If I had to guess, I'd wager that, "But, is that safe?!” is the number one question moms who plan an out-of-hospital birth hear. Never mind the questioners regularly do numerous things that are far less safe than a healthy woman giving birth to a healthy baby, without even considering their proximity to a hospital. Having to decide whether to even go there with uninformed questioners is one of those struggles moms who didn't give birth in a hospital know.
Before I got pregnant with my son, I had a couple of traumatic experiences in hospitals that left me resolved to avoid them if possible (like, unless I'm in immediate danger of losing life or limb). I also had an OB-GYN who really scared and frustrated me, so after giving her a number of chances with no improvement, I fired her and started seeing midwives instead. Like me, they believe that a healthy pregnancy and birth is a normal life event, not an illness or injury. They're also a practice made up entirely of badass feminists, whose philosophies on a lot of things line up with mine. I was really thrilled with my choice, and would do it again in a heartbeat if I'm (again) lucky enough to experience a healthy pregnancy with a healthy baby.
However, while the struggles of birthing outside a hospital might not be as big as the struggles hospital-averse mamas might experience if we were there, they still exist. The folks coming to my house for my birth weren't going to feed themselves, after all. If the following struggles are at all familiar to you, you're in good company. (And if you're currently anticipating an out-of-hospital birth, repeat these mantras whenever you have to deal with frustrating questions and judgments. You got this!)
Deciding Whether To Answer Folks Who Ask, “So Where Will (Or Did) You Give Birth?”
Most of the time, people who ask this question expect you to answer with the name of a local hospital, so if you say “Such-And-Such Birth Center” or “Home,” it can start a conversation one or both of you weren't necessarily planning on having at that particular moment. “Do I really feel like having a conversation that will almost certainly end with me ranting about America’s maternity care system on the subway right now?”
Figuring Out How To Answer That Question Without Sounding Preachy…
I'm truly supportive of everyone's needs and views on birth (as long as they're pro-choice for every pregnant person, from conception to birth and beyond, because bodily autonomy is non-negotiable).
Still, some folks assume that everyone who chooses not to birth in a hospital judges everyone who does, which means we have to work extra hard to not come across that way (effort which doesn't always make a difference).
...Or Getting Defensive
On the flip side, when someone asks and then grimaces or judges our choice, it can be easy to counterattack with a negative response, or bury the person under a barrage of facts, research, and personal info that we really don't need to volunteer.
...Or Getting Annoyed
If you're used to people constantly judging or making negative assumptions about you for how you've chosen to give birth, it's easy to become reflexively irritated anytime anyone asks about it, even if they're asking totally innocently. To you, they're the 50th person that week to ask why you'd choose not to give birth in the hospital, but to them this may be the first time they've ever met anyone who didn't, and they're just genuinely curious.
...Or Talking For Hours About Stuff Only Birth Nerds Care About
This remains my biggest struggle. Sometimes people ask a question without a full realization of just how big the answer could be, and pretty much every question about choices in childbirth has wide-ranging, meandering potential answers. I try to spend time with doulas and midwives once every month or so, just so I can geek out about birth with people who actually find birth interesting, even when their own uterus isn't involved.
Handling Friends And Family Members Who Just Don't Get It…
Some people truly believe it's their place to weigh in on everything pregnant people do, and it can be exhausting if your friends or family are among those people. Fielding constant questions and critical remarks from people who aren't even trying to hear or respect your reasoning is beyond aggravating.
...Or Who Just Don't Approve
Trying To Pick The Perfect Menu For Your Birth Team
Especially if you're planning a home birth, you have to provide food for all the folks who will be by your side for hours while you labor and push. Picking food that will be hearty enough, convenient enough, and tasty enough to meet everyone’s diverse needs and palates can be a challenge (especially if you're like me, and the mere mention of dining guests for any reason sends you into total excited-but-neurotic hostess mode). Go-go-gadget Pinterest!
Coordinating And Arranging The Tests That Would Normally Happen In-Hospital
Many states have certain requirements of all families of newborns, like hearing tests, which you have to arrange for yourself if you give birth outside of a hospital. (And if your baby is like mine, they'll make the 10 minute hearing check take two hours by being adorably yet inconveniently playful with the examiner when they ought to be asleep.)
Paying Out Of Pocket If Your Insurance Doesn't Cover The Cost Of Midwifery Care
For all nine months of in-depth prenatal care plus labor and birth, midwives typically charge a fraction of what a hospital birth costs, not including prenatal visits, even for an uncomplicated, unmedicated vaginal birth. Still, despite being as safe or safer for low-risk women and frequently more satisfying for moms than the typical OB experience, many insurance companies don't cover most or all of the cost of midwifery care, or they require you to pay up front and then fight with them for months to get reimbursed.
If you want to actually choose your own birth adventure, you sometimes have to pay for it with extra time or money, even though covering these options fully for any family that wants it would save our entire healthcare system tons of money.
And that's how I end up ranting about our maternity care system on the subway.