Monday, May 3, 2010

Unassisted Birth: An Open Discussion


I'd like to open this post up to everyone to discuss Unassisted Childbirth (aka UC), to share resources, links, videos, stories, your own experiences, thoughts, opinions, questions, etc.  We have a lot of discussions on my facebook, but I'd like my non-FB readers to be able to participate in this one :-)  Comment away!

43 comments:

Bryony said...

Hi,

I have only been reading about unassisted/free birthing for a couple of weeks and it seems AMAZING! I don't know too much about it yet but from the videos I have seen on the 'net it looks absolutely empowering.

I feel that it's something that I would love to do but I don't think I would be able to - I am considering homebirthing (if we could afford it, since I pretty much had a precipitous first birth and worried I wouldn't make it to the hospital second time 'round)but I don't think I could go unassisted. That would be a lot of stress on my husband too.

I'm assuming here that 'unassisted' means that there are no professionals aiding or in the room?

Thank you for opening this discussion - highly interested :)

-Bri

jen said...

not for me. i had 5 hospital births and 4 of them were wonderful. i just feel safer at the hospital! i asked for certain things and the dr. and staff were happy to help me birth my way as long as the baby's health concerns came first. my one 'bad' birth experience was due to a pompous dr who treated me like crap. needless to say, he got fired!

i was in control of what happened at my births, i just had to remember that it was MY baby and MY birth.

Dee said...

I fully support it. I feel its not something that I would do now (I am in fact due in July and having a midwife assisted home birth) but at some point, I could see it. For me, I like the support, reassurance, clean up help etc. I believe if you're going to do it, you need to be A) 100% educated B) 100% into it and C) have 100% faith that your body CAN do this.

Smurfy said...

Mine will be long. I apologize in advance. ;)

I feel very strongly that women should be able to choose how and where their babies are born, and with whom. To me, that's part of being reproductively pro-choice. I may not always agree with the choice, but I support the right to make that choice.

That said, I feel that these choices should be well researched, educated choices. Research shows that homebirth is a safe and healthy option for low-risk pregnancies when a midwife is in attendence, but we have very little data on UC. Of course, that doesn't mean that one can't have a UC and avoid disaster - women can definitely have good birth outcomes with UC - but unless a mother is VERY well prepared, I believe that UC could involve some slightly higher risks of complication.

According to what I've heard, a homebirth with a midwife can be quite "unassisted", for lack of a better term. In other words, a lot of homebirth midwives are very hands-off, unless a situation arises where their expertise would be beneficial. They basically stand back and observe, only intervening if absolutely necessary. All midwives are different, of course, but many will remain hands-off if they're asked, even if they're normally more involved.

I know of women who are philosophically opposed to medical professionals at their births. They believe that, like other mammals, human birth best proceeds when there is no intervention of any kind, and only the mother and father should be there to experience it. It's an intimate, private, natural event that needs no medical attendee, having one present could only complicate things, and women are born with all the instincts necessary to handle birth on their own. This is a choice that I certainly support the right to make.

However, based on my experience, I don't necessarily understand the reasoning behind it, since I found my midwife and backup doctor to be very hands-off and accommodating, to the point where I didn't really notice their presence for the most part. I did all the work myself, labor started spontaneously and needed no intervention or augmentation, I caught the baby myself, and DH cut the cord (with her help). She examined him after he was born, and she kept an eye on my bleeding and stayed in the next room during my laboring there (birth center), but for the most part, she let my body do it's thing. I'm sure that one's feelings on this would definitely be different depending on the midwife in question, but mine was great.

Would anything have been different if she wasn't there? Probably not. I didn't require any life-saving interventions, DS was healthy and nursed well, and my blood loss was well within normal levels, but just knowing that there was someone there with far more medical knowledge than I, just in case, was a relief to me. There isn't much data on UC because it's so underground still, but what we do know is that homebirths with midwives are considered statistically safe for low risk pregnancies, based on current research. For myself and my family, I'll choose midwife assisted birth in the future, for sure - hopefully a homebirth (I gave birth in a freestanding birth center with my youngest). I'm pretty sure I'll never consider planning a UC. I've also had a high risk pregnancy in the past, so I don't think I'll ever feel comfortable with it *for myself*.

jen said...

excellent post, smurfy! my pregnancies were all high-risk, so no homebirths of any kind for me! like i said above, i had good experiences because i made them into good experiences. i had 2 preemies who needed nicu time, but i still feel like their births were wonderful!

A Pin-up in stitches said...

I support UC for women who have researched it and have back up plans in place. I agree with anothe rposter who said it's a good alternative for low risk women.

Having said that I have had a UC. My 1st two births were both hospital births that left me sad and wanting for a better experience. My research led me to UC and I devoured every bit of information and support I could get my hands on. I had a wonderful birth (if albeit a very intense one) and my husband who has been previously a bit warry of the whole thing but supported my choice was convinced homebirth and especially UC was the way to go.

Fast Forwad a few years and we were again pregnant. We both knew without a doubt homebirth was our only option but due to military politics chose to have midwives to cover my husbands ass. We picked mw's that were for the most part hands off and listened to most of my demands while still doing the things they had to do for legality purposes. It was still a fabulous birth and I don't for a minute regret having them there.

