So here we were, dealing with the news that continual fetal monitoring was now the standard policy in the maternity unit at the one hospital in the Boston area that I thought would be truly supportive of a VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean. Why, some may ask, is continual fetal monitoring a bad thing? Afterall, all the machine is doing is making sure the baby is not in distress. Well, having asked the question of so many experts during the course of writing my book, I knew all too well that the machines are often mistaken, indicating the baby is in distress when it is not, leading to many unnecessary c-sections; that hospitals use the machines to protect themselves from malpractice; and that cerebral palsey cases have not declined since the machines became popularized in the 1970s, perhaps because, as it is now believed, fetal oxygen deprivation can frequently happen before labor even begins. Meanwhile, much research has shown that intermittent monitoring is effective and has the bonus of allowing the mother to move into a comfortable position during labor, as well as facilitating the baby to ease into the birth canal.
My husband and I knew we could sign a release rejecting the continual EFM but because of my previous experience giving birth, at a major teaching hospital here, we also knew that when you walk into a maternity unit saying all the things you DON'T want, the staff sort of lines up against you, viewing you as trouble. And who needs that during labor?
This time, I wanted nothing but support, encouragement...heck just NICE people around me. Was that too much to ask?
After digesting the situation for a couple weeks, my husband and I both intiutively knew that going to that hospital would not work.
Not long before we made this decision, we had gone to New York, to the Tribeca Film Festival, for the screening of the "The Business of Being Born," Ricki Lake's documentary about birth at home vs. the hospital.
I was interviewed at length for the film, and we were excited to see it. We were truly captivated, my husband especially. Although he had read my book (so many times, the poor guy!)he was really moved by the evidence in the film that home birth can be a wonderful, safe experience. He also finally understood in his gut some of the problems hospitals can actually trigger during labor. Of course, I knew all this already, but the film had driven it home for both of us and now the one hospital that we considered for a VBAC -- purely on the level of 'Oh, let's just check it out...' -- was off the table.
Also, several months before, I had written a magazine article about how women who wanted a VBAC were choosing home birth because they did not believe they could get a fair shake in the hospital. Those I interviewed were overwhelmingly happy with their choice to stay home.
All of these experiences pushed me to start interviewing home birth midwives, not for another article, but for my own needs.