Once my pregnancy was confirmed, I was suddenly struck with the thought of "what do I do now?" I knew nearly nothing about babies and childbirth, never having spent any time around them and figuring I'd never have one of my own. I could write an encyclopedia with what I know about natural health and healing, but when it came to pregnancy I was basically clueless.
Google became my best friend, and I started looking at pregnancy sites that gave me all sorts of information about what was happening this week in the baby's development and the changes that were happening in my body. It was fascinating stuff, kind of like my own living biology lab.
I got recommendations for good books to read, and found them to be very helpful. One was Henci Goer's "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth " which was very informative about the various options available, including both the conventional medical system and natural birth with a midwife.
Another was "The Panic-Free Pregnancy " by Michael S. Broder, M.D., which helped to dispel a lot of the myths around what is safe and what isn't while pregnant. For instance, sushi and the occasional glass of wine are nothing to worry about, which I was happy to learn. I wasn't sure how I could manage to get through a whole nine months without my regular sushi fix! And while getting trashed on a pitcher of Margaritas is frowned upon, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it's fine if you restrict alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day.
My personal favorite book, however, was "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth " by Ina May Gaskin. It's filled with positive birth stories of women's experiences with natural childbirth, something I wanted to believe was possible. Home birth just sounded so much more pleasant than the cold clinical nature of birth in a hospital with all sorts of medical interventions which are not usually necessary.
The first thing I needed to find out was if my health insurance company paid for pregnancy-related doctor visits, and luckily they did, despite my policy only being three months old. Health care coverage in Spain is a great deal better and cheaper than what I was used to in the U.S. With the extremely low birth rate they want to encourage as many couples to have children as possible.
However, when I began to look into where I would actually give birth, my options were extremely limited if I wanted to have anything like an intervention-free experience. One thing I did know was that it was much more sensible to give birth in an upright position, so gravity would work in my favor. It's absurd that in modern hospitals they still require a woman to be flat on her back, essentially giving birth "uphill".
Don't get me wrong, hospitals and obstetricians are wonderful to have access to when needed, which they sometimes are, but as long as a woman is healthy and the pregnancy has progressed normally, there's no reason why she needs to be in a hospital in order to give birth safely.
I got a copy of the film "The Business of Being Born " and was shocked and saddened how childbirth has been relegated to the status of a disease by modern medicine. Haven't women been successfully giving birth for thousands of years, with only the help of other women, or sometimes even alone? If this weren't the case our species would have died out long ago.
In Spain, upwards of 90% of women give birth flat on their back with legs in stirrups, and are routinely given an episiotomy. As I read somewhere, having an episiotomy is akin to taking a baseball bat and smashing your windows so the neighborhood kids won't break them with rocks. Statistics have shown that they do not reduce the rates of post-partum incontinence, and in fact sometimes make it worse. And for those women attempting to give birth without drugs, there is not much hope with a 98% episiotomy rate.
No hospitals in the Barcelona area allowed for a "natural" birth except for one, and it was not covered under my health insurance. So I figured I'd try to find a birthing center. The only one in Spain that I could locate was located three hours from where I lived, and I could not see myself driving there in the middle of labor, passing people on the road while screaming in pain and hoping the baby would not choose to make its entrance somewhere on the A-7 autoroute.
I was relieved when I found Marenostrum in Barcelona, a natural family health center whose midwives were available for home deliveries (sounds kind of like a good pizza place!). Though we would have to pay out of pocket for their services, it was reasonably within our budget and was worth it for being able to have the natural birth experience I was looking for. They would come out to our home with a birthing pool and stay with me throughout the labor and birth, then clean everything up and leave us to enjoy our baby. What better way for our child to begin its way in the world?