A friend invited me to the home birth of her child a few years ago. It was a really special- dare I say, spiritual- experience to witness a life coming into this world. Not to get too woo-woo on you but it was life-affirming. You know how you feel at a wedding when they say “You may kiss the bride”? It was kind of like that, times a thousand.
Although I felt home birth worked out well for my friend, I felt it was definitely not something I would consider for myself. When it was my turn to have a baby, I would do it in a hospital, where all the necessary technology and trained medical personnel would be available were anything to go wrong. I just didn’t think there was any reason I would want to risk my or my baby’s healthy by giving birth at home.
When Dan and I decided that we wanted to have a baby, I did what comes naturally to me- I read and I planned. Everything I read lead me to conclude that perhaps I would not feel as comfortable in a hosptial as I had thought. I learned that there were many interventions and restrictions that were not research based and were not necessarily useful, and sometimes uncomfortable for the mother. For example, many hospitals have a policy of no eating or drinking for laboring women. It is my understanding that this is in case you would have to have general anesthesia for an emergency C-section. In this case, anything in your stomach becomes an aspiration risk. That is well and good, except they seldom put you under for a C-section these days. Also, many hospitals use electronic fetal monitoring. This requires you to move carefully or not much at all so that it stays in place. It has not, however, been proven to increase the chances of a healthy outcome. There were many other things I read that did not sit well with me, but those are just a couple that come to mind.
The reading I did led me to believe that giving birth in the hospital opens the door for medical intervention, and once you begin with one intervention, it often leads to a cascade of other interventions, which heightens your chances of requiring a C-section. I knew I wanted to avoid a C-section and I did not want to do anything that would facilitate one becoming a necessity. I also knew that I did not want an epidural or pain medication. I wanted to know what birth really felt like. What I had read assured me that under the right circumstances (privacy, no feeling of being rushed, being in a position that allows gravity to help, in the presence of people whom you know and trust, not having many people present), a woman whose pregnancy is considered low-risk is usually well-equipped to deliver naturally. I considered giving birth a rite of passage and I wanted to experience it.
Also, I scream bloody murder when I stub my toe. I take three Advil at the first sign of a headache. I really enjoyed the Versed they used when I had my wisdom teeth removed. I didn’t think I would avoid an epidural if one was available.
I have worked in hospitals for ten years and I know things about hospitals I wish I didn’t know. I know not everyone washes their hands as thoroughly or as often as they should. I know how easy it is to mistake one patient for another when you’re busy and rushed. I know how easily you can forget the details of someone’s medical history or be unaware of them in the first place because of incomplete or non-existent medical records. I know how clueless and arrogant medical residents can be.
And I know how angry I get as a patient when some person pokes at me without even introducing him or herself or stating what they are doing there. Seriously, someone whose name I did not know once stuck a probe in my eyeball without even warning me and it really pissed me off. (Turned out, it wasn’t to be mean, it was to check my corneal pressure. Who knew?)
I couldn’t imagine delivering a baby in the company of strangers, especially strangers who might treat me more like a patient than a person. And what if my doctor wasn’t on call when I delivered? What if I liked my nurse, but she had to leave when her shift was complete and I didn’t like my new nurse? I wanted to give birth in the presence of a professional I trusted, someone I had a relationship with.
With all this in mind, it seemed my only option was, in fact, the home birth I never thought I would have. That is how I went from definitely not ever having a home birth to having a home birth.
I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the same experience, had I given birth the traditional way, with a doctor or a midwife in the hospital. For one thing, everyone predicted the baby would be large. The acupuncturist, a former midwife, estimated eight pounds or so. My midwife predicted seven and a half to eight pounds. At an ultrasound performed the day I went into labor, the OB acknowledged that midwives are generally more accurate than ultrasound in predicting size but his image indicated an eight and a half pound baby. I was the only one who was convinced I was having a six pounder. I just thought there was no way a baby that large was in me. I was 5’0″ and 115 lbs. before I got pregnant. So there was the big baby part.
More importantly there was the fact that I was long overdue by the time I went into labor- twelve days, to be exact. By the time the baby was born, it was a full two weeks beyond my due date. I wonder how many traditional doctors or midwives would have let my pregnancy go that long. Meanwhile, I was healthy, there was every reason to believe the baby was healthy, and as it turned out, she came on her own when she was ready, even if it was more than fashionably late.
I think that if I had been induced, the labor and delivery would have turned out very differently. As it was, I had a long labor (30 hours total). I tore slightly, I healed normally, and we had no problems with breastfeeding or post-partum depression. I could not have asked for a more positive birth experience.
For so many reasons, I am thankful that I went the home birth route. At the birth were my midwife, her assistant, Dan, and my mom. I never had to get in the car while I was having contractions. I was never told that I was exhausted. I was never poked or prodded by someone I’d never seen before. I never felt scared.
