Home Birth and “Family Thinking”
Posted: 16 June 2009 09:35 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Institutional vs. Family Thinking
[Excerpt from The Home Birth Advantage by Mayer Eisenstein, M.D.]

I have found no one who writes today about the demise of the American family has explored the negative impact of hospital birth. I believe that the decision to have an institutional hospital birth is at the heart of the destruction of American family life. The family starts with birth, and home birth traditionally was a cornerstone of strength in a family’s life. Hospital birth deprives the new family of this most primal and strengthening experience.

In 1920, when birth was leaving the home and entering the hospitals in the U.S., there was an outcry. People didn’t like it. There was a rise in infant and maternal mortality in the hospital. But control of birth, medical schools and hospitals were in the hands of powerful and wealthy families like the Rockefellers and the Morgans. It was in the best interest of their financial empires to influence the move of laboring women to hospitals. A major study as early as 1933 showed that hospital births were not as safe as home births.

It seems inevitable that if families are strong in a society, then the institutions are weak; and if the institutions are strong, then families are weak. Our American institutional way of life is firmly implanted. Our families have been weakened by powerful economic and political forces most interested in perpetuating themselves.

You don’t find people these days who will tell you that they were happy with the hospital births of their children. They may be pleased to leave the hospital with their new babies but at best describe the hospital experience as necessary if one wants a baby.

It is never described as an emotionally uplifting moment, not as the greatest day in their lives, not as the happening that brought them closer than ever before, but as a necessary experience if you want to have a baby. Hospital birth is something new mothers try to forget quickly. A mother who wants to have another hospital birth in the future has to block the experience from her mind in order to have the courage to go through the experience another time. The hospital is a necessary experience only if one knows of no other way of having a baby.

Institutional childbirth will never be a joyous experience because institutions do not aim to please any of the families they serve. They aim to perpetuate their own existence. In the U.S. the goal of hospitals is to ensure that you feel dependent on them. This dependent feeling guarantees that you will call on the institution again and again. The hospital will step in to weaken your family’s strength. They will deliver your baby, direct the care and feeding of your baby, cure your illnesses, take care of your elderly family members for you and manage your death. And they extract a great price, personal and financial, for their services.

If an institution can control the beginnings of your family life, the birth of your first child, then they can control everything else in your life. They “help” you decide on institutional formula feedings for your baby; institutional day care, maybe even from birth; institutional schooling beginning at a very early age; institutional careers to which your children may aspire; even the institutional care of anyone in your family who is sick or dying.

In contrast, “family thinking” brings questions and problems back to the family to solve rather than taking them to the institution. Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, on of America’s leading pediatricians, used to say that one grandmother was worth two pediatricians. Families can provide their own “in-house” birthing rooms, child care systems, educational opportunities and care of the sick and dying.

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Posted: 16 June 2009 09:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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An interesting article.

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Posted: 16 June 2009 10:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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We are considering a home birth and have been going to Bradley Method classes. I’ve been reading a lot about birth.

I was mostly interested in the philosophic aspect of this passage and the difference between “institutional” and “family thinking.” I think the subject matter dovetails very nicely with the Kinist position on family autonomy and self-reliance.

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Posted: 16 June 2009 10:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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While I agree with home birth, my wife had two very difficult deliveries, one of which was an emergency c-section. Now who’s to say what would have happened at home? But there was once a time when a doctor (and not merely a midwife) would assist with births at home. I can tell you that our youngest son, had he been delivered without the equipment to measure the oxygenation of his blood, would have retardation due to the lack of oxygen to the brain caused by the umbilical cord being wrapped around his neck. Needless to say, I was happy for the presence of the technology to determine when it was time to give up on vaginal birth. I would support home birth more passionately if it came with some of the advantages that can prevent tragedies like the one that almost befell us. Still parents should, and nearly always do have the option of birthing at home. Were the state to try to mandate hospital births, then I would oppose that vehemently. Home birth is not something I care to be doctrinaire about, and this is one area where I think technology may have a very positive impact on our lives.

I agree with what you quoted in principle, but how do we tell moms that things that could have been prevented were not? This is somewhat different than some of the other issues mentioned, such as end of life care, dealing with infirmity in elderly family members, etc. My family has instructions not to undertake financially ruinous actions to save my life. I know my destination and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I have a former high school friend (we lost touch) whose belief in “holistic, natural pregnancy and birth” resulted in two microencephalic kids. They weren’t twins either. During both pregnancies they refused ultrasounds and outher routine tests. The “tragedy” is that these were preventable conditions. Their microencephalism was due to both children developing upside down in the womb, with heads pointed toward the cervix during critical periods of cranial formation. Any licensed obstetrician could have moved these children with pressure techniques into the correct position. Perhaps there is a “middle way.”

I want to say that there is a very poignant scene (the opening scene, in fact) in the film “The Village” that depicts a funeral. A man is shown weeping beside a tiny coffin. We later find out that this is not the 18th century, but the 20th, and that the leaders of the community knew that there was medical help a few miles away through the forest, but never called for help because they had renounced they world of technology. While the film has some flaws, I think it is important viewing for those who are serious about Kinism and some of its implications.

[ Edited: 17 June 2009 12:18 PM by W.M. Godfrey ]
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Posted: 16 June 2009 10:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There are many books on midwifery (directed to mothers, families or midwives) that at least touch on the negative aspects of routine hospital (institutional) birth on families and communities, and some resources give it quite a bit of emphasis. Many of the books have a new age or feminist slant, which clouds the issue for many Christian readers.

