****If you have not chosen a home birth (or were unable to have one), I am not shaming you in any way. Having a baby, however it comes about, it a thing to celebrate! I simply want to make the knowledge available about why I have chosen this. Personally, I believe every woman should give birth where she feels most comfortable, as this usually then leads to the best outcome for everyone. Often, we don't feel comfortable giving birth at home because of fears that society drums into us. It is up to every woman to do her research, weigh the options, and decide what is best.
1) Birth is not an illness
Birth is a perfectly normal, natural process which should not be treated as an illness. Women have been giving birth for thousands of years quite successfully. While complications may arise in a very small percentage of women (usually less than 5%), natural birth should be treated as natural. Hospitals are for sick people. In the event a serious complications develops, I have a hospital just 2 miles from my home, and I will not hesitate to seek help. I am 100% in favor of medical intervention in the small percentage of cases where it is warranted.
2) Homebirth is safe
Contrary to all the horror stories that I have been bombarded with on a daily basis since making our intention of a homebirth known, homebirth is a very safe option for low-risk pregnancies. This study of nearly 17,000 homebirths showed "Low-risk women in this cohort experienced high rates of physiologic birth and low rates of intervention without an increase in adverse outcomes."
3) High C-Section Rates
The US has extremely high c-section rates, 2-3 times what the World Health Organization recommends as a limit. While some c-sections are necessary for both mother and baby (I am definitely not denying that), I have a hard time believing that over 30% of women in the US are incapable of giving birth naturally. I want to have the greatest possible chance of delivering naturally, and unfortunately our current medical system doesn't make that very easy.
From the first article above:
rising malpractice rates for obstetricians...can push doctors to be more conservative in advising women who are older or have any chance of developing complications during delivery to chose C-section instead of vaginal delivery. The current study seems to support that explanation, as among women who began labor and ended up having a C-section, many had the surgery when they were only 6 cm dilated, which is considered to still be an early stage of labor. The authors also found that 43% of women attempting vaginal delivery were induced, another trend that suggests physicians and patients are less likely to wait for a potentially lengthy labor to take its course.
Did you know that the actual average gestation period for a first time pregnancy is 41 weeks 1 day? That is just average, so many women go over that mark. My own mom's first pregnancy went a whopping 20 days past her estimated due date. And that is just it: it is an estimated due date. Induction of labor leads to increased risk of c-section and other issues. Again, I think birth is natural, and if mom and baby are both doing fine, there is no need to force a baby out before it comes on its own.
5) Rush, rush, rush
Our medical system is, of course, pathology driven. It should be. Doctors are looking for problems to diagnose and correct. But in natural labor, there are rarely such things to diagnose. But in a medical system which is profit-based, it doesn't pay to allow a woman to be in labor for very long. Somehow our society has forgotten that first time labor can take days (!) and we are surprised when it takes any longer than 12 hours. Doctors and nurses get tired, hospitals want to get more patients in and out, and, let's face it, c-sections cost a whole lot more than natural birth. This sense of rush leads doctors and nurses to say such phrases as "failure to progress". As if a laboring woman really needs to hear the word "failure" at any point in labor. The result is usually more interventions.....
6) Intervention, Intervention, Intervention
One intervention almost always leads to another. It is a domino effect, and it almost always starts innocently. What woman doesn't want to do what is best for her baby? Our bodies are amazing things, and ignoring the strong mental/emotional/spiritual/physical bond throughout labor can lead to more and more interventions. We aren't machines that work on a specific schedule and follow a specific chart. Pitocin (meant to cause harder, stronger contractions to start labor or move it along) is often given, and the result is unnaturally strong and painful contractions. This can cause more distress in mom and in baby. This can lead to further interventions such as artificial rupturing of the waters, electronic fetal monitoring, and epidurals....
