Saturday, February 4, 2012

Homebirth: Why it's not for Me


What is she saying?!

I know this may come as a shock to some. At least, it sort of was to me after all the glowing 'reviews' on homebirth. So let me explain why I've come to the conclusion it just isn't for me. Apologies for the ensuing novel! I kept trying to cut it back and gave up.

For our second baby we wanted to go to homebirth as that was our only way to get a waterbirth, but couldn't find a midwife in town that would take us. So for our third baby we opted to try for a homebirth again, given some unsatisfactory experiences in the hospital with both my first daughter and son. It was a huge financial stretch as it was all out of pocket to the tune of 5k, but we decided it was worth it for a shot at the healthiest pregnancy and birth possible.

In addition to switching to a full on out of the hospital midwife, we rented a birth tub, bought the Hypnobabies program, did a couple massages, acupuncture, regular chiropractic care, hired a doula and had the placenta encapsulated. We went full out! I read Ina May, Henci Goer, Peggy Vincent, etc. Ok, so I *meant* to do yoga, but just didn't get around to it. But for real, I was going to own this thing!

What I didn't plan on was how difficult it would be for me to keep the house clean enough(to my standards) for an entire month. While working at home with my 2 big kids. It was like that saying, shoveling while it's snowing? I'm a little OCD though, so you better believe I still tried. It was stressful. I ordered the wrong stupid birth kit so there was some confusion after the birth that things were missing the midwives were used to having on hand. (FYI, always have extra towels!) Yes, I'd still have been cleaning if we were having a hospital birth. But maybe not quite so crazy as the whole clean thing takes on a new meaning when you're actually birthing in the space. (I know, I know, my home is still 'cleaner' than the hospital...) And while there may be some assistance with clean up after the birth, no one sticks around to do the laundry!(haha)

The other problem was the whole when to call everyone bit. I absolutely knew when I was in labor. But still doubted myself as it wasn't progressing in the traditional sense. One thing I'd heard prenatal- 'It's so nice everyone comes to YOU rather than you having to go to THEM!' Which is great, except what happens if they don't come to you when they're supposed to because... your husband can't write down the alternate phone number in a message to try calling, or... your doula decides she's just going to 'assess' you before passing on the message that, oh by the way, they need you now?'

The biggest part of my birth I'd like to have changed wasn't necessarily homebirth specific, though, as it can happen with any birth you have someone assisting. Doctor, midwife, nurse, spouse, etc. In my case, it was my doula. She caused me to doubt what was happening as she was the one telling me they were looking for stronger, longer contractions that were closer together, in addition to some bloody show or something(before it was 'time' for people to come over). Then when we told her we needed her and to bring the midwives, she took it upon herself to show up first and decide if we really needed them without letting them know we'd requested them. Had she done it when we asked, they would have been there a full half hour before Annie's birth. Rather than 3 minutes.

I can't even begin to explain how hard it is to labor with someone watching you who is supposed to be helping you but they aren't doing anything because they don't think you're really in it. It really screws with your head. When she first got there, I desperately thought, 'Ok, I'll have a contraction and she'll see how serious this is and then have them rush over!' ...Nope. She did help me change my breathing as the slow Hypnobabies breathing wasn't matching my intense, short contractions. I'll give her that. And she touched my back once or twice for counter pressure, then walked away. Isaac imitated it whenever he could. But if he left my side for something quick, she didn't step in to keep it up.

I felt so alone. There was a birth story I'd read about another mother who said she didn't like Hypnobabies because no one knew what was going on as she had such a calm exterior. No one could tell what was going on inside. I told my doula about this, warned her and everyone else that I probably wouldn't appear to be really in labor but to trust that I was. And yet that's exactly what ended up happening- she didn't believe me. There's no doubt in my mind had the midwives gotten the call when they were supposed to, been there earlier, they would have been able to tell exactly what was going on and I would have had some emotional and physical support. My husband and I have the exact same mental image of our doula's position while sitting at the kitchen table(with her finger on her forehead), where she remained most of the time at a distance from me.

After the birth I felt very confused. I wasn't sure what I'd done wrong that she'd decided to just sit there. I was so exhausted. Didn't want to hold my baby or breastfeed her. I did anyway but it wasn't pleasant. I felt no joy. No sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. It was difficult when people asked me how it was. No one wants to hear 'alone' so I settled for 'intense'.

I'm guessing she knows she messed up big time. After the birth I really didn't hear from her. She made no attempt to do the post partum follow ups in her contract. She just dropped me. It is hard not to feel foolish when I was so sure about everything. We spent so much money to do it all the way I wanted.

