Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"I Think, I Might Want To Think About A Home Birth"

After my c-section --- actually, no, even before I was ever pregnant ---
if anyone told me they had had a home birth, or that said that they might like to have a home birth,
I thought they were really intense and super over the top. Oftentimes I got the impression that home birth was somehow this elite club that only the strongest, most perfect, and most natural of hippies could join if they were crazy enough to try.  AND I thought that these home-birthing women thought everyone should do it.

After moving to an area where I only felt safe VBAC-ing at home, I came to change my mind about home birth.
But even after my very healing home birth experience...
I personally don't think you "haven't lived" until you've done a natural home birth, nor do I think I became "the ultimate birth-er."
AND I certainly don't take away a single solitary ounce of credit from any birth experience, based off my VBAC (which just happened to happen in my home.)
I also would never make blanket statements about how people should birth --- I don't think everyone should do a home birth.

There are plenty of reasons why someone could not do a home birth.
As well as plenty of reasons someone would not want to do a home birth.

And if you know deep down to the very core of yourself that you would never want to do a home birth, then smile and be on your way down your totally credible path.  Don't let your decision make you feel weird around anyone who chose a home birth, and please try to give them the same grace of acceptance.
I really do think we should be birthing where we feel comfortable and safe.  And if you would not feel comfortable and safe at home, your experience would not be emotionally healthy --- and often times our emotional well-being can affect our physical labors.

If any part of you thinks about home birth for yourself, a little bit, sometimes, just for a moment, on rare occasion
it's just that... you have concerns and feel too nervous to go any further than the occasional thought,
then I wanted to share this post with you.

I myself was totally freaked out by home birth, yet I did have a teeny, tiny, eensy, weensy, draw towards the "romance" of home birth, especially after my c-section.  But first of all I didn't think I could home birth after a c-section --- I thought I was disqualified from it.  Additionally, I didn't think it was safe to home-birth in general.  I don't think I would have ever gone past those thoughts if I hadn't moved while pregnant and been really unimpressed with my hospital VBAC options.

I think a lot of times, the real issue with the hesitance towards home birth is a lack of knowledge which is filled in by assumptions.
I know I just assumed a lot before I looked into it.
I thought that there would be no pre-natal care.
I kinda just thought these pregnant women were going on blind faith that everything was okay.  And then someone who didn't really know what was and wasn't okay came over to be there as you birthed, and something terrible was narrowly avoided.
I also assumed that there was no medical equipment available.  Just the "torn up bedsheets and boiling water" from those prairie movies.

What I learned during my second pregnancy is that home birthing midwives provide great prenatal care, bring medical equipment to your birth, and are VERY smart.

And I also learned that well trained home birthing midwives are very aware of what can go wrong and that they are especially wary during your pregnancy, looking for any symptoms that would make a home birth a bad option for you.  If they see these symptoms, they know when to say you should be sent to a doctor at a hospital.

My home birthing midwife was very good at this.  She cares very deeply about her patients and their children, so she would never want to endanger them.  I came in with a very low fever at 37 weeks, and she was prompt to tell me she would not allow me to birth at home with a fever (if I were to go into labor while sick).  If she was that on top of a low-grade fever, I know she would be even more careful with something more threatening.

And during labor, she was just as good about keeping her eye out for symptoms of anything out of the ordinary well before it were to become an emergency.
Both the lives of the people that she cares for, as well as her professional name are on the line.  She does not push the envelope just for the sake of everyone being able to say it was a home birth.  She wants the best for everyone.  And she is very well trained and experienced in how to gauge that with time to spare if a transfer to a hospital is needed.

She also brings oxygen, pitocin (for postpartum bleeding, not induction purposes) and some more medicines, fetal monitors, as well as what she would need for any stitches, and lots of good stuff like that.

It is a lot more controlled, monitored, and safe than I had realized.

(In fact, I've personally come to the conclusion that the monitored situation of a home birth is probably safer than laboring at home as long as possible before going to a planned hospital birth because, during a home birth there is someone there checking on the baby throughout your labor, instead of just once you show up at the hospital.  If something was going wrong during the middle of your labor the midwife could get you to the help you that on your own might not realize you need.)

I'm sure I've not yet sold you...
(I couldn't have sold myself on just that either.)

Perhaps I made you think for a moment,
but I'm sure you have more concerns.

