I grew up with the idea that birth is a normal, physiological experience and that left to itself, the baby would be born through much worthwhile hard work and usually without medical intervention. Of course, I knew of c-sections and babies born early, but my mom had normal, uncomplicated births. So I always thought that was just the way it is.
She never gave birth at home – so that concept was new to me as I grew older. I was born in a birth center. My brother and sisters were born at a hospital.
All that to say, I didn’t grow up familiar with the idea of home birth. Only in the last few years was the seed planted in my mind as I encountered stories of babies born at home. But the more and more I considered home birth, the more right for us it seemed. Until finally, someone point blank asked us, “Have you ever considered home birth? You seem like great candidates for it.”
With Benji, we chose a local midwifery practice that has a birth center where we planned to give birth. We labored at the birth center for something like eight hours before “time ran out” and we had to be transferred to the hospital because labor was not progressing quickly enough. After twenty-six total hours of labor, Benji was born healthy and sleepy. It’d been a long day and night!
Perhaps you would expect that experience to be a catalyst to pursue a hospital birth from the start. However, our experience with Benji’s birth and our hopes for future births actually convinced us to change care providers in the other direction and pursue a home birth.
This by no means is my way of saying home birth and independent midwifery care is the only model. I know plenty of women who have had satisfying experiences in all sorts of settings from the hospital to a birth center. This is simply our process in the decision this time around.
So, four main reasons motivated our decision to pursue a home birth: due date as deadline, more personalized care, complete freedom in labor, and the comfort of home.
Due Date Deadline
Despite the midwifery care I received during my first pregnancy, I still felt pressured to have my baby within a certain time frame. I wasn’t encouraged to induce before forty weeks, but once my due date came and went, things heated up a bit.
Of course, we all eagerly await the arrival of a baby and want it to come sooner rather than later, once it reaches full-term. And in some cases, an induction is necessary. But, in my case, I think if there had been a little more space to exercise patience, my body would have chosen the right time for Benji to be born.
With a home birth, there is more freedom to wait for the baby to come on its own, for labor to truly start spontaneously without the pressure of 40 weeks as a looming deadline.
More Personalized Care
Throughout my first pregnancy, I was really happy with the level of care I received. I love the midwifery model of care and think everyone should experience it! But the group we were with consisted of a team of eight midwives. We didn’t know which one we would see at each appointment, and it was a gamble as to who would be on call when I went into labor.
It isn’t that our previous care provider lacked skill or bedside manner. We had a great experience! But I found myself wanting more personal care as time went on.
Especially after Benji was born, I wanted to talk to the midwife who caught him to help process the birth experience. Of course, I could’ve called her and made a conversation happen. But that’s the point – I had to make an effort to contact the midwife rather than her being the one to follow up with me.
I feel a certain measure of comfort in knowing I see the same midwife for the nine months leading up to the birth. We know exactly who will be present with us during labor and delivery. And that same midwife will follow up with us during the first six weeks postpartum. For me, that consistency is a felt need. And homebirth satisfies that desire for more personalized and predictable care.
Complete Freedom in Labor
While I labored with Benji at the birth center, we had full freedom to stay in our room or walk outside. I labored in the bath and on the bed. We had complete freedom, and it was wonderful.
Once we transferred to the hospital, my movement was limited as I was immediately instructed to change into a hospital gown and then hooked up to the electronic fetal monitor. Eventually, I received Pitocin and then an epidural when the pain was too excruciating to endure. At that point, I was numb from the waist down and immobile.
Not exactly what I pictured for that birth.
So, a birth center provides freedom of movement. And I loved that, but homebirth allows me to move freely while I labor as well as to stay put while I labor. It was a bit stressful to try to time the whole getting to the birth center at the right time thing.
It gives me peace of mind to know I will have the freedom to labor at home without having to leave to make it somewhere by a certain time.
The Comfort of Home
This ties into what I said above, but there’s no place like home. It’s as simple as that.
Home is my safe place and where I feel most at ease. It is our turf. Usually the home team plays better on their own field, and I imagine the same is true for a mama in her own home. All is familiar. Every room is comfortable. And it immediately welcomes the new baby into its world exactly as it will know it for the beginning of its life.
I love the idea of being at home and not having to leave! Not only for labor and birth, but also for after the baby is born.
Again, our experience would’ve been different if Benji had been born at the birth center. It would have been quite home-like: warm and cozy and gentle. But we were at the hospital, and it was not as warm and cozy. And we were often interrupted and closely monitored. Of course, that has its place, and some women really love that aspect.
The first week of Benji’s life was rather stressful. We spent two days at the hospital. Then we had a few appointments at the pediatrician, and we also took him to the chiropractor. And then I cried with my neighbor who was basically a stranger.
Having a home birth brings the care providers to me and gives a buffer of time before shuffling he baby around town. I don’t have to sit upright in the car for extended periods of time. Ow! And that way, I’m less likely to cry on strangers’ shoulders!
Hope for a Healing Experience
I have a lot of hope for our home birth experience.
My hope is not blind. I understand the risks involved in a home birth, just as I understood the risks involved in wearing the electronic fetal monitor and receiving Pitocin and an epidural. No choice is without risk. But, in this case, the benefits of home birth outweigh the risks. Birth is an unpredictable experience. However, more often then not, left to itself, the body will do its work if we patiently partner with it.
While not blind, my hope is also not ultimate. My child’s birth does not define me or give ultimate meaning to my life. But I do believe our bodies were created specifically and intentionally. And women’s bodies were made to bring new life into the world. So I want to give it the freedom to do that. I’m hopeful that my body is strong and capable.
Overall, I hope for a healing experience: to patiently wait for the baby to come, to receive care from women I know more personally, and to experience it all from the comfort of home – that will truly be a healing experience.