Tuesday, January 23, 2007

First Impressions

I first encountered the idea of unassisted childbirth (UC) about 3 years ago. I was at a state midwifery meeting, and one of the midwives mentioned she was very interested in and supportive of unassisted birth. At the time, I had just come across homebirth midwifery and was in love with the idea. I thought that giving birth without any attendant was pretty strange, not to mention dangerous and scary.

I kept reading about unassisted birth and coming across unassisted birth stories. They were consistently the most powerful, inspiring, and empowering. The kinds of births narrated in the stories resonated to my core, even more than midwife-attended homebirth stories.

Over the past 3 years I have also worked as a doula, apprenticed with one midwife, and assisted another. I saw what some UC advocates have mentioned: disturbing amounts of interference even at home births. Now, not every homebirth was like this. But I realized that we have to pick homebirth midwives as carefully as any other birth attendant. They can say all the right things--birth is natural, I'll only intervene when necessary, women's bodies are made to give birth--but we have to really find out if their actions match their rhetoric.

The realization that I wanted to birth at home unassisted, rather than with a midwife, came gradually. After we moved a year and a half ago, I learned that homebirth midwives were very difficult to find in our new state. Now, had I really wanted a midwife I could have found one. But I knew that even if I was able to locate them, I might not click with any of them, or they might not feel comfortable with my wishes for the birth. I knew that if I hired a midwife, I would request that she stay downstairs the entire time unless I specifically asked for assistance. No heart tones, no vaginal exams, no catching or monitoring the baby. Basically I didn't want to know she was there.

Once I became pregnant last winter, I just felt no desire at all to hire a midwife. The idea didn't feel right to me anymore. I said to myself, "well, we'll be working in France for a few months over the summer. I will just do things on my own until I get back. Then if I feel like having a midwife, I will look for one." I left; I came back, about 6 months pregnant. I still didn't feel drawn towards having a midwife, so inertia carried me to the end of my pregnancy. I half-heartedly talked with two other midwives in my area, in the process of helping friends who were searching for alternatives to hospital births.

I continued to wonder if I should find a midwife, but it never felt right. However, I also wanted to have other options if birth threw me a curve ball. I'd far rather "transfer" to a homebirth midwife, than to a hospital. As it turns out, I gave birth at 38 weeks, so that solved my dilemma!

I'd like to hear your stories about how you first heard about unassisted birth, what you initially thought, and whether or not that has changed. Please share!


  1. Okay, the very first time I heard of UC was when you told me you were going to do it. Admittedly, I thought you were crazy. I could not believe anyone would do something like that. Then I started to read your blog, and visited the links you have there.

    Within a very short time, I felt my entire attitude about it do an about-face. I've gone from thinking it is crazy to wishing that I could have one myself. I would LOVE to be able to have our next baby this way. However, my husband has some serious hang-ups about it, and that could stand in the way. I do fell, however, that if it became a possibility, I would jump at the chance.

    I think what you have experienced, and the research that you have so obviously thoroughly done and shared with the world is awesome. I am so thrilled that you allowed me to share this experience with you, if only in words on a computer screen. I have read and re-read every word.


  2. I have been reading your blog since I saw you post about your birth on the unnassited birth community on livejournal. So hello!

    I only heard about unassisted birth within the last year. I am quite a few years (and a lot more research!) away from planning a baby myself, but I have found myself increasingly drawn to learning about pregnancy and birth (I blame this on my hormones - my body wants a baby despite my mind knowing I am far from ready!). Anyways, when I first heard about it I was put off, and couldn't imagine putting myself in that sort of "dangerous" situation. But, in the same way a natural home birth appealed to me gradually, so did unassisted birth. I felt similar to you in that the more I read unassisted birth stories, the more empowered they sounded, and the more they resonated with me. I am still not one hundred percent comfortable with the idea of birthing by myself but I also still have a lot to learn, and a long way to grow before I am ready to even think about trying to conceive a baby!

    Sorry this turned into such a ramble. But thank you for your blog, it is incredibly inspiring and your baby is absolutely beautiful!

  3. Rixa,
    Like you, I came to UC through my interest in/work with natural birth. I don't remember when I started reading the stories, but by the time I came across UC I was into the natural birth thing enough that it didn't freak me out or anything. I felt like it was a natural extension of attended homebirth beliefs... I think it may have been Ina May's book that brought me to it?? Anyway, like you I find the UC stories profoundly inspiring and for a few weeks I became obsessed with it and read everything I could about it. I like to discuss it as a viable option for women although people think it's nuts when I bring it up to them.

    I don't know if I'll choose UC. Although I totally dig it, I also tend to reach out when I'm in distress or am sick, and I think I'm going to want that human contact around me during my birth... just my personality. I am sure that I will hire Kathy to attend my first birth, at least. But I can see turning to UC in a subsequent pregnancy.

