In September of 2002, when I was 7 months into my very first pregnancy, my husband and I made an exhilarating choice. We decided to walk away from my OB, and instead hire a midwife to attend our child's birth. In fact, in that moment we also walked away from hospital birth, standard interventions, and the "norm." We were planning a midwife-attended waterbirth, at a freestanding birth center.
It felt huge. It was huge. People tended to be pretty stunned when we told them. "What about the drugs?" they'd ask. (Answer: no drugs. I didn't even want the option of any drugs.) And "wouldn't the baby drown?" (Answer: no. Babies don't inhale until they get into the air, anyway.)
The change in my prenatal care was astounding. Instead of the short, hurried appointments we'd experienced under an obstetrician's care, my prenatal visits now lasted around 1 1/2 hours each. There was no rush. They offered us ice water or hot tea. There were questions such as "How are you doing, emotionally?" and "How are you eating?" Although I stepped onto the scale at each visit, no comment was ever made about how much weight I gained.
When my estimated due date came and passed, no one mentioned induction. At my 41-week appointment, my midwife brought up the subject of a non-stress test, but that was all.
My labor felt long. It began one evening and ended around 14 hours later. We were up all night, and the baby was born just before noon. I remember feeling so tired during the last part of my labor. Jeff and I drove to his parents' house across town and labored there for most of the night. Their home was considerably closer to the birth center than ours. We decided to wait to go to the birth center until the morning, and when I was checked upon arrival, they found that I was 8 cm dilated. Wonderful! We got into the birthing tub for the rest of the labor. It was hard work, but I did it! My midwife was wonderfully attentive, and my husband was an amazing support. After my baby was born, I wasn't tired at all anymore. I was riding high on a wave of adrenaline. And being at the birth center was wonderful; we received such tender care.
When Jeff and I began talking about the birth of our second child, he brought up the subject of homebirth. I admit, I was shocked. I didn't know anyone who'd chosen homebirth...except my midwife, who'd had her baby a few months after ours. And I had always thought that a strange thing. Why had she not chosen to have her baby at the wonderful waterbirth center?
Yet the more we spoke about Jeff's idea, the more it seemed like the natural next step. Have things set up at home, stay where we were, and have the birth team come to us. We took a while decide for sure, and I still received prenatal care at the waterbirth center. It was very similar to how the last part of my previous pregnancy had been. The difference was, that when it came time for the baby to be born, we didn't leave home.
Birthing at home was wonderful. I still remember that first homebirth as the easiest of my births.
Part of the beauty of homebirth is that the mother is in her most comfortable, familiar place. She doesn't have to fight for her privacy. She has control over who is present during her labor. She has the freedom to move, eat, and drink as she desires. Many of these factors were present during my birth center experience. But this time, I didn't find myself hitting transition inside a car, on the highway, during rush hour.
When it was time for our third birth, Jeff and I chose homebirth again. That, too, was a wonderful experience. I know that the day may come when I will bring forth a child in a hospital setting. We may not be able, financially, to always manage the kind of births we love. Or, conditions may arise which would necessitate more complicated medical care.
But for the time being, I am so pleased to be planning for another birth, at home.
Something that recently struck me was this: recently I heard someone comment on the language women often use when they speak of birthing in a hospital. "They let me move around." "They let me eat." "They let me labor in water until _____." These kinds of statements speak volumes about where the control lies. In that kind of setting, it comes down to having permission, or not. A laboring mother is dependent on the benevolence of the setting where she has chosen to birth.
At home, it's quite a different story. I have control over how I labor. Afterward, I can crawl into my own bed with my baby and my husband and rest.
With a low-risk, healthy pregnancy, under the guidance of a wise midwife, homebirth is a wonderful option. I'm so glad I found my way to it!