I know that there are many thoughts like these that come up ---
I've had them myself, and heard other women state them to me ---
the reasons we just don't think we could do a home birth:

  • This is my first baby, I just don't know how I will birth, so I'd feel safer at a hospital.  
  • I had a really bad experience with a previous birth, I don't think it would be safe for me to not deliver in a hospital.  
  • I have a certain condition that makes it so I can't deliver at home.  
  • I don't think I could do it without an epidural.  
  • I've heard a really scary home birth story...  
  • I've heard horrifying hospital birth stories, if they had happened at home then...  
These are all totally valid points.  (I myself had most of these questions and concerns myself.)  And I'm not going to tell you that you are wrong for thinking them, or that you 100% are the right candidate for a home birth.  But, if there is a little tiny voice in you somewhere hoping for a home birth, I hope you will do yourself the favor of taking your concerns to a home birthing midwife near you and speak with her about them all --- your thoughts, hopes, fears, concerns, scary stories, whatever you can come up with, even if you are not expecting at the time.  There is nothing to lose and a lot to gain.  

My midwife let me come in, free of charge, before ever seeing her for prenatal care, and let me ask everything I could come up with.  I had like 10 pages of printed paper, full of questions.   I found my midwife to be very honest and thorough in her answers --- no sugar coating the truth. She didn't try and oversell anything. Never promised what she couldn't deliver. But in our conversation she alleviated so many fears, taught me a bunch of stuff, and shed some amazing light on my past birth experience all in about 20--30 mins.  

The worst that can happen in the conversation is that you find out that home birth isn't something you want to do, or can do.  Then at least you can say, "I looked into it, and it wasn't for me" instead of always wondering or wishing.  
If you wind up intrigued by what you heard in your conversation with the midwife, but you don't feel like that* midwife is right for you, or she doesn't feel comfortable with your situation (for me, not all midwives will do a VBAC at home, or some wouldn't travel as far as my home) then you can always interview someone else.

*Please don't fall in love with a Homebirth so hard that you would be willing to use any profession regardless of their credentials. You need to ensure that a homebirthing midwife is equipped to handle serious situations should they arise. Make sure you do your homework both directions.

But what I think is really cool about taking the plunge and going in to talk is the possibility that you could be freed up from some fears, and possibly come out highly informed on some great pregnancy and delivery points --- regardless of where you ultimately end up birthing. You might be totally surprised (like I was) by what you learn.  (And it might be super helpful stuff that you would never learn anywhere else -- like what happened in my own experience.)

There is something incredibly empowering about looking an option straight in the face and assessing it for your own self.  

If you don't know how to locate a home birth midwife near you, a great resource is a local experienced doula. That's how I found my midwife. I had just moved to a new state and I would have never been able to find my midwife on my own, since her business is all word of mouth. By getting in touch with a nearby doula who has been in the business for 15 years, I was made aware of all of my (VBAC) birthing options.
Local ICAN chapters are also great resources, even if you have never had a c-section, they can point you to great local providers.

So if home birth is something you give occasional mental glances towards, I really truly hope you will find a home birth midwife and just get her thoughts on it. I know it changed my life, and I will never regret it. In fact, I will cherish it forever.
Even if you ultimatly chose a different place to deliver, I think this process of investigation can be just as life changing in some amazing ways for you. 
I really do.
I hope you go for it.

My heart sends out continual silent prayers for your births. 
I hope it finds you well.


  1. Hi! I'm getting married on March 9, and we hope to have children right away. I accidentally came across your site (a friend had pinned your maternity article) and since I am trying to plan ahead and familiarize myself with all things pregnancy I read this one. I've definitely considered a home birth, my mother had 10 children (2 normal hospital deliveries, 4 birthing center deliveries, 3 at home deliveries, and one high risk pregnancy that turned into an emergency c-section). I'm a bit familiar with parts of it but since I was very young when she did the at home births (the last 3 were not at home) I'm not sure if I'm ready to jump straight into a home delivery. Have you ever used a birthing center? I have wondered if that was a great way to ease into a home birth. If I do one at the birthing center and feel comfortable maybe the next I could have at home. I have a friend who had one at a birthing center (for similar reasons, not feeling like she was up to a home birth) and then two at home. She raves that it's the ONLY way to go and that I MUST do a home birth RIGHT AWAY. I'm just not sure I'm ready (or my dear fiance) to go straight to having one at home. It seems like at a birthing center it's nice because when you're all done you can just go home and they get to finish whatever clean up, haha!! :) Besides they also have more resources available like big tubs for birthing if I so chose. Do you have any comments? I'm not really looking for you to convince me of anything, I just enjoy hearing what others with experience have to say. Anyway, fascinating article and so helpful. I'm enjoying your site. :)

