bustle, and more able to see and experience the process. I'm not romanticizing- it's painful and gritty and there's a lot of blood involved- but it's also miraculous and I don't want to miss that.

Which I guess brings me back to being 30+ weeks pregnant and hoping to defend a PhD proposal in about 6 weeks. Which I don't bring up to make you think I'm tough. My sense is that, unless my personality changed in some fundamental way, the only way to get through my dissertation and be a loving mom is to do the defense before I have Tiny Blob, rather than soon after.

The question I'm trying to wrestle with is: how do I not miss out on these last ten weeks of pregnancy over something so ultimately trivial as a PhD proposal defense? Being pregnant is miraculous, and it may not happen again, so I hope I can notice the kicks and the rolls and the urge to prepare (less the tiredness and the heartburn). I want to imagine this next phase in our lives, and be grateful for it. Then, when labour rolls around as the bridge between our current world and the world in which we have two boys, I pray it can be about more than cleanup or survival or enduring a lot of pain.
Noah in his current, exuberant state.
And for your enjoyment, the home birthing list:
• 10 - 20 linen savers ( available from Birth Options / Dischem/ large pharmacy’s)
• 2 big buckets (1 for linen, other for waste) with black bags in each
• 2l ice cream or similar container for the placenta
• Thick plastic sheeting for bed and floor (old shower curtains are good) available from e.g. Plastics for Africa, Builder’s Warehouse…
• old towels- at least 8
• mat for kneeling on (e.g. foam/ camping/ yoga)
• Heater and/or hot water bottles/ heated wheat packs – birth environment needs to be warm
• Plug point close to envisioned birthing area (but be aware of safety electricity vs. water!)
• Mobile light e.g. desk lamp , strong torch)
• Sports drink bottle / straws
• Face cloths / water spray bottle
• Hand held mirror ( cheap at the Crazy Store / Chinese shops)
• Gym ball
• Roll of paper towel
• Roll of cotton wool/ gauze
• Disinfectant / cleaning wipes / cloths
• Stuff for mom (maternity pads, undies, etc.)
• Stuff for baby (nappies, vest, babygrows HAT, etc.)
• Digital thermometer
• Music
• Camera / video recorder!
• Suitable food/ drinks for the occasion!
• Pain tablets for after birth e.g. Panado / Ibuprophen / Mypaid


Emily said...

Hi Jo - Fun fun! I think homebirthing helps focus on the experience rather the the "medical crisis" you're in (poking fun at voice of the medical set) - HAH!

But what I'm really writing to say is.. I sewed up some maternity pads for myself and I've made some for friends... They're basically fabric from old cotton blouses/dresshirts sewn around pieces of old cotton towel. You can turn them inside out (sort of fuzzi bunz style) for good cleaning and fast drying. They aren't as absorbant as industrial varieties but they contain no plastic and are reusable - and are upcycled, of course. You can also use them later for aunt flo on the occasion you don't feel like using "other methods". Want me to whip up a few for you?

If you do, shoot me your address. Have fun with prep and I hope you find a way to balance the PhD prop with the meditative enjoyment of the last weeks!

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leah said...

Ha! I say half jokingly that buying all that stuff is "empowerment" because it irks me that homebirth costs so much money out of pocket whereas hospital birth is essentially free for those with insurance. Still, I've been pretty present for my two homebirths, and they were both wonderful and traumatizingly painful. In the end I think raising a child is empowering, and giving birth is just one day of that.

Tiff said...

Exciting! Wow...time flies so fast. You and Eug already have two babies (though one is still incubating). Justin and I will be praying for your and baby's birthing time!

Concrete Gardener said...

Yeah. I think the empowered part is in knowing what's involved.

The cost of giving birth at home with absolutely no insurance here in Cape Town is about the same as copay on GIC insurance in Boston (grrr... around $750-$1000). Unfortunately, if you're giving birth at home in Cape Town, insurance is about as supportive as in Boston. Which is absurd.

In a country where private hospital's rate of c-sections is apparently 70% (government hospital rate around 30%), giving birth at home, for a normal delivery and a healthy child seems like a really reasonable, cost-effective option.

After getting The List, I feel the draw of having getting a pack of Pampers, a little hat, a clean bathroom and three meals a day. If only we could get checked into a hotel with those things after the delivery.

Gytha said...

I think the most wonderful part of my homebirth to Ethan was just how "normal" it made childbirth seem - not normal in the sense of not miraculous, for that it was despite a very long labour and the eventual intervention of a sugar drip (and William walking along behind me and building drip stands out of climbing gear), but in the sense that birth is a part of life, not some disease that needs an ueber-clinical environment and the constant supervision of medical professionals. It was fabulous to be in my own space and to work through the pain of birth in a very familiar environment. It was just wonderful to jump (well not exactly) into my own shower and to cuddle into my own bed with my family. To not have advice from all kinds of nurses and staff helped me to focus on my own instincts regarding feeding and general newborn care, which was SO EMPOWERING but also VERY HUMBLING!!!

Regarding The List: I have some plastic sheeting, a gym ball, some towels, a newborn hat and will be providing lots of meals ;). Lots of love.

Concrete Gardener said...

Gytha, I'm really glad you paved the way to home birth in Cape Town for me- thank you!