You know how when you’re talking to someone you’ve just met, and your conversation follows the usual social mores about weather or occupations or where you’re from originally, or whatever? Well, if you’re a mom of littles and you’re conversing with another mom of littles, at some point, you talk about your birth experience(s).
NOT because we’re all trying to secretly judge each other (not all moms are as vindictive and petty as all the online magazines and mom blog articles like to portray us, ok?) – but because the process of giving birth is typically, like, a pretty big deal event to a woman. And talking about our birth stories with other women – who actually get why we have this crazy strong need to have to talk about them – somehow creates this weird motherly and womanly unifying bond of having been in the trenches together.
So yes, I kind of like hearing birth stories. No matter how they happened.
Even still, I always get a; bit, um, cautious, when it comes to how to approach my previous birth stories or current birth plans when in conversation. I find myself reading the crowd carefully before I start sharing too much.
Because see, I’m one of those “weirdos” who had/has home births.
And trust me, I never thought I’d be one of them either.
But here I am, planning for my third home birth.
Life is funny the way it plays out sometimes, huh?
Here’s how the whole thing happened:
First off – I don’t really consider myself terribly “granola” or “crunchy”. I don’t understand the kombucha craze (and the thought of drinking fermented tea kind of grosses me out). I don’t buy only organic food (though I am trying to get better at food shopping). We eat fast food probably way more than I should admit.
But I do read and research and try to make overall good decisions for myself and my family. I’m not saying that everyone should have a home birth, certainly no – it’s definitely not for everyone! This post is only to explain why *I* chose the birth path that I did for myself.
Second – I’m the oldest of 6 kids. My youngest sibling was born when I was 14. I was around pregnancy and birth and babies for most of my upbringing. It’s all very normal to me. I was even in the delivery room when my youngest sister was born.
Third – I’ve never been a hospital patient myself for anything. So somewhere deep in my mind, I have this sense of hospitals as cold, sterile places that one goes only when they are extremely sick or injured…and not for normal processes that our bodies were designed to handle.
Fourth – I always knew that I wanted to try to do a natural, pain-drug free, birth if possible to do so. Why?
a) I was curious about the challenge of it. Could I endure the mental and physical toll of childbirth?
b) My mom had had 5 natural births before getting an epidural for her 6th birth, which was the one I observed. She later said that she didn’t like the feeling of the epidural and of being numb and disconnected from the birth process.
But I never planned to turn into one of those crazy home birthing people though. I really didn’t. That part just kind of happened. Please don’t hold it against me. 🙂
In 2011, I was pregnant with my first child. From somewhere, I’d heard about the concept of birth centers, which sounded cool. You go to a place that feels homey and comfortable that’s already clean and relaxing AND has all the basic birthing supplies that might be needed all set up for you. Then you birth your baby there, and then you get to leave when you feel ready. Also, you could wear your own clothes the whole time…no bulky hospital gown. For some reason, that was a big selling point for me, lol.
However, even for being in hip and modern Los Angeles, there were no birthing centers within an easy drive from me, (< 20 min. if traffic)! We did tour one center, but I was too afraid that I’d go into labor during rush hour and the thought of being in traffic for 1.5 hrs while in labor sounded excruciatingly awful.
So it was either hospital birth or homebirth. Though neither choice really sounded appealing.
We toured the local hospital. I was only like 15 weeks pregnant at the time, so not showing yet, and all the other women on the tour had huge pregnant bellies and I totally felt like a poser, ha ha. My previous impression proved to be correct though. The whole delivery ward and standard hospital procedures felt cold and isolating to me. I get that the babies and parents had to wear bar-coded bracelets to be scanned in order to prevent accident switched-at-birth scenarios. But all the while they kept emphasizing the “safety” of their strict procedures for checking the baby in at all stations and how you couldn’t walk with the baby and had to roll them around in the bassinets, and the HUGE yellow lines painted a the end of the maternity wards that would sound an alarm if anyone tried to bring a baby across it unauthorized? Rather than “safe”, it made me feel institutionalized.
Not to mention all that other stuff you read about: not being able to eat or drink while in labor, IV cords and fetal monitoring devices attached to you, having deliver on your back, that whole “cascade of interventions” thing.
So I was left with the acceptance that I might have to accept the idea of a home birth after all.
