The Stork Makes House Calls

Home birthPhoto by Tasha Pittser
33 weeks pregnant with my second
baby, Ava

I’ve always been a hippie, but I was never considered an oddball until it came time to deliver my second child. Like every mother marking off the days until her due date, I had a lot of choices to make. When I chose a home birth, it raised some eyebrows – even from my husband. But it was a good choice for me, and I want other Las Vegas mothers to know it’s an option for them too.

For me it came down to quality of care. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I was getting my prenatal care from an obstetrician whose office was seriously overcrowded and understaffed. My average wait time was over an hour. Sitting in the waiting room, pregnant and uncomfortable, with my 2-year-old son running around tearing up the magazines was torture. When I was finally called in to see the doctor, my appointment would last 10 minutes max – because there were still 20 more pregnant women to be seen! I would leave the OB’s office after every visit feeling hurried, thirsty and stressed out.

Home birthPhoto by Tasha Pittser
Resting and being tended to
by my midwife (in my own bed!)
just minutes after giving birth

It didn’t get better as I approached delivery. In fact, toward the end of my pregnancy, my OB joked that I might have to give birth in the hospital hallway, because the maternity ward was so incredibly busy. Joke or not, this made me nervous. I got to thinking, “It doesn’t have to be this way … It shouldn’t be this way.”

But what to do? Giving birth in the hospital has been the norm since the 1950s, and it’s easy to understand why: The availability of epidurals, ultrasound machines, emergency care, neonatal ICUs and full-time nursing for the mother are all inducements – to say nothing of insurance coverage. But for a normal, healthy pregnancy, I think hospitals can do as much harm as good. In the hospital, there are insurers, HMOs and hospital administrators to answer to, and some of these “interested parties” may want to get the patient in and out as quickly as possible (higher turnover generates more money). Doctors may also be driven by their fear of malpractice suits to practice defensive medicine, with some disturbing results. For example, the Caesarean section rate in Clark County is very high – 32 percent in 2005, compared to 19 percent 10 years earlier – and that number continues to rise. It seems that childbirth is being treated as a medical procedure instead of as the natural process that women’s bodies were created to do.

All these things were on my mind on the day I toured the labor and delivery floor at the hospital. I was eight months pregnant and I asked a lot of questions. The tour guide took my questions with increasing irritation and offense.

Can I invite my family into the room for the birth?
You’re only permitted two family members in the room at a time.

Will there be birthing balls or other props available?
No, it’s best that you stay in bed so we can monitor the labor.

But I’ve had a baby before, and lying in bed just made the labor more painful.
[Grudgingly … ] Well, you can stand beside the bed as far as the IV pole can reach.

Will I be able to leave my room and walk the maternity hall during labor?
We prefer that you stay in your room.

Well, what can I have to eat and drink to keep my strength up?
Nothing. We want to make sure your stomach is empty in case – [you guessed it!] – we have to perform a C-section.

Home birthPhoto by Tasha Pittser
My home birth baby, Ava, (being
held by my mom) meeting
her big brother for the first time

Worst of all, I was told that my newly born baby would be immediately taken from the room – and kept for about two hours – to be bathed and examined by the hospital staff. I was outraged that my desire to keep my baby at my side would not be respected. I took a deep breath and, not wanting to be one of “those” moms to the nurses, calmly asked if some compromise might be reached. No, I was told. The baby would have to leave. “That’s just the way it’s done.”

I didn’t ask any more questions after that. Instead, I took my labor and delivery into my own hands. I chose a home birth.

Home birthPhoto by Tasha Pittser
One-day-old Ava with our midwife,
Jill, at the first postpartum visit.

After a few very long talks with my husband (who was not thrilled with the idea), I contacted Jill, a certified professional midwife who had attended more than 500 births before I came to her. Jill welcomed me with warmth and respect even though I was already 36 weeks along. She made sure I had information on nutrition, the physiology of labor, and how to handle childbirth without pain medication. Each of my weekly prenatal visits lasted an hour. During labor and delivery, Jill took a proactive approach, correcting any problems before they became an emergency. She trusted me to know my own body and what it needed, and she used the powerful tools of one-on-one support and relaxation to help with the pain. I found that for most of my labor, all I needed to keep going was for someone to say, “You can do it!”

Home birthPhoto by Tasha Pittser
My home birth baby today — a
healthy, energetic three-year-old

I spent much of the labor in a warm bath, coached through the pain by my mother (a retired home birth midwife herself) and my midwife. My husband took charge of our 2-year-old son (being at home made that job much easier for both of them). He was relieved and amazed at how attentively and respectfully I was treated. My daughter’s birth was gentle, quiet and wonderfully easy. (It’s amazing how easy a birth can be when you aren’t numb from the waist down!) I was able to have a meal both during and immediately after I gave birth. I think it was the best food I’ve ever tasted.