As for clean up issues, meh. They really didn't do anything because I am VERY picky and really prefer people not mess with my things. They fixed me an after birth meal prepped some herb infused compresses for my nether regions and went about their business. After both of my homebirths I was up and active almost immediately with plenty of energy to do the clean up and what I couldn't do the husband took care of.

Annette said...

Let me start by saying that I am a homebirth advocate...and I would NEVER choose any other way for myself barring emergency. That being said, I am not in favor of UNassisted birth...and here is why: We are not meant to...and I mean this in a very primal sense.
We are a species that forms tribes. Our culture (in the US) does not set things up this way so we have to seek it out if we want to be balanced.
The idea of kicking off any experienced professional simply because you want to do it "on your own" is a waste of years of knowledge and wisdom in my opinion...not to mention dangerous.
No matter how knowledgeable about your body you are, no matter how "in touch" you are with that little spirit entering the world and no matter how much you think you are prepared with knowledge and education...if something goes wrong that you have not read about...because you are not a midwife...and you only have two hands...how could you or your partner be expected to handle the situation safely and in clear mind?
I also feel that unassisted birth as an intentional movement can really screw things up for homebirth in terms of credibility.
Home birth WITH a certified midwife who has connections to a hospital is equal to if not a safer method than birthing in a hospital.
Take the backup and 3rd party out of the mix and you ARE bringing birth back to the middle ages...only with clean hands.
It just seems like a needless risk if you have access to someone who could be a fly on the wall unless you need them. Why not have backup? Why not have someone "just in case"?

I do have a friend who had a Unassisted VBAC in her home. She had a positive experience...BUT...she even says that she would not do it again without a midwife present. "what if something had happened...even to me?" Stitches? Bleeding? these are not things anyone can handle on their own, and in a tribal culture, there would be a number of women who had birthed before present helping out at the very least.
Birth SHOULD be a beautiful, spiritual and personal thing...and it should absolutely be in the mother's hands...with some help if she needs it.

earthmothergypsy said...

There are many book, videos and online resources and support for anyone wishing to birth unassisted. Unassisted means with no "professional" person attending your birth. :)
It is empowering for sure! To be able to be in control of your own pregnancy, labor, birth and care of your baby is amazing! No one to tell you what to do or how to do it. You just follow your own instincts through the process. Most women that choose UC are take the time to educate themselves very well about all aspects of birth. They are prepared for any complications that come their way (and honestly there really aren't all that many complications in birth. It is a natural process. Complications are usually created by others at ones birth (midwife, doctor, ob, nurse) by interfering in the natural birth process. Anything done to a birth woman is an intervention that changes the course of her birth. If birth is left alone it happens naturally, as it should be.

That said, UC is not for everyone, but it is a viable option for many birthing woman who want an empowered natural birth.

There is just nothing like giving the gift of your baby to your husband alone, just like he gave his gift to you 10 months prior, alone in the privacy of your bedroom. :-)

Below are some resources to get you started. :)

Here is a list of excellent unassisted birth books:
Pleasureable Husband/Wife Childbirth:The Real Consummation of Married Love by
Marilyn A. Moran

Happy Birth Days: Personal accounts of birth at home the intimate, husband/wife
way by Marilyn Moran

Birth and the Dialog of Love, by Marilyn Moran

The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth, by Laurie Morgan*

Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love - by Lynn Griesemer*

Unassisted Childbirth - by Laura Shanley

The Birthkeepers: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition ---by Veronika Robinson

Websites:
http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unassistedchildbirth/?yguid=169459317

http://www.unassistedhomebirth.com/

http://www.unassistedhomebirth.com/fathers/

http://www.mothering.com/discussions/forumdisplay.php?f=306

Videos:
A Clear Road To Birth

Psalms & Zoya

Birth Day

lafemmedesfemme said...

i've had one reasonably decent hospital birth (surrendered that child for adoption), and two unassisted births. the two unassisted birth stories are here: my older son, and my younger son. in my case, it wasn't that my hospital birth was so horrible, it was that once i had read about unassisted birth, i immediately knew that that was what i wanted, and that i wasn't going to get it at a hospital, and would be unlikely to get it with a midwife.

i read everything i could get my hands on about homebirth, midwife-assisted and unassisted. i haunted uc discussion forums and email-lists. i read midwifery textbooks. i lived and breathed birth for years before i had my first unassisted birth. i inhaled every birth story i could get my hands on-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. i watched birth videos. i crammed in as much knowledge as i could. and at the end of it all, i knew-- knew!-- that unassisted birth can be a safe and sane birthing option. and i also knew-- knew!-- that i could not make that call for anyone but myself or for any pregnancy but the one being currently experienced.

my unassisted births were all i could have hoped they would be, and when i'm pregnant again, unassisted birth will again be an option i will consider.

christina

kimk said...

I support a woman's choice to deliver however and wherever she wants. I am also a hospital birthing center tour guide and breastfeeding educator.

I had two uneventful medicated hospital births where all went well. For my third baby, due February 2010, I chose to have a home birth. Unassisted birth was something that I did not consider. In fact, giving birth without an attendant was something that I was concerned about. Since this was my first completely unmedicated birth I wanted a highly trained midwife in attendance. I told her ahead of time that I wanted her there with me every step of the way, holding my hand and reassuring me. I planned on having my midwife, her two assistants, my wonderful home birthing friend and my husband in attendance.....

