HHS Committee Hearing of LB 428- Testimony of Jessica Freeman
March 1, 2013
To the members of the Health and Human Services Committee:
Good afternoon. My name is Jessica Freeman and I have been living in Lincoln for the last 6 ½ years.
I would like to testify on two points today related to LB 428:
- Women who want a homebirth will have a homebirth.
- To have safer homebirths, women should be supported in their search to find a legal attendant for their homebirth.
I have born three beautiful children. My first was a fairly typical hospital birth with an OB/GYN in Syracuse, New York. When it came time for my second, I had started reading everything I could get my hands on about birth, midwives, and home birth and I was determined to have a home birth. I found two lovely midwives who came and supported me throughout my labor at home. My first home birth was a truly empowering experience and ended with a very healthy and intact family. Shortly afterwards, we moved here to Nebraska where I quickly learned that midwives were either barred completely or severely discouraged from attending home births. Within a few months of arriving in Nebraska, I was already dragging my three year old daughter and infant son to the Capitol to pass out information and M&M’s requesting the senators to change the laws regarding midwives in Nebraska.
Six years later, I am still pounding the pavement at the Capitol. My children are older and have been joined by a brother who was born at home in our bathtub. I’m not someone who is comfortable being by herself during birth so I managed to find an experienced person to come and support me during my third labor and all ended successfully again. I’ve attended the hearings for the last two times this bill has been introduced. Every time the Health and Human Services Committee listens to this bill, they question how safe home birth is. My question for them is: how safe is it to continue to deny families access to trained professional attendants when they choose to birth at home?
Home births will never be a large percentage of births in Nebraska. However, each year, the statistics report an average of 100 out-of-hospital births occurring here in Nebraska. This year we know that at least 58 of those births were planned to be at home. That is 58 families who are birthing alone without assistance, importing a midwife from somewhere else who may or may not be arrested before they are able to give birth, or otherwise taking a risk with a birth attendant who may not be qualified to help them. I have a friend who has been attending people’s births lately. She feels that if she does not attend these births, these women will be alone if something goes wrong and she would rather be there to help them. I would rather that she didn’t have to help them because they would have a legal option.
Doctors may be able to legally attend home births in Nebraska, but, for whatever reason, they don’t. They probably don’t have time to wait patiently at home with a woman while she labors. They are not exposed to natural un-medicated birth and wouldn’t know how to assist at a home birth. That’s the great thing about Certified Nurse-Midwives: they are trained to deal with normal birth in normal environments including the hospital and at home. They are trained to recognize emergencies and forward those emergencies to the appropriate experts for further help. They are trained to handle any minor incidents that could result in emergencies in the wrong hands. (For instance, cervical lips, placenta delivery, or helping the baby get a good start breathing and/or breastfeeding.) Best of all, they have protocols to follow to help birth be safer at home or in the hospital. Most emergencies that happen at home are not like the emergencies that happen in the hospital. Emergencies in the hospital often involve pitocin and epidurals causing fetal hearts to crash and if the baby isn’t surgically removed quickly, the baby will die. Home births are very different. Emergencies that happen at home are much more likely to develop slowly with lots of warning signs and there is usually plenty of time to transfer a mother to a nearby hospital if things are not going well. That can only happen when the mother is being supervised by a trained and qualified professional who knows how to help her.
Birthing at home is not a decision taken lightly by most families. With both of my home births, the first topic discussed with the midwives was the plan of action if something were to go wrong and the realization that once in a while things can go very wrong. This is a discussion I did not have with my hospital birth because at the hospital they promise that everything will be fine if you follow the dictates of the doctors and hospital staff. Ironically, the doctors then take full control of the birth in the hospital and often cause riskier births through their many interventions and protocols. It makes me really sad to hear about the frightening “close calls” that happen in hospital births every day. I also worry about the mothers who choose to avoid the hospital and are then forced to birth by themselves or with unqualified attendants. Personally, I will choose to have any future babies at home because once you’ve educated yourself about your options, you generally don’t change your mind just because one of them is harder to achieve. Please help myself and all the women in Nebraska who choose a homebirth to have a safer homebirth by passing LB 428 out of committee and allowing us to have Certified Nurse-Midwives legally able to attend us at home.