I’m due with my second baby this June, and this time around my husband and I have chosen to have a Home Birth with a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). There were many, many, many reasons why we chose to make this decision, but I want to stress that it was not an easy one for us to make. We had a few complications during the birth of first little guy (You can read about his birth story HERE), and as medical professionals we are both absolutely comfortable in the hospital setting so it took quite a bit of prayer and discussion to come to this decision. Ultimately though, it came down to what would be best for OUR family and OUR baby, and a planned home birth ended up being our decision.
That doesn’t stop people from looking at you like you have a third eye when you tell them about it, though 🙂 So I decided to put our decision, with the how and whys, into writing in hopes of helping another family make this decision as well.
Here’s a clip from one of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, about his experiences with home birth…cracks me up every time! (Sorry, the quality isn’t so wonderful, but you get the picture…)
Why Should ANYONE Choose Home Birth?
First of all, it is important to note that home birth is NOT for everyone. THIS article in Midwifery Today talks at length about the difference between the traditional hospital birth and home birth, but basically, home birth is a good option for low-risk pregnant women who do not have many medical problems and do not anticipate having any during pregnancy or childbirth. Home birth is NOT a good option for women who have chronic medical problems or who have a familial history of birth complications, or complications during a previous pregnancy. This, of course, depends on the TYPE of medical problem and the TYPE of complications. They should definitely be discussed with a medical provider when this decision is being made to determine your options and the risks/benefits for your specific case.
One of the most attractive reasons for choosing home birth (in my humble opinion), is that it provides you with an environment with the least amount of medical interventions. Because of that, home birth is only suitable for women who are planning on having an unmedicated, natural birth. Epidurals and IV pain medications are typically not available for a home birth, so if you are at all unsure about whether or not you will want pharmacological intervention, home birth may not be the correct choice for you.
In My Case
With my first child, I was a low-risk client, and although I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth, I had the option of doing so in a hospital environment, with a team of professionals who supported my decisions. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I ended up having some complications towards the end of my pregnancy that would have forced a hospital birth anyways (read more about Little Man’s birth story HERE), so I was thankful for that option; however, since then, my husband and I moved to rural Oklahoma, where birthing options are few and far between. By few and far between, I mean that there is only one OB/GYN in our town, and the next closest town to us doesn’t have one at all. Both cities have their own little hospitals with, you guessed it, very limited resources.
My previous pregnancy complications included gestational hypertension (high blood pressure) and postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after birth.) There have been several studies recently with sufficient evidence to support the fact that the risks of gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia for second time moms are greatly reduced if they become pregnant again through the same partner. Scientists are finding a very large genetic component to both of these issues, meaning that the father’s DNA could be at least partially responsible for the increase in pressure late in pregnancy. When Mom is originally exposed to Dad’s new DNA, it causes her body to react with higher blood pressures, but the second time around, Mom’s body is used to the DNA and does not react as severely, if at all. For this reason, I’m hoping and praying that I will not have blood pressure issues this time around. And so far, at 34 weeks, I have had no sign of complications thus far. Praise the Lord 🙂
The postpartum hemorrhage was most likely caused by a slew of things that compounded into too much bleeding: high blood pressures for an extended length of time, being on Pitocin for 12+ hours, having an OP baby, and pushing for 2+ hours could have each individually caused excessive bleeding, but the fact that I had ALL of them certainly didn’t help matters. Because I don’t anticipate having ANY of these issues again (and have been taking sufficient measures to prevent them all), my midwife and I decided that an out of hospital birth would still be a safe option for me.
So my options for the birth of my second child were to 1) Birth at the little local hospital under the care of their OB/GYN or a family practice doctor. 2) Drive to Oklahoma City for a more “least restrictive, less intervention” type doctor or midwife, or 3) Deliver with a local midwife in either my home or her birthing center.
Soon after we moved, I started working in the Women’s Center at this little local hospital (only 4 blocks from our house, which was FABULOUS haha), and while I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about Labor & Delivery, and get along very well with the physicians and all of the nursing staff, I quickly realized that having an unmedicated birth here was BY FAR out of the ordinary. Continuous fetal monitoring, Pitocin inductions at 39 weeks, Artificial Rupture of Membranes (AROM), routine cesarean sections, epidurals, and the like are much more common than having a patient who wants the least restrictive interventions. Not to say that any of those things are evil…. its just definitely not what I wanted for my own birth, and I knew it would be a challenge to have the kind of birth that I wanted for myself and for my baby in that environment.
Yes, there are far more holistic and natural birthing options in the urban areas, Oklahoma City not being excluded; however, I didn’t like the idea of driving 90+ miles one way for every single appointment, and due to a familial history of FAST labor (my Mom had both myself and my brother in less than 3 hours start to finish… no contractions at all and then BAM…Baby! lol), plus my own experience of moving fairly quickly once my water broke, I was unsure that I would make it to my destination in time before a baby was born on the side of the road. At the very least, it would be an incredibly uncomfortable car ride in labor that I didn’t want to worry about.
Thankfully, I was able to find a midwife in my area who specializes in out-of-hospital births. She runs her business out of a little house that she remodeled into a birthing center and office in a nearby town. My experiences with midwives during my first pregnancy and delivery automatically drew me to this option immediately; however, her practice did not offer a hospital option. Options 3a and 3b were either her birthing center or my home. The “birthing center” was a house that had been remodeled and fixed up to include 2 birthing suites, which house large, comfy beds. One room has an attached bathroom with a shower, and the other a jacuzzi tub. All nice amenities, and it would mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about my house being clean or if I had my sheets washed and ready to go; however, this town was the one that had an even smaller hospital with ZERO doctors who specialized in obstetrics. If, for any reason, we had last minute complications that needed to be dealt with, I didn’t want to be rushed to a hospital where no one knew how to treat me properly. Ergo, Option 3b was what my husband and I ultimately decided on: Home Birth.
