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.
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[…] you missed my post about my journey to homebirth, please do read it. My path to home birth was a long one, and it really wasn’t a single thing […]
I just read your reasons for not having a midwife the first time. That INFURIATES me that the office said, “Midwives do not deliver in Maryland.” They do. I live in Maryland. Unfortunately, the hospital I delivered at [Holy Cross Hospital] does not grant privileges to midwives, but there are other local hospitals that do. Guess what? I’m hoping to go to a birth center most likely Bay Area Midwifery Center. At this point, my husband is not ready for me having a home birth, and I don’t want to do it without his full support.
It was my own stupid fault for believing them & not researching for myself. 🙁 I’m sure your birth center birth will be wonderful!
I should also add, I’m not pregnant, but this has been something my husband and I have talked about so when the next comes along he knows what I want. That’s something I regretted with my daughter. I knew I wanted a natural birth, but he did not. So, when I was induced he didn’t realize how concerned I was that it might end up with a c-section because of all the interventions.
I think sometimes you have to spell things out for men. I don’t mean that in a hateful way, I just think they operate differently than we do.
[…] of course very happy with the birth for all the reasons I outlined before, but it was even better than I expected, and I’m just amazed at the difference in how I feel […]
[…] more “mainstream” then. Just a little bit though! I was still into natural birth, though I didn’t consider homebirth then, and my idea of an ideal birth has moved from un-medicated to unhindered. I was into car seat […]
Oh, and I forgot to mention that I had to have a catheter to extract my urine because I couldn’t pee. It was only like 3-4 hours after I’ve given birth. That was one of the most painful things ever. I didn’t have a choice. I hated that nurse. The nurse that inserted the IV was super nice, though. Although she treated me like I was 9, instead of 19. Telling me a story about a cat and whatnot. It distracted me, so I guess she did a good job!
Oh my goodness, this made me tear up! Although my labor wasn’t bad, the postnatal care was a NIGHTMARE. I was so naive. I thought they would have a lactation consultant available to teach me how to properly breastfeed. The nurse gave me a brief 30 second lesson. My daughter wouldn’t attach right away. The nurse didn’t even give her/me a chance! 3-5 minutes…
I was so drugged up and loopy that I didn’t fight it. Put a bottle in her mouth. Whatever. (I was on 2 things of epidural, demerol, and I’m sure other crap). Want to know what was worse? The nurse fed her. Wth? I’m the mom. You’re not. Give me my child.
So, I’m released from the hospital the next day. They gave me the option of staying another night. Heck no, get me out of this place! At home, I tried to breastfeed again…but it seemed like she was already hooked on the bottle. I didn’t know what to do. Maybe it was my fault that I didn’t research or attend classes, but I figured “I’d just know how.”. I still feel like a failure to this day.
Ever since I’ve been reading all these blogs, I’ve switched to cloth diapers. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about natural parenting. With my next baby (which isn’t anytime in the near future, so I still have time to research), I plan on having an assisted home birth.
Thank you for this post! Especially for the list of books!
*hugs* I am so sorry for what you went through. Especially since it is so common of an experience. 🙁 Start reading & don’t stop!
It was not your fault! Breastfeeding is natural and it takes awhile to get the hang of it (which is hard if you have people gawking at you). Also when people tell you that you are not doing it right or baby isn’t getting enough milk ask them if they have ever breast feed. My first child ate all the time of course he was a month early he was supposed to be in my womb eating!! I have had three c-sections due to hospital and no vbacs and very rural area previous medical issues make me afraid of homebirth (don’t wanna leave my kids, i grew up without a mom and not everyone almost dies twice at 19/20 years old…enuf said there) After first c-section due to emergency (hemorraging) they doped me up for my nerves ( my son almost died yes I was upset) said it was best. with my second and third c-sections i take no dope for pain. they can forget it. tylenol will due fine and better beds would be nice. point is we learn as we get older and experience is the best. Although it is hard we do not need to beat ourselves up with the could of should of….we did our best. I love cloth diapers!!!
