When I decided to birth at home without a midwife my husband was very nervous about the whole idea. His worries centered around "I wouldn't know what could go wrong, and I wouldn't know what to do if it did." By promising him that I would learn everything I could about what could go wrong, what to do if something started to go wrong, and how long before things get really bad so we'd know how quickly to seek help, he came to a level of comfort and was supportive of my decision to freebirth.
You'll notice that the resources I list and link to will be pretty repetitive... IndieBirth.com, BirthBabyLife.com, Birthful.com, The Birth Hour, Evidence Based Birth, and a few others. (If you get to the end of this article and are confused, "She didn't mention any of these?!?!" that's because this is part 1 of a series. Bear with me! However, I couldn't leave you hanging until the next post comes out... So go peruse these sites and see what you find that interests you!)
I've found these specific resources to be helpful on a wide variety of topics. AND they have much more extensive and useful in-depth information than other more generic websites I've seen. If you find a gold mine, stay and keep mining for more gold! Right?!
What to research?
No longer do I spend hours and hours each week reading and researching every possible complication that could arise during pregnancy and birth. There was a time though when I did just that. My goal wasn't to scare myself. It was to inform my fears, and discover which concerns were valid and true and ought to be addressed immediately!
In other words, "What problems should worry me? Which ones should I simply learn more about in case they occur?"
You may have a different "list" of the really bad things than I have. You might even feel comfortable self-caring for issues that I would seek medical attention for! But I wanted to share some of my own thoughts about various topics. As well as sharing the resources I found the most useful to me.
Research topics that help you make decisions. If you research a complication it won't jinx you into having that complication. It gives you tools to understand what that complication is, and know at the point of making a decision you have enough information to make the best choice. If you research an intervention, you now have the tools to know at the point of making the decision you are the one who decides the intervention is needed, or decide to decline it.
By the way, I find it helpful to make decisions based on thresholds. Instead of deciding, "I am never going to birth in the hospital, end of story." I've come to a different conclusion... "I don't want to birth in a hospital unless there is a true medical need." Okay, but that still sounds fuzzy. Yes! That is fuzzy, so don't let yourself stop there. Each time I research a complication of birth I decide, "At what point would I decide this is bad enough to warrant going to the hospital?"
What are your thresholds?
Different problems have different thresholds. For example, if I faced pre-eclampsia, I'd likely go to the hospital after I'd exhausted my list of other options (improving my diet, taking extra sea salt, getting LOTS of protein, rest... etc). Because I know pre-eclampsia can be fatal to the mom and baby. I wouldn't rush to the hospital the moment I had a high blood pressure reading, or saw stars. Though I *would* go if I started to feel very concerned, nothing I was doing was helping, and my symptoms continued to worsen. Does that make sense?
Pain would be another one with a threshold. I've given birth three times. None of them were completely painless births. But I am open to believing in a future birth I may come to a point where the pain got so intense, and lasted so long, that I was finally ready to go to the hospital. At that point I wouldn't have "failed." I simply would have "reached my threshold, and decided it was time." (I don't anticipate that happening, but know that it could.)
Why I research so much
Under this assumption "My internal monitor needs to start warning me that something is wrong before I consider transferring" it was important for me to have a broad understanding of what the possible complications or problems could be. YOU don't have to operate this way. I'm just letting you know how I have chosen to approach my births.
I love researching the problems of pregnancy. Not because I believe I'll face them. Rather, because I want to know when I *do* face problems, "Where is the line at which I will seek medical help?" Once I've settled that in my heart, I have a lot of freedom on that topic to know it won't scare me into an unnecessary or undesirable transfer.
Not to leave you hanging
If you're curious about what tops my list of what the really bad things are... It's quite short. All four, in their worst case scenario, would require a c-section to result in both mama and baby living, and that's why I consider them excellent reasons to transfer.
- Pre-eclampsia symptoms that don't resolve (and worsen) after I've tried everything I can think of to improve my health. (Nutrition & diet, rest, fluids, sea salt, protein, epsom salt baths, and I'd give it a good Google search for more ideas before throwing in the towel.) My guess is I'd be monitoring for 24 hours. Attempting solutions for another day or two. And if symptoms got scary I'd go to the hospital after two or more days and no improvement.
- Placenta previa. If my baby's placenta was wholly covering my cervix (not "close") then I would definitely seek medical attention. I would also be grateful and happy for a c-section under that circumstance. How would I know? Some symptoms are bleeding bright red in the late 2nd trimester, and 3rd trimester that is NOT related to heavy activity. OR bright red bleeding at the beginning of labor that gets heavier and heavier. I imagine it would be like starting a period and getting to the heavy part of a period as dilation increased. And yes, I might even wait until I was in labor and the signs were all present before going in to "get checked out." Though I suspect if I were concerned I truly had a placenta previa, I'd go to get an ultrasound before being in labor... <shrug> I haven't had to face this yet, so I don't know.
- Severe trauma. Were I in a car accident severe enough to cause concern, I would definitely go to a hospital. Getting myself and baby medically checked out would be highly important to me. No question.
- Transverse baby. But not quite as women tend to describe... LOTS of babies are transverse leading up to labor. That never worries me. BUT, if my water broke, and baby's hand and arm came out first, then I would be *very* concerned. I would ask whoever was with me to attempt to push baby's arm back up in. (Because, let's face it, I'm not a birth-all-alone-in-the-house kind of girl.) At the same time, I'd have someone calling 911 dispatch. I do still believe this could end in a vaginal birth, but... I'm not going to waste more braincells or time on worrying since the chances of this scenario are so small. I believe the outcome would be an *amazing* story to tell, and a c-section.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series.