My journey to home birth has really been a long one. I wasn’t quite sure where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning. (Cue Sound of Music soundtrack.)
At some point, I will tell the birth stories for my the two children already in my arms, but for the sake of keeping this post short enough to be readable, I’ll tell abbreviated versions.
When I became pregnant with my daughter in 2004, I wanted a natural birth. I envisioned giving birth in a birth center with a midwife. I was not incredibly “mainstream” but compared to where I am today, I really was. I had been brainwashed like many, and never would have considered home birth. Scary! Dangerous! OMG! Even though I was low risk, and the perfect candidate for home birth, I do not think I would have been successful. I just wasn’t there yet.
Anyhoo, I found an OB practice that I’d heard good things about, and who had many midwives on their roster. I called and was told that “midwives do not deliver babies in Maryland.” I took that as fact, and let that idea go. In fact, Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) who are licensed and backed by an OB can deliver babies in Maryland. This particular practice just chooses not to take on that liability/malpractice premium.
Around that time, an acquaintance (I “met” her because she worked with my Mom actually) gave birth at home, with an unlicensed Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). I later learned that Maryland simply doesn’t license CPMs or Direct Entry Midwives (DEMs) but at the time “unlicensed” in my mind=untrained and unqualified. I was so, so terribly wrong and I feel stupid for ever thinking this way, but it sure seemed dangerous and foolish to ignorant little me.
Long story short, I bought the hospital ticket and I sure did get the hospital ride. Though I emerged with few physical injuries, the emotional scars from my prenatal and birth “care” are with me almost 7 years later. I was bullied, belittled, intimidated, invalidated and treated like a number, a slab of meat, a “patient…” something (not someone) that didn’t matter at every turn. There were precious few moments from start to finish that I felt like I mattered in any way.
For a long time I felt like a failure, and I was grateful for the doctor, and for being in the hospital. It took years for me to realize that my biggest mistake was to go the the hospital in the first place. I didn’t fail myself or my daughter rather, I was failed by the system. I was in no position to stand up for myself. Even the strongest woman will have difficulty fighting “hospital policy” when she’s in labor. I still feel ill when I think about the ways in which I was held down and violated while I screamed (while being told to stop, be still, do what the doctor says, basically be a good girl) with my husband right there, unable to protect me (or even know that he should.) To many, my experience just doesn’t matter. My daughter was healthy, and what happened to me happens to women every day anyway.
I learned a lot between my daughter’s birth and my son’s birth, and by the time I was pregnant with him, I really wanted a home birth. I still wasn’t ready though. While home birth isn’t illegal, it would be illegal for the midwife attending me. I am a rule follower, and that really scared me. I saw the same OB throughout my pregnancy, visiting with others just once (so I would have met everyone prior to D-Day) and I really loved her. Still do. If she attended home births, I would gladly welcome her. She is just great and I really lucked out that she was on call when I went into labor.
I went into this birth very pessimistic, and afraid of feeling like a failure again, so I had very few expectations. I stayed home as long as possible, and ended up giving birth within about 3 or 3 1/2 hours of arriving at the hospital. I had 3 cervical checks that I didn’t want, intermittent monitoring that I didn’t want, and an IV, all according to “hospital policy.” While I realize that you can legally refuse these things, that’s really easier said than done. I did manage to give birth sans medication aside from GBS antibiotics (which I could write a whole post on!) and pitocin after birth (which I didn’t consent to and didn’t know I had until I requested my records this year).
All in all, I was pretty happy with the birth, and I did feel it was a somewhat healing birth. I even had an easier time bonding with my son. Even so, there were so many things that bothered me about the birth. Rather than listing those things, I’ll list the things I’m looking forward to about home birth (this may get long):
- No unnecessary interventions, and no need to fight against them. No trying desperately to stay still during a contraction so the monitors wouldn’t move, losing the HB, making it look like there was trouble & leading to more monitoring. No hands or objects shoved in me. No being forced on my back to do it, which was the most painful position for me. No being told this is what we’re doing (if they even did that much). What happened to informed consent?
- No being grilled with incessant questions while trying to cope with contractions.
- No transition to the hospital (longest.car.ride.ever.) or back to the “real world” with life with a new baby for that matter.
