For most parents, the choice of where to have a baby is easy: the hospital. That's where 99 percent of births take place, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). But some couples—a small but steadily growing number—choose to deliver their babies at home instead.
Why do these couples opt for a home birth? And what is the experience like? Kristin Brooks, 36, a recent graduate of New York City's Columbia University nurse-midwifery program, and her husband, Glenn Meyer, 30, an executive for the National Football League share their story. After careful deliberation, the couple decided their first baby would be delivered at home in a bed that they could later point to and say, "This is where you were born."
What follows is an hour-by-hour diary of the birth of Griffin Simpson Meyer, who came into the world in the warmth and comfort of his parents' home one luminous October day.
Kristin has already been in labor for six hours. She paces the couple's studio apartment in New York City, timing her contractions. Debra Pascali-Bonaro, her doula, and Cara Muhlhahn, a certified nurse-midwife, have just arrived. Their presence is a source of comfort to Glenn, who was skeptical of a home birth—he became a convert after long discussions with Cara, who had a lot of experience with home deliveries and assured him that Kristin's good health, her uncomplicated pregnancy, and her commitment to home birth all made her an ideal candidate.
"At home, you don't have to worry about hospital regulations or policies," Glenn explains. "You can focus exclusively on having the kind of birth you want."
Kristin wanted a completely natural childbirth. She hoped to deliver her baby without an epidural, an episiotomy, or any of the other interventions that are often applied in hospitals. Even though she could have insisted on having a natural childbirth in any setting, "home is where Glenn and I feel most comfortable," she says. "I think that having the baby here gives us the best possible start as a family."
When Cara performs an internal check on Kristin, she finds that her cervix has dilated to nine centimeters—a measurement of 10 centimeters signals that birth is imminent. Within a few minutes, Kristin's water breaks, and everyone expects that she will deliver soon.