In 1988, exactly 21 years ago, I was expecting my first baby. We had taken a Lamaze Hospital Childbirth class and was feeling nervous and unprepared to give birth. I prayed and asked specifically for guidance to some information that would help me with my upcoming birth.
I felt guided to a library across town that I had not been to since I was a teen. I still had a valid library card and upon entering, headed straight for the childbirth books.
The title Husband Coached Childbirth caught my eye and I snatched it up. Little did I understand how significantly my life was about to change upon reading that book. Dr. Robert Bradley, the OB who wrote it, was the first to introduce me to the idea that Childbirth can not only be painless, it can also be ecstatically sexual and pleasurable as well.
At that point in my life, I was content to seek out a painless birth and, upon mastering all of the skills presented in his book, three weeks after reading it, I gave birth to my oldest daughter…painlessly, naturally, and in a hospital with a 50% C-section rate on December 1st, 1988.
My daughter will become an adult in a few weeks, and as I take a realistic look at what has happened to birth in the past two decades, frankly, I shudder with horror when I think about my daughters and grandaughters giving birth in this day and age.
As I've been writing this article, I just checked the status of the House Health Care bill that is going to be voted on tomorrow. The most recent report from the AP says that the lawmakers are still fighting over abortion funding and providing illegal immigrants access to health care.
While words like "death panels", "taxpayer funded abortion", and "pull the plug on Grandma" have been tossed around during the debate these past few months, no one has mentioned childbirth and what a National Health Plan will mean for those of us welcoming our children and grandchildren during the next few decades.
When the Bradley Method of Childbirth helped me achieve a natural, spontaneous, surgery free birth in 1988, I was so excited by what I had learned that my husband and I trained to become Bradley Childbirth Educators. For eight years we taught Husband Coached Childbirth in our home here in Boulder, Colorado. During this happy time we welcomed three additional children into our family.
As I lived through the ups and downs of a breach surgical birth for my second child, a hospital VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Ceasarean) with my third, and finally an unassisted childbirth at home with my fourth, the Obstetric World in America decided to pass some rules and set in place a few guidelines that truly made medical birth a harrowing experience for the four million women giving birth every year in America.
I won't take the time to outline the various decisions that entrenched surgical and drugged birth as the norm in our hospitals. Let's just say that with one in three mothers having a C-section, and the level of drugs used during labor at an all time high, we are on a trajectory as a nation that has sent our society down a path towards an 80% C-section rate.
I am acquainted with fellow birth activists who believe that socializing birth is the only way to break the medical monopoly and open up the floodgates of freedom for families. These friends believe that taxpayer funding of birth will allow Midwives, Doulas, Nurse Practioners, and Nurse Midwives to step into the birthing arena that has been blocked by the OB's for generations in American obstetrics.
I have argued repeatedly on my blog that no one is advocating for families with this health care bill. Various special interests, like the pharmaceutical companies, have promised billions to help set it all up and implement it in our hospitals and clinics. I asked one mother at the Huffington Post if she believed that those dollars were going to be given to the government without any strings attached.
I said, "What we are about to get in America is a particularly noxious form of Facism — government controlled by corporations — at the expense of patient safety and wellness. You think medicine has been awful in America these past fifty years? Just wait until any and all doctor accountability is tossed out the window in so called 'tort reform' and unfettered assembly line birth truly gets going these next few years. The only option for mothers who desire 'normal and natural' will be homebirth."
With 61% of all hospitalizations tied to birth in some form or fashion, I'm going to take a leap and assume that the status quo will be entrenched with this new health care bill. And the ultimate question Mothers are going to have to ask themselves is this, "What is the healthiest way for me to welcome my child into the world?"
I'm not here to tell anyone what will be best for their child. Each mother and father has to decide for themselves what type of birth will provide the healthiest outcome. But with more and more studies linking poor baby outcomes to the overuse of drugs during pregnancy and labor, parents should take the time to really research options and pick the one that will help both the mother and the baby to have the best start together. For our family, that has translated into a near rejection of allopathic (drugs and surgery) childbirth.
For our fifth child's birth in 2002 I made the decision to do all of my own prenatal care, birth him alone at home into the hands of his father, and then hired various professionals who came to my home after the birth to care for us during the intense post-partum period. My insurance did not cover this care, nor did I expect anyone to pay it for us.
My son Benjamin just turned seven last week, and he has been a joyful addition to our family. He has been the healthiest of all of our children, and he shares a particularly strong emotional bond with his father. When Ben was born in our bedroom, Paul leapt for JOY! He literally jumped. This moment in our marriage has been a beacon of hope for our family during dark times and challenges.
During our first four births, the Joy we felt upon the arrival of our babes has been the most intense of our married life together. Each birthday has been a celebration of love. But with Ben's freebirth, the light and love were uncluttered by hospital rules, regulations, and staff, and pure spiritural bliss was ours to enjoy in the sanctity of our little home.
I defy any politician/doctor/busybody to come into the homes of those of us who have taken personal responsibility for our lives and tell us how we are allowed to birth the babes. As the Medical Childbirth Monopoly gets entrenched with Nationalized Health Care, I would challenge those who are looking for a more holistic lifestyle to seek out something completely divorced from the medical model. Rationed assembly line health care and natural childbirth DO NOT MIX!
And finally, I want to testify that Husband/Wife Homebirth is often the gateway to a deeper level of love and trust in a marriage.