Whenever someone who doesn’t know me well finds out that I had a home birth, they pause and take a good, long look at me. All sorts of thoughts may pass through their heads, but generally what actually comes out of their mouth is, “...Wow. Really? You?” Then I become that friend. The crunchy one. The wind chimey one. The slightly odd one that people nod at and roll their eyes over.
Listen, I understand. I sometimes can’t believe I did it myself. Hell, even in the weeks leading up to my home birth, I had one foot still in the hospital. Giving birth at home was scary to commit to. But I did it, and it was so totally different (and better) than my first birth, which was in a hospital. And I would do it again in a heartbeat, if I were to have another (which, you know, NOPE), for a hundred different reasons.
The funny thing is that I’m actually not nearly as much of a hippie as you would expect, given my penchant for midwives and home births. I would never tell a woman with a high risk pregnancy that she should consider a home birth, nor would I recommend it to someone who’s convinced she wants an epidural. Go on with your bad selves and hit up that hospital! I won’t judge. But if you were planning on skipping the meds anyway, and don’t expect to have any complications, here are some of the fantastic ways that a home birth is different than a hospital birth.
You've Committed To A Medication-Free Birth
I’m not saying you can’t commit to the exact same thing with a hospital birth, but with the option there and available, it may be something you find yourself considering, when the going gets tough. When the going gets tough in a home birth (pain-wise! If there are complications, that’s something else entirely), you have to figure out how to cope. So make sure you’ve got someone there who’s willing to support you physically and emotionally, because it’s quite the journey.
I had a student midwife acting as a labor coach, helping me focus my breathing and pushing when things got rough toward the end. And I’m pretty sure I gave my husband permanent nail marks in the palms of his hands. That seemed to be sufficient "pain management."
You Know How Clean Your Space Is
When I had my first baby in the hospital, I brought slippers to walk around the hospital room in, which I subsequently had to throw out. I mean, people were wearing outdoor shoes in there, and there were germs from all over the hospital on the floor of that room. I did not want my bare feet touching that floor, and I didn’t want to bring those germs home either.
With my home birth, I knew that everything had just been cleaned and/or washed. I had hired a house cleaner to come in right around my due date, so that I knew things were spic and span. Your germs, your terms.
No Need To Prepare Snacks Or Drinks To Bring To The Hospital
I’m a big snacker; I need food frequently, due to hypoglycemia. But having to think of that stuff in advance of going to the hospital was so stressful, the first time around! I could prepare it all in advance, but I had no idea when I would actually go into labor, so my snacks might be stale, or soggy, or just gross by "go time." And I couldn’t trust that my labor would be easy enough in the beginning to allow me time to get things ready once I knew labor was happening. So what did I do? I brought some coconut water and granola bars.
Snacking after my home birth, comparatively, felt positively luxurious. Hmmm, what did I feel like? How about some bananas with almond butter on them? Sure! What about some fresh quiche from the bakery across the street? Absolutely! Ugh, the taste of coconut water is turning my stomach, how about a fresh espresso? NO. PROBLEM. It was indulgent and exactly what I needed and deserved after giving birth.
If Your Labor Isn't Progressing, You Don't Get Sent Home
Isn’t that fantastic? No. Pressure. At. All. No nurses rolling their eyes at you when you come in and are only 3 cm dilated.
True story: My second labor started out really weird. I guess it was latent, or prodromal labor, but things can be really unpredictable the second time around, so when my contractions were consistently about five minutes apart, I called the midwives. They came to my house right away, to be safe, since my first labor had gone quite quickly. Then I stalled. My contractions came about 5 minutes apart as long as I was walking around, but stopped altogether when I sat or lay down. We tried virtually everything to get things going, but my body was having none of it. I’d been up since 4 a.m., and this had been going on for six hours. So my midwives told me to go take a nap and they’d reassess when I woke up. And they went for croissants and cappuccinos while I got to nap on my own bed. No guilt and no discomfort.
Labor Happens On Your Own Terms
Well, hopefully, assuming there are no complications that come up. Some hospitals are more progressive than others, no doubt. You may end up in one with a birthing stool or ball or bathtub, but there’s a pretty high chance you’ll just end up in the classic “push the baby out on your back” position. I’m not going to lie: that position pretty much sucks, and is completely unnatural. The only people that’s convenient for are the doctors, and guess what? It’s not about them when you’re in labor.
Being at home meant that I could try out whatever positions felt “right” at the time of my contractions. I did some bouncing on my exercise ball, standing and leaning on my husband, bending over the bed, squatting, everything. The midwives were there to help facilitate my comfort as my body did the work.
You Aren't Concerned About Strangers Hearing You
Well, unless you have particularly thin glass on your windows, or live in an old apartment building. Still, it’s a million times more private than a hospital room, and I definitely found myself more...ahem...vocal the second time, versus the first. And vocalizing really, really helped me.
You Get To Sleep In Your Own Bed Immediately
There is a lot to be said for this. You just pop off the top layer of bedding so that you can sleep on the clean layer beneath, and go right to sleep. Or, if you’re like me, lie in your own bed nursing your baby while your husband runs across the street to get you a decadent frozen coffee drink and a chocolate croissant. And nothing says indulgence like binge watching Netflix while you’re recovering from giving birth.