Lara Saint-Louis Bryant, a 31-year-old writer, wife and mother of two boys who now lives in Omaha, wrote this guest blog about her home birth experience for momaha.
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Editor’s note: Giving birth outside of a hospital is not illegal in Nebraska, but it is against the law for Certified Nurse-Midwives to attend home births. Though midwives can’t assist in home births, some women still choose them. Home births climbed 20 percent nationally from 2004 to 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control report released in 2011. Most home-birth advocates rely on a midwife who monitors the labor to ensure a safe delivery. They interrupt the process only if medically necessary. But in Nebraska and Alabama – which are the only two states to outlaw the practice – they cannot oversee out-of-hospital deliveries.
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Five years ago, I had a water birth at a birthing center in Brooklyn, New York with my first child.
The midwives were so non-invasive that it seemed I did not need their help at all. When it came time to call them for our second child the hubby took one look at my new budding belly and said, “we can do this.” I agreed.
Then I did what I do best – I became obsessive about information. I researched how to birth my own child.
I told a friend what I was considering. She gave me the number for a woman she knew already accomplished the feat. I called her immediately. Her first words were, “Lara, the children want to be born this way.” Her children were healthy, I thought, and she didn’t die!
Through her I found three other women willing to share their unassisted birth success stories. My research began with their collective testimonies. But if you ask my husband he’ll say the seed of medical dissention was planted the moment we decided not to vaccinate our first child. (An entire blog for another time.)
Approaching the Unknown
The decision before me was to ask God what to do, or ask the Internet what to do. It turns out God did not have as many references (respectfully speaking). My friend pointed me to Everythingbirth.com, a site dedicated to prepackaged birthing kits. They sell everything – from 60-inch birthing pads, to umbilical scissors and perineum cold compresses. I cried tears of joy over endless videos on YouTube of women filming their live, unassisted births.
I read countless articles written by women with firsthand experience. I joined community birthing circles every chance I got. I called at least six local midwives and asked as many questions as they would answer without a retainer. Once a foundation of information was established, four main concerns surfaced: cord strangulation, excess bleeding and sutchering, birth of the placenta, and meconium aspiration.
A midwife, with whom I established good rapport, assured me cord strangulation was as easy as slipping your fingers between the cord and the baby, then unraveling – assuming the cord was long enough or else we’d have to reach in and snip. I prepared my husband for this and I didn’t let it stop me.
After my first childbirth, I wanted to punch the midwife in the face while I was being sutchered. She was great, but I was infuriated by the treatment. For my second, I was insistent on an alternative. I searched the web: Seaweed! You buy the same brand from your grocer used to roll sushi, and apply small strips. Very powerful indeed! Apparently other home birthers tried it because the calcium in seaweed exchanges itself with the wound fluid. My labia lacerations and perineum tears were gone in a week. I also packed my wounds with Myrrh and spirulina (a powder form, single celled blue-green algae).
Both can be bought at a local, sometimes non-commercial, health store. Prior to birth, I collected and dried two months worth of corn silk. Once transformed into an infusion, I drank it the day of birth for its allantoin. Allantoin promotes cell proliferation and Myrrh helps bring white blood cells to the surface of a wound.
Excess bleeding woes
I bought shepherd’s purse from a local mom and pop natural herbs store in Long Island. It’s typically used to treat chronic uterine bleeding disorders. Cayenne pepper (which is simply ground red peppers) also helps to stop excessive bleeding. I asked another midwife if she’d learned about cayenne pepper as a solution for a perineum tear. She told me I could put it directly on the wound. This may be true for other kinds of open wounds, but common sense tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Listen, this lady’s got credentials and all, but try it before you go into labor.” So I dabbed a little on the soon to be torn area. It was the worst feeling ever!
After the intense burning subsided three hours later, I learned cayenne is better as a drink to stop internal or external bleeding. It equalizes the pressure in minutes and is antifungal. Thankfully, I didn’t have to use the shepherd’s purse or the cayenne.
Birthing the placenta
A placenta can have a hard time detaching itself from the wall. Angelica Root stimulates the release of a stubborn placenta so I bought that too. Have you ever heard of a “Lotus Birth?” We did, and we were excited to try it. You keep the placenta attached to the baby and it falls off in four days. Amazing right? Hospital jobs can take up to two weeks for the umbilical to fall off. To maintain a rotting placenta during those four days, you are to salt it (to preserve it), dress it with essential oils like lavender (which is antibacterial), and wrap it in cheese cloth. You keep it on a cloth pad or bowl next to you (and the child) while bed ridden.