  4. Rixa,

    I first came across the idea of UC on a couple of attachment parenting forums. The more I read, the more impressed I was by the idea of a natural birth and even by UC. It just seems so rational to trust your body to do what it was made to do.

    To rant for a minute, I now have three pregnant friends, each of whom is taking the "default" route: hospital, drugs, you name it. What frustrates me is that these women are not remotely aware of the possibilities out there for them. All they know is what we've all been warned about: labor is excruciating, avoid feeling it as much as you can. One of those friends was surprised to hear that in hospitals you are basically strapped to the bed by all the monitors and IV lines. She's due in three weeks, so clearly she's done zero research. I find that not only frustrating but somewhat mind-boggling. I do understand that thinking about NOT having a hospital birth can feel radical and scary. That's how unassailable Western medicine has become. But honestly, I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface of the literature out there on the subject and I'm already completely opposed to the hospital birth model.

    As for myself, when I eventually get around to having a baby, I plan on opting for a natural birth. At this point I would consider a homebirth with a midwife or possibly a birthing center, though I would want to labor at home as long as possible before going in. Hospital would be my last, last choice. I just can't bear the idea of being told by nurses what I have to wear, where I have to stay and how my labor should progress; the idea of being observed that way and treated like that makes my skin crawl. But on the other hand, I'm not sure UC is for me either. I'm still scared of all that could go wrong. In the end, the irony for me is that I have a heart condition, so mine might be a high-risk pregnancy and I might not get my choice.

    I'll end this loooong post with a request. I have so much to learn and so much more to read. Rixa, would you consider doing a post listing your favorite resources for information about birth options? I would love to have someone knowledgeable about the subject recommend some valuable books or sites.


  5. I'm still in proces of planing a baby, but from as far as I rember I have been always freaking out when it came to idea of hospital births. I come from a country (Poland that is ;)) where homebirths are considered extreamly exotic, and almost all women give birth in hospitals. And 90% are devastated by the amouth of shame and ill-treatment they have to go through there. But still they go, take that sour pill, as if ther is no other way of giving birth.

    For me, the most stupid of all ideas is, that ALL women get epistomy with their first child, and even though you can theoreticaly disagree to it, you will still get it. I was crushed when I found this out. I was like "why can't I be there for my baby, just cuz someone wants to give me 10 stiches and a week of recuperation?". And we all know, that an epistomy won't stop a woman from tearing. I thought it was so ridiculus, I started growing more and more angry at the whole idea of having my childbirth taken away from me like this.

    So I ended up going around the net, looking for birth stories, and came accross many wonderfull pages and bloogs. And Rixa, you bloog is one of the most inspiring :D

  6. I was wondering if you shared your birth story....I would love to read it. I know some people who have given birth UC, and I am in total awe of them for that. Although DH and I did discuss having an UC homebirth when we had trouble finding a midwife, we ended up finding a midwife that we absolutely loved and hired her. I think that put my husband at ease, too. Maybe with the next baby...

  7. When I was pregnant with my first (15 years ago) I had a fleeting thought that I wanted to just do it alone but dismissed it as crazy pregnancy thoughts. I went on to have two great births (one at a fsbc and one at home) and found that there were some things I didn't like about having the midwives there. I heard about a UC on a breastfeeding list and was fascinated. Finally some proof that I wasn't crazy all those years ago. I started doing the research and it just all fell into place. I had the most beautiful UC with my third child. http://www.empoweredchildbirth.com/stories/Wendi_Eavan.html I am planning another UC as I am pregnant again. I think you are doing such an incredible job advocating for UC. Thanks!

  8. Already a birth junkie and the mom to a home-birthed baby, I first came across planned unassisted birth on some birth stories website. A quick google landed me on Laura Shanley's page... meanwhile, I was a doula-in-training (aah the good old days, Rixa!) and every one of my births left me uncomfortable with some aspect or another, including the ones where everything went fine: I didn't feel like any of the attendants have the right to take credit for that.
    to be continued shortly...

  9. Hi Rixa
    Faithful lurker (read: daily); 1st time post. Here by way of jen.b.in.az. Met Jen in 2003, and became fast friends talking natural childbirth one night in the library.

    Ironically my passion about homebirth was born after reading Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian in 1998. Ironic because the main story line was not about a good birth outcome, but it still inspired something in me. After that I became (and still am) an absolute sponge for anything ‘natural birth’. So as web-searches go, I stumbled fairly quickly upon a birth story and then a web ring which referenced UC. I remember following one of Charity Gregson’s pg for awhile. I don’t remember having any strong feelings as either extremely cool or extremely crazy. To me, it seemed just like another extension of how birth could happen: a viable choice for some, unrealistic for others.

