Two women, one book and a vision to change lives
By Christy Wolyniak
The idea of “Do-It-Yourself” has exploded into every avenue of life, be it growing vegetables, crocheting clothes or brewing beer in the bathtub. But the latest trend has to do with one of the most important and miraculous moments in life: having a baby.
Lately more and more women have been opting for natural birth, rejecting doctors, meds and hospitals in favor of midwives, family and the comforts of home.
It’s a phenomenon that Ballardite Jane Drichta and life-time Seattleite Jodilyn "Jody" Owen explore in their new book, The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering at Home. In addition to penning the book, the two have also been using their skills to help mothers in other countries have a safe birthing process.
Although some women may get wide-eyed at the idea of natural birth, four percent of women in the Seattle area are embracing the idea. And it's not just hippies doing it.
“The largest misconception about homebirth is who’s doing it. People have these images of hippie women with long dreadlocks and incense going, when really the greatest number doing it in this area are professional women around the age of 35 who are used to organizing their life and being in charge,” Drichta said.
According to the authors, the whole family can be a part of a natural birth, even children. A black and white picture in The Essential Homebirth Guide shows an older brother helping cut the umbilical cord with his dad, while others portray the beauty of teamwork in the comfort of one's own home.
"In a homebirth, there's no way you can’t involve the whole family. The whole definition of ‘home’ is the place where the whole family resides. Everybody is on the same team, working toward a common goal. The welcoming of another person into the home leads to the deepening of relationships," Drichta said.
Published in February, the guidebook was heavily researched and heart-based, according to Drichta. The Essential Homebirth Guide was written in question-and-answer format, acting as the “catch-all” for the many questions that have furrowed the eyebrows of inquisitive moms-to-be. Women across the nation have also submitted their own stories, which glue together various chapters in the book.
An excerpt below was submitted by Ashley:
“For hours, days, after the birth, I was high. I knew that I could and should birth my baby naturally, for myself, for my body, for my baby. There was no other option, the smiles, the warmth, the pride of that moment will live inside me forever.”
The authors have been close friends for nearly 10 years, attending over 1,000 births as midwives, doulas and birth educators.
“A lot of our job is counseling, helping people get through their last births. Birth works most of the time. Very rarely do we have to pop out our skills,” Drichta said.
Over the course of writing their book, Drichta spent time in Uganda helping with homebirths while Owen was assisting women in Vanuatu have safe homebirths. Drichta continues to use her skills in Uganda at Shanti Uganda Society -- a nonprofit birthing facility that also offers midwife training for women in the community.
While women in the U.S. may choose to become a midwife from an institution such as Bastyr University that offers Master’s programs in Midwifery, others may choose the old-fashioned route of apprenticeship.
Women in Uganda will undergo just a six-week obstetrics course before finishing nursing school and becoming a midwife. Drichta has a long-term goal to start a degree-granting institution in Uganda.
Unlike the hospitals in the United States, a Ugandan hospital is far from sterile. Holes in the roof allow rain to come in directly onto the patients, and women who have just given birth are lie on the floor.
Drichta described on her blog, essentialmidwifery.com, the hopeless state of the hospitals in the village of Kasana.
“Hospital is not a synonym for sterile. It’s where people go to die,” Drichta said of the Ugandan hospitals.
Women do not have birthing attendants when having their baby at home, which can often lead to complications and even death. Women will travel by whatever means available to deliver their baby at Shanti, be it walking from a nearby street or traveling 30 miles on the back of a motorcycle.
“It feels like you could make a difference there in Uganda. The people know that they need help, they’re not poverty bound and they want to break it. The women are interested in safe homebirth as there is a horrible maternal fatality rate. When you’re there it feels like you’re making an immediate difference and that’s really gratifying,” Drichta said.
Due to endemic diseases such as AIDS, the life expectancy of women in Uganda is 48. The biggest challenge is working through provider fear, says Drichta, mentioning 2011 CNN hero of the year and midwife, Robin Lim, who recently discovered she had HIV from giving mouth to mouth to a baby.
“There are no old people walking down the street,” said Drichta.
With only two birthing rooms and six post-partum beds, Shanti hosts 20 to 30 births every month and is in need of a larger facility. Regardless of its size, the nonprofit that started roughly four years ago continues serving and equipping the women of Kasana towards sustainable living and safe birthing practices.
“Shanti is literally a shining light, and it has changed the lives of a lot of women in area. There are a lot of fantastic women [doing here in Seattle, but my talents are better served in Uganda,” Drichta said.
Drichta will be returning to Uganda in October to catch babies at Shanti and sends an open invitation to anyone interested in joining her.
While the Essential Homebirth Guide counsels women in their birthing decisions and questions, Drictha and Owen are already working on their next two books written in the same question and answer format. The first will be about VBAC (Vaginal birth after cesarean) and the second will cover C-section recovery.
Follow Ballard News-Tribune on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ballardnewstrib
And Twitter at http://twitter.com/ballardnewstrib