Friday, September 28, 2018

What My Homebirth Taught Me

I loved my first son's labor and birth. We had a great experience at the hospital, and I cannot think of anything bad to say about the team we worked with. Everyone was very kind and respectful, and our wishes were well-respected. I know that some people have horror stories of birthing in hospitals, but this was honestly not our experience.

Just a month ago, I gave birth to my second child. This little baby was born at home. While the labors  of my two children have striking similarities (you can read the birth stories here and here), there were also some drastic differences because of where I gave birth. 

Even though out-of-hospital births are on the rise, only a very small percentage of women choose this path. So, many people may not be familiar with some of the reasons behind-and benefits of-planning for this type of birth. Before I even became pregnant with my second child, I knew a bit about homebirth. I had seen a homebirth or two in a video we watched during a childbirth class before I gave birth to my firstborn. I had read lots of homebirth stories in various books dedicated to natural childbirth. I had spoken with several women from my parish who all have experience with homebirth. Still, even with my prior knowledge, there are some important lessons that jumped out at me in the days following my labor. 

The beautiful gift of childbirth can be profoundly integrated into day-to-day life. 
So far, with each of my children, the labors have been pretty easy. With my first child, I was only at the hospital for a few hours before pushing him out. Still, though I hadn't even been at the hospital long, there was a separation between my "normal" life and giving birth. I went away to birth a baby and stay in a hospital for a couple days, and then I came home to resume "normal" life.  I love that with my second child, I didn't have to put a "pause" on life. When I was in labor, I didn't have to focus exclusively on getting the baby out. Instead, I could pray and talk with my family, eat, do the dishes, and then help that baby come out-all in the comfort and familiarity of my own home. I think of the birth often, because every time I look at that one spot in our living room, I think of how my second son came slipping and sliding out right there. When friends come over, I often excitedly announce to them: Right there! That's where he came out! Maybe my thinking is a bit Medieval-era, but the way that my homebirth brought together the sacred and mundane, the extraordinary and the ordinary, is really awesome and blows my mind.
I pushed a baby out right by my toddler's rocking chair! How awesome is that?!?!?!

Birth can naturally happen in a REALLY relaxed, peaceful way.
Even though my firstborn's labor was really easy, there was the frenzy of throwing things in the car and driving to the hospital, getting admitted and then getting back into a calm mindset for the duration of labor. With my homebirth, it was totally different. I could putter around, contract, and not even think about going anywhere. No car ride during contractions, no urinating in a cup while at triage (not an easy feat while in late labor), and no moving down brightly lit hospital hallways. Staying at home for labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum was incredibly peaceful and very relaxing for me.
The day after giving birth! I looked and felt 100% better and way
 more relaxed than I did when I was stuck in a hospital after my first was born. 

Postpartum can actually be awesome.
As soon as I decided to pursue a homebirth, I became fairly excited for what the postpartum experience would be. No friendly hospital people waking me up every two hours! No filling out forms, surveys, and questionnaires while in labor or during the first few days postpartum! Getting to have two in-home visits by members of my birth team during the first week of postpartum. I knew that postpartum would be a much better experience at home, but I underestimated how awesome it would be. While there were (and are) challenges and difficult days, getting to spend the postpartum time at home-right from its beginnings-has been downright energizing. 

During the first part of my postpartum experience, my husband surprised me 
with a late morning snack of homemade French toast with cream cheese frosting! 
I know some people make a big deal about how "in a hospital, you can order whatever food you want!" Okay, so that's true. But, if you're at home, you can still have whatever food you want (and you don't have to wait on a kitchen staff to make it and bring it to your room). Seriously. Order takeout, send your husband/neighbor/relative/friend to the store, make a special freezer meal during pregnancy to be brought out once you give birth...there are so many options. Much more important than the food, though, is the care postpartum by the homebirth team. Not only did they visit me at our house, but they encouraged me to call or text them anytime I had questions. And even though I went through this whole childbirth thing two years ago, there were many moments in those first couple weeks where I either A. Forgot what is considered "normal," or B. Had something really weird happen that did not happen with my firstborn. Instead of obsessively googling it or trying to call a nurse line at all odd hours of the day and night, I could contact the women of my birth team. When I wasn't obsessively texting them, they were also amazing at contacting me in the first week or so to see how I was doing. 