It lasted forever and it was one moment. It was the worst thing and the best thing I have ever been through. It was a process that I had to surrender to, and a process I was not sure I could endure. I will always consider it a peak experience of my life.
Are you curious about home birth? Not curious as in “What the f*ck were you thinking, you stupid idiot, don’t you know that’s not safe!?” but curious as in, “I might like to try that but I have some questions,” I am happy to chat. Click here to email me.
This post was brought to you by the Finish the Sentence Friday (FTSF) Blog Hop. The prompt this week was “”We can either be traditional or non-traditional in the way we do things, I…”
Please visit the FTSF (Finish the Sentence Friday) blog hop hosts:
Stephanie at Mommy for Real
Kristi From Finding Ninee
Janine from Janine’s Confessions of Mommyholic
Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine
11 thoughts on “Why I Chose Home Birth”
I will say I had issues with both my pregnancies that did lead me to hospital and inductions with both. But not sure to be honest that I would have had a home birth even if I didn’t. I hope I don’t sound awful, but just never really crossed my mind and then when I was indeed found to have issues that needed a hospital, it was pretty much decided for me. That said does look like you had a great experience and so happy for you that you did!! 🙂
I don’t think it’s awful that you wouldn’t have had a home birth even if you hadn’t had to go to the hospital… It’s rarely done. Certainly I don’t think 98% of women having babies in this country are awful for doing it in the hospital! I think it’s a personal decision and most people never even consider home birth as an option in our culture.
I didn’t know that people gave birth at home until after I had my first child. I had the antithesis of your birth with my son and what happened with me falls under a lot of what you feared. However, what brought me down that path was my body and dammit if that wasn’t frustrating. I have read a lot of testimonies about home birth/ natural birth and a lot of them make me feel ashamed that I wasn’t able to do it (or just pissed off by the tone). This did not do that and I appreciate that. Thanks for informing without judging and Pam, don’t you ever write about the bad stuff that happens in hospitals. It will make me paranoid for life 🙂
I guess the good part of being scared of hospitals is it will hopefully keep you healthy:) Thanks for the feedback on this post- What I really, really wanted to avoid was a judgy tone and I was so afraid it would come out wrong… I had wanted to write this post for almost 2 years but I was afraid I would offend someone. (Which if you knew me would probably be hard to believe!)
I think it is really profound you were not scared during your home birth experience.
I guess I was too much “in the zone” or something to even think to be scared. It just felt like I was doing what I needed to be doing.
Thank you, Pam. Thank you, thank you for posting this. I never got to have my home birth for reasons that I won’t go in to here, but it is absolutely undervalued in our society. From your post, I am assuming you read the Cochrane Report which is a research-based report of the outcomes of home-births and hospital births. I don’t know anyone in my circles who has read it and I felt so hurt and frustrated during the time that I was planning a home birth. People who know nothing about research acted like I was willing to put my baby at risk just to prove a point and without the research being common knowledge, there was nothing I could do but respect their opinions. There is a part of me that will always feel sad that I didn’t have a more positive and “life-affirming” birth experience, not to the exclusion of how grateful I am for my 3 healthy wonderful babies. I so enjoyed reading about your experience here!
Lisa, I really appreciate your comment… I agree that the natural birth experience is undervalued in our society and yet I don’t blame anyone for that or for assuming it’s unsafe to deliver at home- Our culture assumes that birth is inherently dangerous and most people do not question that assumption. I am fortunate to live in a crunchy part of the world, where it would not be fashionable to tell someone they are out of their mind for having a home birth. I probably read the Cochrane report, among other stuff, as well as some interesting rebuttals of the popular Wax study, which is a recent meta-study published in ACOG- it stated that neonates are 3x more likely to die at home vs. hospital setting however they included studies that were very, very small, as well as studies that included unplanned home births.
Oh, Pam, I love your home birth story! I actually teared up when I saw the photo, for real. My doula/childbirth teacher used the word “cascade” to describe medical interventions. That scares the crap out of me, too. I was extremely grateful for my natural childbirth experience, and I wanted it that way for all the reasons you described. Thanks for your effort to help educate and inspire expecting mamas! (Oh, and I loved your comments on my post, BTW.) 🙂
Aw, thanks, Steph! I am astounded by people like you who have the will to refuse pain meds or an epidural when they are available… I don’t know if I could have done it naturally in a hospital.
That is the most beautiful photo! I relate so well to your story. I love the term “cascade of interventions”. It really is a great way to put it. We had our baby at a birthing center, and were going to try and do a water birth. Our daughter had meconium (sp?), so we weren’t able to. But I applaud you, and think what you did is so great. I did give birth naturally, and feel so grateful for the experience.