James Van Der Beek shares 'graphic' photo from wife's home birth

Elise Solé
James Van Der Beek shared a photo of his new daughter, who was born at home. (Photo: Getty Images)
James Van Der Beek shared a photo of his new daughter, who was born at home. (Photo: Getty Images)

James Van Der Beek has shared a “squeamish” photo after his wife’s home birth, along with a DIY checklist for expecting parents.

On Monday, the Pose actor posted a graphic photo of the aftermath of his fifth child’s birth with Kimberly, his wife of eight years. The baby girl named Gwendolyn, reported People, was born Friday at the couple’s home with the assistance of a doctor and a midwife and is the youngest sibling to Olivia, 7, Joshua, 6, Annabel Leah, 4, and Emilia, 2.

In the photo, a shirtless Van Der Beek holds his newborn daughter still attached to her umbilical cord and placenta, which is contained in a bowl. “The category is: Home-Birth Realness. (Word of caution, if you’re squeamish, just double-tap and move on,” wrote Van Der Beek. “Messy bed ✔️ Plastic sheeting underneath old sheets ✔️Old towel crumpled on the floor ✔️ Vomit bag (unused) ✔️ Inflatable birthing tub (also unused)✔️ Shirtless Dad ✔️Boy in Spider-Man pajamas ✔️Happy, healthy baby ✔️ Happy, healthy Mom in her own shower right after giving birth ✔️ Water bottle ✔️And… placenta in a mixing bowl ✔️ (I warned you).”

As Kimberly described in a 2012 blog post for People, Olivia was born in a hospital however during her second pregnancy, for which she hoped the birth would occur at home, her baby was breech (positioned feet first), which typically requires a C-section. Ultimately, under the care of a specialized doctor and two midwives, Kimberly had a vaginal delivery at home. Annabel Leah and Emilia were also born at home.

Home births account for .9 percent of all births in the United States, according to data published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), with about 25 percent of these births unplanned or unassisted.

The practice is viewed as controversial — ACOG maintains that while “hospitals and accredited birth centers are the safest settings for birth, each woman has the right to make a medically informed decision about delivery,” a statement with which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health concluded that “Low‐risk women in this cohort experienced high rates of physiologic birth and low rates of intervention without an increase in adverse outcomes.” However, ACOG cautions that women who have diabetes, have high blood pressure or preeclampsia, who are at risk for preterm labor, or those with unsupportive partners, should not opt for home births.

What goes down during a planned home birth? “Midwives are basically on-call throughout a woman’s pregnancy but as the due date approaches, I try to stay as close to the mother’s home as possible,” Courtney Hilliard, a licensed midwife in central Florida, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Midwives, often confused with birth doulas who offer emotional support to expecting women, undergo years-long training, including clinically, to assist women through birth. Upon receiving a phone call that a client is experiencing contractions, midwives like Hilliard throw a bag of items together: sterile gloves, gauze, a Doppler instrument to listen to the unborn baby’s heartbeat, a stethoscope for monitoring the mom’s heartbeat, blood pressure cuffs, a hemostat to hold the umbilical cord, and a pair of blunt scissors to cut it. “Many midwives also bring a bowl for the placenta,” says Hilliard. “There’s a tan-colored bowl from Ikea that’s a popular choice because it’s dishwasher-safe and you can bleach it.”

“I also bring along suture instruments in case the woman has a vaginal tear and Lidocaine to numb the area,” she says, adding that midwives are only trained to treat first-and-second degree tears — anything beyond that requires the attention of an obstetrician.

Midwives typically linger for three to four hours after the birth, in order to administer the baby’s APGAR test, which asses the baby’s physical health at one and five minutes, post-birth. “We also stay to ensure the baby doesn’t need neonatal resuscitation and to help keep the mother stable in the event of postpartum hemorrhaging or postpartum shock,” says Hilliard. “However, during that first hour of life, we try to leave the baby and mother alone to bond.”

Some women favor birthing centers, commonly viewed as “one step below a hospital” but Hilliard emphasizes that despite more variety among the instruments and perhaps a closer distance from a hospital, centers aren’t much different than a home. “If there’s an emergency beyond our skill set,” she says, “we still have to go to the hospital.”

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