7) Pain management is not for me
First of all, I have a spinal condition that makes it risky for me to use any kind of epidural procedure. But even if I could, I am extremely averse to pain management during labor. Not only does it make working with your body during labor more difficult (it doesn't just dim the pain, but also the feeling your body gives you when it tells you to push), but it really does effect your baby. We spend 9 months being careful to ingest healthy foods and avoiding anything that could hurt the baby, only to receive narcotics and anesthetics which enter our babies' bodies within seconds of the procedure. I don't know about you, but I am not about to allow drugs such as fentanyl, morphine, bupivacaine, chloroprocaine, or lidocaine enter my baby's bloodstream unless 100% necessary (such as in the case of a necessary c-section). Pain management also leads to more groggy babies after birth, who often have more trouble latching on to begin breastfeeding. If you want to learn more about epidural side effects, this article is good (and he has some good sources too). Personally, I don't even want to be offered the option of pain reducers during labor, because I am sure they will be very enticing. That said, I am probably better off at home away from it all.
8) My Husband
When we first discussed our options for having the baby, we initially decided to go with an in-hospital midwife. Soon, however, we realized from the experiences of many around us that hospital midwives are often just as subject to the hospital rules and interventions stated above. The result was that I still didn't feel comfortable, and I worried about being forced into something. My husband was actually the one to suggest we have the baby at home, even though he was initially opposed to it. He has since become my greatest champion and probably knows WAY more about labor and birth than most men I know! Having the baby at home puts the focus more on us as a couple, and our baby. Through our Bradley classes (HIGHLY recommended for anyone having a baby, whether their first or 12th, in hospital or out), my husband has become so well equipped to help me through labor and delivery without any of the interventions mentioned above. Our widwives have also promised to allow my husband to "catch" the baby. My engineer-but-wish-he-had-become-a-doctor husband thinks this is the coolest thing ever! I am so excited for him to be the first one to hold our baby and tell me whether it is a boy or girl. Having our baby at home has given us this unique opportunity which is usually not offered in the hospital. I really feel that it has brought my husband the opportunity to have a starring role instead of being relegated to sidekick.
9) The Cost
We all know I am all about saving money, right? Even though we have very good health insurance through my husband's work, our homebirth will end up costing us very little. For our full prenatal care with 2 midwives who we see for 1 hour each visit, blood tests, birth, 4 postpartum visits, clean up after the birth, PKU tests with nurse visit, etc. we are paying $3200. We will also be reimbursed most of that money by our insurance.
10) Home sweet home
I love being home. I love being surrounded by my own things, my own bed, my own toilet (sad but true), etc. I have started picturing the labor in my mind and almost always get this soothing picture of dim lights, quiet voices, and the comfort of being home (what reality looks like may be another story, but I know this can be a reality). After the birth, our midwives will clean up everything (they say they will leave us with 2 bags: one for the wash machine, one for the garbage) before taking their leave. I will be left at home without a mess, where I can sleep in the comfort of my own bed with my new baby and husband nearby. It sounds like heaven to me:)
These 10 points don't mention some of the lesser perks of being able to eat and drink throughout labor, not having to interrupt labor with a change of location, no strangers up in my business, and keeping our labor in general a calm, though exciting, time.
If you'd like to learn more and do a little of your own research on the topic, here are a few great resources. It is possible to educate yourself enough to overpower the hospital system and have better chances of a natural birth there. Don't assume you know everything and get out there and learn as much as you can. Please feel free to share some of your favorite resources in a comment
1) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
2) Husband-Coached Childbirth
3) Bradley Method Natural Childbirth classes
I hesitated on signing up for these because of the cost, but now I realize it was completely worth it. My own instructor didn't take a bradley course until her 4th baby, so it is never too late to start.
4) Business of Being Born DVD
Also check out More Business of Being Born, which has 4 parts which can be bought or viewed separately or together. They cover everything from celebrity birth stories, interviews with Ina May Gaskin (see book #1), Vaginal Birth after Cesarean, etc.