Let's say you need a car. Would you just walk into the nearest dealership, hand them your credit card, and say "I'll buy the car everyone else is getting"? No way! You would do research and visit multiple dealerships and look at multiple models with multiple options before giving anyone a penny.
The sad truth is, many Americans don't put this much effort into choosing their birth options. This is probably because most Americans don't know there are options.
I am so grateful for hospitals and the birth-related procedures that can be done there, and I know some amazing, life-saving, Jesus-loving doctors and OB's, but I do plan on giving birth at home again.
I'm not choosing home birth because I'm a stubborn non-conformist hippie willing to put my child's life at stake for my selfish goals. I'm choosing home birth because my husband and I have researched thoroughly, pondered and prayed much, and considered it the best option for our family.
If you want to know the health/safety reasons I plan on having another home birth, I recommend the documentary The Business of Being Born. (Warning: As it shows women laboring and giving birth, it does show women unclothed and there is some, erm, expressive language.) The movie contains reliable research, big names in the birth world are interviewed, and there is an overwhelming amount of eye-opening facts about births in America.
If you want a more scholarly source, I recommend the book The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, though wrought with spiritual/new age-type stuff with which I disagree, has a lot of helpful information as well.
For a quick fact, there was a study in Canada that took place from 2000 to 2004 and observed almost 13,000 births. "The mortality rate per 1,000 births was 0.35 in the [planned-and-attended-by-registered-midwives] home birth group, 0.57 in hospital births attended by midwives, and 0.64 among those attended by physicians, according to the study."
Infant mortality rates were actually slightly lower in home births than hospital births.
Much more research can afford to be done on this topic, but across the board you will find that home birth (when done properly) is at least as safe as the hospital.
I really want to be sensitive to women who struggle with infertility or who have high-risk pregnancies or have experienced much suffering related to birth. If that's the case for you, I weep with you, and this might not be helpful for you to read. However, the large majority of women do have options but might not be aware of them, so I still think this list was worth writing.
Here are 8 personal reasons that I'm choosing to plan on having a home birth:
1. Birth is not a problem to be fixed but a glorious natural process to be helped.
Last I heard, the C-section rate at my nearest hopsital is 47%. Would God really make populating the earth so difficult that almost half of the women giving birth would need a major surgery?
A friend in midwife school said that she has yet to meet an atheist in the natural childbirth career field. This is because Creator fingerprints are all over birth. The pregnancy and birth process is so complex and beautiful that I want to, as much as possible, worshipfully embrace the system God has masterfully designed.
I am my midwife's client, not her patient.
I'm pregnant, not sick.
God has commanded us to be "fruitful and multiply", and He has enabled most women's bodies to be able to carry out that command. So I find my midwife's low-intervention philosophy on birth to be helpful in adoring God.
Many people have shared with me really sad birth stories about being coerced into having a C-section or being induced when it wasn't necessary. One mom told me she still has nightmares about her daughter's birth, which was five years ago.
2. My midwife is skilled and knows what she's doing.
Many people think all a midwife brings to a birth is some towels and maybe a stethoscope. When interviewing midwives, Peter asked one of the candidates a great question: "What does a hospital delivery room have that you don't have?" and the midwife responded, "An operating table."
(My midwife's website lists all that she brings.)
We had a fairly difficult birth with Stephen and he definitely needed oxygen and a lot of suctioning. My midwife handled the situation extremely calmly and professionally. (I'll say the best part about it in point #7!)
The prenatal appointments are also very professional. Her office is beautiful and clean, and it exceeded every expectation for both pregnancies.
3. My midwife is personal.
"I'm really going to miss you guys. I think about you all the time."
These are not words you would expect to hear from your caregiver at one of your postpartum appointments. My midwife is awesome. We hug every time I have an appointment. Part of the good news about finding out I was pregnant again was "Yay! I get to see Kim and everybody again!" I love my midwife and her team.
When everyone left my house several hours after Stephen was born, my midwife and her team literally left my house cleaner than it was before they came. (And that's saying a lot, because there is a TON of mess related to birth. They put a load of laundry in the washing machine and everything.) I think that's pretty cool.