I was even going to (take a breath ladies) eat it! Yup – blend it right up with some V8 juice. It’s so rich in vitamins that it increases milk supply and can even help with post partum stress. (While the hypothalamus takes a couple of weeks to reproduce the CRH hormone that reduces stress, the placenta can provide it in the mean time – thus avoiding baby blues). The Japanese say it tastes like peaches. Whatever! I chickened out (or placenta-ed out). The placenta passed normally, within 45 minutes, and I didn’t bleed excessively. I left the cord attached to my child to pass on any iron rich blood still pumping from the sac, placed umbilical scissors in alcohol for over 20 minutes, applied the plastic clamp, then snipped, and stored that bad boy in the freezer for future stem cells.
Eating it and keeping it attached for four days seemed too troublesome. After that I treated the remaining umbilical like a wound. I used antibacterial “colloidal silver water” and spirulina powder to assist the umbilical cord’s healing time. (Spirulina heals wounds). It fell off in exactly four days.
The thought of meconium (the sticky tar like substance found in an infant’s earliest stools) in my child’s lungs was the hardest to get over. Sigh. But even a certified midwife cannot treat the worst stage – they escort you to a hospital. After researching the different stages of meconium, my family was prepared to drive me to the hospital five minutes away in an emergency. Women don’t know this but their previous history and diet during pregnancy determines the presence of meconium – not just stress. Lay off the tubs of ice cream in the third trimester girls! Some say I was lucky. I say I was prepared. Some say I was irresponsible to put the life of my child in my own hands. The more I educated myself on hospital complications vs. home birth complications, it seemed irresponsible to put my child’s life in anyone else’s hands but my own.
Now to relive the moment of truth:
It was four hours of active labor with contractions every two minutes. Finally my body was ready to push but I was less than 10 centimeters dilated (using the width of my fingers). I checked the canal for the head. I can feel the head but also a flap. I read about this. The baby’s head will encounter a flap obstructing the top of the cervix and can cause delayed exit. My brain tells the body, “quick, push that flap up girl!” I do what the general advises. One more push and he was out! The chord was wrapped around his neck, twice, and it looked tight. But I prepared for this. The general springs into action; my two fingers slip between his neck and the chord. Pressure was relieved and I unwrapped him. Color returned to his face. He immediately wanted to feed. A great sign!
Everything was successful!
He was 6 pounds and 6 ounces using a baby weight scale I bought off the Internet. I monitored his heart rate (during gestation, pre- and post delivery) using an economy fetoscope and charts detailing average beats per minute. I had a paper tape measure for his length, head circumference, and chest circumference. I even had a foot print pad. The joke is on us women. Hospital birthing is so young in America. At one point I had to ask myself, where are the cameras? Birthing was the easiest thing to do out of the whole ten months.
Looking back on my decision
Are my husband and I idiots for trying any of this? No, just stupid. Not the irresponsible kind of stupid, but Forrest Gump stupid –rewardingly unhindered by social norms (and it has become a social norm to fear something without verifiable information). We still took some traditional routes during gestation: I entered my previous birthing center to hear the heartbeat using their machines. I paid for two separate ultrasounds in months five and nine. We stopped taking others adversity concerning our decision personal when I realized our ignorance about birthing, or anything non-traditional, is societal. None of us are properly educated in anatomy, cell regeneration, and infection prevention methods. Culturally speaking, everyone specializes. By definition, we are ignorant of the whole and privy to a small portion of knowledge.
This is why holistic healing has made it’s way into the general public again; it’s acting as a counterbalance to specialization and puts the power back in the people’s hands. Ignorance, non-judgmentally speaking, inevitably makes us reliant on authorities. Once dependant, we eliminate ourselves as an authority in our own affairs. Hence, the comments, “who do you think you are to birth your own child?”
I would never encourage all women to do what I did. This is only for the diligent personality. I’m no evangelist but I do have a message: We are missing out on our rites of passage when we take a hands-off approach to birth. I did not receive my full blessing for my lot in life as “human portal” like when I got my own hands dirty. I was more aware, more astute, and more agile when I chose to be in control than when I was expected to let professionals do their job. I had a covenant with myself. My conscience promised that my child and I would survive, and for my fearlessness I would receive a gift, the conviction of faith. I learned a concept like faith is not exclusive to religion and in doing so found a new religion: self-determination.
A snap shot of Lara’s home-birthed son six months later.
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