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Diary of a Preggy Lady - 35 Weeks

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I’m 35 weeks now, and suddenly L-day is becoming all the more real.  Interestingly I feel a bit more anxious than I did first time around.  I feel less prepared, mentally and physically – probably because most of my time spare time is taken up looking after daughter number one!

One thing I am sure about is my choice to have a homebirth, this will be my second.  When I tell people the reaction ranges from eye-brow rolling, to aren’t you brave (!?) to the rare: “Oh yes I had one too and it was lovely.”  I’ve only had one really negative reaction, when a woman who should have known better splurged her fear-based opinions all over my very well-informed choice.

The idea of hospitals and birth itself has never sat easily with me. My own birth was not a barrel of laughs. The usual story of distant consultants, inductions and forceps: I still have dents in my forehead as a souvenir, and a chiropractor once questioned whether recurrent back problems might be due to my birth.

So even before I was pregnant, I was interested in alternatives to hospital. Somehow I found myself at the screening of a fantastic documentary fronted by Ricki Lake called ‘The Business of Being Born’. It showcases gentle homebirths in America, contrasted with the over-medicalised and frankly traumatic hospital birth experienced by Ricki herself, and really started me thinking.

You can watch it on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvljyvU_ZGE

When I fell pregnant with my first, I was lucky enough to be living in Christchurch, NZ which has a wonderfully supportive homebirthing community.  In my first trimester, I actually interviewed four different homebirth midwives before settling on the woman I felt I could trust, she was part of a homebirth practice so always had back-up from her colleagues.  This was all 100% gratis and part of state care!

As a little person developed inside me and fatigue saw me crawling into bed early every night, I read avidly and every book I consumed confirmed my choice to birth at home.  One book which I’d recommend to every expectant mum, whatever her birth choice, is Dr Sarah Buckley’s ‘Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering,’

you can buy it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gentle-Birth-Mothering-Childbirth-Parenting/dp/1587613220/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390316672&sr=8-1&keywords=Sarah+Buckley

Buckley straddles those two often divided worlds of medicine and science, verses a woman’s intuitive knowing.  She is both a medical doctor and a mother of five children all born at home. For me, the book was a font of research-based knowledge leading me to make fully informed choices around my pregnancy and labour: from where to give birth, and whether I should test for downs-syndrome to the pros and cons of induction and safety issues around scanning. I’d assumed scans were 100% safe, but in fact one of the world’s most respected research organisations, the Cochrane Collaboration, talks about “the theoretical possibility that the use of ultrasound during pregnancy could be hazardous.”

Obviously though, scans do not pose extremely high risks as most babies in the Western world have been scanned for decades with no noticeable issues so please don’t worry, merely do your research and make balanced decisions from there. I didn’t scan with my first, but did with my second as being a bit older I needed reassurance that all was ok. I have however asked my midwife to use something called a Pinard Stethoscope to check my baby’s heartbeat instead of a dopler which uses scanning technology – she has very kindly obliged. (In case you’re wondering a Pinard looks a bit like an ear-trumpet – think the Granny is Allo Allo – for pregnant bellies!)

Am I making the right choice?

As my due date beckoned, I felt totally happy about my choice to birth in my own space. At home you avoid what’s called ‘The Cascade of Intervention,’  i.e. induction drugs which lead to painful, overly strong synthetic contractions which fail to give women periods of respite, unlike their natural counterparts. They also inhibit the body’s natural pain killing hormones, beta endorphins, as well as the most important labouring hormone, oxytocin, which not only helps you push your baby out but also washes both you and baby with waves of love.

When oxytocin is inhibited, those vital first minutes of bonding are disrupted, which can lead to serious issues with everything from breastfeeding (another of oxytocin’s vital functions) to the numbness of PND.

When a women is left with none of her body’s natural pain killers, it’s not surprising that in excruciating pain she needs an epidural. This means she cannot move freely and allow her baby space and gravity to ease delivery – not to mention causing more disruption to those natural labouring hormones.

Another nasty epidural outcome, which women are rarely warned about, is that if it wears off, possibly at the peak of labour, she is once again left without those powerful painkilling beta endorphines which her body produces naturally when left to its own devises.  With mother and baby in distress, forceps or a C-section must seem like a merciful intervention but sadly, in many cases, had the birthing process been left well alone, then both their experiences would have been far less traumatic.

Of course, there are some cases when medical intervention is a life-saver. Having spent time in rural Africa and talked to mums out there about some of their birth experiences, I am hugely grateful that if an emergency happens the hospital is only down the road.

But even when there are no complications, so many women and medical professionals have lost faith in the scientific miracle that is a labouring woman’s body – we still don’t really understand the complex and delicate hormonal relationship between mother and baby, so it seems crazy that we decide to interfere without very good reason.

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