When it came time for my grandmother to be cared for in her final illness, my brother’s family would have been very uncomfortable to have her pass away at their home, where she was staying temporarily after a surgery. They are typical institutional-everything Americans. We brought her to our home, where homebirth, homeschooling, and dad working from home are the children’s everyday experiences. She had expressed her wish not to return to the hospital unless for pain management (we were in the process of enrolling her in hospice, but beware their pro-euthanizing policies in some states). It was a peaceful, wonderful blessing for my grandma and my children to spend her final days together, and no one within our family was traumatized or thought it strange that Grandma had died at our house. Since we’d been together to the end, we actually had more peace after her death than other extended family members who weren’t able to be there.

Responsible homebirth, often misunderstood or assumed to be irresponsible by definition, generally has strengthened the families we know. Siblings see baby soon, mother is not gone for days, neighbors pull together to bring meals and entertain little ones so mom can tend to baby and regain strength, needless interventions are avoided (many complications occur during planned, elective hospital births and are prevented by very capable midwives in my home), and primarily, Dad is not displaced by hospital staff, or relegated to the sidelines while the wife’s gratitude is directed to the doctor or staff.

Hospital birth, followed by infant daycare, preschool, primary and secondary classroom experiences, institutional jobs, nursing “homes,” and funeral “homes” are the sad but common life track for Americans in today’s society.

[ Edited: 18 June 2009 12:14 PM by kinswoman ]
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Posted: 16 June 2009 11:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I agree with everything you’ve said, Kinswoman. I want to add that it sounds like you’ve got better neighbors than us.

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Posted: 17 June 2009 12:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Here’s an article that seems relatively unbiased on the topic:

Planned home birth
Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board
Last updated: September 2008

Is giving birth at home safe?

For healthy women at low risk for complications who choose skilled and experienced caregivers and have a good system in place for transfer to a hospital when necessary, a number of studies show that giving birth at home is just as safe as giving birth in a hospital. There is also research showing that moms who planned to give birth at home (regardless of where they actually had their babies) ended up with fewer interventions, such as episiotomies and c-sections, compared with a group of equally low-risk women who had planned hospital deliveries.

What else can I do to make sure that my home birth is as safe as it can be?

Find a good practitioner

Look for a certified nurse-midwife (CNM), a certified direct-entry midwife (CPM or CM), or a physician with plenty of experience delivering babies at home. Ask about her education, her credentials, and whether she’s licensed to practice in your state.

Be sure your caregiver carries the necessary equipment and supplies to start emergency treatment if needed, such as infant resuscitation equipment and oxygen, IVs, and medication to stem postpartum bleeding. It’s also critical to make sure that she has an arrangement for backup with a qualified doctor and a nearby hospital in case you need to be transferred.

Make sure your backup plan is solid

Make sure the backup hospital is relatively close and that your transportation there is fail-safe in case something goes wrong and you need to get to a hospital quickly.

Of course, I can hardly speak as an expert on the topic, as medical challenges made me a high-risk pregnancy and the last three months were an exercise in patience and technology. Fortunately for me, my daughter was born well and continues to please me, even now that she’s a young adult.

Some hospitals offer what are called birthing centers or birthing rooms that are nicer than most homes, but have hospital backup nearby.

I like the philosophical idea of home vs institution; still, I think this is something that there is personal liberty on.

God bless,
Laurel

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God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Heb. 6:10

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Posted: 17 June 2009 06:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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John, I wasn’t implying that having a necessary c-section was a failure on the part of parents. Trying for a home birth should be the ideal.

A truly experienced midwife knows exactly when it is time to leave for the hospital.

I think “directed technology” is the middle way. Some micro-technologies that would enable midwives to be even better and more efficient at their jobs.

We are really planning for a home birth but we are utilizing an “alternative birthing center” at present and have gotten one ultrasound at 18 weeks to ensure proper anatomy. We get the routine check-ups (toxemia, pre-eclampsia, etc.) from the midwives at the center but are really hoping for a home birth. For low-risk women it is the way to go and fortunately, white women are the group of women with the lowest risk.

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Posted: 17 June 2009 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yeah, we had kids late. Our last boy was positive for Down Syndrome in the blood test, but came out fine. We didn’t get the amniocentesis because it’s risky and you really only do that if you want to be 100% sure for reasons of abortion. At least that’s what our obstetrician told us. Since we were (of course) going to keep the baby no matter what, it made no sense to get the test. The blood test for Down gives a lot of false positives for older women.

I think home birth is preferable, I’d just like to see the technologies there to help prevent the preventable.

[ Edited: 17 June 2009 12:28 PM by W.M. Godfrey ]
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Posted: 17 June 2009 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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We didn’t have the amniocentesis done either. As your doctor said, it’s primarily for people who want to be positive about conditions so they can abort the child.

Laurel

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Deo Volente, Deo Vindice.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Heb. 6:10

“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”– Louis L’Amour

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Posted: 17 June 2009 07:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Even the very risky procedure of amniocentesis isn’t 100%. Directed technologies.

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Posted: 18 June 2009 12:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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God has His plans, but to us little ones, nothing in this life seems certain, even when it truly is.

Does that make sense?

Laurel

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Deo Volente, Deo Vindice.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Heb. 6:10

“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”– Louis L’Amour

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Posted: 19 June 2009 03:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Laurel,

On a related note: My baby defied doctors and refused to die

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