    No babies of my own yet; not sure how birth will happen when I do. For now, I appreciate I have the knowledge of birth options, and find I am disappointed when other women default to being passive participants during their pregnancy and birth because they don’t have the knowledge of anything else.
    Thanks. Erin

    P.S. I love your blog, and have learned so much from you!

  10. nak...
    Thanks everyone for sharing your stories so far. I'll work on putting together a list of books, websites, etc. In my copious free time of course! (laughing)

  11. Just to add a dissenting voice . . .

    I don't get UC. To me, no matter how attractive it is to be completely in charge of your own labor, the chance of the baby (or mother) needing medical care that she has CHOSEN not to make available for her child makes it an unacceptable risk.

    If childbirth is a fulfilling and ecstatic experience, super. But that's not its goal. Its goal is a healthy, living baby and mother. And for a mother to jeopardize that goal for her own personal fulfillment . . .wow.

    Having had a passel of kids myself, both in hospitals and birthing centers, I get the impression from some of the comments that a lot of ignorance exists in home-birthing circles. Really, most midwives, nurses, and obs bend over backwards to accommodate their patients. If your doesn't, switch. No one chases you down the corridors of a hospital insisting on an episiotomy or an epidural.

    Breastfeeding, using cloth diapers, having a natural childbirth, using a midwife--no risk to the baby. UC--small risk to the baby. Not worth it.

    Leaving now, don't stone me.

  12. I would agree with many of the last poster's thoughts. I am really happy that everything worked out well for you Rixa. However, I do think that there is a chance that you and others who read this site are using a type of thinking (which you may well have heard of) called the confirmation bias.

    "Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs." skepdic.com/confirmbias.html

    What of stories of women who have attempted UC and have had outcomes resulting in morbidity and mortality for mother and/or baby? I'm assuming that they exist, but it seems that we're working with anecdotal-only evidence here.

  13. I first heard about homebirth when I was pregnant, through a friend on Open Diary. The concept was novel and intriguing to me, but since it was my first baby and I was still kind of naive, I just didn't feel confident enough to take charge of my own birthing experience. I still don't feel confident enough to go unassisted. I have the same issues you have with finding a good midwife though...there are only one group of "in the phone book" midwives here, and they are the MEDwives who conducted my lab experiment...*cough*, scuse me, I meant my labor and C-section. There are probably more off-the-grid midwives in this area that I don't know about, but it will surely take some work to dig one up if I get pregnant again. Who knows, since I'll have a homebirth with my future second child, maybe I'll try to go unassisted if I ever have a third. I just can't bridge the gap between a hospital birth to an unassisted homebirth. I'm not quite there yet. I think the idea is wonderful though and I LOVE reading UC stories, they fill me with wonder. :)


  14. Ahh, to offer a small counter-remark to the above posts:

    Hey, BABIES DIE IN HOSPITALS TOO. Imagine that!

    A normal, healthy, pregnancy that ends in a normal, natural labor and delivery, mostly likely will end with...guess what? A normal, healthy baby. It's these "what ifs" that keep so many women from attempting homebirth/unassisted birth. We believe that doctors are magical gods who can fix any problem....but in many cases, they only create problems where there are none, and often make existing problems worse. http://www.homebirth.org.uk/ has a great page about "What Ifs" along with tons more homebirth information.

    "Really, most midwives, nurses, and obs bend over backwards to accommodate their patients. If your doesn't, switch. No one chases you down the corridors of a hospital insisting on an episiotomy or an epidural." Ahh my dear, you are lucky. There is only one hospital and one midwife group in this area, and if you don't like what they do, then guess what your other option is? That's right, DIY! If you choose to submit to their care, it's their way or the highway, and in a way, that is most definitely the metaphorical equivalent of being "chased down for an epidural." Not all hospitals are like this, but many of them are.

    Chances are, if a baby dies during a UC, it probably would have died during a hospital birth too. If something is amiss after the baby is born, there is nothing stopping a UC mom from calling an ambulance and taking her baby to recieve medical care. To assume that all UC mothers would act in such a way and deliberately put their baby's lives in danger is not only a fallacy, it's cruel.

    Sure, a healthy baby and mom are what we all want from our births. But what hidden costs are there from a textbook "healthy" hospital delivery? Being treated the way many laboring women are treated often results in emotional issues that can take years to overcome. Women find that they can't bond with their babies, breastfeeding becomes difficult, they feel enraged and helpless and don't know what to do about it other than to shut up and be happy, because their baby was "healthy." What about mom's health, both mentally and emotionally? The mom is just as much a part of the birth experience as the baby is. Why do her feelings get cast by the wayside, like she's just a vessel used for carrying and squeezing out this baby? I think the phrase, "you should be glad your baby was healthy" is the most awful, demeaning thing one could say to a woman grieving over a labor gone horribly wrong. It tells her that her feelings about the experience don't matter.

