Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I UCed

So over on the Board, I'm being referenced, so I thought I could do a little response myself.

First, a little response to the "women die in childbirth!" fear. Yes, they do. They probably will forever because people die sometimes and there's not a way to 100% prevent that. I think on some levels, maternal mortality rates have improved in recent years, and in some places, it's getting worse. But historically and in developing countries, I think (my opinion, don't have statistics at the moment) many of the deaths are related to access to clean water, nutrition, and access to medical care.

And when I chose to have unassisted births, I did so with access to clean water, good nutrition, and medical care. The water that comes from our taps is drinking water. I have the money and access to grocery stores that provide me with a wide variety of good foods full of vitamins. I can buy fresh fruits and vegetables any day I want. And if in my pregnancy I showed signs of pre-eclampsia or in labor a hand presented or any other variety of emergencies necessitating medical care, I could have (and would have) sought out the appropriate care provider.

As to why people choose unassisted birth, one of the responders said they think it might because some women want control. And that's definitely one reason. Some women feel like they should be able to choose who gets to watch them labor and catch babies, who gets to stick a finger up there to determine how effaced and dilated they are (if they so choose to even want to know that number). I would hope that all women feel get to make those decisions for themselves- these birthing bodies are their birthing bodies.

But that's not the only reason. There a probably as many reasons for UC as there are UCers. Some women like privacy. Some feel that it's the safest way to have that baby. Some feel it's "just the way they do it"in their family. Some feel spiritually drawn to it. Sometimes babies come too fast. And some women don't even know they're pregnant when they give birth.

I have a sequence of posts (linked to in my right sidebar) explaining why I chose UC with Margaret. Ultimately, I felt very "led" or "drawn" to it.  I couldn't get the concept out of my head, and when I have ideas like that, I go through with them because I know they're important. And I really think that with Margaret's birth, going to 43 weeks, being in labor for 44 hours with some rough back labor, I probably saved myself from a cesarean by staying home without a midwife.

With Isaac, I did not feel so led. It was an option on the table. With the move across a couple of states at 30 weeks pregnant and our inability to get health insurance in California (hello, pre-existing condition!), and the fact that just like in Provo, we were only blocks away from a big bad hospital with a good NICU, I thought it was a good choice. I didn't feel particularly drawn to UC like I did with Margaret, and looking at Isaac's birth: 5.5 hours, only 9 days "overdue," I don't think that if I had had a midwife or been in a hospital the birth would have gone too differently.

If/when we have another baby I don't know if I'll UC again. I might. I might not. Depends on how I feel, how my body acts, how that baby grows and develops, and how the birth goes.

Unassisted birth is not everyone's choice, but I do feel it is a viable option for women who want it. I don't think it's fair to pain UC with a "BAD CHOICE" brush, nor should it be painted with the "BEST CHOICE" brush. It's a choice, and for some births, a good one.


  1. Lovely post. It is about choice! You are not telling anyone else it is right for them. You just know that it was right for you for your first birth and your second. As you stated it may be different of another birth. You are choosing based upon the circumstances and that is making an intelligent choice!

    Well done!

    Kerri (bio mom to 7 with 2 born at home & the rest natural, vaginal,no meds or epis. births AND grandma to a baby boy born in the same bed as his uncle!)

  2. Thank you for this! There are many options in birth, and no one option is "right" or "best" across the board for every woman or every birth! I had my daughter unassisted because it's simply what I needed to do, for many reasons - primarily instinct. After she was born, I realized that she came so fast that it would have been unassisted whether it was planned that way or not. Having planned it to be a UC, there was no stress, no rushing anywhere, no car birth, no midwife on the highway telling my husband on the phone to tell me not to push (which happened with my first). And like you, I don't know if I'll have the next child (if we have another) unassisted or if I'll have a midwife. We'll see!

  3. Agreed. I haven't had a UC yet, but I feel -incredibly- drawn to it. I think it has been in order to prepare my husband for one. I think, in some future pregnancy, it may be important (or necessary?) for me have have a UC, and the mental and emotional preparation is why I'm so drawn to it.

  4. Well thought out and lovely post. I tried to UC with my last (so far... he was #6), but I ended up needing to transfer. I didn't go into it blind, and I don't think most people do. I understood the risks, and I understood the rewards. For me, I was more afraid of the hospital where I ended up giving birth (which was actually great, considering all of the issues that ended up being involved, but I didn't know that beforehand), and it would've stalled or stopped my labor completely. I don't regret the hours I labored at home for a single moment. I wish it could've ended with a UC, but maybe next time. ;-) Either way, it's my body, my baby, and my choice.

  5. Great post!

    I've been thinking a lot lately about my youngest daughter's UC birth and whether or not I'd choose that again should I blessed with another child.

    I honestly don't know. It was the most energizing and spiritual birth I've experienced yet and I know wholeheartedly it was the right choice for her and for me.

    I don't know if another baby would need that choice or if it would be the right choice.

    I was never drawn to UC when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and didn't even know it was an option way back in 1991 when my son was cut out of my body (yes, I'm still bitter).

    It was a compelling "choice" with my youngest daughter, though. I honestly felt like her birth HAD to be UC. We had access to midwives and I could have had a hospital VBAC that time (love the flip-flopping re hospital policies), but only a UC seemed to fit.

    Anyway...thank you for explaining your thoughts and feelings. And thank you for being unapologetic!