Thank you for sharing your journey.
I feel so blessed to have been raised in a family where midwives are the norm. I was born at a birth center with a midwife after my older sister was an induction. The youngest of my siblings were born at home. I had my first at my midwife’s clinic, the same midwife that caught my youngest brother and 2 nieces. Then I had my second at home and boy! there is no going back from that 😀
That’s awesome! I hope my daughter (6) grows up thinking it’s the norm. However, she already thinks that bottle feeding is the norm (since I’m the ONLY person she sees bf’ing, dolls come with bottles, babies in shows/movies/books are bottle fed etc.) so we’ll see.
[…] about and while fabulous, they are also a little spendy. After my post last week, you probably know I’m planning a home birth. It may not be as important a decision, since I won’t have to pack a bag & can change my […]
Thanks for sharing! I always wondered what a home birth would be like. After being on bed rest for 8 weeks I was ready for a change of scenery when I finally gave birth…LOL
Yech, that’s no fun!!
I remember reading about home births and watching videos when I was pregnant. I was always amazed by how those women did it. Then again, women gave birth for ages without hospital intervention and the population thrived! I wasn’t interested in a home birth then, but after my first birth experience, I would look into other methods or perhaps a midwife. I swear, after 2 hours of labor they plugged in the pitocin to “hurry things along.” That is one nasty drug! Good luck making your choice and doing the research! Two friends of mine did a water birth at a hospital and loved their experience.
Looking at my records, the doctor at my first birth had already decided I’d have pitocin the minute I walked through the door. It was just a matter of when. Not every woman dilates 1 cm/hr from the first contraction, especially when in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar environment, on her back, being bothered!
I’m excited for you to have a homebirth. I think it’s going to be a great experience for you. My mom had a homebirth with her 5th of 6 children (my sister just younger than I was delivered at home. Everything went perfectly, although the experience was still pretty nerve-racking for my dad and grandmother who were there. For them it was a decision made more out of necessity because they didn’t have medical insurance, although my mom had had 4 natural births previously, so she was confident she could do it). So I’ve always been somewhat interested in homebirth (or at least in an unmedicated hospital or birthing center birth) but unfortunately my husband is NOT on board with either idea! Sigh. I feel like I should do some research so I can explain to him why an unmedicated birth is a good idea besides just “I just want to”. Because that’s not enough to convince him that I’m not crazy. We still have plenty of time to think about it (not pregnant yet!) so maybe I’ll start delving into some reading. I hope everything goes smoothly for you!
My husband was on the fence. We went to a free consultation with the home birth midwife. She was professional, easy to talk to, wanted to answer our questions, etc. and my husband was convinced.
Wow, he’s not even on board with an unmedicated birth?? I’d definitely start doing research now! Would he watch the business of being born with you? Read some books with you? Have a visit with a midwife?
well before i got pregnant in early summer of 2009, i knew i wanted a home birth. everyone told me i was crazy. my husband and i found a great team of midwives who we felt comfortable working with. everything was going according to plans until i was about 6 months along. i came home from work one day and noticed blood when i used the bathroom. i went to the hospital immediately and was taken by ambulance to a bigger hospital where i was put on bed rest. after a month of being there, during which i spoke frequently with the midwives, they let me go home, still on bed rest. the midwives told me that as long as i made it to 37 weeks, i could still deliver at home. i didn’t make it that long. the day i got off bed rest i went into labor. the doctor i had for delivery was a mean, mean lady. my baby had flipped and was in a breech position. she didn’t even want to try turning him, but i refused to go under the knife until she at least gave it a REAL try. not only did i not have the home birth i wanted, i have a huge scar to show just how much the doctors listened to what i wanted.
hospitals are for sick people to get better, not for healthy people to deliver healthy babies.