    Everything in life carries risks. If we didn't take any chances, how mundane and unfulfilling life would be. There's a small risk that you can die in a car crash, does that stop you from driving? There's a small risk you can die from food poisoning, does that stop you from eating? The reality is that the chances of these things happening, like the chance of your baby dying from a UC, is so minute that it's unrealistic to focus on it and live in fear of it. That's what the hospital propoganda builds its business on. Women no longer trust their bodies to do what they're meant to do, and instead hand themselves over to be poked and prodded and strapped down and humiliated by strangers. How is this a better choice?

    Homebirth and UC are not for everyone. If you don't want to do it, aren't confident enough to do it, or if you or your baby have serious health issues, then you should forgo it. But don't insult other women who find that making this choice has been the most empowering, fulfilling experience of their lives.


  15. Reading all of these comments and enjoying the discussions...if I am quiet the next several days it's because I have to send the computer in again for repairs. Good thing we still have about 3 weeks of the warranty left.

  16. I first heard of UC when I was looking for info on waterbirth in hs. I had just gotten back from getting some blood taken, and the nurse there was impatient- I had a huge fear of needles- and she said, "Well, you'll HAVE to have an IV when you have a baby!" And I thought, "Oh no I don't!", so I began researching birth alternatives that day. The first site I stumbled across was Laura Shanley's. I was totally hooked! I read everything I could about birth for the next 6 years, til I had my own child. When I was pg, I considered UC, but in the end decided to go with a midwife, since I was really still scared about doing it alone, since I had never done it before. It took me 12 weeks to make the decision to have a midwife, and I didn't choose one til 20 weeks. At the end of my pregnancy, my midwife abandoned me because I had high blood pressure. I chose to give birth in a hospital because I was so scared for my life. (There's a lot to this story I can't tell in a little comment box like this) I have a lot of grief over my birth, even though I had a really good birth in a hospital. But I've come to the conclusion that my birth happened exactly how it was supposed to happen- I don't understand why, but I do know that it happened how it did, and it couldn't have happened any other way.

    My baby turned a year old three days ago. :)

    I can't wait to give birth again- this time, I'm planning on having a midwife there, but she's a friend I care deeply about, and I want her there for HER- not because she's a midwife. I do want her care during my pregnancy though, because I'm scared of my blood pressure rising again. She is UC supportive, and will not touch me if that's what I wish. If all goes well with that birth, I may UC, or I may not. It's too far in the future to tell. Anyway, I really have a hard time with the exclusivity of the UC crowd sometimes, as I think there's room for all kinds of births (GOOD births, not crappy intervention filled ones), and none are better than another. I see a lot of talk as to what's "natural" and best, and I really think that there's a huge range of what's "best" for every woman. I wish that more women would just be supportive of *women* and *birth* without getting hung up on details. But that's another rant that probably belongs in my own journal. :) Thanks for giving me the chance to talk about this.

  17. I came to the conclusion long ago after my first child (somewhat warranted, but definitely not wanted c/s *single footling breech with arms over his head etc) that IF I didn't find midwives to care for me during another pregnancy I'd go UC.
    Luckily (Canadian here) I found great midwives, thrilled with my homebirth choice and were wonderful to me and supportive.
    I'm afraid that with all the birth lists and such that I am on I can account for seven babies who have died during a UC. Some would have died in hospital too, some would have had a life saving c/s (the only ones I condone by the way)... some ... who knows?
    I grieved each child. I grieved for each family and their loss. AND in NO WAY did I ever judge their choices. Most of them knew the risks. That is what any choice is about isn't it? Weighing the risks and the benefits.
    I chose another homebirth for my third child. She transfered to hospital immediately after birth. She was resussed by our midwives with out needing to be intubated. Which was better than the paramedics who didn't have any infant resuss eqipment neither were any of the six of them trained in infant intubation(midwives have to pass tests on both every six months)! I'm still angry at the city paramedics 15 months later. If this had been a UC , she would have died. The comment I got to that from one of them (still hadn't delivered the placenta and I'm hollering at them) was
    "unassisted childbirthers deserve dead babies."
    My midwife looked like she was going to faint. I was livid!
    No one deserves a dead baby. Everyone deserves to give birth in peace and with respect. Too bad that isn't the norm ... makes me sad.

  18. 'Mm':

    When it comes to a true medical emergency at birth, I would much rather be able to let a midwife have a go at handling it first, than to have to call 911 or show up at the hospital and deal with the panic, resentfulness, and hostility of medical personnell.

    So you are right, you were lucky. But it's really hard to find a midwife who will respect that her only job is to be ready to handle a few very rare emergencies.

    Unfortunately, finding that midwife for countless women is much, much less likely than a good UC outcome is.

    'Anonymous dissenting voice': please realize these odds. UC is a much, much safer bet than expecting your care providers to refrain from invasive (and thus potentially harmful) care. While you are judging people, how about condemning the care providers who fail to earn the trust of the healthiest and most confident pregnant women ever?

