Saturday, June 30, 2012

Money, Choices and Consquences

For the past few weeks, DragonPapa and I have been stressing over money.

I mean everyone stresses to some point. We all do. But with our ill health recently and the knock-on effect of less money meant that we were really stressing!! 

Now I like to do our budget in advance - and by advance, I mean that I have done our budget right up to Feb 2013. So I know exactly what is what when it comes to money in this household. 

And, as many readers here know, I am currently incubating a little dragon egg. Our hatchling is due later this year. Now for us, it was a simple choice - we were home birthing.

For those that really do not understand this topic, and for many people it simply isn't something that you come across in their everyday lives, here's what Home Birthing means. 

It means that instead of going to hospital to birth a baby, the woman chooses to remain at home and birth there.

It really is that simple! :)

Now sometimes, the woman chooses to have trained and experienced labour & birth attendants. These can be hospital supported midwives, independent midwives or experienced birth attendants.

Other times, the woman may choose to have no one but herself and maybe her partner and/or a support person - this is sometimes referred to as a free birth.

For each individual person, they make their own choices and therefore accept their own consequences.

It is no more or less than the woman that chooses to birth at hospital - either vaginally or opts for a caesarean section. 

Each choice has its own set of rules, risks, choices and consequences.

I seem to be saying consequences a lot, don't I? There is a reason for that, which I will go into in just a minute.

At no point is anybody less than anybody else for the choices they make. Do I look down on the woman that chooses to use a hospital to birth her child? No. Do I think less of the woman that chooses to have an elective caesarean or a homebirth? Definitely not. We all do what we need to do to get through safely and hopefully with our lives and the lives of our children intact and healthy.

So, here was our dilemma.

We knew that a hospital birth just wasn't right for me. And what wasn't right for me, wasn't right for my babe. That just goes without saying. The other option was home birthing.

We have home birthed before and loved it. It was exactly what I needed.

But, it also costs money - a lot of it. Especially if you want to have support people with you. Friends can hang out and be supportive, but sometimes, you need or want to have an experienced birth person with you. If you aren't lucky enough to be best friends with one, it means that you have to pay.

Unlike hospitals in Australia, where you can have the birth you want or need paid for by our government, if you want to birth at home, majority of the time, you have to pay for it yourself. Often this also means paying for any antenatal care you want or need, like Ultrasounds, bloodtests, etc. as well. Expensive business giving birth outside the hospital system.

But, when you feel that it is the best thing for you and your baby, you pay.

Our dilemma was - we didn't know how we were going to afford to pay for our home birth. I need to have a support person other than DragonPapa, and I really want to have an experienced support person as well.

Why? Why did I feel the need to pay a LOT of money for this? Why don't I save the money for other things that desperately need it? This was something we had to work out - was it worth saving the money and using the public system? Was it?

I have a specific set of needs - I have face blindness, anxiety, panic attacks, permanently injured back, sensory issues, mild OCD, depression/PTSD, amongst a host of other things. So for me, birth isn't just about going to hospital, pushing out a baby, resting up and coming home with a lovely new squishy and playing happy families. When in labour, everything is heightened. Anyone can guess that it is a time of stress and pain - even if you have never birthed yourself. And as stress makes nearly all my issues extremely heightened - I think you can see where I am going.

Imagine this - you have just a few of my issues - lets pick the first few shall we?


You are fronting up at hospital. You are in the very first stages of labour - nothing stressy yet, a few twinges, maybe your waters have broken, maybe they haven't. They wheel you up to the labour ward. Now, you have probably been here once or twice in your antenatal classes for a visit. They pop you in a room with a folder of paperwork and a midwife comes in.

For this example, we'll go with the 'nicer' version.

This is maybe the first time you have met her. Not that it matters, you won't recognise her anyway unless she was a good friend. She smiles and asks a bunch of questions. You are a little nervous but doing okay. She seems friendly. She checks you over - most likely you have to submit to a vaginal exam and you are set up in your room. Hopefully your midwife stays with you.