I'm sure that as the weeks and months fly by, I'll come to realize more lessons from my homebirth experience. I know that not everyone has a positive experience with homebirth, and I am grateful that everything went smoothly and that my baby got here safely. The debate about birth settings is very charged, and frankly, I think we would do well to calm down a bit. There are women who should not plan to give birth in an out-of-hospital setting, but there are also women who benefit greatly from birthing in someplace other than a hospital. 

For further resources, I highly recommend the documentary Why Not Home? It's all about homebirth and how some hospital-based medical professionals choose to give birth at home (note: the documentary does feature video footage and photos of women in labor and giving birth). 

Also, "What is Home Birth?" is a simple, evidence-based article that breaks down information on homebirth.


  1. This is so fascinating!! Loved hearing all your thoughts and reasons!! I'm one of the ones that actually only ever wants to give birth in a hospital and I like the nurses coming to check all our vitals every few hours (definitely the nurse in me, most likely, haha) but I love learning others' reasons for their choices and hearing their pros and cons. You seem like you are so blessed with relatively smooth and uncomplicated pregnancies/labors/newborns and that seems perfect with your choice of home birth! Congrats, friend!! I need to write our little boy's birth story soon!! (And his was a great example of why I choose hospital births for me and my babies...uterine infection for me and abnormal temps for him...we're pretty complicated around here, lol).

  2. Your birth experience sounds amazing & relaxing (as much as possible!)! I enjoy hearing about stories of home births. When my time comes to have children, I'm not sure where I'll choose. There are definitely benefits to each and health factors to consider. I've heard moms of big families talk about how going to the hospital is like a vacation and they can actually relax. I found that funny when she said it, but I can definitely see the truth!

    1. Lianna, I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this! I've heard some women echo a similar sentiment about the hospital being like a vacation-I think it really depends on the woman. Other women I've met can't wait to get out of the hospital! Like you said, there are tons of factors to consider. I'm sure that when you have kids, you'll be able to see what you are most comfortable with. And you can definitely switch things up from kid to kid and try out different birth settings and/or care providers!

  3. All good points. In regards to home or hospital, both spouses have to be ok with the decision. My husband was decidedly *not* ok with a home birth, so off to the hospital we went. Thankfully, we had good experiences each time.

    1. Ann-Marie, I LOVE that you bring up this point!!!! I completely agree. Harmony between spouses is so vital during labor, and it's so important that husband and wife are both at peace and comfortable. I am so glad to hear that you had good hospital experiences!

  4. I think if I lived in the USA, I would consider home birth...also if I didn't have any risk factors. But, being overseas, having the baby in a hospital GREATLY helps the documentation process for getting him his US citizenship. Also, if anything goes wrong, there isn't really any ambulance system/if you do get an ambulance, the workers don't have the same training that they have in the USA. is safer to be in a hospital when you know that emergency services are kind of non-existent.
    Here, the government does send a nurse to homes to check on moms and babies after birth, but we opted out, because I didn't want random government staff coming to my home.
    I appreciated that here in Malaysia, they were very non-invasive, non-unnecessary testing (they admitted me and called my doctor in just because I came in saying I'd been having contractions for over an checks or anything other than quick listening to the baby's heartbeat for a minute, which did make me feel better)...everything seemed calm, I just wanted to be left alone and they did that...except baby was born so fast that I wasn't left alone all that long. I think the only people who ever came around were my doctor and two nurses...I appreciated that I got to go home quickly after having the baby....
    But on the other hand...if they had been a little more proactive with their testing or had actually taken my temperature or done blood tests after the birth then they probably would have figured out what was going on and I might not have been so very sick in the weeks after.
    Mostly, a safe, happy, health mama and baby is just what you want! Thankfully baby boy was healthy from the just took me a little while to catch back up!