I'm currently pregnant with my second child (due in August) and we're planning a home birth...yes, a home birth.
When I tell people we're planning on having a home birth, I usually get one of two responses:
1. Shock. They look at me like I just admitted to being abducted by aliens or something. "Why? Are you sure you want to do that? There's no way I could imagine having a home birth!"
2. Fear. They get really concerned that I don't know what I am doing and that I'm making a dangerous choice for my child and myself. They say, "Is that safe? What if you need an emergency C-Section? What if something goes wrong with you or your baby?"
My friends, family and strangers alike are all concerned for me and question this choice of mine. Honestly, before I educated myself on the different options for birth, this was the LAST option on my list.
I never thought home birth would be something I'd CHOOSE to do.
And for good reason. All of my birth "knowledge" was either from my mom, my friends who had kids or tv/movies.
My mom gave birth to three kids and hated every single birth. Non of them went smoothly, she was in a lot of pain and felt she had no control over what was going on. She had 3 hospital births.
For my birth, my mother's first, she went into the hospital planning on a natural birth, because at the time they had very little money and no insurance, so they could only afford the cost of the room for the night and the birth.
However, after 30+ hours of agonizing labor on her back in a hospital bed, she asked how much an epidural was.
They were surprised she even asked and said "$900." They couldn't afford it so she said "no," even though by that point it was probably too late to be given one anyway.
Flash forward three years to my sister's birth. After that first painful experience with me, and now having insurance, she knew she wanted an epidural. She made the nurse very aware of that fact and asked every hour when she could get the epidural. Long story short, she labored on her back again for several hours, not allowed to eat or drink and was told every hour that she would get an epidural when the doctor got there, but in the end was never given one. She was eventually told that labor had progressed too far to have an epidural and that she would just have to push on.
Another two years later and she was in labor with my brother, this time in Sweden, where the birth is completely covered by universal health care. Again, she asked for an epidural and this time she got one! However, it didn't work.
She said it was extremely painful as they administered the epidural and she never felt any relief from the labor pains.
These are the stories I was told growing up and I would always tell my friends, "I'm never getting pregnant. I'll hire a surrogate!" I was terrified of birth and that didn't change as I got older. TV and movie births always show a women suddenly going into labor , then she'd start doing the typical 'hee hee hee hoo hoo hoo' breathing and start screaming in pain. Everyone around her would act frantic as they called 911 or rushed her to the hospital in an emergency. It was always a terrifying scenario. Even when my friends started having kids, the stories were similarly frightening.
So flash forward to my husband and I getting back from 3 weeks in Europe on our honeymoon and finding out I'm pregnant. I cried when I told my husband because I was so scared about the birth. I just kept thinking that I was going to have to go through a similar scenario.
I would cry a few times a week thinking about it and would describe the fear to my husband like this.
"Imagine you know for a fact that in the next few months you are going to be in a car accident. You don't know how bad it will be, when it will happen or where. But you WILL be in a car accident." That was the fear I was living with, not great for a pregnant woman who should be trying to relax as much as possible, haha.
So, if you're pregnant you're probably thinking, "Ok already! What did you do? I need to feel better about this!"
For me the answer was education and staying healthy.
As a yoga teacher and holistic life coach, I have always been into fitness and health. I loved practicing yoga and going for walks during my pregnancy. I also ate (most of the time) very healthy foods and made sure my body was healthy and strong. My mom was told when she was pregnant to pretty much stop exercising and eat everything. Well...that's not very healthy or helpful if you want to have a positive birth. So I tried to learn from my mom's experience.
I ate all the special foods to help with labor and drank the smoothies (pinterest was my best friend!). I did all my squats and kugels. My husband and I also signed up for birthing classes at a local birthing center.
There we learned everything we needed to know about birth and how to prepare for it. This was no 'Saturday afternoon 2 hr crash course in birth', this was an 8 week, every Saturday for 2 hrs, in-depth birthing class. They also provided prenatal yoga classes, midwives, doulas, and were a great resource for any questions or concerns we had.
