My husband is awesome. As much as I give him a hard time, I don’t tell him nearly enough how much of an inspiration he is to me.
Maybe that’s an odd way to start out my story of home birth, but I can’t imagine going through this journey with anyone else. The funny thing is, at the beginning of my pregnancy he made it clear that he would be sitting patiently in the waiting room anticipating the magic words, “you can go see your daughter now.” And I was quite content with that arrangement. It was how my Dad did things, and I wasn’t so sure I wanted my husband to see me in such unflattering positions.
But somewhere in my fifth month of pregnancy we watched the documentary, “The Business of Being Born,” produced by Ricki Lake. That was my first surprise – that he actually sat through the ultimate chick-flick with me. Once we saw it, though, the deal was pretty much done for both of us. I set out on a quest to navigate the ins and outs of home birth.
First, I had to figure out if it would even be covered by our insurance. Amazingly, it was (which is smart on the insurance company’s part, as home birth is far less expensive than hospital birth). Second, I had to locate and interview a range of doulas (professionals who assist a woman with birthing naturally in a hospital setting) and midwives who were licensed to perform home births, rather than those who only work in hospitals. I knew I wanted to birth naturally, but I was still a little on the fence as to whether or not I’d want to do so in my own home. I mean, who was going to clean that mess up?
A few weeks into my search, I met two midwives who work as a team and together had birthed over 5,000 babies at home, primarily in a large tub of water. Their experience, wisdom and assured demeanor made me feel at ease and fully confident that the decision to birth at home was indeed the right one for us.
Before I continue, I recognize that the average reader may be wondering what would possess us to make such a decision. Why take such risks with the birth of our child? Isn’t it somewhat irresponsible?
Studies have shown that for low-risk pregnancies, home birth is actually safer than birth in a hospital. According to Dr. Mercola,
C-section is the most common operation performed in the United States, and accounts for nearly one-third of all births. According to the World Health Organization, no country is justified in having a cesarean rate greater than 10 percent to 15 percent. The United States’ rate, at nearly 32 percent, is so high that even The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists admits it is worrisome.
This is actually the highest rate ever reported in the United States, and a rate higher than in most other developed countries. One study in the British Medical Journal found that a woman’s risk of death during delivery is three to five times higher during cesarean than a natural delivery, her risk of hysterectomy four times higher, and her risk of being admitted to intensive care is two times higher.2
Home birth isn’t for everyone, but neither should a hospital birth be accepted as the only place women should give birth. Hospitals should be reserved for the sick and others in emergency or very serious situations. With a low risk (normal) pregnancy, the birth of a healthy baby should not be looked upon as an abnormal event. It is a natural part of life! In my opinion, as often as possible, a baby should be welcomed into the warmth of his or her own home, not the bright lights of a hospital delivery room.
Thankfully, my husband shares my belief in doing things naturally. He was all in. Not, “I’m going to get in the water with you” in, mind you (and thank goodness for that), but “in” to the extent that he welcomed a team of midwives taking over his home, conducting “women’s work” until who knows when. I would birth in a big tub they’d set up in our bedroom, and the “waiting room” would be our very own living room.
Having experienced a hospital birth previously, I can say that having midwives as my prenatal care providers was a hundred times better than seeing a gynecologist. First and foremost, every appointment was conducted personally by the ones who would deliver my baby, not by a host of nurse practitioners, or by some other member of the OBGYN team. I never felt rushed and every test and potential intervention was explained thoroughly and given to me as an option, not a requirement. It was all about educating and empowering me through the process of pregnancy and birth, and I was in the driver’s seat to make my own decisions.
And with midwives, the process of home birth doesn’t start with labor; it truly begins from day one. They took stock of my eating habits, told me exactly what types of foods and how much I should consume through each phase of my pregnancy, and provided me with a list of herbal supplements that would thoroughly prepare my body and baby for healthy development and successful labor. I felt healthy and vibrant the entire way and didn’t swell up like I did with my first pregnancy. An old saying goes that your real due date is two weeks after you’re so miserable you can’t stand being pregnant another minute. But by the time I reached my due date (and passed it by a few days) I felt so good that I wondered if I was miserable enough to ever go into labor!
The morning the baby arrived was absolutely miraculous. There was an excitement in the house that felt so positive, so joyous. I showered, washed my hair, and cooked breakfast for my husband and son. My husband lit candles in our room and set up the iPod to play some of our favorite songs. The midwives and their assistant arrived and began their preparations, set up the birthing tub, and encouraged me through my contractions.
It happened to be a Saturday, when a good friend of my husband’s was competing in a televised race. He turned it on downstairs in the living room, then alternated between coming upstairs to rub my back, and checking his friend’s race downstairs. Between contractions I’d ask how his friend was doing, and he wound up having his best finish of the season. The whole thing was so casual, so lively, so NOT what you could experience in a hospital maternity ward!
As my labor progressed to the transition phase (that period in labor where the baby is right around the corner but mom feels like she can go no further), my husband stayed with me the entire time. He rubbed my back, prayed over me, and spoke encouraging and loving words. I wanted him to stay, and he didn’t appear to want to leave. As I got into the birthing tub, he was right there behind me, hands on my shoulders, praying, encouraging. The physical part of it got so intense that I didn’t know if I could finish the job. But hearing my husband’s voice, hearing him tell me I could do it, it fueled me further.
And we did it, of course. We brought that baby into the world, and in the process that baby brought us even closer together. And would you believe, the manliest of manly men, tough in all sense of the word but squeamish when it comes to birth, my husband even cut the umbilical cord. I never saw him coming on that one!
During my labor, one of the midwives was busy snapping photos. I previously thought I wouldn’t want to see my labor captured on film, but I’m so glad she took those pictures because later I was able to see my husband’s expressions of complete triumph as our baby emerged from the water. The look on his face as he took our daughter into his arms is something I’ll treasure forever.
Rewinding to that time in my pregnancy before the midwives, before this journey of home birth, I can’t imagine how our daughter would have entered this world had we stuck with the conventional route. I can only speculate what might have happened, but the thought of packing everything into the car, driving to the hospital, checking in, and then saying “bye bye” to my husband as they whisk me away to a birthing room, it all just pales in comparison to the magic we experienced at home.
The magic of home birth is something I wish every family could experience.