I ended up having an Autonomous Birth. It was just me, the baby and God. I had 20 minutes of hard labor and a midwife that was 35 minutes away. My husband left the house for less than 2 minutes to get our older son from the bus stop and in those 2 minutes I pushed our son into this world in my kitchen nook in a rented birthing tub. It was the most empowering and intense experience of my life. Although I know it is a situation that could have gone wrong, both the baby and I were healthy and had no ill effects from our Autonomous Birth. I had nothing else on my mind in that moment except for the baby and what I needed to do for him. I had a calmness come over me when he was crowning and I knew that we would both be fine. My Husband was shocked to reenter the house and find me holding the baby. When the midwife arrived (15 minutes after he was born) She clamped and cut the cord and helped me deliver the placenta. After an examination, she declared us both healthy. He was born on January 22, 2010 and weighed 7lbs 6oz. He was born at 37 weeks 5 days.

Our family is complete now, but if we were blessed with a fourth baby I would choose to birth at home again and may even consider a planned UC.

ron said...

My wife, Karen, and I have had 4 births, and have 3 healthy adult children.
The first was assisted at home in 77 by Michele Harrison (who was an MD at the time and wrote a cool book about trying to get her OB/GYN called "A Woman in Residence")

The second was still born, the midwife transported at the last minute-

After that we were classified as high risk. But we never intended to go to the hospital or a birthing center so we just stayed home. The woman who was hanging with us bolted when she realized we were not going anywhere so I stepped in and provided perineal support, coaching and all. Morgan was born and his older brother cut the cord.
A few years later when we were pregnant with our daughter we could not find a midwife we liked so we just chose to do it alone (in a cooled down hot tub- 1st water birth).
Granted, Karen trained as a midwife and she talked me through the first UC (which was unexpected and a bit nerve racking at first) But I highly recommend responsible parents to properly research, be responsible and do it at home. It makes the spiritual experience of childbirth considerably more rewarding than the traditional alternative (or even the new age alternative).
PS we also un-schooled all three and they slept in our bed and were all breast fed until they decided to stop. All this in a much more hostile environment. It was worth it.

Contact me at ron@hillhousewriters.com

Dominique said...

I believe that planning to UC is a very personal choice, and not one done lightly. There are many circumstances that a woman would be compelled to birth on her own with only a select few people to accompany her. Having a licensed midwife or doctor present does not guarantee a positive birth outcome any more than not having them there guarantees complications. It depends on the birthing woman and her child and their health history as well as their attitude and understanding about the birth process. I found that the women who chose to birth on their own (which does not necessarily mean alone, but simply without medical personnel) either had negative previous birth experiences, or they possessed a trust in their bodies as they were designed and did their research on how to handle any ‘complications’. In any event, an emergency trip to the hospital is always an option; it is what it is there for. Birth in itself is not an emergency and so for it to be medically managed, whether at the hospital or at home, seems to me to be unnecessary.

Birthing without a doctor or a licensed nurse-midwife seems alien to many because we are taught that it is dangerous to do so otherwise and often the explanation of infant and mother mortality and its relation to the dark ages is used as a scare tactic. Any research done on the history of obstetrics (which many uc moms are apt to do) will reveal that many ‘dangers’ in birth occurred after it became handled medically, and it is hygienic, economical, and social factors that actually contributed to issues in women birthing and not that they were not attended by ‘trained’ professionals. Before the advent of medically managed birth, and even before the dark ages, women birthed babies and managed to continue our species. Usually it was their mother’s and sisters, and aunts that accompanied the birthing woman: women who birthed beforehand who could offer their wisdom. Today when women choose to UC, similar support is given by the people they choose to include in their birth. Sometimes women trained as doulas who are training themselves to become midwives can attend, it all depends on what the woman is comfortable with.

Another thing I have noticed about women who UC is that they choose to take responsibility for their births instead of relying on other people to GIVE them the birth they desire. In that, they prepare themselves thoroughly for any ‘issues’ and are willing to transfer to a hospital if it goes beyond their capabilities. In that, perhaps, they are more responsible than given credit.

Vanessa said...

As a mother of 2 (hospital births), and now pregnant with our 3rd, which is a planned UP/UC... this decision for us has been a long time coming.

Most women that choose to pursue and unassisted birth take a LOT of time to educate themselves on the birth process, possible complications, etc. They also trust that birth is a natural process that only needs to be interfered with or watched in special circumstances or emergencies. As women, we are smart enough to make decisions and choices about our babies and our bodies, including deciding when to seek medical attention.

Many people also do not realize that most of the minor complications that can happen in the hospital (and are handled in various ways and with various drugs and interventions that carry their own risks...) can also be handled at home in much safer and much more natural ways. Take for instance postpartum hemhorrage, which in most cases can be handled effectively with herbs and natural remedies at home, as well as easily avoided by taking a more natural approach to birth, less interventions, and less medical interferrence.

We must ask ourselves, why ARE we placing it upon doctors, midwives, etc to carry all knowledge about birth? Why are we not educating women more about birth and it's natural course as well as complications? Women who choose to UC are simply choosing to educate themselves about the process and trust birth instead of placing all of their trust in medical professionals. They are also accepting a lot of responsability, and I don't know ONE woman who chooses to UC who is dead set on never entering a hospital. In the rare case, most women are more than willing to get them and their baby the help they need.

