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Crowdsourcing Your Birth

Crowdsourcing was first introduced to the public's conscience in 2006 in an article in Wired magazine. Contributing editor Jeff Howe wrote, "Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call." A lot has changed since 2006. Crowdsourcing has moved beyond the boardroom and to the bedroom. Meet Jessica Hollie, the first person to crowdsource for a natural childbirth.

As Hollie knows, insurance companies make it quite difficult to stray from traditional hospital birthing experiences. If parents choose to find different accommodations and birthing methods, they usually need to come up with the funds themselves. Hollie feels passionately about natural birth. As she says, "Hospitals use Pitocin in massive amounts to induce a woman's labor. Oftentimes, that is not necessary. However, if a woman is not laboring on their timetable, instead of allowing the process to happen naturally, they start inducing. The side effects of the drug being used constantly results in the need for a C-section. This practice also contributes to the high infant mortality rates in this country."

Wendy Kenin, a doula and educator in Berkeley, Calif. who knows Hollie, says, "Natural birth advocates are well aware that the childbirth protocols in hospitals are often not scientifically sound, but instead are based on trends to medically intervene in and disrupt the natural labor process. Because a C-section is a surgical procedure, it carries more risk to both the mother and the baby. The maternal death rate [for cesareans] is four times the maternal death rate associated with vaginal delivery."

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Hollie cites many staggering figures in defense of her adamant stance on natural childbirth. For one, minority women are more likely to die in pregnancy than their white counterparts. Dr. Allison Bryant, a maternal fetal medicine specialist from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston points out the issues in hospital birth as well: "Everyone thinks the U.S. has great health care, which is definitely the case, but certainly there are populations in the U.S. that have outcomes that really look like outcomes in developing countries."

As an African American woman, Hollie wants to inform minority women that they have choices and options. She's thinking about other women as well. "I have also been motivated to start talking about how to come together as a community to help low income women obtain quality maternity care," Hollie says.

While Hollie also mentions links between epidurals and autism, this research cannot be substantiated scientifically by the medical community. Kenin offers a doula's perspective, saying, "As with distrust of the medical establishment over vaccine safety, there is a broad belief that the adverse effects of certain medical childbirth interventions are not properly recorded and counted." But Kenin explains the purpose of a doula is not to question, but rather, "A doula's purpose is to serve the mother. So beyond assisting informationally, emotionally and physically, our primary goal is to support the mother's choices."

It's clear Hollie is passionate about her cause. She initially turned to Facebook for financial support at a friend's suggestion. But when he realized exactly how much money she needed to raise, her WePay site was born. Hollie has received a tremendous amount of support, and she is not giving up. Most people are receptive to talking about birthing options, and it is becoming a forum for Hollie to teach others that they have choices. Remaining fiercely determined to reach her fundraising goal, Hollie is also turning to baking and knitting and selling her wares to raise money. She is getting there. There is a deadline, after all.

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