Our house is literally a few blocks from the local hospital, and I can personally attest to the competency of each doctor and nurse who works there. And while I may prefer one or two of them over some of the others, I know that IF I had a life threatening emergency during said planned home birth, I would be well taken care of by the team on duty. Would I choose to birth at this hospital if I didn’t have any issues? No. But would I trust those same health care professionals to take care of me and my baby if I truly needed them to? Absolutely.
Of course, IF I start having issues later in my pregnancy like I did with Little Man, and KNOW beforehand that home birth isn’t going to end up being the best option then I will likely opt to drive to Oklahoma City where they are used to dealing with more high-risk patients anyways. Plus, my midwife used to work at one of the hospitals there and is familiar with their policies, procedures, and the staff. IF, say, I have to be induced again, she will accompany me to the hospital and be an extra support person. She will not legally be allowed there as my care provider there, but she can still be available to support me and help me make decisions about my care.
Other Pros of Choosing Home Birth
- Comfortable surroundings- I’m an organized, OCD freak, so I know where everything and anything is in my home, and can get to it, or tell someone else where to get it if I need it. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something at home, or wishing I’d have brought XYZ to the hospital with me because I’ll already be there! I also hate the feel of a sterile, cold hospital room and using sheets, towels, and gowns that someone may have passed away in the day before…. or at the very least bled all over. Eek. Plus, there’s no chance of me catching a hospital infection from the patient next door, and I don’t have to have the dreaded MRSA swab jabbed up my nose. At home you also know where all the light switches are, can turn the fan on and off, and don’t have some random person coming in your room for some random reason every 30 minutes. SO much more peaceful.
- The food doesn’t suck AND you can eat it whenever you want. Hospitals rarely have good food. I mean, why haven’t they figured this out yet? Get a Chick-Fil-A in there or something, jeez! But at home, I can have all the food and snacks during labor I want (although not necessarily recommended due to the fact that it will most likely come back up in active labor), and I can be much more picky about what I get to eat.
- You can wear your own clothes- Again, no icky hospital gown that doesn’t cover anything and doesn’t have weird holes for “breastfeeding” that are in the most awkward and inconvenient place ever. No one died in my yoga pants last week, I’m pretty sure of that… so I don’t have to worry about who or what I’m being exposed to, even after they’ve been washed.
- You don’t have to go anywhere- Did I mention how much I would dread being in the car while in labor? I didn’t have to experience it with Little Man so I’m just guessing here, but it seems like sitting in the car, with a seat belt on, unable to move would be incredibly uncomfortable, especially if you have bumpy roads, or railroad tracks, or stop lights haha.
- The All-or-Nothing Mentality- For me, this is a pro…for others, it may be a con haha, but home birth doesn’t even give you the option of giving in and asking for pain medication or an epidural. It’s either we’re doing this naturally, or we aren’t and we’re packing up and going to the hospital. Some women find that natural, medication-free childbirth is “easy” for them. Having been through it once before, I can testify that it wasn’t a piece of cake, and there were certainly a couple of times when I was sure I wouldn’t be able to make it, but my supportive birth team and all of the childbirth education I had gone through helped me to relax and get through the tougher parts. (And I wouldn’t change any of it for a second! Note that I’m choosing to do it again lol) Being at home might just give me that extra little push I need to be strong and trust my body during the worst parts of labor.
- You can make all the noise you want- I’m not a quiet, peaceful, zen laborer. I found that out pretty quickly when Little Man was on his way. I don’t want to be worrying about who I’m bothering or whose wide eyes are in the room next door when I’m trying to make my open glottis noises. Nor do I want to hear about it afterwards… if I’m at home, I know my trusty birth team won’t care, and unless its the middle of the night and Little Man is trying to sleep, there won’t be anyone else to hear me anyways.
- The Price Tag- Little Man’s birth, although born naturally and had very little interventions, cost us about $5,000 out of pocket. This was just for ME and my hospital stay. That doesn’t include any prenatal appointments, labwork, or anything else. Little Man had a separate $2,000 bill for his stay and the pediatrician. And this was only our portion! I literally gasped out loud when I saw the bill before insurance had made all of their adjustments! I have already paid in full for all of my prenatal visits with my midwife, the birth, all labs, my birth kit, a doula/monatrice who will assist both me and my midwife during the birth, AND a birth photography package (which consists of maternity, birth, newborn, and 6 month pictures… not 100% necessary, but I’m excited about them) ALL for less than $5,000 combined. The only thing left to pay for will be the newborn well visits at the pediatrician’s office after Little Princess is born. We paid for all of this out of pocket, without even contacting our insurance company to see if they would cover anything. We put money back each paycheck and made regular payments throughout my pregnancy, and now we’re DONE. Let me just tell you how nice that feels. A-Ma-Zing.
- There’s room for Dad- Home Birth doesn’t have a 2 visitors at a time limit, and there’s a place for Dad to sleep that doesn’t involve a crappy “mattress” on a pull-out less-than-twin-size “cot.” Siblings are welcome to attend the birth, and all of your family and friends can come visit whenever they want! (Ahem, whenever YOU want.) But there’s usually more than enough room to accommodate all of them. And if for some reason, you decide you’re not up for the company, you can just head on down to your bedroom and quietly escape for a bit.
What About You?
So what were/are YOUR reasons for choosing a home birth?
This post will be the first of many about home birth, natural labor, and the like! So get ready for a slew of baby pictures! 😉