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We first met Katherine and Todd through LocalHarvest.org as our closest Community Supported Agriculture provider. We quickly became interested in their story as small farmers trying to make a living growing food and selling it locally. Needless to say we started documenting work on their farm the week after we signed up for their CSA share. A month into taping, Katherine said “I hope this doesn’t affect the story, but I’m three months pregnant”. As you can see, it didn’t just affect the story, it helped us go deeper into it, focusing on the fact that they were planning a home birth.
Simply put, their labor and birth would be an assisted, at home process attended by Certified Professional Midwife Peggy Franklin and two assistants Aimee and Desiree, with no unnecessary interventions including pitocin, epidural, C-section, etc. CPMs and their assistants are highly trained to watch for danger signs before, during and after birth so they can swiftly assess if the mother and baby need to go to the hospital for any reason. Luckily, a large majority of healthy, low risk women giving birth naturally at home, with the assistance of midwives, have no reason to be transported to a hospital.
If you live in the United States, your choices for how, where and who can attend your birth, depending on your state of residence, may be very limited. Some states are still struggling to get certain Midwifery certifications to be legally recognized. See this state by state guide of legal status and resources on Citizens for Midwifery. Here is another chart on Midwives Alliance of North America. However, the American Medical Association claims that “…the safest setting for labor, delivery, and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex”. As you might imagine, not everyone agrees with that statement. Especially since the World Health Organization says a healthy Caesarean rate should be between 5-10% and no more than 15%. The average rate in The United States has, since the 1960’s, creeped from below 5% to currently 30%.
While birthing centers within hospital complexes are often champions for uninterrupted labor and vaginal birth, in many places, including our rural part of Virginia, there are no birthing centers available. So the choices are limited to hospital or home. The Direct Entry Midwife credentials (midwives allowed to attend births outside a hospital like CPMs) are legally recognized in Virginia so home is openly an option, but for several states in the US, they are not.
With the recent premiere of Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s documentary The Business of Being Born, home birth and the practice of midwifery have been gaining more attention and popularity. We highly recommend this film as well as Ina May Gaskin’s books Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth as good starting resources for learning about home birth. Also check out Child Birth Connection, International Cesarean Awareness Network and Pushed Birth Blog.
Big thanks to Katherine and Todd for letting us document and share their most intimate life moments. Also to Bekah Havens, Aimee Fairman and Kate Dimbleby and Rupert Howe for sharing their stories.