One Mom’s Path to
Choosing a Home Birth
by Rhea S.
It’s All Greek to Me
When I became pregnant for the first time, I had no idea where to start. In those days I wasn’t ‘crunchy,’ although I admit that label fits me well these days. I figured I’d go to whichever doctor was closest to me and whichever hospital was closest in the metro area where I resided. A friend of mine became pregnant a few months prior to me, so I asked her where she was going and that was the first time I had heard of midwives. She told me why she was going with a midwife at a hospital, so I did a little research on the outcomes of care and decided I wanted to go that route as well. My husband and I later took a natural child birth class, which really changed, or I guess formed, my views on childbirth. I knew I wanted to avoid the ‘cascade of interventions’ and I felt the midwives were my best bet. While researching midwives, I was surprised to learn that people “still” gave birth at home, intentionally. I remember thinking “Wow! How would anyone feel safe not being at a hospital?!!” I was still viewing birth as a medical condition.
Baby Number One Arrives
At 40 weeks and 3 days, after 8 days of prodromal labor and a ‘final’ labor of 36 hours, we welcomed our beautiful little boy into the world! I was able to have an intervention-free birth, as I wanted. I labored at home for about 30 hours, before finally going to the hospital. During that 30 minute drive, the adrenaline kicked in and my labor slowed down. I was heartbroken, but decided to stay at the hospital, since my contractions were still about 3 minutes apart. I labored in the hospital, mostly in the tub, for about 5 hours before my first pushing contraction. During that time, I didn’t see the midwife, and nurses came in about every half hour to see if we needed anything. So, essentially, it was just my husband and I and it was very low key – Until the pushing happened and the midwife was delivering another baby. The nurse in our room was new and scared and asked me to stop pushing. It was upsetting and I ended up telling her that she needed to deliver the baby or find someone who would. My midwife ended up making it in time, just enough time to threaten an episiotomy. The whole thing – the long labor, the drive to the hospital, the nurse, the threat – it really exhausted me and gave me a rough emotional start to motherhood.
New Baby, New Hospital
Fast forward a few years and we had moved across the country and were expecting our second child. We decided to use midwives again at a local hospital. The thought of a homebirth had crossed my mind, since I had no problems with my first birth, but I remember thinking “I wish I was brave enough to do that.” My second labor was nothing like the first. It really threw me for a loop. I had to convince my husband that we needed to go to the hospital, because things were moving much faster. I knew I was close to transitioning and so we started out for the 35 minute trek in the middle of the night. My contractions on the way to the hospital were intense. I could not get through them easily. Then there was a missed turn (gah!) and someone going to the wrong parking lot (double gah!) – by the time I got into the hospital and on the elevator I knew I was close. I ended up almost fainting in triage and they wheeled me to my room as I was starting to push. My second son was born 45 minutes after we entered the hospital. It was not relaxing, and was made worse by the fact that we ended up having a midwife I hadn’t met, there was an error in my chart that made everyone think I was at risk for an aneurysm, and my midwife shamed me by telling me I was being risky for not arriving early enough to receive antibiotics.
Both of my sons were born free of any intervention, as I wanted, and they were mostly good births. But, they were not as joyful as I had hoped. I felt that I had been treated unkindly by both of my care providers and just getting to the hospital was such a production. I told my husband that I would never have another child unless I could do a homebirth.
Selecting a Homebirth Midwife
A few years later, we were excited to be pregnant again and also nervous about the homebirth proclamation I had made! We watched the Business of Being Born on Netflix to get us fired up. Then we went about trying to select a midwife. I won’t say that we didn’t have any fears; we really did. But, we came to realize most of them were unwarranted when looking at statistics around homebirths.
We decided to interview several midwives. I started with three who served my area. I had questions ready, and the answers were important – but equally important for me was that I selected someone who I felt comfortable with, who I felt was nurturing, and who I could trust. Those might not be on the top of everyone’s list, but they were important to me. (Here’s a list of questions to get you started.) I also reached out to everyone I knew that had a homebirth. I had 5 friends who all used the same midwife and raved about her, so obviously she was on the top of my list to interview. And as soon as my husband and I met her, we knew she was ‘the one.’ She answered every question thoroughly, she had attended almost 900 births, she was nurturing, . . she was just who we wanted. We left that meeting fearless and ready.
Homebirth vs. Hospital Midwifery Care
Unlike birthing at the hospital, I knew who would be delivering my baby and I knew her well, and she knew me. I tend to get emotional a lot during prenatal visits. I cry bringing up concerns and fears. I always hated that with my hospital midwives, because each appointment was with someone new and I would end up a blubbering mess. I think I had a total of 10 or 12 prenatal visits with my homebirth midwife, most were an hour and about 45 minutes were spent discussing my emotional state, answering questions, and really getting to know me and my desires for birth. I also received individualized dietary recommendations, supplement recommendations, and even a few foot massages. My midwife and I built a strong relationship and having her at my birth was like having a friend or a mother present.
My third labor and delivery was so different from the first two. It wasn’t easier, in fact I think my third labor was the hardest. Although that could be because I was older and I also remember it the best, since it is fresh! I labored all day and not only was my midwife present, but three of my best friends were as well (and of course the hubby!). It was a day filled with laughing, walking through the neighborhood instead of the hospital corridors, sitting out in the sun, dancing, going in an out of my own shower, laying on my bed when I wanted to rest. It was really beautiful. And I never had to leave. I wasn’t told to slow down or speed up. My first baby girl was born an hour before midnight on the floor next to my bed, with my husband catching her and my best friends watching. After regaining my energy, we transferred to the bed. A few hours later, it was just me, my husband, and this new baby in our quiet, calm home. No one woke us every hour, no one was prodding me or the baby. It was serene.
The next morning, my midwife came back and cooked us breakfast and helped clean up a little. She, of course, checked over the baby and I, and made herself as useful as possible. She came back around 5 or 6 times over the next two weeks to check in and help. It was honestly the best medical care I have ever received by a long shot. After my 6 week appointment, I still checked in with her regularly – just sending a text or an email with another question. We still email, we’re friends on Facebook, and we run into each other from time to time. With my hospital births, I never again saw the midwives who delivered my babies.
Home or Hospital?
Every new mama has a lot of choices to make about their birth experience. The location is just one, although obviously a big one. Homebirth is not for everyone, but it can be truly beautiful for those who choose it. Regardless of the location you choose, it is important to research your provider and hospital or birthing center’s history of care (c-section rates, episiotomy rate, baby-friendly hospital, etc.).
The Livingston County Birth Circle can also support you in your quest to have the birth you want. We believe that everyone should have access to evidence-based care, regardless of what type of birth or birth setting you choose!
Join us at our next Livingston County Birth Circle meeting on Monday September 10th at 6:30pm when we will be discussing “Planning a Homebirth”. You can register here, it’s free!