Welcome to a long overdue edition of What I'd Like For You To Know. If you're new here, the idea behind this series is to ask women to share something about a specific life challenge or circumstance, addressing some of the misconceptions and (most importantly) telling us all how we can reach out better.
When Kate of Now There Are Three offered to explain some misconceptions about home birth, I was eager to hear what she had to say. Though I know and respect many people who have made this birthing choice, I've always been a hospital birther myself, due partly to my tendency to deliver a little too early and partly to (let's just be honest) my deep love for the people with the pain medicine. I know you'll enjoy reading Kate's reasoned and gentle perspective...
The What I’d Like For You To Know series has made me keenly aware of one area of my life that is often misunderstood and sparks heated defensiveness in women. Home birth. I have had two home births and in July I will have my third. Here’s what I’d like for you to know about why I have chosen to give birth at home.
When my husband and I made the decision to have a home birth my family was a little nervous. My grandma was beside herself. She would ask, "Why would you want to do that without pain medication? What if something happens? Why would you want to deal with all that clean-up and the 'icky' stuff? Hospitals and doctors are there for a reason, USE THEM!"
No matter what I said, there was no way I was going to change her mind. It taught me one thing: There was a good chance that I wasn't going to change most people’s mind, especially my grandmother’s, and I had to be okay with our decision despite what others thought.
Here are the most common questions and comments I receive about homebirth:
Why did you choose a home birth?
It started with a friend asking me to go to her first appointment with a lay midwife. She brought with her a list of questions ranging from newborn care to safety precautions. As I listened, my mind started to open to the possibility of birth looking different from the mainstream.
Nine months later, she had her little girl at home. Just hours after having the baby, my husband and I went for a visit. It was so peaceful, relaxing, and quiet. I was so impressed with how calm it all was. Family was there, mom and baby were resting in the bedroom and dinner was in the oven. I decided in that moment that a home birth was the best fit for our family.
Another reason was the epidural needle. I once saw how it was done on a morning show and almost passed out. I know from many women that it is heavenly and I'm fairly certain that it is, but there is no way that gigantic needle is coming within 10 feet of my back.
I wanted to feel childbirth, pain and all. It is not beautiful and I had no expectation that it would. But I did want that connection. This is not to say that the connection I had with my babies was any more powerful than women who have conventional, mainstream births in a hospital. It simply means that I wanted to experience childbirth in its wholeness. And home birth provided a means for me to do that.
Aren't you afraid something will go wrong?
I am well aware of the risk I'm taking. Fortunately, I have had two low-risk pregnancies and births. Professional midwives will only take low-risk births and track the health of pregnancy just the same as a doctor would. I have the same access to testing and am given standard preventative care should problems arise.
A good midwife is trained to respond well in emergencies. Most are equipped with life saving devices and a “transport” plan to help deal with emergencies safely and effectively. A good midwife has about a 5-10% transport rate and any higher should be called into question. In addition, my midwife is incredibly cautious. If there is a bad feeling or you insist on going to the hospital, she is supportive and responsive.
Who cleans up? Isn't it messy?
This is always a fun one. People always seemed incredibly grossed out by not having the “sterile” environment of the hospital. I assure you, it still is sterile. I do not clean up after my own birth. The midwives do this. I had a plastic sheet, spare sheets, and surgical pads down on our bed. The mess was easy to contain and quickly cleaned up before I even had a chance to notice.
Don't you want nurses to take care of you?
Thankfully, I have a mom. She doesn’t do blood pressure checks at 2 a.m. but she makes sure everyone is well-fed, my house is clean, and my babies are loved. My midwife stays with me for several hours after the birth or until I have successfully passed a post birth checklist. She will then come to my home at 24, 48, and 72 hours after the birth and four more times over the next six weeks to do routine newborn and post-partum care.
What do you love about it the most?
I love being able to walk around during labor. I love that my midwives come to my home and stay for the entire birth. And while they are there, they interact with my family and celebrate with me.
I love the intense rush of adrenaline you get just after you push the baby out. One moment you are in the most intense pain and the next you are experiencing the greatest sense of relief you've ever felt in your life. Then you look down to find this little purplish, blue creature lying on your tummy and you’re done!
I love that my husband is able to be comfortable in his own home. He doesn't deal well with me being in pain. So I labor with women who know exactly what I'm going through and can offer support. He is able to flow in and out of the room based on his comfort level and he knows I am still well taken care of. Then at the last minute I can call him in to witness the birth of our baby. I love that my midwife knows this about him and doesn't put any extra expectations on him.
Some women become defensive when they find out I've given birth at home. I find that it somehow makes them uncomfortable. I always hear, "I want the drugs. I could never do it without them". I think any woman can, but if you don't want to, that's perfectly fine. Again, I’m so thankful we all get to choose where and how we want to give birth.
Speaking for myself and possibly for most home birth moms, we do not in ANY way think we are superior for giving birth at home or giving birth without drugs. It does not mean our birth was more beautiful or more whole. I know there are women out there that sometimes give off that vibe, and for any feelings they give you of being inferior, I am sorry. I can tell you for the majority of us, we are just glad we have the choice to give birth the way that we want.
To read more of Kate's posts, visit her blog Now There Are Three.