- No feeling inhibited by strangers’ presence, no half dozen people filtering in the room while I’m pushing, unaware that they are there.
- Ability to eat and drink what I want and use the bathroom when I want.
- Move/walk/go wherever I want.
- No artificial time constraints on any stage of labor.
- Make whatever sounds I want without inhibition.
- Push in whatever position I want to without any argument or battles.
- Finally, I won’t be the 3rd+ person to touch my baby and the absolute last person in the room to know the baby’s gender.
- Ability to bond with the baby however I want (touching, talking etc.) without feeling funny/inhibited by what I say/how I say it in front of strangers.
- No baring my body in front of strangers to nurse, be “checked” or attempting to use the bathroom on command after delivery.
- Baby won’t be taken away from me. Supposedly you have the “right” for that not to happen, but it’s easier said than done for hearing checks etc.
- No fear of procedures or treatments (or bottles or pacis) being given without my permission.
- No being bullied into giving formula.
- No being woken as soon as I fall asleep for BP, temp etc. That’s when the baby and I both aren’t being woken to check baby!
- Sleep in my own bed. Nuff said.
- Shower in my own shower with decent water pressure and a towel bigger than a washcloth. (WTF are they thinking giving postpartum women such tiny azz towels??)
- Wear whatever clothing I want, whenever I want.
- No issues with cloth diapering from birth.
- Complete access to my own house. My own food, my own couch, my own stuff, my own comfort zone.
- I control the lights and thermostat!
- No waiting for “visiting hours” for my children to meet the baby.
- No unfamiliar/possibly resistant bacteria exposure.
- Many, many more things that are slipping my mind at the moment!
I think that hospitals do have a place in some births, and I am incredibly grateful for medical intervention when necessary. In fact, I think not being comfortable with home birth, or not being “there yet” are valid reasons to have a hospital birth. I truly, truly believe in the fear/pain/tension cycle and I think that if you fear home birth, it’s not for you. (Though I am the perfect example of doing a 180 after educating myself.)
I wanted to share a few of the books I read on my way to where I am today (which is pretty “far out there” as far as birth hippies go, LOL!) They are Amazon affiliate links when available, so I would receive a small commission if you clicked through and bought. I was able to find most at my local library, or through inter-library loan.
Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care
Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic and Birth
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation
Childbirth without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth (Import)
Expecting Trouble: What Expectant Parents Should Know About Prenatal Care in America
Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First
(if I had to choose just ONE book as a favorite, must read, this would be it.)
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth
Natural Birth: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Breastfeeding
Heart and Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth
HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: A natural approach to a safe, easier, more comfortable birthing (3rd Edition)
Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank
The Doctors’ Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis (Great Discoveries)
Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America, Expanded Edition
Emergency Childbirth: A Manual
Birth Emergency Skills Training: Manual for Out -of- Hospital Midwives
Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America
Birth as an American Rite of Passage
Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor’s Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, From Preconception to Postpartum
I know this isn’t all of them, I just can’t remember them all!
There are a few other books on my list that I haven’t been able to find at the library, so I am considering buying the e-book versions:
Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities: A Guide to the Medical Literature
Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience
Birthing the Easy Way By Someone Who Learned the Hard Way
Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love
I have also been active in natural childbirth groups, and have read countless birth stories. Good and bad, blissful and catastrophic. Watched countless birth videos and read every medical study I could get my hands on. I’ve familiarized myself with complications possible during every stage, and have taken full responsibility for my care.
Naturally, we watched the requisite The Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America also!
Needless to say, I didn’t make this decision on a whim, and I am very grateful to have an intelligent husband, who can listen to and understand the facts, and who supports me fully. He was a little bit slower to move over to the home birth side, but he was able to have reasonable conversations with me, express his concerns, and allow me to do additional research for him to allay his fears.
I do hope to share my birth stories at some point. However, it wasn’t a bad hospital birth that “drove me to home birth.” I truly, completely believe that home birth is the safest, best choice for me and my family. My previous births definitely did play a role in my trip to where I am now. Would I go back and have a home birth with my first child? I don’t know. Maybe if I knew then, all that I know now. Otherwise, no. I don’t think I would have succeeded because I wasn’t ready.
Read my home birth story.