  6. I definitely felt drawn to a UC with my first, drawn to a midwife with my next, and didn't feel super strongly any way with my third. I hired a midwife again, the same one, but had a surprise UC in the end. Who knows what I'll do with my next baby--it really depends on what I feel is right in that particular situation.

  7. I don't like the sort of philosophy which seems to imply that UC is only for the privileged few... those of us good enough, or lucky enough, or civilized enough. UC is something achievable by most women. Most women are healthy and would have their healthiest births without intervention. And those of us not living in a third world country aren't just super healthy and magical and special to have access to wonderful things as if it were a prerequisite to having a UC. In fact, those people who don't have great medical care or access to clean water may still be better off giving birth alone, since the alternative for them means trekking to some far off hospital only to share a dirty room with dozens of women in horrible conditions tended by limited student foreign volunteers that ultimately all creates traumatizing circumstances. Just my two cents... :) I don't like the thought, even if not intended per se, that UC is an exclusive club, because it's not-- and it should be made normal and accessible to everyone in terms of information, encouragement, and security.

  8. Eizabeth- I really didn't mean it like that, I promise. I don't think anyone should have to add, "but we were close to a hospital..." "but my husband is a trained EMT..." "but...." It shouldn't need defending, even though I totally do that in my post.

    What I do think, is that as far as it is feasibly possible, UC should be a choice made by the mother- not a choice she feels forced in because of her circumstances (lack of health insurance, inability to find a supportive midwife, long trek to a dirty hospital, etc), nor a choice that's denied her by an unsupportive spouse, family, friends, government etc. Of course in baby-too-fast or didn't-know-I-was-pregnant scenarios, the choice part can get lost, but that's part of life sometimes.

    When it's an active choice, the mother is more likely to have or find support, education, etc., all of which make a mother more at ease and more ready for a peaceful birth.

  9. Marissa2:06 PM

    I appreciated your post and that it would causing some in other walks of life to think. I admire you, that you felt like unattended childbirth was right for you and you had the fortitude to see it through. You are inspirational.

    I read the conversation on the board and I tried to leave the following comment, but sadly, the only accepted comments were those that worship at the altar of western medicine (or concede that it's OK to give birth at home as long as a trained professional is at least present.)

    Dear Learned:
    Like most instances in life, there are times when one course of action may be the most appropriate and times when another may be. For some women, the spirit specifically guides them to utilize the most current medical means available, and that is the best and most appropriate avenue for their birth. For some, they can find no practitioners or care givers who will respect them, their beliefs or their requests. Some women are bullied into horrible medical interventions and some have had traumatic and terrible experiences in the past. All of those factors play into whether unassisted birth is an appropriate decision for a woman. For them the most appropriate action may be significantly different.

    The point, however, is not that a particular course is always right or always wrong. Almost nothing is ever always right or always wrong. The point is that she should have the option to choose whether it is right or wrong for her and her baby. For some women, an unassisted birth is by far the safest course of action, while for others it may be foolhardy.

    Where the spirit guides, we follow, whether it's choosing the proper care giver for an upcoming birth, or choosing no care giver at all. It's a decision that should be made between you and your spouse prayerfully and with lots of thought and consideration, as well as study and physical, emotional and spiritual preparation. No birth decision should be undertaken lightly, and for all of them, whether it is to trust a doctor's advice, to ignore it or to go elsewhere for your care, you, as the parent, carry the full responsibility. You cannot abdicate that, however much you may want to, if things go awry. Sadly, that can and does happen in any setting.

  10. I know what you mean about feeling "drawn" to UC. I wanted it so badly with Michael, which is part of the reason having an induced hospital birth was so traumatic for me. Next time I am pregnant I'm going to follow my intuition and pray a lot for guidance, and not let fear (or doctors and their fear-tactics) get in the way.

    I think there is responsible UC, and irresponsible UC. When a woman has all these options before her, she should be mindful about the decision she makes, and should be getting proper care whether she does it herself or gets it elsewhere. I think when people slam UC, it's because they don't trust women to follow their inner guidance.

  11. This is my first visit to your blog, although I've spent roughly the last hour reading your well-written and well-researched posts.

    I was just having a conversation with some of my girlfriends about UC the other evening. I was blessed to have two very normal, very healthy pregnancies... until my labor began. My daughter was born after 43 hours of labor, an epidural that did not work, and meconium in my amniotic fluid; she was also born with bilirubin levels in the low teens due to ABO incompatibility. We spent 9 days in NICU with her.

    With my son, who was born this past May, I crashed during transition; my blood pressure dropped to 40/20 and it took a team of 12 doctors to bring me back to "good" -- which they did, and then encouraged me to go on and deliver naturally. However, my son had the cord wrapped around his neck; they figured this out prior to his delivery thanks to the heartrate monitors on my belly and one very experienced OB.

    It is my true belief that had I not delivered in a clinical setting that both myself and my son could have died; at the very least, I think the medical knowledge and intervention regarding the location of the cord prevented my son from suffering trauma, such as CP.

    I'm sure that many women who choose UC go on to have wonderful experiences, especially if they exercise the necessary caution. But my experiences proved to me that, despite a healthy, normal pregnancy, you can never predict what will happen during labor and delivery; and when the unexpected happens and life-changing decisions must be made in an instant, I would always choose to be in a hospital or birthing center under the guidance of trained professionals than waiting for an ambulance to arrive at my home.


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