I was somewhat dismayed to see that there has been a significant increase in women having home births here in the US. Before I continue, let me first say that I have never been pregnant or had a child, nor am an expert in pregnancy and birth matters (perhaps some readers know more about it? Any OBGYNs out there?). However, it seems to me this increase in home birth is potentially harmful. Sure, plenty of babies are born at home and are perfectly fine. But what if there are complications? Shouldn’t babies be born in hospitals where potentially lifesaving care– for both baby and mother– is only seconds away? Doesn’t hospital birth seem like a good thing?
I can understand why many mothers are not inclined to give birth in hospitals. Hospitals are sterile, artificial environments that at best feel like a tacky, too-clean hotel room and at worst feel like a crowded bus station waiting room. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in hospitals– primarily when my mom and a couple of friends had health problems– and even the nicest, cleanest, quietest hospitals are still fairly miserable places. Hospitals are places where people are sick, often dying, and that’s no fun. Some hospitals have wonderful birthing centers with private rooms, but other hospitals do not provide such luxurious accommodation. Sometimes you might not even have your own room when you give birth. I can see why many mothers find giving birth in their own home, surrounded by only family and friends and maybe a midwife, an attractive idea. Home is probably much nicer than a hospital. But… a hospital has doctors, nurses, and medical equipment that could save your life and the life of your newborn.
Personally, while I find hospitals miserable at times, I also find hospitals very interesting. Hospitals are places where remarkable, modern medicine takes place and many lives are saved and improved. I enjoy talking to doctors and nurses about the care they are providing. As stressful as it is to see a friend or relative sick, I also find my scientific mind is curious about all of the procedures and the care that is being provided. Hospitals remind me of a laboratory environment, and that tends to put me more at ease in hospitals. Labs have science, and I like science. Modern medicine is based on science. Science is good.
Personally, if I ever give birth I want to be in a hospital… hopefully a good one. I joke with my fiance that I want the least natural childbirth ever. Seriously. Screw natural childbirth. I want the maximum safe dose of painkillers, and I want doctors to be seconds away in case anything goes wrong with the birth. I want to take advantage of modern medicine because, really, why not? I mean, when I had an infection I didn’t say to my doctor, “Oh, no. Antibiotics aren’t natural, so I don’t want them.” and when I had an operation on my leg I didn’t say, “Oh, no. Anesthesia isn’t natural. Do you have any big men who can hold me down?” and when I was a kid my mom (thank FSM) didn’t say to my pediatrician, “Oh, no. Vaccines aren’t natural, so I’d prefer my kid got measles.” So, there’s no way I’m going to say, “Oh, no. A hospital birth isn’t natural. I’d prefer to give birth in the backyard birthing shack with a stick in my mouth.”
If I could be knocked out and wake up with a beautiful baby in my arms, that would be ideal. I’m sure that some baby-loving hormones will kick in and such when I actually have to give birth, but right now I find the idea of giving birth absolutely terrifying. Come to think of it, pregnancy is terrifying too. I mean, a parasite grows in you for nine months and then explodes out of you… isn’t that like one of those alien movies? If modern medicine can help mitigate my pregnancy/birthing fears and keep me an my baby safe, I’m all for it.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying that there aren’t potential problems with hospital births. In the US, for instance, there is debate about why the rate of Caesarean section is so high. But I still think hospital births are wiser than home births. Personally, what I plan to do if I become pregnant is to talk in detail with my doctor (maybe more than one doctor) and make calm, rational decisions about what I do and do not want for my birth. I want to make those decisions before I’m at the hospital and my poor husband’s hand is being crushed as I scream at him, “You bastard! This is your fault!” One thing I know for sure, though– if I ever have kids, my birth(s) will definitely be in a hospital. And I’d like some drugs, please.
Any thoughts on the natural/unnatural childbirth debate?
Update: I highly recommend reading this article by Harriet Hall on Home Birth Safety.