Post by contributor, Kathleen, of Becoming Peculiar
Two hours after I confirmed that I was pregnant, I called the midwives.
Midwives are in pretty high demand here in Ontario, often booking up quickly; and I wanted to be absolutely sure I was able to get one.
The friendly receptionist remembered me from my first pregnancy back in 2011. She went over my expected due date and asked me whether anything had changed in my medical history. Then she asked: “And will you be planning for another home birth?”
I didn’t hesitate with my answer: YES!
My first experience with a home birth was absolutely wonderful; and as long as this pregnancy (and any other future ones) remains low-risk, I hope to always give birth at home.
Here’s why I love home birth:
Hospitals are for the sick and injured.
A labouring woman is neither. I don’t understand why I would go to the hospital, then, unless complications arose (in which case I would be happy to be transferred).
Recently, I had a nephew born prematurely, and he had to stay in the NICU for two weeks. The hospital wasn’t allowing visitors due to an influenza outbreak within the facility, so we couldn’t see him until he was released.
Let me repeat that: I couldn’t see my brand-new nephew because he was locked in a flu-infested hospital. This is not an uncommon scenario, especially in the winter (when I will hopefully be giving birth).
Why would I choose to have my baby in that environment, again?
For low-risk pregnancies, planned midwife-attended home births are just as safe – or can be even safer – than hospital births.
For women who have no history of birth complications or medical conditions (e.g. placenta previa, preeclampsia, etc.) that place them at higher-than-normal risk during childbirth, there is no difference in the safety or results when attended by a professionally-trained midwife in the home compared to a hospital birth. In fact, planned home births are associated with reduced rates of obstetric interventions (like episiotomy, caesarean, etc) as well reduced rates of “adverse perinatal outcomes” (things like severe perineal tearing, postpartum hemorrhaging, etc).
Babies born at home are also less likely to require resuscitation at birth or to experience meconium aspiration.
Did you hear that? Planned home births are actually associated with slightly better outcomes for mom and baby than hospital births!
So since safety isn’t a concern with home birth, there are lots of other reasons I prefer to birth at home if at all possible:
No stressful transfer.
My first labour and birth went quickly. I woke up in the middle of the night to pretty intense contractions, and five hours later I was nursing my new baby. (That was with my midwife instructing me not to push for quite a while, even though I was fully dilated, just because the backup midwife hadn’t arrived yet.)
I think it really helped that my labour wasn’t interrupted by a stressful car ride and admittance to a hospital. Labour is known to often stall upon arrival at the hospital. The sudden change in scenery to an unfamiliar place can really throw off a laboring woman.
By contrast, I was able to focus all my energy on the hard work of birthing, right from the start, without interruption.
And since my first labour went so quickly, I have a real fear that I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time next time. What if my next labour takes half as long, which is quite common? I would not want to end up giving birth in the hospital parking lot! I’d rather just stay home and do my thing without any hoopla.
(Read more about the benefits of an undisturbed birth.)
(Me and my daughter, a few hours after birth.)
Giving birth is an intensely intimate experience, am I right? It’s just not something I want to share with strangers unless necessary.
At home, I don’t have to listen to other women screaming through contractions (I hear that some are quite terrifying!). And at the same time, I can feel free to make as much of my own noise as I want. I can tear off my clothes, get in and out of the tub, or do whatever makes me comfortable without worrying about neighbours or nurses.
And once the birth is over and the midwives have made sure we’re both doing well, everyone goes home and I can just spend some time in my own bed, bonding with my family, without interruptions.
A comfortable environment.
A woman’s brain and emotions play a huge role in how her birth progresses. Fear, anxiety, and discomfort can slow down labour. And a sterile, unfamiliar environment, bright lights, strangers prodding at your nethers, and all kinds of medical equipment isn’t exactly a recipe for calm and comfort.
At home, I am in a familiar place and can control my surroundings (the lighting, music, bedding, etc). I can wear my own clothes and eat my own food. I won’t be ogled or poked by strangers whose shifts might change mid-labour.
Once it’s all done I can take a shower in my own bathroom and put on whatever clothes I want from my own closet. No lumpy hospital beds, bleached-out gowns, weird food, beeping medical equipment, or plastic bins for baby to sleep in.
Less risk of unnecessary intervention and pressure to medicate.
I understand that the absence of pain medication might be considered a negative for many women; but for me, it’s an advantage. With my first birth, I wanted to avoid unnecessary intervention as much as possible; and not having them available to me made that much easier.
Because I’d planned far in advance to give birth at home, I’d had plenty of time to prepare my mind for an unmedicated birth. I knew from the get-go that I would need to draw from personal resources to get through it because there would be no other ones to draw from. As a consequence, there was never a moment in my labour when I second-guessed myself — I knew I had to do this on my own.
In a hospital setting, where I would have known drugs were available, I might have wondered whether I should accept them. Without that option, though, I wasn’t distracted by their possibility, and could focus on the hard work of giving birth.