4. I don't have to leave my house.
Unless you live in a pigsty, your own home is probably the place you feel most comfortable. That is certainly true of me.
All my stuff is here.
I know how many people have used my toilet.
The fridge is full of my food that I like.
I sleep on my bed every night.
I can close the blinds, turn off the lights, or play my music if I want to. Birth itself is really the only factor that would make me feel uncomfortable (granted, it's a really big factor!)
This is what the first half of labor was like:
I did whatever I wanted in order to distract myself from the 1-minute-long bursts of pain that would come every five minutes or so. I read a Fox Trot comic book. Peter and I watched Fun with Dick and Jane. I played Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. I could eat whatever I wanted. I made a craft. I went to the bathroom a million times.
When my contractions started getting more painful:
I chilled out on my beanbag. Peter gave me backscratches on my couch. I rolled around on my floor. I used a birthing ball and heating pad and moved into the relief positions that I had prepared for...with as much space and solitude as I needed.
And thennnnnn...reason number 5 that I loved birthing at home.
5. I get to labor in a jacuzzi.
My midwife set up a huge pool in my living room and filled it with 99 degree water. Though the transition part of labor is awful upon awful (I shudder at the thought), I couldn't have been more comfortable anywhere else.
I was floating around free from gravity, Peter was in the tub encouraging me, and the student midwife also attending my birth was massaging my head. The baby's heart rate was even able to be monitored while I was in the tub! I was not strapped down, I did not have an IV in my arm...I was free.
Since my midwife eventually had to break my amniotic sac, I ended up deciding to give birth on the bed, so I didn't have the water birth I planned, but the tub was still exactly what I needed at that time I had it.
6. Home birth was one of the best things to ever happen to our marriage.
Teamwork between Peter and I was absolutely essential. He gave me space when I needed it, and he got in my face when I needed it. He was 100% there for me. He saw me fight like I've never fought for anything before. He still, over a year later, applauds my "heroism" for giving birth naturally. I'm convinced that he worked just as hard as I did, though. He was so strong and so gentle. I saw parts of my husband's character that day, and he saw parts of mine, that we will admire about each other forever. I am really, really looking forward to (LORD-willing) laboring with him as my birth partner again. Mushiness over. ;)
7. I was able to bond with my baby immediately.
The birth itself was a blur, but I'm pretty sure that Peter caught Stephen and I was able to hold the baby right away as my midwife calmly checked everything to make sure both of us were okay. As previously noted, she did have to suction him and give him oxygen, but he was either on my chest or right by me for all of that. He was never whisked away and I always knew exactly what was going on.
He stayed with us that afternoon, and he slept with us that night. Such intimate moments with my baby happened during those blocks of time and I'm really grateful he never left our sight. There was just no need for that (and it's not like Stephen was particularly healthy. This is just how most babies are supposed to be like when they're born!)
Also, my recovery was amazing and we went to Publix less than 24 hours later! I've read stories of women in Africa who would go into labor while gardening outside, then they would give birth and shortly after put the baby in a sling and get back to gardening. Too funny!
8. It developed character and resulted in a healthy sense of girl power!
Birth is the most ferocious thing I've ever done. The pain was inexplicably intense, but I did it. I was useful. I, the girl who has never had any special talents, the girl who can't run a mile to save her life, the girl who never followed through with anything...I brought a human into this world. I really think this strong sense of accomplishment is God-given and healthy.
(And I do realize that many women, possibly myself even for this upcoming birth, can't do anything about it and their birth plan really must change for the health of baby and mom. To that I say this:
My midwife's goal is not that I have a home birth. My midwife's goal is to give me and my baby a happy and healthy birth experience.
But in most cases, and at least for me, that will probably happen best at home.)
The feeling I got from conquering birth is certainly greater than the feeling I would have gotten if I climbed Everest or was promoted to CEO. A human being grew inside me and came out without any real interventions. I felt every bit of why giving birth is called "labor." I worked hard for once in my life. To bring life into the world. And that is significant and amazing.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today