  19. Please cite some published statistics to show that UC is "much, much safer..."

    Why is it that maternal mortality has dropped so much over the last century if UC is such a great thing?

  20. Hmm, perhaps because invasive, unnecessary hospital procedures have SKYROCKETED over the last century! And yet, women have been giving birth outside of hospitals just fine for thousands of years....

    In most of the rest of the civilized world, homebirth is actually the norm. In many European countries and farther east like Australia and New Zealand, birth is treated like a normal event, not a life-and-death emergency. For 80% of the world, babies are almost always born at home. It's very alarming that with all this "wonderful" technology we have in the U.S., we also have one of the highest infant mortality rates. I think we rank around 18th IN THE WORLD. The ENTIRE WORLD.

    Since you're demanding cold, hard facts, here. Knock yourself out:





    http://falcao.best.vwh.net/ronnie/index.html (The opening quote on their front page is wonderful: "A safe and gentle birth is the foundation for a baby's
    physical and emotional well-being.
    For healthy women with low-risk pregnancies, the safest birth takes place in the home
    with an experienced birth attendant.")













    Shall I keep going? Just Google "homebirth benefits" or "unassisted childbirth benefits" for yourself.


  21. http://www.unhinderedliving.com/stats.html

    Granted, that's a small pool, but the percentage of women having unassisted births is pretty small too.

    Compare that to the overall csection rate and maternal/child mortality rates.

    Also, a good place to look for stats is the back of Ina May's Guide to Midwifery- though her births are obviously not unassisted.

    Someone should compile stats from the cbirth list, and the other usual places- MDC, etc. Is Linda Hessel doing that? It could be a part of her book.

    (I'm the chick who has the one year old, who transferred after being abandoned by her midwife, not the person you asked for stats.)

  22. So is the consensus among UC-ers that a baby dying is preferable to a life-saving C-section?

    (I'm not trying to say that will happen to UC babies. Not trying to throw flames on a fire. But how can you predict with absolute certainty that you won't need such a life-saving C-section?)

  23. "So is the consensus among UC-ers that a baby dying is preferable to a life-saving C-section?"

    There's so much to respond to in these comments, but I wanted to at least reply to this comment: No one said that UC is incompatible with seeking medical attention when needed. The whole point of people birthing outside of a hospital, whether at birth centers, with midwives at home, or unassisted, is they feel safer without the threat of *unnecessary* medical interventions. If there is a genuine problem that cannot be remedied without medical assistance, it is always possible to transport. UC isn't all-or-nothing; it's about respecting birth as the natural & involuntary process that it is, allowing birth to unfold at its own pace, and only seeking medical help when there is a true problem. For example, complete placenta previa, massive placental abruption, or cord prolapse early in labor are examples of things that most UCers would agree need medical assistance.

    Overall, the attitude with UC is:
    "If it's not broken, don't fix it."

    I hope that clarifies the issue.

    I have lots of things fermenting in my brain right now relating to safety in birth...time for another post I suppose. I'll get cracking on that.

  24. Responding to mm's post about her baby needing resuscitation:

    I gently disagree that if it had been a UC, the baby would have died. Most people who prepare to birth unassisted educate themselves on how to deal with such emergencies. For example, I took a neonatal resuscitation course with Karen Strange (who is AWESOME!). It's actually very simple, and if it's your baby you don't need all the fancy tools like a bag & mask or oxygen tanks (since you obviously don't have to worry about your own baby's germs!). Room air has been proven in recent studies to be better than O2 for resuscitating babies.

    I think unplanned unassisted births can be slightly more risky because of a few factors:
    - the parents haven't prepared to birth without their caregiver and might start to panic.
    - the parents probably haven't educated themselves with how to deal with common birth situations, such as a baby needing help getting started; they figured that was the birth attendant's job.
    - high levels of adrenaline inhibit labor, reduce blood flow to the uterus (and thus reduce the amount of O2 the baby gets), and can contribute to postpartum hemorrhage.

    One reason I really advocate learning more about UC, even for those who are planning an attended birth, is that it never hurts to be prepared!

    I was at a homebirth where the midwife didn't show up until about 5 minutes after the birth (mom had a fast labor & there was a blizzard). The baby was floppy, not responsive to gentle stimulation, and definitely needed help getting going. So, guess who got to do the resuscitation? Moi! Even though I hadn't formally trained in NNR at that time, I knew enough from apprenticing with the midwife to give the baby mouth-to-mouth, to gently talk to the parents & baby about what I was doing, to encourage the parents to rub their baby and talk to her, and to leave the cord untouched. Even a small amount of knowledge and preparation can make a huge difference in the outcome. (The baby came around just fine after a few minutes of gentle M2M.)

