Many of my friends know that I’ve delivered two of our four babies at home. As in, we planned for and birthed our children in our master bedroom. We were under the care of a professional, licensed midwife.
I understand that for many (perhaps most) this idea is foreign and bizarre, and perhaps a little bit frightening. I’ve been asked countless times many questions about our homebirths. Here are the most popular– and our answers.
1. Why would you do that? Isn’t it safer to have a baby in the hospital?
Not necessarily. The large, comprehensive studies on planned homebirths indicate that for a low risk woman having a baby at home, with the care and attendance of a certified professional midwife (C.P.M.), is just as safe as having a baby in a hospital. Certainly, there are inherent risks in childbirth, but midwives are prepared to deal with these risks and enjoy positive birth outcomes equivalent to those achieved in a hospital setting. I’m not a big risk-taker. I’m actually quite risk-averse. However, having done my homework in the risks and benefits, I was very confident in our choice to birth at home. Now that I’ve had two babies at home, I truly can’t imagine planning to birth anywhere else.
2. Isn’t it messy?
Nope. Sure, there was a bit of a mess, but everything was cleaned up post-baby by my midwives. In fact, I dare say that my house was cleaner when my midwives left than when they arrived. Laundry was done, garbage was taken out, baby and I were clean and tucked into my own bed. It was heaven, really. And I didn’t have a bag to pack or un-pack, I wore my own robe, took a shower in my own bathroom, and ate my own food.
3. What do you with the placenta?
It varies. Some mothers opt to have their placentas dried and encapsulated, and they ingest them postpartum. Some mothers use their placentas to make a smoothie or a lasagna, and ingest them in the days after birth. And still others, like me, opted to put theirs in the freezer for a while…..I was willing to encapsulate and ingest should the need arise (it is a wonderful treatment for all sorts of ailments, including postpartum depression) but I never had any postpartum depression, so mine stayed in the freezer. We then planted it under a tree in our backyard about six months later (the other placenta, I admit, we just chucked with the weekly trash about a year after our son was born. I think we weren’t supposed to do this…medical waste and all. Oops?)
4. What did you do for pain relief?
I was blessed in that I found my natural labors to be very manageable. So for labor management, I spent time in a hot bath, I walked, I rocked, I meditated. I wouldn’t call my labors pain-free, but they weren’t terribly uncomfortable, either. I just listened to my body, moved where I was comfortable and did what I wanted. To contrast my experience at home with my hospital experiences is like night and day. For me, the most difficult part of being in the hospital was sitting still while they did external fetal monitoring and strapped equipment to my belly and asked me to sit still. It was hard when they wanted to ask me questions about when I last ate and when I last saw my physician, or sign a form mid-contraction. For me, the hardest part was being prodded and poked by strangers who meant well, but couldn’t tell (or didn’t care) that i was internally focused on doing some hard work, and I needed them not to bug me. At home, I didn’t have that at all. And it was delightful. I also didn’t have my labors augmented by pitocin as I did during my first labor. OY! Now that is painful– natural labor, not so much for me.
Midwives are also very knowledgeable about the normal progression of labors, and great at providing massage, counter-pressure, suggesting positions that are more comfortable for a mother working hard. Such a contrast to the hourly offer of an epidural or a “little shot of something to take the edge off” that I received in the hospital.
5. What did you do with your other children?
We opted to have our other children present for the birth of their siblings. We had back-up plans, should something have gone wrong or had I felt like I didn’t want them there (we had family whose entire role was to attend to the children while I labored.) I saw the kids periodically during my labor, but mostly spent time alone in my bedroom. They came in when I was close to pushing– and they remember it. I know our oldest daughters vividly recall the birth of their sister and it is a neat memory for them. They didn’t have to wait to meet the newest members of our family– they were there, they welcomed them with love and awe, just as my husband and I did. They were respectful, aware, and prepared for what to expect, and it was beautiful.
I know that most people ask these questions out of genuine curiosity, and I suspect that there are many more. What do you want to know about having a baby at home?