New Mama Musings

Friday, September 09, 2005

Why We Chose Homebirth

Okay, this is long overdue, but newborns have a way of monopolizing time ordinarily spent on things like writing blog entries. (Sure, blame the baby!)

When I first got pregnant my husband and I planned on having the baby in a hospital. I was intrigued by the idea of homebirth but viewed it as something earth mother-types did. And since I'd never given birth before and didn't know how my body would handle childbirth, I figured I'd better do it in a hospital, just in case I needed pain relief or emergency care.

So we chose the most "warm" and "home-like" hospital birthing center in the area. I switched from my initial visit with an ob-gyn (who deemed my pregnancy "high-risk" simply because it resulted from IVF treatment) to a more natural-minded family practioner. We hired a doula to be with us at the birth and to give us private childbirth classes. And we developed a birth plan that in hindsight I see had all the markings of an earth mother's plan.

Over the course of my pregnancy I read, and talked to people, and asked questions, and read some more. I started learning about the domino effect interventions can have in a hospital birth (i.e., when things don't progress on the hospital's timetable the doctor may induce labor with pitocin, which can lead to more painful contractions, which can lead to needing an epidural, which can lead to being strapped down and immobile, which can lead to the baby getting stuck, which can lead to needing a Cesarean section).

I found out that any drugs taken in childbirth can also enter the baby's system, which can cause problems with breastfeeding and bonding. And I heard that while we may be able to get the things we wanted on our birth plan, we might have to fight for them, and there was no guarantee that the hospital staff would honor our wishes.

The more my husband and I learned the more we transferred our fear from the idea of homebirth to the idea of birthing in a hospital. So, at thirty-eight weeks along, we interviewed a midwife.

We had a few concerns, like, "What if something goes wrong?" Helen told us that the majority of the time the midwife has plenty of warning that there may be complications requiring transfer to a hospital; rarely is there a problem that requires immediate medical attention.

Of course, we were worried that our situation would be the exception, but Helen assured us that she (and our doula, Jennifer) were well trained in resuscitation and carried oxygen and other equipment with them. The fact that we live blocks from a good hospital also put our mind at ease. And finally, a recent study showing that homebirth is just as safe as hospital birth, with fewer interventions, clinched the deal.

So, with two weeks to go until the due date, we decided to do a homebirth. You can read about why this decision rocked here.

One of my husband's co-workers and his wife were expecting their first baby around the same time Henry was due. They planned on a hospital birth, however, and while we'll never know for sure if a homebirth would have served them better, their experience was much different from ours.

Their daughter's birth actually followed the domino effect I mentioned earlier: when the woman's water broke they went right to the hospital; she didn't start having contractions "soon enough" so her doctor gave her pitocin; she had an epidural; the baby wasn't descending down the birth canal; the woman ended up having a Cesarean section; the baby was taken away and not returned for many hours; then she had a great deal of trouble breastfeeding.

As I said, maybe they would have had to transfer to a hospital if they'd had a homebirth, and maybe it would have turned out the same. But in my heart I really don't believe that.

What's interesting to me is that it's the women who have a "traditional" hospital birth who think I'm nuts for giving birth at home with no pain medication. Yet I'm thrilled by my experience and they view theirs as an ordeal they had to undergo to have a baby. So who's the crazy one?


  • hi there! chanced upon ur blog while i was surfing.

    i envy the fact that u are able to opt for homebirth. here in singapore, we are not able to do that (or rather, it's not encouraged).

    anyway, i gave birth to yohei 9 month+ ago in the hospital. after a long labour of almost 7 hours, i succumbed to using epidural & after that, the little rascal took another 7 hours to arrive.

    i had a wonderful gyn-ob who did everything she could to make me comfortable & was really encouraging. the horrible stuff u described in this blog did not happen to me (thank goodness) & neither do we have any problems bonding with the baby.

    what i'm trying to say is don't shoot the hospitals & gyn-ob. they, too, have the best interest of their patients in mind.

    By Blogger regina, at 9:17 AM  

  • Hi, I followed your link over from MDC :)

    I just have to say "yeah that!" to everything you've written about the beauty and, in my mind, rationality of homebirth. Both of our daughters were welcomed into the World in the comfort of our own home.

    I think there is a DRASTIC underestimation in our society of how often interventions lead to more interventions... lead to more interventions... Some people, when they hear of our positive birth experiences, say we are "lucky". I do not deny that I am fortunate, but I think that the decisions we made to home birth contributed to the positive outcomes. It wasn't a crap shoot.

    Anyway, I'm enjoying your blog - glad I found it!

    By Blogger Kay, at 9:56 AM  

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