My first birth experience with my daughter Zoe was a big eye opener. While it has all turned out alright with time and healing, it was one of the most emotionally and physically traumatic events of my life. I guess I had assumed that birth wouldn’t go wrong, that if I listened to my doctor, and did what they said, it would just happen and it would be perfect. While I had heard the phrase ‘cascade of interventions’ and knew that c-sections and unnecessary interventions were a ‘thing’ some people complained about, I did not expect it to happen to me, until it did.
I had no idea the stress, pain and emotional vulnerability that is experienced during birth. If I could do it again, I would make different decisions. Luckily, this time around, I CAN make different decisions and prepare for the birth that serves both a healthy baby and a healthy mom. How magical that these two things are one and the same?
I have chosen to birth at home for many many reasons, but here are the top 5.
1. I want to be monitored by people and not machines.
A 2017 study found that the United States has the highest rates of maternal deaths in the developed world (source) and is the only developed nation in which this number is rising, not declining.
After my experience with Zoe’s birth, I certainly can see how this could be true. I also can understand how, as the study suggested, that hospital protocol is interfering with proper maternity care.
I remember when I was laboring with Zoe, if I would move at all the monitor wouldn’t be able to pick up a Zoe’s heartbeat and a nurse would run in totally panicked. The energy that came into the room with most of the providers was one of worry, frustration and foreboding, not joy and support. While I know many other people have different experiences in the hospital, the entire time in the hospital felt stressful.
This time, I am excited to be surrounded by a team of people who will be with me the whole time and not people who have a small part of the picture in their mind. I will be surrounded and supported by my midwife, her assistant, a doula and my husband. Each of whom will be focused on me and baby… not watching several monitors and dealing with many different birth stories and birth plans.
My team will intimately know what is happening at every moment. My midwife has been trained to handle any emergency a hospital staff would, including resuscitation and hemorrhaging (the two horror stories people have been loving to tell me.) She also knows how to monitor for emergencies that should be handled by a hospital staff and will transfer me if needed into the care of the OB team that she partners with.
Unlike with Zoe’s birth, no one will be running in looking at a chart trying to catch up with what is happening in my room. Yes, there will be plenty of charting and monitoring, but it will be, as it should be during birth, all about me and baby. And, unlike Zoe’s birth, no one who will be providing care for me will be talking about recent sports events and family vacations when there is important action happening with my body right then.
I often wonder if Zoe’s birth story could have been different if instead of ‘following protocol’ to move my labor forward, someone had spent 5 minutes treating me as a human first. Maybe if someone had prepared me for what a contraction feels like, and helped me cope with the intensity, things could have been different.
“Experiences have clearly shown that an approach which ‘de-medicalizes’ birth, restores dignity and humanity to the process of childbirth, and returns control to the mother is also the safest approach.” Michel Odent, MD
2. I want to be with my baby the whole time.
I didn’t get to hold Zoe for hours after she was born even though she was perfectly healthy. This time, this first hour after birth will be mine and I won’t have to fight for it. This is how birth should be. There is an incredible dance of hormones going on in both mother and baby’s bodies during this time. This is when breastfeeding is most easily established and a moment that as a mother, you will never forget. This time around, I am much more mindful of the fact that if I want this first hour with my baby, snuggling skin to skin, nursing as I’m being cared for, I have to plan for it. My entire team believes in the magic of this first hour and will be supporting me and holding space for me to enjoy this time even as they care for me.
“We must attempt to tell the whole truth about birth, the truth that includes the transformation, mastery, satisfaction, personal power and the difference between pain and suffering.” – Cheri van Hoover
3. I want to know the people who are caring for me. Now that I have educated myself on birth, I realize that it is much more than an event and more of a journey that unfolds before you. Each birth different, unique and full of it’s own beauty, challenges and lessons. You birth a baby as an entire human with all of your emotions present. I want the people in the room to know my personality, my likes, dislikes and be people who I have developed a relationship with and deeply trust. I certainly want to limit people who have different ideas and expectations about birth from interfering and do not want to be defending my choices but enjoying my choices. While I had been comfortable with a group practice the first time around, I now see that this model may work for some, but it is not ideal for me.
“If there is one thing you can do RIGHT NOW to ensure your best birth experience, it’s this: Choose a care provider who is an EXPERT in the type of birth you are planning. If you are planning a safe, skilled cesarean birth, you should hire someone who is an expert at cesarean sections. You wouldn’t hire a doctor for a c-section who said, “Well actually I’m not really comfortable with that type of birth, but I’ll let you do it if you want, I suppose…” If you’re planning a safe, natural, unmedicated birth, you should hire someone who is an EXPERT at supporting natural birth. A doctor with a 30% c-section rate is not a natural birth expert. Neither is a doctor who does routine episiotomies, or doesn’t understand how to catch a baby unless mom is laying on her back. A doctor who says “Well, most of my clients do end up choosing an epidural, but if you want to go natural you can do that, I suppose…” is NOT an expert in unmedicated birth. When you find the right care provider, they will understand your birth plan before you even show it to them, because it’s what they already do EVERY DAY.”~Lauralyn Curtis
4. My home is where I am most comfortable and feel safest.
Not having to go anywhere, being in my own environment, and being cared for in my own home is about as luxurious and lovely as I can imagine. Not wearing a hospital gown is an added bonus. But most of all, I cannot wait for that moment after birth where my whole family is in my comfy, cozy bed snuggling together for the first time.
5. I don’t mind at all that one less person at a busy hospital is one less distraction for the mama who is in an emergency and needs a well-focused team behind her. One thing I am extraordinarily grateful for is that we have OBGYN’s trained for emergencies. This care is important to me. In choosing to have a homebirth, I am grateful that I can safely nourish myself and my baby in and natural way, according to my own values. For me, when it comes to caring and taking care of my body, the hierarchy goes
1. Respect the body’s ability to heal itself, perform its functions on its own. I know that birth, while not without risks, is safe and my body is designed to birth my baby. 2. Use gentle herbs, oils, movement and energy work to support the body under the guidance of qualified practitioners. 3. Seek out stronger medical care accepting and being aware of the side effects of the medicine received. Having a midwife does not exclude me in any way from going to the hopsital if an emergency does arise. Yet, it does allow me to begin (and most likely end) in a way that respects my whole person and value system.
There are risks in every birth, and I am grateful that we do have care for emergency situations. Not being in the hospital is one less low risk birth to distract someone educated and trained in emergencies to be distracted by.
How we birth matters. It is an experience that a mother will remember her entire life and and story that will shape her relationship with her child. One that will likely be retold for years to come. There is no birth without risk. And because of that, it is important to know your own needs and find a place where you feel comfortable and safe. This will be different for each of us. As my VBAC educator Sharon Muza said
” The best we can hope is to be given and understand accurate information, have a supportive team and make decisions that feel right to us on a personal level.”
If you are interested in a homebirth and have questions, I’d be happy to share my experience with you.
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""I confided in Suzzie that I struggle with anxiety and a lot of self doubt. To be honest, I just wasn't sure I was cut out to do birth. After a conversation with her, I realized that the process of overcoming these doubts and fears was going to be an amazing gift. She gave me confidence to start working towards the birth I wanted. I went into birth feeling safe and ready. And I had a great experience. I'm glad I had the courage to start. That was the hardest part." - Olivia-Grace , a mom who took the first step and kept on going