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Home births catching on in Utah County

By Braley Dodson daily Herald - | Jul 25, 2016
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Rebekah Adams, an intern midwife, holds Elijah Lund, a newborn baby, as his older sister Emma looks on and his mother Shannon, background, looks on during an exam Thursday, July 22, 2016, in Orem. Shannon Lund decided to have a home birth for Elijah's birth. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Rebekah Adams, an intern midwife, tests newborn Elijah Lund during an exam Thursday, July 22, 2016, in Orem. Elijah's mother, Shannon, decided to deliver him in a home birth. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Rebekah Adams, an intern midwife, tests newborn Elijah Lund during an exam Thursday, July 22, 2016, in Orem. Elijah's mother, Shannon, decided to deliver him in a home birth. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Heather Shelley, left, holds newborn Elijah Lund as his father and brother, Garrett and Everitt look on during an exam Thursday, July 22, 2016, in Orem. Elijah's mother, Shannon, decided to deliver him in a home birth. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Shannon Lund holds her newborn son Elijah while medical professionals pass blood tests back and forth during an exam for Elijah Thursday, July 22, 2016, in Orem. Shannon Lund decided to deliver Elijah in a home birth. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Newborn Elijah Lund is pictured during an exam Thursday, July 22, 2016, in Orem. Elijah's mother, Shannon, decided to deliver him in a home birth. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

Elijah Lund entered this world at 1:36 a.m. Wednesday morning inside his family’s Orem home, as planned, but a little unexpected.

Born 10 minutes before the midwife arrived, things still went according to plan, with his father catching him and cutting his cord. The same morning, Shannon Lund’s two young children, still in their pajamas, trekked up to her bed to meet their new brother.

“The reason that we love home births is because it is a much more intimate experience for me and my husband,” Shannon Lund said. “He’s my coach, he’s with me there all the time, coaching me through it.”

Two of the three children were born at home, the second in the hospital because Lund had kidney stones. After coming from a family where four of the eight children were born at home, it wasn’t an odd selection for her.

“How my mom and dad would talk about the differences in the birth just made me want that type of experience, so when it was my time my husband and I talked about it,” Lund said. “He was a little not so sure about it at first, but became more comfortable with it and now that we’ve done it, he is a huge home birth advocate.”

In Utah, more and more women have been choosing to deliver their babies at home. In Utah County, home births made up 1.987 percent of births in 2013, 2.208 percent of births in 2014 and 2.200 percent of births, at 262 babies, in 2015, according to the Utah County Health Department’s 2015 annual report. In 2012, about 2 percent of babies in the state were born at home.

Local midwives have said they have seen the trend increasing firsthand.

“I feel very strongly that the best place for a first-time mom is at home, because their labors are longer and they haven’t gone through it before,” said Dianne Bjarnson, a licensed, certified professional midwife in Pleasant Grove who owns Call the Midwives. “They get more support and more help.”

Bjarnson has delivered more than 1,400 babies, some to women she delivered when they were babies, teaches prospective midwives and founded the Midwives College of Utah, formerly the Utah School of Midwifery.

She started looking into home births after studying family history.

“The women didn’t have any trouble with bearing children,” Bjarnson said. “I thought if they could do it, I could do it, too.”

In Utah, licensure for midwives is optional and the majority of babies born at home are being delivered by unlicensed midwives.

“You could wake up tomorrow and call yourself a midwife and it would be perfectly legal,” said Heather Shelley, a licensed, certified professional midwife and owner of Birthing Your Way, which does both home births and births at its Provo and Lehi locations.

From 2010 to 2012, of the 2,585 planned home births in Utah, 167 were performed by certified nurse midwives, 647 were done by licensed direct entry midwives and 1,648 were done by unlicensed midwives, according to a review of planned out-of-hospital births from 2010 to 2012 written by the Utah Department of Health.

Some midwives don’t get licensed because they don’t want to follow the restrictions, like not being able to deliver multiples, or they don’t want to have to pay to retake a test.

For mothers looking into delivering a baby at home, Shelley, who was Lund’s midwife, suggests looking at the credential of a midwife and looking at how many babies the midwife as delivered as opposed to years of experience.

Shelley, like many mothers, turned to home births after negative experiences giving birth in a hospital.

“I was absolutely traumatized, I had PTSD from that birth,” Shelley said.

While expecting her second child, she cried at every single prenatal appointment and thought there had to be a better way to have children.

“I said, ‘God did not command us to have children and have it be this way,'” Shelley said.

Her third baby was born in water and her fourth child was born at home.

Mothers who chose home births, she said, also want more control over their birthing experience. At prenatal appointments, expectant mothers weigh themselves, take their own urine and learn what a normal blood pressure for them is. They’re encouraged to make choices about their care along the way, opting in for what they want, or don’t.

When going to a birth, Shelley brings her own medical items, like oxygen and medications.

But it’s hard to fight the stigma that midwives are uneducated and home births are extremely dangerous. Most bad things the midwives can see coming and can transport mothers to the hospital if needed, but most insurances won’t pay for home births.

“It is better than it was 10 years ago, but it is still light years from where it should be,” Shelley said. “And a lot of that is, well, the vast majority of it is a lack of understanding.”

Lund’s received various reactions from people when they’ve learned about her home births.

“Some people think, oh, well, you’re brave,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me I’m endangering me and my child, and some people are just like, oh, well, that’s fine that you want to do that.”

Others are curious, and only a few have been very negative about it, she said.

“Birth is something that is natural, something society has almost painted as an illness these days,” Lund said. “It’s something that is natural and beautiful.”

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