Taking Control – Homebirth: A Safe Alternative, Review Appeal Article Written 1999

Taking Control – Homebirth: A safe alternative.  1999

“I don’t know why people would have a baby any other way,” was the response from Brett, my brother and best friend, after he witnessed and helped with the birth of my wife Suzanne’s and my second daughter, Aeyah Glenn Fisher-Miller. The birth took place at home with a midwife as we plan and was one of the most, if not the most, incredible experiences of my life.

We were often looked at like we were crazy. “You’re not having your baby in the hospital?! Is that’s safe? What if something goes wrong?”

We would answer, “We’ve done a lot of research into it and it is actually safer. Infant mortality rates for home births are lower than those for hospital birth.” Research also showed that for all countries, with an infant mortality rate lower than that of the United States, midwives were the primary birth attendants. The cesarean rate in Tennessee, is 23.4%, while the World Health Organization says, “there is no justification for c-section rights over 15%.” In a study from The Farm in Summertown, were more than 1700 babies were born in the 1970s and 80’s. All of which were attended by midwives, the c-section rate was less than 2%. Forceps extraction in hospitals, was one in two, while it was less than one and 200 on the farm, and their neonatal mortality rate, which included high-risk births, which most midwives do not handle, was significantly lower than the hospital average. Research also pointed out that all of the 41 American presidents, only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were not born at home. We knew we wanted a midwife for this birth.

And we knew we wanted to have this baby at home without doctors, nurses, and mother-as-a-patient hospital attitude when birth should be a natural, normal life occurrence and the woman should feel safe and nurtured.

Obstetricians are trained in surgery and midwives on the other hand, are trained to understand and to help women deal with their emotional needs. I have been part of both scenarios.

My daughter, Miyana Nadine Fisher-Miller, was born in the hospital in our experience left much to be desired. The doctor insisted that she had epidural, because all of my patients do, while Suzanne wanted to have Miyana naturally (which she did) without the risks associated with epidurals. While laboring in the hospital for eight hours, she was only allowed to have ice chips — Even though she was very hungry — because it could cause problems if she needed c-section. And after being paged and called at home well before and into the final stages of labor, the doctor did not make it to the hospital in time to deliver Miyana — She was more than an hour late and sited traffic at 2 a.m. as the reason — and then had her name put on the birth certificate (which we had changed).

After Miyana was born, the nurses took her almost immediately for tests and to clean her up, so Suzanne and I did not have the chance to bond immediately. We knew that there had to be a better way, when Suzanne got pregnant the second time, so we proceeded to investigate our options. We made the right choice. After meeting with a certified nurse midwife in Nashville, Suzanne thought she was too clinical and had nearly the same mindset as a doctor, that it was her job to deliver a baby, not help Suzanne. By chance, I had found out about a certified professional midwife, who happened to live in Franklin. Mary Anne Richardson, owns and operates Tender Beginnings Birth Services out of her home in Franklin, with her assistant Lynn Stefanick.

From the first time, Suzanne talked to Mary Anne, things were different. When Suzanne mentions something about Mary Anne’s delivering the baby, Mary Anne responded, “Mommies deliver babies, I just catch them.” She placed the emphasis on the mother. Then less than a week later, she was in our home answering any questions, we had an explaining how she works, and after she gave each of us a hug. We knew we had made a good choice.

Prenatal exams took place in a portion of her garage, that was turned into an extra bedroom— it was much different than the cold doctor’s office atmosphere with a paper gowns and antiseptic smell, and it was comfortable. Mary Anne never did any unnecessary examinations — no internal exams of any kind that would interfere with Suzanne’s feeling of comfort, though she would have done the exams, had they been necessary. Suzanne didn’t worry about going past her due date, because Mary Anne does not use drugs to induce labor. The use of the drug pitocin, to induce labor is common practice in hospitals, so common that I have heard first hand of doctors using it so they do not miss their vacation. If a baby is a few days late, Mary Anne generally assumes that the baby is not ready to come out yet and does not rush, the natural processes, which puts Suzanne at ease after her previous experience. Induction was threatened during pregnancy with Miyana, and trying to avoid drug induction, she took castor oil (an old time tricked to induce labor), which made her terribly ill — though it seemed to work. Labor and delivery at home, could not have been any better. Mary Anne showed me techniques to help Suzanne relax, when she became tense, and they helped a tremendously.

Unlike the hospital, the focus was on making her feel comfortable. She could move around freely rather than lying on a bed with her feet in stirrups and was encouraged to eat to keep her strength up for labor, which made a huge difference in how laboring went. After only two hours of hard labor, two pushes and help of our friend Vicki Lewis, and Mary Anne, Brett and Lynn, Aeyah was born, and her sister watched it happen in the bed we sleep in every night. Immediately after Aeyah was born, she wasn’t taken away. Lynn, who had now caught her first baby, handed her to Suzanne to breast-feed. We controlled the birth from beginning to end, and it was an empowering experience. Suzanne and I feel very strong about midwifery and have done our best to support a bill that passed in this state Senate, but has not yet made it through the House. House Bill 2502, which is sponsored by the Tennessee Midwives Association, would regulate direct entry midwives. Currently in Tennessee anybody can call themselves a midwife and , according to Mary Anne , who is vice president of the Tennessee Midwives Association “There are some out there who are not practicing safely.” She says that, “It (the bill) will establish a protocol to follow and make it safer for consumers.” The bill would also make possible a counsel for grievances. More information is available from TMA at (931) 964-2589 or on its web site at