Augusta said...

I'm sorry I don't have time to read all of the responses. They looked overall pretty good. Just wanted to weigh in that I have had two UCs myself and they were very positive experiences. I spent huge amounts of time researching and preparing and the decision was not something I came to lightly.

Adrienne said...

Unassisted birth isn't for everyone. Those that do make this decision do not make it lightly. Some just feel drawn to it, other do not have homebirth available to them due to finances or legal restrictions in their states and they do not trust the hospital to respect their wishes. Some, such as myself, do this because the in a state with legalized midwifery, regulations are too stringent for a mother to have a stress free pregnancy and birth without having to worry about being transfered for something that is totally normal. I know what I would transfer for and how to recognize it, I choose homebirth because I'm tired of being bullied.

It has been proven as most of you know that for low risk women, homebirth is just as safe, if not safer than a hospital birth. It is hard to do a viable mainstream study on unassisted birth due to many women claim they went unassisted when in fact they had a midwife who was illegal, or those that say that their unassisted birth was no planned due to fear of persecution. There is, however, a smaller study based on asking women who have had a planned unassisted birth, and here are the statistics http://www.unhinderedliving.com/stats.html
As you can see, the results show that unassisted birth is a perfectly viable option for many women who painstakingly plan for it and have proper support. It does not mean that they have no plans on going to the hospital *if* the need should arise. It just means that so long as everything is normal there is no need to go as a hospital is for the sick and pregnancy and birth is not an illness.

Eanruig said...

I have had 5 UC's 4 UP's and one on the way. I have also had two hospital births. My last birth was solo, and I loved it! I believe birth needs no interFEARence. Your body needs no help to birth the baby. My experiences have made me a stronger more confident woman. I thank G-d for letting me see his way of doing things, it is truly inspiring. it is my hope that every woman can at some point experience their true power and calling as women and mothers.
Shalom!
Erica

Amanda said...

Quite a few of you have so eloquently expressed what a UC is and the type of mother who chooses one. I can't improve on what has been said so I will just say I had a UC after an OK hospital birth and it was absolutely wonderful and I would choose the same again if the pregnancy was low risk again.

Amy said...

i informed myself. i chose to give birth to my first at home, unassisted, because it seemed 'normal'. it was only afterwards that i discovered that most women do not even attempt a natural drug-free birth. Birth was not a thing i was afraid of, but i was afraid of hospital.
to me "UC" isn't radical.

Kayla said...

Being the pro-choice person that I am, I fully support a woman's right to birth wherever and however she wants, and I fully respect that choice if she has researched and is truly informed on the risks and benefits of each type of birth.

Personally, I view UC similarly to elective c-section in that it isn't for me, and it has the potential to carry risks that a midwife attended home birth doesn't. I would never condone either of them, but hey, it's not my birth, and as long as mama and baby are healthy and happy, it's none of my business. As someone who plans to become an OB/Gyn and someday have a midwife-attended homebirth, I'm not exactly unbiased ;)

Like I said though...not my business, and I support women no matter what their choice...elective c-section, induction, epidural, VBAC, home birth, UC, whatever. Her birth, her choice. She is the one who is responsible for the outcome :)

Within Kingston said...

There have been a lot of really wonderful points made from other mums who have UC'd, so I won't re-mention them - just enough to say that they are the same reasons why I considered and had a UC myself. But I do have to say that in reading about the physiology of birth and all the hormones that are released during a natural un-interrupted labour and birth to help with the birth process, bonding, lactation, it really brought it home for me that birth is really something to be trusted, even though I was scared of what birth would be like for me, as I was a first-timer. I just knew for me that being in a hospital, or even under the direction of anyone else, it would have altered my birth experience and my baby's experience significantly. And that wasn't something I wanted to compromise. The other point that I feel is important to make, that was a major deciding factor for me, was in meeting with my midwife, and also watching a lot of birth videos while being pregnant, was that even a 'hands-off' midwife tended to take the role of the birth partner, and that by them simply being there, it would make my husband feel less involved, which I felt wasn't just an issue in his experience of the birth which would stay with him for the rest of his life, but also affect how he bonded to our baby. By having an unassisted birth it allowed him to take more of an active role (as it was just the two of us, and he was my birth support), he went through the labour just as much as I did (I had tremendous back labour and I needed him to push on my back through every contraction). It really connected us even more, and also connected him to our baby, and I saw it when our son was born. I find that having a midwife or birth attendant, or even doctor there, that it takes the opportunity away from the father to become intimately involved in the birth - IMHO.

There is a lot more to my birth story in how we came to UC, but we did create a birth video of my pregnancy and our unassisted birth if anyone would like to watch it. You can find it here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=122223605847&subj=503195847

It's great to connect with so many other women who have chosen to UC!

Within Kingston said...

I just wanted to add to my post that I in no way meant anything against midwifery - I am 100% in support of any options that are in support of a woman's choice, natural and home birth. The midwife that I had for my care was amazing. So I hope that my post didn't offend anyone - as many have mentioned UC isn't for everyone, and for those who don't choose UC, having a midwife or a doula as support is absolutely wonderful. I just felt in my own experience that for me personally having a UC was about trusting myself, my body, and birth, and I felt if I had anyone else there other than my husband, that would have been interrupted, just by simply having someone else there.

