I’m not going to lie: To the majority of the people in my life, I am “that mom.” The one whose kids sleep in her bed, the one who had two unmedicated births, on purpose, and I am also one of the moms who had a home birth. Needless to say, I’ve had some questions thrown my way about my choices involving pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. And fair. I get it. So let's get into it.
To be honest, I never would have gone for a home birth my first time around. I was just as weirded out and nervous about the idea as anyone else, despite being introduced to it by both my midwife and my prenatal instructor. But then, at the end of my ridiculously fast (5 hours, what!?) labor, as I was getting discharged from the hospital, my midwife turned to me and said, “I know you don’t want to think about this right now, but if you have another, you may want to consider a home birth. Given how fast you delivered.” I smiled and nodded.
Three years later, when I was pregnant again, all of that went through my mind as we were making the decision about where to have the birth. And it just made sense to me. One of the worst parts about delivering in the hospital was getting there when my contractions were coming fast and furious. It was an awful drive, and that alone was a good reason not to go.
So I did it. And these are some of the questions I had to field.
"For The Love Of God, WHY?"
Well, I guess I kind of answered this in my introduction, but I can flesh things out for you. For many women, their first labor is generally fairly slow. Think 12-18 hours on average. Second-time labor is generally faster because, well, things don’t have to stretch quite as much this time around. So when you have a 5-hour labor the first time, imagine how quick it could be next time. And, true to form, once active labor began for me, it was 2 short hours before I saw my son.
"Did You Ruin Any Furniture?"
Umm, no. We rolled up our rug, covered the pull-out couch in a shower curtain with sheets on top, and had those absorbent puppy training pads around for any time I was standing or moving after my water broke.
"Wasn't It Messy?"
To be honest, I wasn’t paying close attention, but there wasn’t as much clean up afterward as I'd anticipated. And while there were some towels, receiving blankets, sheets, and washcloths that needed to go in the wash after it all went down, the midwives had a garbage bag that everything went into, which we could decide if we wanted to wash or toss. Easy as that.
"You Mean You Gave Birth In Your Own Bed?"
Well, actually, no. But not because I didn’t want to, just because there wasn’t enough space around the bed for all the equipment needed. So I gave birth on our pull-out couch, in the living room. Pretty convenient, actually. (It's not something we readily disclose to house guests, however.)
"What If Something Had Been Wrong With The Baby?"
You wouldn’t believe how much equipment the midwives brought with them! We had a resuscitation station with oxygen, a warming area, and several midwives who were keeping a close eye on vitals, regularly checking the baby’s heartbeat. And I do have a friend who had a home birth whose son was born with serious breathing problems, due to an undiagnosed birth defect. They had him transferred to the hospital immediately, and she told me it all took place in the time it would have taken for the specialists to arrive in the hospital room anyway.
TL;DR: Home birth midwives are more than prepared, and that includes being more than prepared to get you and your baby safely and quickly to a hospital if it becomes necessary (and they'll make that determination — "necessary" — long before it veers into "dangerous.")
"Did You Have Candles And Incense Burning?"
Don’t be ridiculous. We did howl at the moon, though, but I mean, that's true of any birth.
"How Did You Manage To Do It Without Drugs?"
Some women just choose to trust that our bodies are designed to endure the pain, and if something happens to make it unbearable, that’s why we have midwives and hospitals nearby. That doesn't mean I'm judging anyone for getting an epidural though. Everyone has a different experience of pain, and it's up to each of us to decide what we can handle. That was just what I wanted to do. Shrug.
"Didn't It Hurt?"
Well, yeah, it hurt. It hurt a lot. But isn’t it supposed to? I mean, have you seen how big babies are when they come out? There’s no way something that size is coming out of a human body without some pain. But if the implied other side of that question is, "...and doesn't being in pain mean you don't want to do something?" then no. There was not a degree of pain that made all the other perks of my home birth feel not totally worth it.
"Did You Have One Of Those Home Birthing Pools?"
I did not, nor did any of the friends I know who had home births. Those things are expensive, gigantic, messy, and I really couldn’t imagine filling one up in time to deliver in. Hell, my active labor was just over two hours long. The last thing I was thinking about was filling up a damn tub. And if my husband had left me to fill it up, I might have killed him. That said, I see wonderful birth photography of women giving birth in those pools, and so I guess it does the trick for some women. To each their own, right?
"Did You Try That Hypnobirthing Stuff?"
I have heard great things about hypnobirthing, but I actually used the time-honored technique of screaming and swearing. Call me old fashioned. It seemed pretty effective, and a little more up my alley, as anyone who knows me would attest.