What makes a gal, born in a traditional hospital setting herself, consider home birth?
Before I share my personal reasons for choosing this route, I would like to clearly state that I in no way wish to disparage the many hardworking and well-educated doctors and nurses that are in our nation. They have my utmost respect! Additionally, my intention is not to indicate that home birth is the only right way. It’s not for everyone — and it doesn’t have to be! That’s a completely personally decision and I respect each mama and the avenue they have chosen. My sole desire is to share a brief glimpse into my own experiences and to satisfy some of the everyday curiosity I encounter when people learn that I birth my babies at home.
I didn’t go into my first pregnancy with a set birth plan in mind. I was born in a traditional hospital setting and I knew several women that I considered peers who had recently chosen home birth. Perhaps the most important thing I could suggest would be open-mindedness. As I did my research, I came to the conclusion for the method of care that I felt was the best fit for myself and my baby. Some of those considerations were….
- Age and Health History. I was 22 years old when I got pregnant with my first child. Being young and healthy (really a completely nondescript medical history), my chances statistically for complications were very low. That opened up my options for prenatal care and the actual labor/delivery substantially.
- Research. A lot of mystery and misconception surrounds home birth. There are absolutely cases that render it a less safe option, but for the mother with no complications, it’s a great option. Over the summer I attended a premier of a home birth documentary highlighting the pregnancies and home births of more than half a dozen women who were in the medical field (both doctors and L&D nurses). They’ve assembled a lengthy set of websites and articles that lay out the statistics of home birth. Instead of rehashing those numbers here, you can view the entire list on their website (additional information here as well). It’s a great place to get started on researching the safety.
- Midwives and Their Training. While the stereotypical image of a midwife includes something like an old grandma in the backwoods, modern midwives are incredibly intelligent individuals. There are a range of certifications and the requirements vary by state, but generally the individual must have completed a 3 year academic course, 4 years of hands-on training and have attended a minimum number of births as an assistant. All in all, this gives them a well-rounded education with a specialty in pregnancy and birth.
- Customized Care. With a midwife, you have standard prenatal care: monitoring Baby’s heart rate, growth, position, and overall wellbeing, as well as frequent monitoring of Mom’s vitals and overall health. A bonus that appeals to me is access to the extensive knowledge that a midwife offers for nutrition and alternative medicine. The result is comprehensive care for mother and baby, particular to the needs of that pregnancy.
- Contingency Plan. Perhaps one of the most common concerns I hear voiced to me about home birth is the question of what happens if something goes wrong during labor. Mom and Baby are under close watch during labor and delivery. If anything begins to take a turn, a good midwife quickly makes arrangements for more involved medical care. (I’ve heard both midwives and L&D nurses in my area describe the working relationship they have with each other as one of the best in the nation.)
- Familiarity. One of the biggest appeals to me is that the midwife who has seen me from week 12 of my pregnancy on will absolutely be the one who delivers my baby. In addition, the assistant midwife is often introduced to the mama before labor ever begins, adding to the familiarity with the birth team.
- Home Sweet Home. Your first contractions are at home, you transition at home, you push at home, deliver at home, get all cleaned up at home, and then crawl into your own comfortable bed with your cuddly newborn when your hard day’s work is complete.
That’s all well and good… but have you actually HAD a home birth to speak with any experience? Yes’m, I have! Twice. My firstborn was delivered in my living room and my second son was born in our bedroom. Both very different experiences and both equally endearing, successful, safe, and peaceful. Our third child is due within a month and if all goes as planned, we anticipate his arrival at home, as well.
What all is involved in prenatal care when choosing home birth? In my experience, it’s included lab work (both for basic OB panels and for addressing hormonal imbalances), sonograms (at least one at about 20 weeks to do a full anatomy scan of baby), frequent prenatal check-ups (something like 12-15 exams before delivery), and more.
What is it like preparing to have a baby in your home? In addition to the usuals (i.e. setting up the crib, washing and organizing baby clothes, buying hundreds of diapers), your midwife will give you a list of things to have rounded up for the actual birth. In my case, my midwife tells me where online to order my actual birth supplies, plus a few general things (like lots of towels) to have in a common spot.
Is it messy? I’ll wager that birth in any setting is “messy”, but as far as any lasting evidence… No, it’s not messy. Within a couple hours of giving birth, any lasting evidence (aside from a snuggly newborn) is completely gone. My team of midwives are angels – cleaning Baby and myself up, scrubbing bath tubs, starting loads of laundry, disposing of used supplies, etc.
Here’s the bottom line… Home birth isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s an option that everyone should research and give value to. Birth in a home or in a hospital bed is miraculous and memorable!
Leave a comment below and tell us…. Where did you birth your babies and what did you love about the experience?