Thanks so much for opening up this discussion, I've really enjoyed reading everyone's posts :)

Anonymous said...

I had two hospital births, in two different countries. The last one was a completely horrible experience. In our local area you have the choice of having a hospital birth or a hospital birth. No options. No midwife will come to your home to help you deliver. They won't even give you a birth certificate unless you go to the hospital and then spend 3 days there. Here, they routinely give pitocin regardless of the length of your labour. Then they strap you to a bed on your back to monitor you. Your pain relief options are... pethidine or an epidural. The so called birthing pool was just a bath which they wouldn't let you give birth in because apparently "babies drown". Plus it's all tiled and trying to get in and out of a bath, when in labour, heavily pregnant, wet and bare foot... I nearly killed myself. So... my only option this time round is to have an Unassisted Homebirth, then call an ambulance to collect me to take me to the hospital so that I can get my birth certificate. Then I need to discharge myself and the baby immediately and possibly even have the police called on me. How unfair is that. Last time my kid was in hospital she got jaundice and was taken to NICU where I was told that my breastmilk was starving her, she was being poisoned and they even tried to get me to take a pill to dry up my milk. They refused to let me feed her through the night, and formula was given at every feed. I was completely shocked at the treatment, how medicalised the whole thing is and the fact that the Obgyn's, midwives and doctors all think they are gods, and that pregnancy is some sort of disease.

I will be watching this thread with great interest because I need to know how to go about a unassisted birth. I would prefer to be attended by a midwife. But my husband is on board with this too as he saw the abominable treatment we received in hospital.

Some people like that kind of treatment. Reveal in the fact that they are treated with kid gloves during their pregnancy least something terrible happen to them or the baby. But I am not one of those people, and really, I just want to be left alone to have my baby in peace. I don't need the constant rounds of different midwives coming in, telling me off for not lying in bed correctly...demanding I push when I have no feeling to do so because of all the drugs they are pumping into me to make it one long contraction. Its horrible...and I can't do it again.

Cara @ Health Home and Happiness said...

I think it's chosen mostly by women who are highly educated about the process, and don't have access to a good hands-off midwife. I think that at least preparing yourself for what you'd do if you weren't able to make it to the hospital is a good thing for every pregnant woman to do, regardless of where you plan on birthing.

Lia Joy said...

I am a 3 time UC mom. My first, at 19 was completely solo (though my intention was to have my partner there) so I have not experienced birth (first hand) any other way... Nor would I want to. For me the decision was about wieghing the risks that would be added by managing birth (including feeling intruded upon or coached) with the slim chance that a naturally occuring complication would arise in which there was not enough time to transfer to the hospital.
I am currently writing a book about this subject as it has been transformative in all areas of my life. If you're interested, you can see the 2 births I got on video:
www.youtube.com/liajoy83

Shannon said...

I have had 2 UC's, beautiful, empowering. Just because they are "unassisted" doesn't mean that we who are involved don't have a wealth of information, many of us as much as midwives, or nearly so. Our partners know what to do, and when it's an emergency, etc. So unassisted often simply means someone without *certification*, not without knowledge.

Lorraine said...

My third baby was an unplanned unassisted birth. I think the word someone used earlier was "autonomous".

My first two kids were born at home with midwives and I was overall pretty happy with my prenatal care and with their approaches during my labors (different midwives). We moved to a new state and I chose yet another midwife when I knew I was pregnant with my third. I loved all the care she gave me as well.

I had a precipitous labor with my third, which was a surprise after my first two, which weren't long, but were 12 and 6 hours, so of course I thought I had more time. ;)

My mom and son had been sent off to get my daughter from school. My midwife was finishing up an office visit and was then coming right over (5 min. away), and my husband ran a quick errand on his way home from work.

I was 9 days past my due date, and my theory is that, after more than a week of being the watched pot, I was finally ALONE! From first contractions to my second daughter's birth was about 1.5 hours.

I was in a birth tub, and things went so fast I could literally feel my cervix opening and her head descending, all in the space of about 5 contractions. Two transition contractions and three pushing contractions later, she was born!

She came out into the water with the cord around her neck, unwound naturally with little conscious thought on my part, and I knew to keep her face down as she came out of the water and onto me. The most ridiculous part was that, since I hadn't thought I'd be alone, the birth supplies weren't within reach and I needed a towel! Serendipitously, my son's towel from his bath the night before was on the chair nearby, so I could keep my baby covered.

On the one hand, the experience of birthing all on my own was empowering and incredible, and I wouldn't trade the first moments I had with my new daughter - just the two of us - for anything. On the other hand, I still am sad that my husband missed her birth, and I am profoundly grateful that he and my midwife showed up soon after she was born.

I am a naturopathic doctor, and I have training in normal pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I had also had two previous homebirths and felt confident in my ability to birth. And I am still sure that midwifery care was right for me. While I might be able to recognize that something wasn't right, it's the last thing I want to be thinking about in the midst of labor, or while loving on my new baby. Having someone there to do the worrying/checking up for me left me free to focus on the process.

I think it's always safer to have someone on hand who can handle the "medical" stuff if it comes up. That being said, I think it's up to each couple to do the research and make the choice for themselves.

saskia said...