  25. To add to what Rixa said, it's also true that in most cases, most problems don't pop up out of nowhere, and you have some advance warning of them. So you can deal with that and transfer if you need to, before it becomes life and death.

  26. Well said, Rixa.

    I think any signs that a woman will need a life-saving C-section can be seen well enough in time to get the woman to a hospital and ready for operation, regardless of where the labor takes place. I don't appreciate the implication that UCing women would deny the signs of danger if they did indeed have to transfer to a hospital. The benefits of UC aren't only for the mother, there are also many for the baby (which you would have learned if you'd looked at any of the sites I'd linked), and every mother is looking out for her baby's ultimate well-being during birth. That's why so many women DO choose UC, because it's the optimal environment to be born into. I don't think there's a single mother on the face of the planet who would say, "Dammit, I don't want to give up my dream of the perfect unassisted birth, so I'm just going to sit here and let my baby die instead of calling an ambulance and going to have a C-section." Come on, now.

    I resent the notion that all UCing women are total idiots who go, "Durrr! I'm skeered of th' hospital and I wanna pop out mah baby on mah livin' room floor!" I think it's pretty obvious from the mature, informed posts on this blog that none of the women here are 12-year-old crackheads who are too irresponsible to do anything about pregnancy and wind up giving birth in a bathroom stall at the prom. So I find it insulting that some people are treating us like we are.

    UC requires TONS of knowledge, preparation, education, willpower, not to mention a very strong belief in yourself and what your body can do. If you can't or don't have these qualities, then by all means go have a textbook hospital birth, complete with stirrups, epidural and episiotomy. Some women don't want this. Some women know there's a better way. Some women aren't willing to blindly put themselves in the hands of strangers with needles and schedules to keep, just because it's "what everybody does." Some women think for themselves.

    Basically, we're not talking about the rare chance that something will go wrong, because 99% of the time, it won't. If it does, then by all means get yourself to a hospital. No one is arguing with that. What we're talking about is that the majority of UCing women will NOT need to be sliced open to save their baby's life. Just because too many people are being brainwashed by our country's 30% or higher C-section rate doesn't mean we ALL have to be. Sheeple, we are not.

    I can talk till I'm blue in the face and you'll still think, "OMG, if babies are born at home THEY'LL DIE." So, whatever. Think what you want.


  27. Rixa--I appreciate the informative tone of your responses. I really have learned a lot from your responses here, and they are much more helpful than some of the bashing going on here.

    Why does it matter so much to some posters that other women choose to birth differently and are HAPPY with a hospital or midwife-assisted delivery? Really, yours is unequivocably the "better way?" If it's better for you then rock on sister. Don't tell me what's better for me.

    Sometimes it's helpful to remember that militant rhetoric can prevent listeners/readers from hearing good sense in what you say.

  28. The only "bashing" going on here is coming from you. You come onto a pro-UC blog and start saying that women who choose UC are killing their babies, what do you expect? For us to all go, "Gee, you're right! I never knew! Thanks!" You ask for statistics, then ignore the ones we provide, and continue to say such inflammatory, hateful things, yet when we respond in a mature, thoughtful way, WE'RE doing the bashing?? I'm flummoxed.

    I think I need to take the advice of one of my friends and "stop feeding the troll." Sorry you had to put up with this tripe on your blog, Rixa.


  29. I actually don't mind having people disagree--I just want the discussions to stay respectful and REALLY listen to each other. This goes for both sides, please.

    Thinking back to an earlier post, one I wrote a week after Zari was born called "Reflections", my passion for birthing the way I did wasn't out of feeling superior to other women. I want women to know about homebirth, midwives, UC, and many other options *because so many women deserve better and many would choose differently if they knew they had options.*

    That's the hard thing about advocating passionately for a certain path--those who don't agree with that path can feel threatened, as if they're being judged for not also making the same choice. I have personally seen women attack other women for NOT having epidurals. It's as if women who choose anesthesia cannot stand the idea of others going without, to the point of outright hostility.

    I think some women can have good births in hospitals. My little sis had a really fantastic birth with CNMS in a hospital birth center. Now, had I had the same experience I probably wouldn't have liked it, but she did.

    On the other hand, I am not saying that every birth is good, that every choice is just the same. That's the bland kind of pseudo-political-correctness that lands a lot of women with lousy birth experiences and all too often, scars to prove it. What I AM trying to communicate is that every choice has a set of consequences, good and bad.

    One last thing, before I need to go feed my daughter: I think women who birth unassisted (or who passionately agree with it, even if they haven't done it themselves) tend to be "cliquey", for lack of a better word, because there is so much opposition and misunderstanding about their choices. When you find a community of women who accept UC as sane and rational, you want to bond together and reinforce each other's passion for unhindered birth. UC can be a lonely choice.

