I’m nearly 40 weeks pregnant today. Any day now, I will be laboring and preparing to give birth at home. In a tub. With a midwife who I absolutely trust can provide me and my baby with the best care possible.
I’m not going to pretend this isn’t a relatively controversial topic, and I’m also not going to spew a list of staggering statistics that I can use to benefit my case or argue against another. The entire home birth debate is terribly exhausting. I find no value in shooting more cannonballs in a series of inconclusive battles surrounding the never-ending birth war. What I do see value in? Perspective. Choice. Flexibility. Access to knowledge. And with all of those values, I’ve decided that for me, a low-risk mother who lives two minutes from a local hospital with an excellent emergency back-up plan in place? A home birth sounds the most conducive in terms of how I’d like to welcome our little girl into this world.
Your needs and desires might look very different from mine. But if you’ve found yourself dipping your toe into the prospect of an alternative birth, the following notes are definitely worth considering:
I’m the type of woman who is 100% uncomfortable in hospitals. As a child, I rarely visited doctors for anything less than a broken limb and the sheer flash of a white coat and stethoscope sends thousands of fear receptors rushing throughout my body. I can’t fully explain it, but I do know that watching my father-in-law suffer in the hands of many doctors during a bout with a very rare cancer a few years ago has left me feeling less than cozy every time I step into the lobby of our local hospital.
The ticking of the monitors, hissing of machines. In my mind, they’re all signs of severity: severe illnesses, sicknesses or diseases. And childbirth? Childbirth is not any of these things for me. I pray that it doesn’t become one — should anything go wrong — but until then, I’m embracing the experience in the most positive light I can (which happens to be far from the fluorescent lights of a hospital room).
Had I found an OB that I trusted (both in intentions and skill), my decision to birth at home might have looked very differently. Yet the OB we visited for the first 32 weeks of my pregnancy seemed to care less about our desires and more about saving herself from a potential lawsuit. Our questions were answered in the most vague of fashions and we weren’t even guaranteed that she’d be the OB on call to deliver our baby. When we declined our first diagnostic ultrasound, she spiraled into a legal conversation about how she can’t be held responsible for any emergencies that might result in the death of our baby and threw in a few fear tactics for good measure. We left feeling deflated, as if we had no voice in the entire experience.
Alternatively, the midwife we settled on seems to encourage us to research the best possible solution for us, as individiauls. She empowers women to buck the “one-size-fits-all” birthing experience and dig deep to make the best decisions you can for your child — even while they’re still in the womb. What a valuable skill to encourage, and what an empowering message to receive. We trust her completely.
There’s something to be said for your gut feelings, and although I think a birth plan should be a well researched, logical course of action, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that part of my decision was also fairly emotional.
I didn’t decide to switch to a midwife in a home birth setting until I was 32 weeks along, although a small voice inside me knew much earlier that the hospital and caregiver I had originally chosen wasn’t the best option for me. There were too many unanswered questions, too many unknown variables, too many cases of friends that were given official induction dates and scheduled c-sections before any complications even arose. And for a woman who rarely visits the doctor, the risk of the slippery intervention slope was causing me more anxiety than I’d realized. (Fun fact: my previously high blood pressure dropped into a better-than-normal range the very day I switched my birth plan.)
I’m hesitant to use the word “control” here, because can we really ever control such a powerful human experience? If birthing naturally, we certainly don’t have control over the time/day/nature which our little one enters the world, so I don’t intend to even attempt to control every element of our child’s birth.
Yet by birthing at home, there are so many elements I can control. Need to pace the kitchen while in labor to distract your mind and work through the pain? Too hot/cold to get comfortable? Starving for more than ice chips? Craving the comfort of your favorite body pillow and some old vinyl records? When birthing at home, you call the shots. No IVs to drag down the hallway, no uncomfortable beds, no withholding of healthy snacks for a “just in case” anesthesia intervention. No fluorescent lighting, standard room temps, frequent visits from unknown nurses.
I can’t speak for all midwives, but I am so fortunate to say that the level of care provided by our midwife is above and beyond an average OB/patient relationship. Even after the baby is delivered, our midwife makes home visits to ensure our baby is gaining a proper amount of weight, that all vital stats are in a normal, healthy range and that we’re adjusting well to the new transition. She even stays with each newborn and mama to make sure that the baby latches on for feeding before she leaves the home from the birth itself. She’s given us countless avenues to research, wonderful tips/tricks and loads of information on tough questions from delayed vaccinations to extended breastfeeding. The level of investment she has in our family has exceeded all of our expectations, and I trust her completely. What a blessing it is to be able to have full trust in your caregiver’s intentions.
It saddens me that home birth is still deemed an alternative birthing option when there are so many benefits for mothers like myself, but I also know that it’s not a road that everyone wishes to travel. But for me? I’m so excited to have my bags packed, tickets purchased and am well on my way to Home Birthville. I’ll send you a postcard when I return — with one extra bundle of joy.