I had a blog with all my info for my choice to UC but it's currently private. I did recently write up a new and edited version of my UC Here

http://sunflowerradiantlove.blogspot.com/2010/03/reclaiming-my-power.html

I chose to have a uc after c-section with my 6th child. It was a very spiritual decision. I had no fear my whole pregnancy, it was something I was supposed to do. I have had 5 hospital births, they've never been something I have wanted. My UC wasn't easy, it wasn't this amazing thing I envisioned. It was a long labor, it was painful. My body had to deal with a lot as I have a very big c-section scar. My baby was posterior. But there was always peace, never fear. I would love to UC again, but after I had this child, I knew that was not in the cards for me and I am okay with that. I plan on having a midwife and I found one that will respect a hands off approach, but will give me some female support, which I need. My hubby will never do UC again, it was hard for him.

The way a woman chooses to birth is so personal, it shouldn't be crapped on, you know.

saskia said...

Also, the what ifs that I still hear (and my baby is 1 years old today) are not, and NEVER WERE a part of my reality. I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that it was okay. If I had doubts, and went ahead with it, then well, that would have been wrong. Like I said, for me, to UC was a hugely faith based, spiritual, guidance of the Lord, decision. I did not go into it blindly. I knew there would be no "what ifs" I have A LOT of what ifs for birthing in a hospital. Hospital birth isn't for me, even though I had 5 children in a hospital. And we can't expect every woman to birth the way we think is right. It's none of our business. It only causes negative energy and pregnant women need positive energy, they don't need someones what if fears shoved on them. This is for whatever birth is chosen.

amy said...

I haven't read the discussion yet but I wanted to post while I had time. I'm all for unassisted especially if the mama and her attendants are well informed and educate themselves. Either way it should be their choice though. Right now in my state (SD) the options are limited. The one mid-wife(CNM-CPMs are currently illegal here) who does homebirths is certainly qualified but is a very poor fit for many of those wanting a homebirth in my area. So the only other option is unassisted by anyone other than the immediate family-under law I believe any one else has to call 911. My mid-wife only delivers in the hospital. I believe she's only one of a handful who are available. With her I was able to birth how I wanted(I've had two with her): standing and squatting the entire labor AND delivery, no drugs, no IV, instinctual pushing,delayed cord clamping, whoever I wanted in the room. But without her that's rare in the hospital simply because women aren't well informed of their choices, allowed to be aware of their bodies, or supported to do it naturally. Its even rarer that a women and her attendants are educated enough to do it unassisted (except in my circle of friends where its seems to be the norm). I felt more comfortable having a mid-wife and I neither of us had the choice to do it in my home even though we'd both be comfortable doing so. As a libertarian I believe that no one should be able to dictate where a woman gives birth-whether its safe or not. No matter where a woman gives birth I wish she'd educate herself beyond the mainstream idea of what a "normal" birth is.

Brittney said...

What I find most interesting is that women do not realize that, unassisted or not, the responsibility in how they and their baby come through the labor and birth process is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. Many women express that they don't feel comfortable taking on "that responsibility" or that they do not want to take the time to educate themselves. What saddens me is that "That Responsibility" is one they already have, but deny. The consequences of this are far-reaching, both subtle and blatant.

After the traumatic birth of my first child, I realized that while I would have loved to be able to push the blame on my caregivers for the horrendous experience my daughter and I suffered through, it ultimately wasn't their responsibility. It was MINE.. It was MY responsibility to educate myself, to understand I *had* choices, to know the risks, the benefits, the possibilities..... It was MY responsibility because it was MY body, MY baby, and MY birth.

Whether or not women choose to have a hospital birth, a homebirth, or an unassisted birth... ALL of them should be educated enough to be able act as their own "midwife". And what I mean by that is A: Know what is normal, and what isn't. B: Know when intervention is needed and C: Be educated in all options for any given circumstance. Also, women should know their rights, ESPECIALLY if giving birth with a care provider. It is horrifying how many women I come across in my work and daily life who have suffered birth trauma/rape. Anyway, I digress.

To conclude, I gave birth to my 9lbs, beautiful daughter on my bedroom floor, with my best friend and ex-fiance present. It was one of THE defining moments of my life. My Ever wasn't poked or prodded, wiped or messed with... just born gently into my hands in privacy, peacefulness, and grace surround only by those who loved her and her mother.

Anonymous said...

I considered UC, but decided to give birth in a hospital with a wonderful midwife and her OB husband. I'm glad I did... I ended up with a retained placenta that hemmhoraged after my son's birth. I was one of those women who actually may have died at home, a truly emergency situation. I required 3 transfusions in as many hours to stay alive and truly emergency surgery, neither of which were the result of unnecessary interventions. It would have happened at home, and I might have left my son without a mommy.

Instead, my son's birth was amazing; my midwife and doctor were very hands-off and totally supportive of natural childbirth. The hospital we chose (an hour away from home) was beautiful and spa-like, and the staff was incredibly responsive and respectful of our wishes. I had an orgasmic birth with no tearing, a "breast crawl" bond, and absolute support of breastfeeding and AP principles - up to and including no circ and co-sleeping preference. They even understood without my asking that we weren't likely HepB candidates and stocked liquid vitamin K to avoid shots and provide a peaceful welcome for our precious little one.

