Anita Evensen is the author of The Unassisted Baby; here is a link to her website:
Q: What inspired you to write The Unassisted Baby?
A: When I was planning my first unassisted birth, there was not a lot of how-to information available on the topic. I had to do a lot of research to give birth at home without a midwife. For example, I had to figure out how to tie off the umbilical cord, what the placenta should look like, and how to get a birth certificate afterwards. I wanted to make it easier for others going on the same journey. So I actually started writing the book during my pregnancy while I was still planning my first unassisted birth.
Q: What made you interested in unassisted birth in the first place?
A: It’s hard to pinpoint when I made the decision to give birth on my own. There were several things that led up to it.
My third pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. And as traumatic as that event was for me emotionally, my body handled it just fine. While I did have a conversation with a midwife over the phone, I was never examined or assisted during this time. Afterwards, I thought if my body can handle a miscarriage without assistance, why do I need help giving birth? My body seemed to have it all under control.
During my next pregnancy, I initially had midwifery care and was planning a homebirth with them. But the midwives weren’t as friendly as I would have liked them to be. They also didn’t communicate blood work results until I bothered them about it. And when I asked how I could prevent vaginal tears during birth, they had no answers for me. Instead, they assured me that they knew how to stitch the tears.
If I had really bonded with my midwives, I might never have considered leaving them. But it seemed like everything they knew how to do I could do as well. If something really went wrong, I would have to go to the hospital anyway.
And when I was already strongly leaning towards giving birth unassisted, I actually met a mother who had done the same. That was my final nudge.
Q: What are the advantages of unassisted birth?
A: While my husband didn’t seem to think there was a big difference between my unassisted birth and my birth with a midwife at a birth center, they were completely different experiences for me. Giving birth unassisted is an incredibly empowering experience.
The greatest advantage about giving birth unassisted is that you really get to tune into what your body needs you to do. Instead of looking to someone else for guidance (how to breathe, when to push), you get to be in charge.
To a certain extent, you can still have that with a midwife, but you have to find the right caregiver.
Another advantage is that giving birth with only your partner present is that you can bond with him. I barely noticed my husband during the midwife-assisted birth. The midwife took center stage, and he faded into the background. When I gave birth at home, he kept me distracted from the pain, and he was right there ready to help.
Q: What is the most misunderstood thing about it?
A: I think the biggest misconception people have about unassisted birth is that it’s risky. I can already hear medical professionals scream when they read this sentence.
Yes, things can go wrong in labor and childbirth, but in most cases they don’t. And when things go wrong, it’s often caused by the medical interventions. I know many women who ended up with C-sections because of inducing labor before the baby is ready, not letting women eat, given mothers an epidural etc.
Of course, before you can give birth unassisted, you have to realize that you’re taking on a big responsibility. You’re responsible for your birth at the hospital, too, but you can shift most of the burden onto others. Unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee a good outcome for you. Babies die in hospitals, too, but that doesn’t make the news very often.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it impact your ability to write?
A: That’s a good question. About the same time that I started to write the first edition of the book, I started working part-time as a freelance article writer. Having editors review my work really made me a better writer. The articles I write are often instructional, too. Sometimes I wish had more time to write my own books, but I really enjoy writing it for a living, too.
My other, more intensive job is raising and homeschooling my 4 children. Taking care of them obviously cuts into the amount of time I have available to write, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Q: What kind of formal training have you had?
A: I haven’t had any formal training as a writer. I have no background in medicine or midwifery, either. While I do hold a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, I haven’t worked in the field for many years.
But when it comes to unassisted childbirth, I have done my research. And I have some experience, too. So far I have given birth at home unassisted twice. And those were my favorite births.
Q: What have you done to promote your book?
A: I have created a website loaded with information about pregnancy and childbirth. I also have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, although I’m not very active on the latter. More recently, Holistic Parenting Magazine wrote a review of my book. I ended up putting excerpts of that review on the cover of the second edition of my book.
Q: I used Facebook groups to spread the word about my book initially, but I have since dropped out of all but one of them. I have contacted a few other sites about reviewing the book, but there hasn’t been a lot of interest.
A: For anyone looking for a book on unassisted childbirth, they’re bound to stumble over it on the web, especially on Amazon. Since it’s such a niche market, it’s really hard to reach the people who are interested in it. Traditional advertising wouldn’t work. But then again, I don’t really expect this book to become a national bestseller based on its topic.
Q: What are some of the dangers of unassisted birth?
A: There is always a chance for something to go wrong. I would say that there are at least two things every woman should be aware of during an unassisted birth: umbilical cord prolapse and hemorrhage. Both are rare, but when they happen, they can be fatal for baby and mother respectively.
The good thing is that giving birth naturally at home can prevent both umbilical cord prolapse and hemorrhage, since they are often caused by medical interventions in the first place. And if the mother-to-be knows the warning signs when it does happen, then she can get to the hospital quickly.
As scary as giving birth unassisted sounds to the majority of the population, many official studies agree with my opinion that homebirths are safer than hospital births. And less than 100 years ago, giving birth naturally at home was the norm in the United States. Many societies around the world still give birth without medical staff just as every other living species on Earth.
Q: What’s on your birthing cheat sheet?
A: That’s a good question. 🙂 But you don’t have to buy the book to find out. There is a printable copy of the birthing cheat sheet on my websites as well as a prenatal care and homebirth supplies checklist.
The birthing cheat sheet includes a quick early labor to-do list, what to check for after the birth, and a place to record baby’s measurements. It’s just a quick guide to remind mother and partner what needs to be done.
Q: What makes an instructional book easy to read?
A: I tried to write the book as a how-to guide. I went through every step of the labor and childbirth processes and explained to the reader what would happen next and what needed to be done. And while I tried to include every eventuality, I also aimed to keep it short and relevant.
The book doesn’t have to be read cover to cover. The great thing about this book is that it has an extensive table of contents. This makes it easy for women to find what they’re looking for. I even included a Father’s Guide for partners.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.