by Haley Callahan, PBC Board Member
As a home birth Mama of two, I will be the first to tell you that I am by no means a hospital birth expert. But I have supported a number of birthers at Maui Memorial Hospital–and walked quite a few women through their healing journeys afterward–and I’ve learned a few things through those experiences that I feel are valuable.
To start, it must be said that people choose to birth out of the home for many reasons. Whether you are choosing to birth in a hospital for personal, medical, financial, or political reasons, my hope is that you feel confident in your decision and that you are going into these spaces with clarity and gratitude for what they provide, rather than fear or doubt about your body’s abilities. Wherever it is you decide to give birth, you deserve to feel prepared, empowered and supported by your birth team.
That said, when planning a birth outside the home, the setting is no longer yours–meaning, across the board, other people are capable of controlling variables and making decisions. For many who choose to birth in the hospital, having others make decisions for the wellbeing of their baby can feel like a relief, and having access to knowledgeable and medically-skilled professionals gives them a sense of safety. This is helpful for the medical aspect of birth, but not necessarily for the emotional, spiritual or physiological aspects of birth. For those aspects, you want to ensure that you have incredible extra members of your birth team to round out the medical side. Remember: just because the setting is no longer yours does not mean that the experience is not. This is your rite of passage; your big day; one of the most important events in your lifetime. There may be people in the room who hold expertise in differing areas, but you are the expert of your body and your baby, and you hold a powerful, irreplaceable, intuition. Everyone attending your birth should recognize your place as the expert in the room.
One of the things I work on most with the birthers at Hapai (Pregnancy) Circle is simply being capable of voicing our wants and needs. As western women, we are so often told what it is we will be receiving rather than being asked what it is we desire.
For many women, Hapai Circle is the first time they have truly been asked the question, What is it you desire for your rite of passage?
Going through the steps of those desires, we can begin to form some ideas for how your birth space will look and feel. We own our power and take back our voice–first in the safe space of sisterhood, then perhaps with our birth teams and our families, and eventually with the providers lucky enough to bear witness to our sacred journey.
Knowing your options.
Many people don’t know that they are able to refuse cervical exams, that they can receive a heparin-lock rather than a connected IV, or that they can request intermittent and/or portable fetal monitoring so that they can experience some relief from the many cords and straps that the hospital places. Most don’t realize they can request to have the lights dim or ask for a tour of their placenta. Almost everyone doesn’t realize a form needs to be filled to be able to take their placenta home.
Knowing your preferences and having them written down is important and valuable regardless of where you plan to birth. Plan to discuss all of the pieces of your birth plan with your birth team at a visit, and discuss everything in detail, sharing your feelings. If you aren’t sure about something, ask people you trust, join a pregnancy circle, or read up on the subject. Everyone’s preferences are different, so don’t be afraid to be honest about yours. Most importantly of all: don’t ever forget that YOU are the expert in the room. You can trust your intuition, your body and your baby. Don’t be afraid to make your wants and needs known. You deserve to have an empowered and enlightened birth experience.