The right environment makes ALL the difference. My experience of childbirth was wondrous and empowering; 10 minutes after my son was born I asked my husband when we should have another! I would give birth once a week if I could!

I think many women choose UC because an environment like that isn't available to them. There is a way to get the needed result with medical support "just in case" if hospitals are willing to provide it, and if consumers demand it.

Medical professionals are our EMPLOYEES and we are their CUSTOMERS. Demand the kind of treatment you want! Make unreasonable requests! Our hospital started on the path to wonderful births when one crazy lady insisted on a waterbirth. From there, everything else had to change... from nothing by mouth to mandatory IVs to mother-directed pushing and bonding after birth, one change can snowball the same way unnecessary interventions can.

Eanruig said...

I think it is good to apply the breast is best argument here. Breast is not best, neither is homebirth, formula and hospital birth are inferior.

Mandy2qt said...

I have had five births. Three were hospital. Two woth O.B.s, one with a CNM. One with a doula. My first one was a cytotec induction and was extremely painful.
Second was induction with pit. Both were done for "post dates." The second, I had back labor and it was just as bad as the first if not worse- this was with the CNM...
My third was with an OB but I hired a doula- a very good decision on my part. I finally, went into labor 12 days "overdue" and gave birth at the hospital with my hubby and doula. By far, a better birth than the previous two. I tore with all three, but never had an epidural even though I sure could have used one with the violent contractions I experienced. Which brings me to me "heavenly" births at home. One was with a midwife and doula (waterbirth) and the last was an unplanned UC (the midwife and her assnt got there 5 and 10 minutes after my son was born. What I learned from this experience is that what UCers say is TRUE. I was SO IN TUNE with my body and knew EXACTLY what to do when. My baby came out very fast. I arelt had to push. Anf get this: there was meconium, he was a compound presentation (hand by face) had the cord around his neck and was "over due." I had NO tearing and it was a beautiful water birth with my husband by my side and mu children in the other room coloring cards for the baby. My placent came out as a shining shultz or whatever it is called and flew out of the water like a hot air ballon which was entertaining to say the least. IT ROCKED! I am two minutes from a hospital, but if I started to bleed, I know to bite down on a piece of placenta. SOunds gross, but death sounds worse. I know that most uncontrolled bleeding is caused by medical intervention and rushing the placenta out. So, all-in-all, I LOVED my UC! It rocked... Seriously, rocked!

rocket.queen. said...

I'm considering a UC at 34 weeks into a twin pregnancy because I live in China and I'm fighting decades of cultural conditioning that have reduced women to sheep when it comes to their own medical care.

Anyone who would be willing to let me pick their brain, please email me @ jessi.dooo@gmail.com

I really would appreciate it.

Jessi said...

I've had a hospital birth, a UC, and now planning another UC.

I did LOTS of research after my disappointing hospital experience.

HOWEVER... alot of previous posters mention how every woman who plans a UC researches it in depth and comes to the decision after fully arming herself and educating to the point of nausea.

I have known a woman who gave birth at 15, she never told anyone she was pregnant (parents didn't notice, suprising but true), and simply... gave birth in her bathroom one afternoon... She did not research or plan or educate or prepare. She simply believed / trusted / knew that her pregnancy was normal, birth was normal, and that her baby would come out when it was done "baking." It was a refreshing viewpoint, and when she hit the newspapers, alot of people thought "she must have been so scared!" or "she and her baby are so lucky!" but really, she was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing... she hadn't been innundated with the psychology of birth fear and OB managed labors and births, she simply believed it would happen, and that if "something was wrong" she would know to call 911. I like to channel her simplicity when I am pregnant and preparing for birth.

She never saw it as dangerous. She never worried something would go wrong. She was young, fit, healthy, and strong, and of a very practical, sound mind. I envy her :)

Jessi said...

O! I forgot to mention, that with my UC, I gave birth to a "post dates" baby (44 weeks 4 days) who weighed approximately 10 pounds.

He showed no signs of postmaturity:

He WAS
* pink
* chubby
* covered in vernix
* alert
* short and squat
* bright eyed
* short-fingernailed
* not hairy :)

the placenta was fat and beefy red, showed no calcification or age whatever.

the amniotic fluid was clean and copious.

the labor was spontaneous (ok, it took 3 weeks of prodromal labor LOL) and active labor was reasonably short at 6 hours

transition was intense, but over in around an hour(? my timeline is fuzzy)

We didn't cut the cord until after the placenta was born...

My son is now 2 years old :D

Shanna7313 said...

I had an unassisted home birth May 2009. It was the BEST decision I could have made. Taegen was born with out any complications. She was born into my husbands arms and I was free to move and labor as I wanted. It was amazing.

A UC is not an option for every woman but I believe everyone should educate themselves on what to do in case their attendant can not make it on time or in case they don't make it to the hospital on time.

Woman should trust their body. Whether they want an attendant or not, they need to trust their bodies. There is no possible way to have the birth you want without trusting your body.

A woman shouldn't fear birth.

I also do believe hospitals are far inferior to home or even birth centers for birth. Even with your placenta not detaching completely, and a hemorrhage, you can and will get to the hospital in time if you need to. Midwives, even mom's who plan UC's are not ignorant. They know the signs to look for in the event of needing a transfer and know when to transfer.