    1. Hi Megan,
      (Um - I get overly wordy -- so I have to comment more than once!) :)
      Good to hear from you! And way to go on thinking things through already on how you want to start your family!
      To answer your question:
      I have not used a birthing center myself.
      For my first born, I was in no way interested in a home birth. I saw a group of midwives at a hospital in my town. I relied on the fact that they were midwives as my “safety net” against invasive medical procedures. Sadly I ended up being induced at 42 weeks (most providers don’t want you to enter your 43rd week) and ended my delivery via c-section because my daughter was malpositioned. I don’t hold a grudge against these midwives, they did keep me safe and I do think they did their best, but I have since learned that just because someone is titled as a midwife does not mean that they are naturally minded. I learned later on that I could have taken a lot more natural measures throughout my pregnancy and at the end of my long gestation to have gotten my labor going naturally (and if I had followed those, it was much more likely that my daughter would have been in more favorable position meaning I likely wouldn’t have needed a c-section.)
      So since that incident I have become VERY picky about my provider (they are a HUGE factor in your chance of c-section.) I feel that I would be very willing to see a doctor over a midwife if that doctor had the stance on birth I was looking for. I view it on a very individual basis. And I would personally birth anywhere a good provider was located. I loved my homebirth, but I loved MORE my midwife -- she was fantastic: crazy-smart, knew exactly what she was doing, and very very trustworthy.

    2. Anway,
      since I’ve had a c-section it's very likely that I can never use a birthing center since they usually won’t oversee VBACs. (And actually, there are no centers near where I live currently.)
      But they do sound like a very nice middle ground, as you say.
      Often times they make people feel more secure there than being at home. But as I implied in my post, a midwife coming to your home will have all the medical supplies with them that you would have at a birthing center. And you can get a tub for your home. (I rented one. But you can also seriously just buy a meduim sized summer blow up pool at Target or wherever-- that’s basically what it is.)
      You are right about clean up needing to be done at home -- but in my case my husband, mom, doula and midwife took care of it. I was left out of that matter. :)
      If I could go back in time, I would not hesitate to have my first labor and delivery at home if I had a good midwife. (And I say that, not in a regret-for-my c-section way, but in a thats-just-how-comfortable-I-am-with-homebirth way.) My midwife told me in no uncertain terms that she would get me to a hospital with lots of time to spare if I needed to be there. Which is the same scenario one would be in at a birthing center.
      Something I loved about my homebirth was how seamless it all was. I didn’t have to think about when was the right time to leave my home, I just got to stay in the moment and embrace the labor, which for me made it very manageable.
      Anway, I think the best thing you can do is to find different providers and interview them, see what their stance is on things that matter to you. For me the clincher is how they view induction at 42 weeks. (Because of course that was my circumstances.) But my homebirth midwife told me she wouldn’t let me get to 42 weeks -- naturally. And she kept to that! I was in LOVE with her for that! If we have more kids we will likely live somewhere else at that point, so I will be looking for someone like her then.
      If a homebirth is an interesting idea to you, try to find one or more midwives and get there take on everything. You aren’t committing by asking.
      Same with birthing centers.
      Don’t be afraid to ask -- this is your birth, and there are plenty of options out there. Go with someone who has a similar view as you do.
      If you wanted to just get a little more input while you are in this waiting place watch (if you haven’t already) “The Business of Being Born” and “More Business of Being Born” they cover a lot of things that could answer some of your questions pretty well. (If you have Netflix they are both available on there. If you don’t have Netflix, you could sign up for that free month trial just to get your hands on these films! : ) )
      Good luck! And Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!
      Feel free to keep in touch!
      All the best!

    3. Thanks so much!! It was good to read your replies. I didn't think I'd have to do the clean up hehe but I am a little worried about first time birth, hubby not used to being around the birthing process, we make it through all the trauma of me screaming who knows what at him and then SURPRISE HUBBY NOW YOU GET TO CLEAN UP. :D But those are good things to think about and I will definitely check into those titles on Netflix. I am definitely gunshy over the whole "omg you're overdue WE MUST INDUCE" because I've seen it end up in c-sections with so many people I personally know. Really don't want to go there!! My mom had the emergency c-section with her last baby and said it was worse than anything she ever did and she'd take a vaginal delivery ANY day. Obviously it wasn't like she had a choice that time (she was preeclamptic) but it was good info to know. Thanks for sharing!

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