Hospitals are for sick people, that’s right! 🙂
I am fairly certain that I will have a home birth with my next child whenever that is (hopefully pregnant soon). I went to a birth center the first time around and I would go back in a heartbeat if I still lived in that state. My whole pregnancy and birthing experience was great from start to finish. I’m actually nervous that my experience the second time around won’t be as good as the first. Except, trust me, I would prefer a nicer labor but the support through the whole thing was so amazing that I knew I could handle it. One thing I haven’t decided yet is if I want a water birth again. I loved it the first time around but if I do a home birth, I don’t know if I want to deal with that as well. I have a while to think about it, I guess. I also have people who say I should check out this one hospital because they are really friendly and not pushy, etc etc. So maybe… but I don’t know!
Wow, you rock! Sounds like you had a great experience! Just my opinion, but I would stay out of the hospital if you have the choice. 🙂
I love you a little more now 🙂
My son is healthy, happy, and amazing! I should not feel like my birth experience with him was a failure but I do. My midwife was great, my doctor was a nightmare. I ended up having what could be considered an unnecessary c-section because I was a week over and NOTHING was happening. There was no attempt at delivery, no scrapping, breaking, or medicating, just straight to surgery. We were never really told what the cause was we just assumed it was because he was so big (9pounds 1ounce and 22 inches long). My doctor was happy with the surgery, he was one of the most respected OB SURGEONS in his field. My midwife said she was glad I had the surgery. They messed up my meds and I was practically paralyzed and couldn’t safely hold my baby by myself for 24 hours. The ONLY thing I remember about the delivery was the sensation of four sets of hands pushing on my body trying to get my son out and my body being pushed so hard I could feel it rocking back and forth while my doctor asked for more help. I don’t remember seeing my son or pictures being taken, and I don’t remember being sewed up or anything until a long time later in the recovery room. EVERYONE held my baby before me! I still want to cry about that to this day. Learning to breastfeed was a nightmare fraught with even more misinformation. Four and half years later I have learned so much that I wish I had known then. I finally learned from my new NP that the cord was wrapped around his head, and his head was not engaged or dropped and he was big. All not that uncommon and could have been dealt with to allow for a vaginal delivery. I wish I could have a home birth. I feel like so many choices were taken away from me that day. So much information was not given to us that should have been. Now we are waiting to see if VBAC is even an option! I now hate and fear hospitals. I wish I didn’t HAVE to deliver in one now but because of my first doctor that choice was taken from me. I don’t want strangers’ hands inside me and devices shoved in me or machines and medications forced on me! I don’t want to be told I can’t move or that I am taking to long! I am even more scared and frustrated then I was the first time. I know how easy it is for your choices to be taken away or made for you. I’m scared and I shouldn’t have to be!
Sara, I’m so sorry for your experience *hugs*
Don’t stop reading. Not just VBAC, but HBAC might be an option for you. Educate yourself, but in the end, do what YOU are comfortable with.
Ooh, I didn’t know you were planning a home birth. So am I, I think we’re both due in November. My first was born in the hospital.
The hospital was OK (I managed to be able to say no to a few things like IV, Hep B shot, and regret not insisting on a few other things like “delayed” cord clamping, being able to push in a more comfortable and less tear-causing position, etc.). It was my doctor that I had conflict with…not agreeing with me on my due date (I was charting and I KNEW when I was due) , lots of extra testing and pressure to induce because of being “overdue” / “too small baby” (he was 7 lb. 11 oz.) , getting made fun of for planning to use LAM and/or natural family planning as birth control.
I am looking forward to many of the same things as you, including letting my son come and meet his brother or sister whenever it works for our family, not hospital visiting hours. And cloth diapering from birth :).
I recently wrote a post about the prenatal care I’ve gotten from my midwives. I hope to write one about “what I enjoyed about birth at home with midwives”, but I think I will wait until after the baby is born to post so it is more personalized.
You’ve mentioned so many issues I have with the medicalization of birth in general, and the “doctor knows best” mentality. I would have ended up with a preemie with DS since I ovulated around CD 36! Luckily my dates matched up with the early u/s I gave in to! My OB with him was truly rare, but the hospital ruled the show. I think delayed cord clamping in the hospital is anything longer than 5 seconds, LOL.