May 18, 2011 at 12:51 PM ET
By Christy Turlington Burns
It’s tough to make a film about access to emergency obstetric care without rubbing against the home birth community just a little bit. When I speak about my experience of becoming a mom for the first time and wanting a home birth, it’s important to know why. I was afraid of hospitals for a number of reasons. The first being that my dad died in a hospital fourteen years ago and then a month later, I was invited by my sister to attend her second child's birth. After her baby was born, I witnessed my niece being swept away from her mother for no apparent reason. My sister's first birth had been induced and on this occasion, despite there hardly being any time for drugs, she was "hell bent" on having them.
By the time I became pregnant, I had so many options from which to choose. I had witnessed each of my sister’s pregnancies and recoveries, as well as many friends'. I took good mental notes and tucked them away until it was my turn. Natural childbirth (sans pain relief of any kind) was certainly not the norm in my various circles, but there were just enough women whom I respected who were very convincing of how empowering it could be.
My husband got on board almost immediately, despite the usual questions and concerns from some family members. I was given some great advice from a natural childbirth educator who said we should tell those family members that if they were willing to read “this stack of books, we would welcome a conversation, but until then....”
When my husband expressed his preference for a birthing center within a hospital, I had no objections. This seemed to me a reasonable request and it just so happened that we both loved the midwifery practice affiliated with a nearby hospital. One of the best early investments we made was hiring a doula. She introduced us to the natural birthing community in New York and helped educate us about the various options so that we could make informed decisions.
In retrospect, would I have died had I delivered at home, given the postpartum hemorrhage that I suffered after delivering my daughter? Probably not, as I live about fifteen minutes from my hospital. In my mind, the worst-case scenario was that something would happen to my baby requiring emergency transport and we’d then be separated -- the exact fear that I witnessed during one of my sister’s births. I knew how vital it was to be as close as possible in the first hours following childbirth.
After making the documentary film, “No Woman, No Cry,” and with so many people knowing that I experienced a complication post- delivery, I’m often asked, “Aren’t you happy that you were in a hospital?” Yes, I was happy to have chosen to give birth where I did (and did so again when I had my second child). But I'm quick to say that I was lucky such a "middle way" was available to us here in New York City. I delivered in what I would say is an ideal setting, a birthing center within a hospital. The bad news is, there are not enough of them.
Christy Turlington Burns is the founder of Every Mother Counts, and producer/director of “No Woman, No Cry,” which premiered this month on the OWN network. The CD inspired by the documentary, with music from artists (and moms) including J.Lo, Madonna and Ani DiFranco, is available at Starbucks. Follow Christy on Twitter @cturlington and Facebook.