Physically it was my most difficult birth due largely to the precipitous nature. Of course it was my first drug-free birth, too. It was also the best/easiest/quickest physical recovery. Maybe a drug-free waterbirth is for me, then? Emotionally, it was the worst due to the lack of support. It's embarrassing to admit I didn't want to hold my baby. It was heartbreaking to feel no joy. Don't get me wrong, I never expected a perfect birth. I hoped it might be a little healing after the debacle of my first. And I did expect some emotional and physical support in my labor. We kind of paid for it?

Maybe some would argue it wasn't the homebirth I disliked but rather the doula. And that's probably partly true if you remove the whole cleaning/prepared/birth kit part. If I can wrap my head and heart around having another baby(we always planned 4) it will most likely be in a birth center if one is available at that time. That would eliminate the cleaning and supplies preparation part/stress plus still allow for the flexibility of going home earlier than maybe they'd let me at the hospital. And, no drug availability. Bonus: Insurance would cover it!

But right now I want to throw up at the thought of another birth that would most likely be even shorter and more intense!

There were some good things to having a homebirth. Being able to get in my own bed immediately was nice. Having my own shower, all my stuff around me. The one really shining, happy moment for me was when the kids came in to see their sister for the first time. My oldest exclaiming, 'Oh my gosh! She is so cute!' and my son amazed at her, 'Nose! Face! Nose! Face!' It was beautiful.

So there's the nitty gritty for you. I'm not entirely sure what I hope this accomplishes. Maybe it's simply to be cathartic for me. Maybe I hope my doula will read it, pull her head out of her bum and apologize. And refund me some of the $600! Oh wait, here it is. I want you to know that you can do your best to prepare, but if it doesn't go perfectly it's NOT your fault. For those who may have a precipitous birth(aka- extremely fast and hard) it's not so unusual not to want to hold your baby immediately. I wish I'd been told that right away rather than walking around for almost 3 months thinking something was broken in me and I was a bad mom.

Seriously, can you ever escape that blasted mom guilt? That's my goal for this year. I'm going to figure out how to shake the dreaded mom guilt once and for all!


Cali said...

This broke my heart to read, but I'm so glad you wrote it. I also had an unpleasant hospital birth with my first child and wanted to ensure I didn't have that type of experience with my second. For this reason we hired a doula and opted to return to the hospital as my hubby wasn't comfortable with the idea of a homebirth. As with my first, my second came fast and by the time we were even checked into the hospital I was at a 7 and by the time my doula arrived, I only had 3 more contractions before my baby was born. Fortunately she was wonderful and stayed with me through my repair and as we got settled in our room and I am shocked to read what happened with your doula. I'm so sorry that the person you hired for support wasn't there for you the way you needed her to be. After barely making it to the hospital this last time, I'm considering homebirth if we have another child...but honestly I never thought of the cleaning aspect or the laundry afterwards. Maybe we'll move closer to a birth center by then. Once again so sorry to hear about your experience and sorry about my long response...I'm still just floored on the lack of support from your doula.

Cali said...

Oh and if you figure out how to escape that mom guilt...let me know. :)

stacythemagnificentmommy said...

Thank you for your kind comments, Cali! It was hard, I was pretty upset for a while but it's getting better now that I've gotten it out to a few people. Can't go back and change it! Hopefully I'll get to a place where I can look back and feel amazement/pride at my body and what we accomplished.

Love your blog, by the way! It is so sweet!

Beth @ Sand To Pearl said...

Oh, Stacy, that totally sucks! I'm so sorry you had to deal with that crap. DON'T feel bad AT ALL that you didn't want to hold you baby at first! Every birth is different, and so are the emotions and the levels of hormones that come to each woman during each birth. I get really, REALLY bad PPD (to the point where they fear I'll have a psychotic break down with this baby and are trying everything they can to make me start my meds while I'm still pregnant, not going to happen, but they can try) and yeah, with E, there was NO way I wanted to touch her, and she had to be rushed away immediately anyway, so no one really noticed. But yeah, I used to feel guilty, but now I know that there was nothing I could have done about it. I love her dearly, and I'm glad NOW that she's in my life, but yeah, at the time, nothing.

stacythemagnificentmommy said...

I'm sorry you have to deal with PPD, Beth =( Not to be weird but.. have you looked into the whole placenta encapsulation thing? It's a little out there but supposed to help? (I won't be offended if you think I'm nuts =) You let me know, seriously, if I can help at all.
And thanks! I kind of didn't think a lot about the emotional side of things to be honest, thought I had the right people hired for that part of it and I would roll with the physical/mental side while they took care of me. She was even supposed to snaps some pics if she wasn't doing anything(ha. ha.) and didn't manage that! Blah. This'll prob take a while to work through in my head, yet.

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