I still wasn’t 100% sold on the idea though. Neither was KP. Thankfully, at least KP was willing to consider the idea if it was what I wanted…so I just had to decide what I wanted.
Even after finding a midwife and signing all the papers to do a homebirth, I was still hesitant about the whole thing. I didn’t know anyone who’d had an out-of-hospital birth. So I did lots of reading about them. I prepared myself. I learned about all the stages of labor, different birthing positions, things to watch out for and what could go wrong and would necessitate a trip to the hospital. (I found the book, The Birth Partner, to be extremely helpful). I joined online message boards and asked lots of questions.
I made myself warm up to the idea. And I kept reading. Lots and lots of natural and home birth stories, statistics about complications and transfer rates, etc. I became as educated as I could in order to put my mind at ease.
And then, by the time the end was near – I felt completely ready to do the homebirth thing.
And I did.
(see here for My Daughter’s Home Birth Story, Sept. 2011 – coming soon!)
And 2.5 yrs later, I did it again.
(see here for My Son’s Home Birth Story, Apr. 2014)
And as long as all keeps looking good, I’ll do it once more within the next couple months. At this point, I feel as though home births are all I know – I have no clue how to do the usual hospital birth thing! 🙂 I feel comfortable at home, I know how home births work, I like the laid back feel of it all, I like being able to do whatever I feel like I need to while laboring.
Other reasons I considered a homebirth & midwife care:
- I’m someone who typically handles tough situations on my own. I retreat into myself, introspectively, to work out a solution. I have better autonomy when I’m given the opportunity to trust myself before others. And for something as intense and personal as childbirth, I wanted to be in a situation where my instincts would be respected and listened to.
The midwife model of care offers this. Childbirth was this strange, scary experience I’d never gone through before, and I wanted a care provider to guide me through the natural process that would take place in my body…rather than tell me what I had to do in order for someone else to have control of the situation.
- Cost. Luckily, for my first two homebirths, I had a homebirth-friendly insurance plan (United Heathcare PPO), that – after filing for a ‘gap exception’ – covered the birth as in-network. While I did have to pay the midwife fees upfront (around $4-5K) which was a bit difficult, I got most of it back after the birth. Also worth nothing: this fee covers, not just the actual birth, but ALL in-house prenatal care (any labs or ultrasounds are paid separately, but insurance will likely cover) as well as postpartum care. Typical fees vary from state-to-state too. I think California/L.A. is one of the more expensive areas for out-of-hospital births. And considering that a homebirth is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than a hospital birth, I did the math, and even with an uncomplicated vaginal birth at an in-network hospital, the co-insurance cost would’ve still been more expensive than a homebirth with a midwife.
And if you are without insurance, or have an extremely high deductible/catastrophic coverage only – it might might be well worth it for you to go the midwife/homebirth route over hospital if you’re able to. (of course, I’m not at all advocating that women deliver in unsafe environments! If you need the medical attention that only a hospital can provide – go there no matter the cost!!) Personally – and I know from personal experience – most midwives are very understanding about the financial aspect and will work with you whatever you can afford.
- This only applies to your 2nd+ birth, but one of the things I appreciate the most about the midwife model of care is that it’s not only woman-centered, but it’s also family-centered! The midwives don’t bat an eye when I have to bring my other children with me to prenatal appointments. My midwives’ office has toys and books for siblings to play with, they take the time to explain things like the blood pressure cuff or the doppler to my other children when they ask about them, and they don’t freak out when my 2.5 yr old wants to stand right by me while my belly is being measured. The midwife model of care is calm, and comfortable, and I feel like a person – not just a patient – while in their care.
Each family and (mostly) mom has to make this decision for themselves. When K’s mom was pregnant with him, the idea of home birth was not even suggested (and probably wouldn’t have happened anyway). For me to even go into the Operating Room with him I had to gown up like it was major surgery! By the time my last was born (19 years later) the OR was much less sterile though it converted to one (kinda of Star Wars effect), but Jill was not interested in home birth.
Anyway, I support and encourage you to continue to follow your heart and brain on this.
Oh of course, that’s why I said in the post that this was just explaining why *I* decided to birth the way I did. I fully assume everyone else makes their own decisions for what’s best for them and their family when it comes to birth choices. 🙂 One thing that’s nice about this digital age is that there’s so much more information out there for people to learn about alternate options that people were not as aware of before.