  30. By the way Shelly, my birth story is in the November archives. Hope you enjoy it.

  31. I first heard of UC about five years ago. I was a nanny at the time... and I had always had issues with hospital birth (I had read "Birth as an American Rite of Passage" and "American Way of Birth" in high school.)I have since been pouring through peer-reviewed medical journals about homebirth and unassisted birth (their are few accounts, but the worthwhile studies are done in cultures where unassisted birth is the norm.) I was/ am astounded at the ignorance in the medicalized birth community in (at least) America. The US is number one in medical interventions, and has some of the worse infant mortality rates in the industrialized world (in 2006 Cuba ranked lower infant- morality ranks.) https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html US is number 183. While countries like France and Germany have at-home midwife assisted births as the norm, and much better outcomes for mother and child. However, in the US our midwifes are generally trained to facilitate hospital births- not to deliver babies at home (thus- mucho intervention.)
    Don't get me wrong- I love midwifes, its only that they have to answer to obstetrictions who know less about birth and more about how to read a machine.
    I am completely behind UC (for myself). In fact I think it is more responsible for mothers to spend the extra effort learning about how and where they give birth. For the most part, women who give birth in a hospital have done little to educate themselves on their options and the dangers involved, while those who choose UC (not accidentally giving birth at home) have to have done more research- that is simply a fact. It is not the norm, it is not generally supported by society. So what is irresponsible? Blindly allowing strangers to take responsiblity for your birth? (Those strangers I might add, who give their accountability to machines.) Or educating oneself and finding that homebirth (assisted or unassisted) is better for you?
    Okay-- that was a little rant at the 'anonymous' nay-sayer.

    Honestly- when I read an unassisted birth story, (and no the births do not always end with flowers and cherubs singing- sometimes mothers are rushed via helicopter hemoraghing to the hospital- where her perfecting healthy baby is taken for 36 hrs. and given enough sedatives to cause siezures.) - when I read unassisted birth stories, they feel right- woman and her baby are comfortable, respected as capable of giving birth, and cared for by loved ones- in a place that is home for them. When I read accounts of hospital births every single mother writes of it as a traumatic, terrifying (torterous)experience, it which she is just thankful she and her baby got out alive. (Sounds like a great way to welcome a baby into the world.)
    You can gaurentee that I will be choosing UC when I have children! Wow! So I wrote more than I expected. Great blog post!
    *OFF to Read more*

  32. One more thing, "No one chases you down the corridors of a hospital insisting on an episiotomy or an epidural." added the voice of dissent.

    She/he is correct. They don't chase you down the corridors, they can't. You are strapped to a bed with a fetal monitor across your belly (which causes the contractions to be more painful, add a little pitocin to the mix and they become down right unbearable... and with the anesthesiologist popping in every five minutes asking if you're ready for that epidural... well you get the picture.) As for the epsiotomy... while the mother is flat on her back, legs over head- pushing as hard as she can to beat the clock to a c-section... the doctor gets impatient and grabs the scissors and cuts- even when its clearly against the wishes of the mother-- even when the partner of the mother is lunging at the scissored hand! (And I am sure we all know what happens to strecthed fabric when its cut (even just a little.)) Most women's account of an epsiotomy claim that it was the most painful part of delivery... and of how it hurts sometime months or years after the fact.

    SO- Anonymous- you are correct in your point... but the important part is to explain the WHOLE truth.


  33. i learned of uc from the compleat mother magazine. i thought it was beyond me. like perhaps i had to be 'better' at birth. (my first was natural but very painful hospital birth and while i wanted homebirth for sure i felt inadequate & like i needed 'help')

    my 2nd was a mw hb.

    my recent 3rd was finaly a UC, and now i know-- the panic and anguish i felt in my 1st & 2nd were not in spite of the 'help', but because of it.

    i also know that in all 3 births if something had gone wrong and it had been in my power to pursue help, i would have. nothing did go wrong, but if it had, i was informed and had a plan.

    i cant add much to the tangent here brought on by dissenting voices. i have nothing but pity for people who think my UC was not safe or responsible, that i was lucky. it is one of those things that makes so much sense to me that i cant even relate to others who dont get it.


  34. "much, much safer bet"=
    to bet that an unassisted birth will go succesfully is safer (i.e. has higher odds) than to bet that a medical caregiver will honor all your wishes.

    Not a reference to mortality.

    But a very important issue nonetheless, whether you are pro or con.

    No, I didn't do a study.
    But maternal satisfaction in hospitals has been studied a lot.

  35. You see, us birth junkies, we are a special breed of geeks.

    Not unlike others commenting in this diary, I have spent close to five years studying birth in various settings. I have also supported a handful of women at hospital births, some of which left the mom frightened and injured, some proud and happy. I'm sure I don't know and haven't seen as much as Rixa, but a heck of a lot more than many, many women I speak with who have nonetheless expressed latent (and luckily mostly tactful) disapproval of my childbirth choices. Choices I make based on all this research and after a lot of questioning and soulsearching. I bet they don't imagine how much time I pour into this, because honestly, it's truly excessive.

