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A family matter

Birthing at home makes a comeback

By BY JEANNI BROSIUS Staff Writer

This article was published April 15, 2010 at 4:13 a.m.

— Midwife Tressia VonDran sat on the front porch doing a crossword puzzle. She had just checked her patient, but she wasn’t quite ready to deliver her baby. Frustrated and ready to give birth, Ashley Pickering and her husband, Michael, went for a walk, hoping it would speed up her contractions. After only a few minutes, they turned and walked back toward their home.

Ashley’s labor had begun hours before, but the choice to have her children at home began from years of research and consideration. This is her fourth child, but only the second to be born at home.

The Pickerings, who live in Poughkeepsie, chose to have their children at home not because they believe hospitals are bad, but because they like the less-invasive labor and delivery and the intimacy they share by Michael being involved with the births.

“Birth is a natural part of life and not a medical emergency,” Ashley said. “We try to study everything we can and make the best decisionfor our family.” Eighteen minutes after that walk began, Abigail Faith was born as Ashley squatted by her bed as she listened to her husband’s calming voice and felt his encouraging touch.

JohnMichael, 4; SaraBeth, 3; and Gabriel, 1, love their now 2-week-old sister. With four children, the Pickerings have had to build their home and choose their vehicles with a large family in mind. And Ashley, as she nurses Abigail, isn’t afraid to think about having a fifth child.

When asked how many children the couple want, Ashley said, “However many God decides - it’s not up to us.” Members of the family are involved in caring for each other. SaraBeth helps with her new sister, and JohnMichael helps his dad at work, as much as a 4-year-old can. The bond between Michael and Ashley keeps them moving in the same direction with devotion to their family.

Ashley said she hopes she can have future children at home, but she also knows that there may come a time when that becomes too risky.

One of the keys to a successful home birth is taking care of oneself during pregnancy. Diet, exercise and being aware of any health conditions are important. If the pregnancy is medium- to high-risk, it is best to have the child in the hospital just in case something goes wrong, Von-Dran said.

VonDran has been a midwife for seven years but has been studying midwifery for 13. She also has a nursing degree. Although her practice is in Jonesboro, she delivers babies all over Arkansas.

When the midwife and her assistant arrive at the parents’ home, she examines the mother and checks the baby’s heartbeat. Then she leaves the family alone as much as possible, offering advice and help when needed.

“Home birth isn’t for everyone, but it is an alternative and a wonderful experience for those who do it,” VonDran said. “Many women are like kitty cats; they don’t labor well with an audience.”

Other advantages to home birth include a lot more freedom and less chance of infection, VonDran said.

“You also have an immunity built up to the germs in your house,” she said.

The Pickerings aren’t opposed to going to the doctor.

“We take all of our kids to the doctor after they’re born, and they get their checkups regularly,” said Michael Pickering, who owns a land surveying business.

His advice to anyone considering home birth: “Do your homework. Read, study and look at the options. The biggest thing we did was to be informed.”

The couple also took breast-feeding, Lamaze, Bradley method and baby CPR classes.

If a family decides on home birthing, it is recommended that they have an initial exam by and establish a relationship with an OB/GYN to make sure there are no health issues or potential risks. Also, in the event of an emergency during which the mother has to be taken to the hospital, the doctor will be somewhat familiar with her history.

- jbrosius@ arkansasonline.com

Three Rivers, Pages 55 on 04/15/2010

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