Note: All birth is beautiful. Period. End of story. I cry at any birth story I read, regardless of where it happened, how it happened, and whether or not I’d choose it for myself. Sharing about home birth isn’t to say that it’s better than any other type of birth; it’s simply the choice we’ve made. The information below might sound defensive, or mightier-than-thou, but it’s simply sharing information from our perspective because there’s so much misinformation out there about your options. These are just the things that are important to us. Education is my biggest thing, and I want women to feel empowered to know what their options are and then to choose–even if that’s different than what I choose. I love what Nancy Bardacke, CNM says in her book Mindful Birthing: “From a mindfulness perspective, every birth is ‘natural.’ It’s natural for a baby to grow inside its mother’s body, it’s natural for a baby to be born, and it’s natural for people to want to help with the process. That being said, if her intention is to birth with minimal to no medical interventions, she will definitely be learning skills for that–as well as skills for being in a hospital environment where people might want to help a little too much.”
I want to start this by saying that home birth isn’t for everyone, for a multitude of reasons (both physical and emotional). However, for low-risk pregnancies, midwife-attended home births have been shown to be as safe, if not safer, than hospital births.
Home birth is still such a novel, out of the box idea for most Americans, and many people have terribly inaccurate perceptions of what a home birth is like. In 2012, only 1.36% of US births occurred outside a hospital, yet the US has one of the highest infant mortality rates of all developed nations. According to the Midwives’ Alliance of North America, in the five nations with the world’s lowest infant mortality and lowest rates of technological intervention, midwives attend seventy percent of all births without a physician in the birth room.
I say this to show that home birth has been shown to be incredibly safe (if not safer) in low-risk pregnancies. However, it’s definitely not without risk (hello, no birth is!). There are always things that could go wrong, but we’re wildly confident in the emergency training of our midwives–they are medical professionals, after all. And, there are issues that could arrive between now and baby’s arrival that “risk” me out of home birth care (e.g. gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, or a breech baby) and back into the practice of a high risk OB (we are prayerful that this will not happen). Laws around home births are very strict in Florida, so we’re praying for an uneventful pregnancy!
Years ago, I was trained as a doula and as a childbirth educator before testing the waters at midwifery school. Ultimately the profession wasn’t for me, but the birth choice was! I am so grateful to have met my midwife while I was in school, and to feel confident in her education and training.
Here are some reasons we’ve chosen the home birth route (feel free to ask questions…these aren’t necessarily all universal reasons, but they’re reasons for our personal situation and family!):
- It’s cheaper.
- It’s as safe.
- Hospitals are for medical emergencies, and the delivery of a healthy baby is not a medical emergency, it’s a life event.
- I’ll be more comfortable, able to labor and deliver in my own home.
- I’ll be free to walk around, and labor and deliver in whatever position feels most natural for my body.
- I don’t like the one-size-fits-all model of hospitals where you have to fight to have an unmedicated birth.
- Prenatal appointments: an hour long, in my home. Education on nutrition, exercise, emotional wellbeing, and childbirth education. TONS of explanation on everything (e.g. “your hemoglobin numbers are great! this is good because…”)
- Pain management: our midwives are trained in pain management. They (along with Matt) will massage my back, help me find the most comfortable positions, apply heat/cold, get me in the tub or shower, hold me up, get me on a birth ball, you name it. A doctor at a hospital just does not do this. I feel like I’m already set up for success with this. They’re spending every moment of labor with us, getting me through each subsequent contraction.
- Less risk of intervention (statistically proven), including: induction of labor (using prostaglandins or oxytocin), electronic fetal monitoring (midwives will intermittently check baby’s heart rate using a doppler at set intervals), episiotomy, vacuum or forcep extraction, and c-section.
- Option for water birth (hospitals are starting to allow you to labor in a tub, but not deliver in one).
- Ability to eat (hello, our bodies need energy for a marathon!) during labor. Hospitals don’t allow you to eat during labor in the very rare case of needing a c-section under general anesthesia (we’re talking 1-2% chance; almost all c-sections are done under regional anesthesia).
- No required cervical checks (hallelujah), creating less of an emotional rollercoaster based on dilation (dilation doesn’t increase at a steady rate, so moms can get discouraged if they don’t feel like they’re dilating fast enough—this way I won’t know how dilated I am–unless I specifically ask them to check, so there’s no room for discouragement)
- Newborn exam is done in. our. bed. and baby is never taken away from us. We know exactly what is going on with baby the whole time.