It's a few hours and either they break your waters/stretch you or your labour kicks up a notch. Now you are feeling a little anxious - only in this case, you already have anxiety so it’s a little more than usual. It's been a while and your midwife needs to go check someone else/have a break/etc. Someone new comes in to watch over you (as I said, let’s go with the friendlier version- here there is always someone with you) You don't know this person, your anxiety is already a little higher than 'normal' for a birthing woman, combined with the fact that your face blindness is really messed up now, this makes your anxiety a little higher again. AND you're in labour as well. There is also nothing to do, nothing to take your mind off your building anxiety, so you sit, or wander the room aimlessly, always at the back of your mind, your anxiety is slowly building.

Another person comes in - you know it's a hospital worker as they are wearing a uniform, so you hopefully assume it’s your/A midwife and not a cleaner or janitor or whatever. The uniformed person who was with you chats with the new person and then leaves.

Let’s say that this happens a few times - for some labours, like my first, they leave for handover, go home because their shift ended and another person comes in and you have yet another new unknown face with you. For some labours, this can happen more than once. Or not at all - it is just the same person coming in and out - you have no idea! Add into all this the fact that medical professionals in labour wards seem to like checking you by sticking a hand up your vagina.......

Okay - let's recap - labour + anxiety + stress + lack of privacy + not recognising ANYONE other than your partner = a painful, stranger-filled, massively uncomfortable, incredibly scary situation.

And this is a 'normal' uneventful birth!!

Now add in all the other issues that I personally have and you can see that it isn't as simple as it seems for most women.

Let’s skip all the rest, as I'm sure that you can understand it is more of the same really.

Now, let’s go to a homebirth. - I use the experiences of my own home birth, as...well, that my experiences LOL - so this will be based on a supported home birth.

You go into labour at home. You call your midwife/partner/support people and let them know. You are at home, in familiar surroundings and smells. You potter along, doing your own thing. Your support people show up and as you are expecting them, you know who is who. You have spent the last 9 months, sometimes more, getting to know these people, and them getting to know you. Everyone is on the same page - all issues are known and shared. Your support person understands what you want from this, what you can cope with and what the 'rules' are. You are in charge.

Labour ramps up, your anxiety kicks in. But your support people are there and you can get reassurances. Your various issues may be kicking in as well, but as you have forged a relationship, your people know how to deal with this. You may not recognise those around you, but you 'know' that there is no one here that you don't already know, so you try to relax. There are no vaginal exams, no touching, therefore your sensory issues aren't as bad. You're able to relax a bit and trust in what is going on. You can 'be yourself' and not get worried that people will react badly..... you feel safe. Your issues flare up, you feel lost, but you 'know' that if it was serious, your people know what to do and how to help you - with both the birthing stuff AND the more personal issues.

Then once it is all over - instead of being moved to yet another room and more strange faces and more newness, you are at home, in your own space. You are surrounded by people you know, who know you. Your routines are YOUR routines, not the hospitals. Your support people remain your support people for the days, weeks, months and in my case, years. There are no changing shifts, no strange noises, no new faces you have to try to remember, just 'your life'. With added newness :D

It all comes down to where you feel safest. And in all honesty, that is actually a very important thing. All mammals, no matter what species, require the feeling of safety to birth with the best outcomes. Humans as well. It has been shown in studies that when women feel scared and unsafe, labour slows and in many cases stops altogether. A simple survival mechanism designed by evolution/God to help the woman by giving her time to get somewhere safe to birth.

I have spoken to many women about this. Some women have told me that they were terrified to give birth outside of the hospital and as soon as they were in their rooms, with their attendants, they birthed immediately! (Often this conversation has followed the "I would have given birth in the car if I had waited at home, you are SO brave to home birth!" lol) To me, it says that they feel safest in a hospital setting, therefore their bodies waited as long as it could until it felt 'safe'.

So, in the end, after all this talking with DragonPapa, with friends and with birthworkers, we came to the realisation that for me, I am 'safest' birthing at home. In order for me to feel safest birthing at home, I need my handpicked support people - so therefore, we will have to make the money work.

It is not a case of hippy dreams or earthy wants - for me, it is as simple as being able to get through it and out the other side in a way that means I can continue being the fabulous parent and person I know I am! :D

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