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I wasn't born yesterday

Home birth isn't the norm, but it should be

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I haven't given too much thought lately to my daughter's birth. She's now nine months old and busy crawling and teething, which keeps me on my toes.

On Oct. 17, I was reminded what a powerful and awesome experience her birth was. I got to see a local screening of The Business of Being Born, a documentary about the state of obstetrics in America, with a focus on home birth.

My daughter was born at home.

I'm not a hippie. I'm not a feminist. I'm not a freak.

I'm just a 20-something who was fortunate enough to learn about midwives and home birth in a college human-sexuality class.

Several years later, as my husband and I started planning to start a family, I remembered learning about the option of having a home birth. The more we read and researched, and the more we talked with other families who'd had home births, the more we wanted to be able to have our baby at home.

Truth be told, my growing desire to have a midwife and a home birth surprised me, largely because I didn't grow up with much exposure to such alternatives. I'm not against doctors or medicine, but the concept of midwives--women who care for expectant mothers throughout pregnancy, focusing on education and active involvement in the pregnancy and childbirth, and attend births--made sense to me.

The Business of Being Born, which will be released in 2008, showed in a compelling and well-made documentary format much of the information I learned during my pregnancy, most notably:

birth is a natural process the United States has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the developed world home birth is not for everyone support is essentialeducation is essential.

One of the comments made in the documentary stuck with me as quite an indictment against our culture: People these days spend more time researching purchases like cars and cell phones than they do researching where and how to give birth.

If every expectant mother at the very least watched a documentary like The Business of Being Born and then cracked open a book or two about the benefits of natural childbirth and home birth, we'd have the makings of a true revolution in this country.

While I knew early on that I wanted a home birth, my midwife helped me understand that the end goal wasn't to stay at home no matter what. The goal was a safe birth and a healthy baby. It was my job to educate myself about childbirth--whether we were able to be at home or had to be transferred to the hospital.

Our midwife told my husband and me in no uncertain terms that we were responsible for knowing, among other things, the signs of labor and how to deal with contractions, when to call our midwife, the benefits of different birth positions, and the various interventions our midwife or a hospital doctor may perform if necessary. The more we learned in our childbirth class and read on our own, the more my husband and I felt confident about the birth process. I also became less afraid of the hospital-birth scenario because I learned exactly what is considered routine and what I didn't want, and what would be necessary in case of emergency.

It makes me sad when I hear about women who give in to the fear surrounding labor and birth. They start off with the best of intentions for a "natural" childbirth but are told--sometimes in as many words--that they can't

do it, that the pain will be too much for them, and that they'll need the whole lineup of the latest drugs and interventions to help them cope with labor and birth.

It makes me even sadder when I hear about women who claim they're not the natural-birth types. They're already signed up for an epidural, if not an elective C-section. I have a hard time believing that someone would rather volunteer for major surgery than learn a little more about the natural process of birth, which is easier to recover from and results in a natural high.

We have choices. We have rights, no matter where we decide to give birth. We don't have to unquestioningly follow the doctor's orders. We should research and learn about side effects, recovery times, and effects of medications on the baby, for starters.

Hospitals exist to deal with emergency situations, and I'm thankful that doctors are trained to intervene in order to prevent full-blown emergencies and problems.

But normal birth is not a medical problem. It's not a problem at all--it's a beautiful part of life that we are created to handle naturally.

Andrea Rooks is a freelance writer. She can be reached through the editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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