This is where we found our midwife.
We had learned in our birth classes about all different types of births as well as the pros and cons of each. By no means were these classes meant to sway us to choose a birth center or home birth over a hospital birth. There were 2 other couples in our birthing class and they were both choosing a hospital birth and were fully supported by the staff at the birth center. One couple chose to use a midwife at the hospital and the other couples just went the traditional hospital birth without a midwife.
During these classes I also heard about the movie "The Business of Being Born" and that really confirmed to me that (as long as we were having a healthy pregnancy and birth) I wanted to do a natural, water birth in our home. My husband was NOT enthusiastic about this and decided (after he watched the movie with me) that we would compromise and do a natural tub birth at a birth center (since we are not allowed to do water births in hospital.)
My first birth was a natural tub birth at a birthing center and people thought I was crazy for wanting that.
After so much research we decided it was the best decision for us. The birth was exactly as I had hoped and I wouldn't change anything about it. Just like last time, this time we researched everything and made sure all our bases were covered for our upcoming home birth.
To start, our midwife is able to take care of all my medical needs in my home, aside from giving an epidural and performing surgery (obviously).
She has oxygen, medical supplies and an intramuscular injection to help aid contraction of the uterus if there is too much bleeding after the birth.
She monitors my birth and contacts my OB as soon as I go into labor so she is aware of my birth as it’s progressing and informed on anything if things don’t seem to be going the way we want.
She pays close attention to early signs of complications and if she's concerned that the birth is not progressing properly she calls an ambulance to take me in early enough so I can get the medical attention needed to help the birth progress as close to my birth plan as possible. And then my OB is there and ready, already informed on the entire birth so far.
I also have 2 midwives there, one for monitoring the baby and one for me.
A birth center or home birth is also for healthy mothers and healthy pregnancies.
If I have any signs that I may have issues during the birth, both my midwife and I would plan for a hospital birth. I am all for modern medicine, but only when it’s needed.
Since my first birth, our birthing center has closed (so sad) but we are working with the same midwife. I was a little nervous about this decision (probably because society has drilled it into my brain that it's scary and not normal) but our only other option was the hospital, and unless I needed special medical attention -that was not what I wanted at all.
Then I found this awesome article that made me feel so much better about our decision.
For all you mamas out there who are curious about your options, know that you have them and educate yourself on the best situation for your birth.
We live in Wisconsin and luckily we have some amazing women's hospitals which are much more accepting of natural birthing options, midwives, and doulas, but that idea hasn't hit nationwide yet and I know moms in other states who weren't happy with their past hospital birth experiences.
Birth centers and home births are not just for crunchy hippies. They're becoming much more mainstream and are the no.1 choice in other modern countries. PLUS they save you a lot of money!
MY FIRST BIRTH:
NATURAL, AT A BIRTHING CENTER
Although my whole family and my husband's family were very nervous about our decision the first time, they totally changed their opinions on natural home/birth center births. My mom was shocked that birth can be that peaceful - she said I made it look a little too easy. Now don’t get me wrong, it was the most challenging thing I have ever done, and it was not without pain. However, it was a million times better than what I had thought birth would be like and what my mom had experienced during her's.
I labored at home for 28 hours. I was pretty comfortable and spent my day watching tv with my family, going for walks, taking baths and counting contractions. My water hadn't broken yet, my contractions were inconsistent and I had no signs of active labor. I kept in contact with my midwife and she advised me to stay home and try to relax, knowing that first time births can take a little while.
That may sound pretty easy but I was also crying and having little breakdowns here and there during that time, afraid of what was to come.
At around 7pm, my contractions became much stronger and very consistent: 2 minutes apart and 1 minute long. TIME TO GO! We alerted our midwife (who had just gotten home assuming we wouldn't be going into labor anytime soon) and jumped in the car.