6 Reasons I’m Having a Home Birth
Increasing numbers of American moms are choosing home birth over hospitals. I’m one of them. Here’s why.
Unlike my son Kaspar’s birth three years ago, which took place in a hospital, my next baby boy will be born at home. I became kind of a birth nerd between pregnancies #1 and #2, and, when it came down to it, the decision to have a home birth was an easy one to make. Of course, there’s no right way to have a baby, and each family, pregnancy and birth are wonderfully unique. Read on for six reasons our family’s chosen home birth this time around.
1. This will be my first home birth, but it’s not my first rodeo.
Kaspar’s birth marked the best day of my life, hands down, to date; after all, I met my son, and became a mom, in the moment my little guy and I locked eyes. Between an induction, an epidural, an episiotomy – which I was not consulted on – and several not-so-awesome days in a crowded maternity ward afterward, however, I also got a full dose of the high-intervention, not-so-mama-friendly style birthing system ours is becoming known for here in the States. Now, I hadn’t taken a very proactive role in preparing for my birth; I figured doctors and hospitals deliver babies all the time, and I’d never had one before. Going with the mainstream flow felt like the most reliable route to my top priority: ending up with a healthy baby. But it ultimately left me with an underlying sense that there’s more to delivering babies, and to caring for new mothers (and their newborns), than my hospital experience accounted for.
Of course, hospitals vary widely, and many moms have wonderful births in them. Having had a hospital birth already, however, I found myself drawn to home birth for my second baby. Labor and delivery are no longer mysterious concepts for me, and I decided from the beginning of this pregnancy that I’d approach this thing “fear-free.” (Which does not, in any way, mean recklessly.) I know from my first birth – despite the interventions – that my body is amazingly capable. Although I very well may eat my words when I hit transition, I’ve gladly chosen to trade the relative appeal of whiz-bang medical pain management for a more active, autonomous role in the birthing process, as well as some key homebirth-exclusive perks.
2. Home birth = SOP-Free.
I’d actually thought, at the beginning of this pregnancy, that home birth wasn’t in the cards for me; I had a blood clot in college, caused by birth control, and am therefore a borderline high-risk pregnant lady. (I take a low-dose blood thinner while pregnant to prevent clots.) So I found an obstetrician I liked and told her I intended on having a natural hospital birth this time. She was game for it, but as our appointments progressed and I asked more questions, I realized I would need to push hard, so to speak, for my preferences, right up to delivery and beyond. SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) both within the OB practice, and within the hospital itself, was not, as a rule, conducive to the low-intervention style birth I was hoping for.
For example, I learned that Pitocin is regularly given to moms after even drug-free hospital deliveries, as a way of moving the placenta out more quickly. I didn’t want that. I also didn’t want constant fetal monitoring during labor – the hospitals here generally hook moms up to the machines every thirty minutes. Or for my baby to be taken to the nursery… or bathed, or given a Hep-B shot once he’s born, and so on. I mostly don’t want to feel compelled to repeat my requests, throughout labor, among a hospital staff that may or may not be willing or able to accommodate them.
My midwives’ essential approach, in contrast, is more in line with what I desire for my upcoming birth. Even in the event of the unexpected – like if I need Pitocin in order to control bleeding after the birth – I’ll trust their recommendations, because I know those recommendations will be informed by my unique circumstances, instead of dictated by standard protocol that may or may not apply.
3. Speaking of midwives? I heart my birth team.
My midwives have delivered hundreds upon hundreds of babies. I know they know what they’re doing, and that gives me great confidence in birthing, with their assistance, at home. (I would not attempt an unassisted homebirth. My body is not a lemon and all that, but, yeah, I want some qualified help.)
Midwife-led prenatal care has been eye-opening, too. I’ve spent at least an hour with my midwives each time we’ve met. Their offices are warm, welcoming and reassuring. So are their demeanors, and so is their approach to birth. Birth can, of course, be unpredictable, but a mom’s mindset also powerfully influences its course. (I know more than one mom whose active labor totally stalled upon her arrival in the bright lights and beeping, buzzing bustle of a hospital delivery room.) My midwives have gently prepared me for birth in subtle ways that go beyond making sure I’m physically fine… which I am. I also have two fantastic doulas in the mix. I feel surrounded by capable, caring people. Birth professionals are a special bunch.
4. It’s a family affair.
Having my preschooler here during delivery feels like the big home birth wild card to me. I have no idea how he’ll react when this all goes down. I like that he’ll have the option of being included to whatever degree he wants to, though; his family’s about to grow, too, and he’ll be here when it does, rather than being left at home while we take off, only to return a few days later with a new person in tow. His favorite Montessori teacher’s on standby to come hang with him through the big event, and we’ve been reading books on the topic to prepare him for the sights and sounds of childbirth. Still, I’m a little nervous about how he’ll handle it all. I’ll let you know how it goes.
5. It’s our party! (We can do what we want to.)
As you’ve probably picked up on, we’re going to have a full house when this baby makes his debut. Gathering our supplies and getting all set up feels a bit like party planning. And since we’re throwing this shindig in our own home, everything from the lighting to the music to the food (yes, I can eat while laboring!) is up to us.
If I want to sit in the birth tub for hours with a Do Not Disturb sign around my neck, I’m free to do so. If I want to walk around naked, I can. If I want to give birth lying down on the bed, I can do that too, but I definitely don’t have to. After baby arrives, our team will stick around for a while, ensuring everyone is safe and well, but they’ll mostly let us snuggle, nurse, sleep, and get to know each other in peace. (They’ll also take care of clean-up!) Party on!
6. My gut says go for it.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mom, it’s to listen to my gut. I’m sure I could have a wonderful hospital birth, especially since, having done this before, I’m so much more informed, and prepared to advocate for myself and my baby. Ultimately, however, whether or not a hospital birth could be great, a home birth feels right this time. And the hospital (aka the back-up plan) isn’t going anywhere.
Have you birthed at home? In a hospital? One of each? Pros and cons? Any tips before we kick this thing off? I can’t wait to read about your experiences in the comments below!
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