The best part of my home birth experience was finally being able to see my baby and have her put directly into my arms. She was never pulled away to be bathed or examined; instead, Jill stood right beside me while she examined my baby. I felt completely honored for my individual wishes for this most precious event of my life.

Did some of my friends and family think my decision was screwy? Frankly, yes. But what I learned from my experience is that home birth mothers take their birthing choices very seriously – and they are every bit as concerned for the safety of their babies as those who opt for a hospital birth. I’m incredibly glad that I chose to have my baby at home, and would do it again in a minute.

Home birth isn’t for everyone, but it’s an option for more women than you might think. To learn more about home birth, or to find a certified professional midwife in Las Vegas, visit the Birth Year Network.

Comments

20 responses on “The Stork Makes House Calls

  1. Wonderful article!! What a big choice to take on so late in pregnancy, but obviously a great one. Thank you for bringing this topic to light and explaining the joys in it! My home birth was the best birthing experience I could have ever imagined. It was calm, quiet and done in my own way in my own time.

  2. Wow! That sounds like an amazing birthing expirence. Vegas is very behind the times when it comes to birthing options. Don’t know if it’s true but someone told me the other day certified midwives are no longer allowed to deliver in Vegas hospitals.

  3. Awesome story Tasha! Your experience sounds a lot like mine. I switched to Jill with my first at 32 weeks! She was incredible, exactly the opposite of everything I had experienced at the Dr.’s office! Thanks for being the voice for all of us who are so passionate about home birthing!

  4. Kuddos on the wonderful article! Women need to know that there are alternatives. I gave birth in the hospital and hated every moment of it (especially the part when they wisked my baby away for the first two hours of her life). Just ridiculous. I wish I knew then what I know now!

  5. For all of the wonderful things that Las Vegas has to offer, I have to say that the medical treatment in this town is near the bottom of the barrel. I was the one who was hesitant to go along with the home birth option until we went to the orientation at the hospital. Once I saw Tasha’s face and listened to her explain to me what she just explained to the readers, I had to believe that the home birth option was better for her and our family. Turns out I was right. Now when we have guests over, I tell them that they are sitting in the exact spot our daughter was born. That’s always a good way to start a conversation.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. Having experienced 3 beautiful home births myself, I feel strongly that women need more options for healthy birth. If we all tell our stories as often as we can, perhaps more will be willing to listen.

  7. Great article, Tasha! What an encouragement to me as my own not-entirely-planned homebirth looms on the horizon. I’m feeling more excited about it and less nervous for having read about your experience – thanks!

  8. I chose to deliver in a hospital, but as my labor went on longer and longer, I was told that I might have to have a c-section in order to allow another laboring mother to have the room. I was horrified by the way that my labor was on the clock…meeting my needs, and my baby’s, was apparently not the priority of the hospital. Tasha’s article just verifies for me that homebirthing is about taking control of your own labor and birth experience. Homebirthing is a sane alternative to the problems found in our Las Vegas hospitals. Thanks Tasha! (And yes, I ended up having a c-section.)

  9. Wonderful article! I also switched at the end of my pregnancy after agonizing over the decision for months. Now, 2 homebirth babies later, I know it was the best decision I ever made and can’t imagine having a baby any other way.
    Thank you so much for writing this!

  10. Wonderful article!! Las Vegas has a wonderful (and growing) number of home birth midwives who can provide such great care for mom and baby. Hospital care in this town leaves much to be desired.

  11. Enjoyed reading this!

    I had all four of my children in a hospital but wish I’d known more about home birth back then. I think I would have seriously considered it.

  12. Thanks SO MUCH for writing this. “Defensive medicine” is so depressing and potentially harmful, but it’s also very scary to buck the system. You’ll never know how many lives you touch with your story, but I love the thought that it’s out there to strengthen and inform women in Las Vegas who get the heebee jeebees when they take that hospital tour. Kudos to you for venturing into less-charted territory and writing an article that can help others do the same.

  13. Delightful, well written article. While I have completed my birthing experiences for this lifetime I found it interesting, absorbing and full of good information for those contemplating birthing.

  14. Great article, Tasha! How far we’ve come–back when I had my kids, my husband was allowed in the delivery room only because he’d taken Lamaze classes.

    I’ll never forget my father’s words of encouragement and support when I called to tell him I was in labor and heading to the hospital: “Good luck, and don’t go home empty-handed.”

  15. What a great article! Thank you for sharing this information. There are so many women out there that need to know more about this. I don’t have children yet but if I do, I would definately consider a home birth. Thank you again!

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