- My bed, my shower, my towels, my cups, my food, my TV, my Netflix, my music.
- No required hospital stay. Midwives clean everything up after the birth and leave you within hours (as long as everyone is healthy) to rest and bond as a new family.
- Uninterrupted sleep. Once babe is born, we’re on her schedule, and the idea of nurses interrupting us every two-ish hours sounds terrible. We’ll already have a baby waking us up, no need to add nurses in the mix!
- Control. At home, with midwives, they know that I am in control. This is a natural process, and my body and decisions will (and should) dictate the process. At a hospital, there are very specific protocols, etc. that you must adhere to. Want to deliver baby in the water? Tough. Obviously some hospitals are more flexible than others, but things must run a certain way at a hospital, so mom doesn’t get to call a lot of the shots (but, some women want that). Midwives at home, on the other hand, are there to comfort, support, and guide the process. They’re like lifeguards, just watching, observing, and ready to jump in only if something goes wrong. They trust my body!
- Privacy. Um, hello. My normal OB/GYN is at UF Health Shands Hospital, which is a teaching hospital. Here’s a list of who could be in the room at any given time: attending physicians, fellows, resident physicians, nurses, medical students, interns, and premed students. At home, it’s just me, Matt, and two midwives. And as long as things are progressing normally, they’re more than okay with just leaving you alone.
- Matt. At a home birth, husbands are an integral part of the process. He’s the one guiding me, helping me call the shots. The order of importance in a home birth goes: mom/baby > husband (partner) > midwives. Yes, mom and baby are the #1 priority, but husbands are acknowledged as a verrrrrry important part of the process. Room is made for them. They get to do as much or as little as they want. Our midwives value his input just as much as mine, and this feels like a major team effort.
- And finally, I just don’t love hospitals. I want to feel safe in my home, and I want to know I’m in control. The majority (not all) of hospital environments just aren’t conducive for this, and so home birth is the best option for us!
A note on pain: Most people, when we share that we’ve chosen a home birth, talk about the pain. How we’re crazy, or that we’re trying to be “heroes” and we should just “take the meds.” But here are the things I’ve learned: a) birth can be painless*, b) women who have medicated hospital births often still complain about the pain (often even after an epidural–since sometimes they don’t work and since you don’t have just one contraction and boom! epidural time), and c) this is not about being a hero. or being brave. or being tough. It’s about doing what’s best for us and for baby. Period.
*To elaborate briefly on how birth can be painless: I’ll forgo my own words and steal from those of Susan McCutcheon, author of “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way”:
Women who have had painless labors often say that they think it is a matter of doing things right in the first place: not tightening up but going with the strong sensations and looking upon them as “just muscles working.” What makes labor painless for them is total relaxation and not fighting to control pain. A deeper, more complex explanation can be found in Dr. Edmund Jacobson’s book How to Relax and Have Your Baby. His speciality is not babies but relaxation. He has applied what he believes about relaxation to labor quite successfully, though, as he explains, “…relaxation proceeds to relieve pain mechanically…It requires action of the whole nerve-muscle-brain-nerve-muscle circuit to experience pain. The muscular part of this circuit is under your control and can be relaxed. By relaxing all efforts to perceive the pain and do something about it, like withdrawing, you can put out of commission the uterine pain circuit.” There are undeniably strong sensations in labor which are felt by every woman, but whether these are described as pain is a subjective matter which depends a lot on expectations and experiences…Those women who have experienced hard pain sometimes find it difficult to believe that anyone could experience painless childbirth. Occasionally…I have observed a few women who seem to have a real psychological need to deny that painless childbirth is possible. Perhaps this stems from a feeling that if someone else didn’t have pain, that somehow invalidates the painful experience of a woman who does have pain…The reality is that there is such a thing as painless childbirth and such a thing as painful childbirth. It is not necessary to invalidate either experience.
Obviously a painless birth isn’t guaranteed. But it’s possible, and I know I’ll educate myself on how to make that possible.
We’re excited for this journey, and are prayerful that we have an uneventful pregnancy so that we’re allowed the home birth we desire!
PS: Read about our first trimester here!