    Again: Birthjunkiness is geaky.

    The effort it takes is so time consuming that OF COURSE most women simply have better things to do.

    So to take Rixa's example, I certainly very much do understand if one plans to arrange for a trained professional to be available to perform neonatal resuscitation, rather than obtain the skill (even credentials) for themselves.

    Same for studying the signs of labor complications which require transfer to medical care. Can any reasonably intelligent person acquire this knowledge? Of course! But why should *everyone* want to?

    No one has to. Anyone could. Not everyone will.

  36. Amen Judit! I think we need to start a "birth geek" webring. I could make t-shirts too...we could start a whole trend.

    I stopped keeping track after a while, but I have probably read about 200+ books relating to birth. I started my own encyclopedia, where I file away anything related to birth, especially research articles from medical journals. It's now several hundred pages and growing. I've read over 50,000 posts on various birth-related Yahoo groups. And don't even get me started on the birth stories I've read!

  37. "I want women to know about homebirth, midwives, UC, and many other options *because so many women deserve better and many would choose differently if they knew they had options.* "

    Rixa, I want you to know that I totally agree with this statement. I know that I would have made different choices if I had known about UC, rather than just homebirth. I also think several other women I know would have made different choices if they had only known those choices.

    Rixa, I appreciate very much the time and effort you have put into this blog. I have learned so much, and I'm sure those I send to this site do, even if some of them don't agree. Thank you, also, to you ladies who have written so many well-thought out responses. I have learned much from you, too.

  38. Rixa,
    The encyclopaedia format is a great idea. Do you intend to publish or share it in some way with the public or friends (wink wink)?

  39. I certainly could share it--just trying to figure out how. I organized it alphabetically, and each topic is its own Word document. I used to keep it all in one doc, but it got waaaaay too big. So, any good ideas for how to post/share numerous files? If you can come up with some, I will do it.

    Another option is for you to mail me a blank CD with a postage paid return envelope (big enough for the CD). I'll happily burn you a copy.

  40. One of the anonymous commenters said: In most of the rest of the civilized world, homebirth is actually the norm. In many European countries and farther east like Australia and New Zealand, birth is treated like a normal event, not a life-and-death emergency.

    That's not right about Australia. Hospital birth is very much the norm. Homebirths are less than 2% of total births. Our c-section rate is around 30%, other rates of intervention like episiotomy, pitocin, induction, epidural etc are almost as high as in the US. If you want a homebirth you have to pay around $2500 for it - health insurance and our Medicare system do not generally cover it.

    In New Zealand the situation is slightly different, as you can get a homebirth under their medical system without having to pay for it, but my understanding is the rates are still pretty low - certainly nothing like they are in the Netherlands for example.

    I think saying "many" European countries is a huge exaggeration as well.

  41. I first encountered the idea via my partner, when we were first planning to have a child. She was very enthusiastic about the idea, but I had a lot of concern about safety. After many, many arguments, we finally compromised on the idea of a midwife-assisted home birth instead.

    But then she got pregnant... And discovered it was with twins. We live in Ontario, where midwives are legally recognized, but are subject to a lot of restrictions, including that they are not allowed to attend multiple births except in a hospital. And my partner is very, very adamant that she does not want a hospital birth.

    So now we are back to the UC idea, and I am still not altogether happy with it, but we haven't got a lot of alternatives. With twins, you can either have a hospital birth with all the trimmings, where as likely as not they will force you to have a C-section even if nothing is wrong, just because it's their standard practice with twins, or you can have an unassisted home birth. There are no in betweens. :-(

    I know that the rate of complications is higher in hospitals, and that home births in general are at least as safe as hospital births, and some studies say safer. But the prospect of doing it unassisted still scares me. But I feel like we're being forced into it by the system.

    I wonder if they ever realized when making it illegal for midwives to attend twin home births in the interests of "safety" that they might in reality be encouraging more UCs? :-/

  42. Yes, Rixa you are lucky that nothing went wrong. When I was born, I had a true knot in my umbilical cord and would have been born dead if not for the quick actions of the hospital staff. My mother had a very healthy and normal pregnancy and I was healthy once I was born but it could have been disasterous. I totally agree with natural childbirth but I think you can have a fulfilling experience in a birthing center or in a hospital. My CNM totally fulfilled my wishes when it came to natural childbirth. What would you have done if something had gone wrong? I realize that you are a really smart girl but hey, Rixa, you are no doctor. Being a doula doesn't make you qualified to deal with an emergency. I don't know- I guess there are risks however you go about it but count your blessings that nothing went wrong in your daughter's birth.


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