I absolutely loathe when people speak as if it's so easy to demand things in hospitals. As if giving or not giving consent really matters in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't. Even having a birth plan doesn't mean much in many hospitals around the country. I know many woman who were violated, who said no, who demanded the doctor to stop and guess what? The doctor never stopped. Frankly I find it rather naive to believe that a laboring woman has control in a hospital.

I do realize there are good doctors and good hospitals just like their are bad midwives, but I think both are few and far between.

Back to the main point. I fully support a woman's decision to UC, provided it's an educated one. I do not feel that merely saying "I am going to UC" and that is good enough. Someone needs to be prepared for when to transfer and what are normal variations of birth and complications that can be dealt with at home and how.

Liev said...

I had a home birth assisted by two midwives. If I had been unassisted, my daughter and I would have both died due to my daughter's had shoulder distocia. I had read about how to fix it using positioning, but once I was *in* labor, I was in no place to even realize what might be wrong and what to do about it. I have a feeling that no matter how much research I had done prior to my labor, I was, as women are, in many ways unable to deal with emergency situations. In fact, if I had had to keep alert to complications like the distocia we were dealing with, I wouldn't be able to focus on laboring and have as enjoyable an experience as I had (up to the point where things got hairy) and I'm sure my dilation would have gone slower.

I don't feel that it should have to be the laboring mother's job to stay objective about how long the pushing stage is going on (say, if it's going too long, which can indicate a problem), whether what is being experienced is normal or not, etc. I think this is why, as Annette wrote, unassisted birth is not actually natural to us; we as a species form tribes, and in cultures around the world, women are assisted in their laboring and childbirth.

Going back to my home birth: assuming I had been in the frame of mind to comprehend and fix it, there's the fact that using the proper position might not have released my daughter so she could be born. My primary midwife had to reach through my cervix and into my uterus to pull my daughter out. This is not something my husband would have known or probably been psychologically able to do. In fact, he was busy holding me down on their command. I just don't see any way around it. Without them there, it would have been a tragedy of the worst kind.

I beg women and their partners not to try unassisted home birth. It's great to be forward-thinking, it's great to want to have a positive experience, but not everything is in your hands. You can't always get to the hospital in time. By the time we realized what was wrong, it would have been too late.

We might not want to fear birth, but we ought to have a healthy respect for it.

I can understand not wanting to be in stirrups on one's back hooked up to an IV and having doctors and nurses invading you; your baby being taken from you and bottle-fed and what-not. That's why I had midwives at our home birth. But to risk my child's life, and my own, to not have friendly, supportive, goddess-type women there to help and save our lives if needed - I just don't see that.

Maybe women fear that their midwives will be horrible. But you have 7, 8 months to get to know them. They spent at least an hour with me per visit, and we had classes during which we shared our hopes and fears. They fed us tea, invited us to a pot luck party. I felt a particular bond with my midwives. A woman will know, after spending a pregnancy of long visits, whether she will feel comfortable with her midwife/ves. And if she doesn't, she can find someone else. I wouldn't toss that out the window - the security that comes with the presence of people who can turn a potentially heartbreaking absolute disaster into the incredible, joyous experience that we all hope birth will be - without giving them a chance, first.

Sarah said...

I had a medicated birth in 2007 and an unassisted birth in Feb 2010with only my husband present. It was amazing!! My hospital birth was not awful but not great. As soon as I heard about free birth I knew I wanted to experience birth that way!

I did not UP, I first had a CNM at a local hospital for prenatal care and then switched to a CPM (homebirth is not legal here w a CNM) midway through. I also saw her backup OB a couple of times. I did my research and stayed very open to calling the midwife or transferring if anything raised an eyebrow. It was definitely not pain free but it went smoothly and I would absolutely do it again with a low risk pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

I had three very different births and my unassisted birth was by far the best experience. My husband and I UC'd with our second child almost four years to the day after an unfortunate, unfulfilling hospital experience with my first. That UC went a long way toward healing me.

If a woman feels moved to birth unassisted more power to her. Following her body's lead is all she needs to do. It's helpful to have reassurance if you're not sure what to expect.

There are times when a mother might need to transfer or get more help during a planned UC. This happened with my third. I had a feeling my attempt to UC with her might not happen due to complications (variations of normal) that I wasn't comfortable handling at home. So, when I felt it was time to seek more help we went.

I wouldn't trade any of these experiences; I have more empathy for women who make choices other than my own because I've had such different experiences.

-Wendy

Linda said...

This is such a complex issue that there's no way I could do it justice in a comment post. But I'd like to point out two things -- first, that often what people assume is a natural failing is really that their body's ability to function was disturbed, creating a situation in which they needed to be saved. There is a long tradition of interfering in the birth process; it didn't just start with obstetrics.

Second, people are different. One woman's body may be so efficient that she can birth normally under the most debilitating circumstances; another may need a very specific environment in which to birth normally, which for some may mean complete privacy. Interference can make birth go awry, but so can the seemingly simple state of feeling observed.

I see that some women's choices for assistance has the potential to make things harder and more dangerous for them; I don't however assume they are selfish and stupid for making those choices. I wish that they would extend the same courtesy to those who choose to give birth autonomously.

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