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