I’ve wanted to write about our decision to have a natural home birth for a long time, but having experienced people’s reactions in-person to this decision, I decided I’d rather tell the story after the fact, when other people’s thoughts and opinions wouldn’t affect me quite so acutely. Actually this is the main reason why I stopped blogging all-together. I just felt that I couldn’t freely express myself and so I lost all desire to write at all. And as much as I missed writing and had a gazillion posts written in my head throughout that time, it was nice to unplug for awhile! But now I’m eager to get back into it.
We spent a lot of time researching the different options for prenatal care. I knew in my heart from the beginning that I wanted midwifery care, but I wanted to know the facts about the differences so that I was making an informed decision, and also to help Steve get on-board. He was quite open to the idea from the beginning, though, so it really wasn’t a matter of convincing him. I also knew in my heart that I wanted a home birth, but that too, and perhaps even more so, we wanted to make an informed decision about. If you spend any amount of time researching the routine care in hospitals in North America, you won’t think we’re so crazy for wanting a home birth. Many people have told me that I’m brave for having a home birth but I think anyone having a hospital birth is brave. That’s not to say that you can’t have a great hospital birth. People do. But it requires being informed about your choices and knowing that a lot of the standard procedures in the hospital put you and your baby at risk, and reinforce the idea that labour has to be a painful experience. Most people trust the medical system wholeheartedly (they really should be able to, I agree), but unfortunately a lot of what happens at births in hospitals is not what is best for the mother and baby.
I feel like I could write a novel about what I’ve learned about birth, but I’ll just give the main points of why we chose to do a natural home birth. I do not, and will never, judge anyone that makes an informed decision to have a medicated hospital birth. This was just the very personal choice that we made for ourselves.
- Pregnancy and labour are completely natural processes. This was the main reason why we wanted midwifery care. Midwives view birth as completely natural and see themselves as guiding, rather than directing the process. As long as my pregnancy was considered “normal” there was absolutely no reason whatsoever to involve medical intervention. Of course if you have complications you want to be under obstetric care in a hospital, but most pregnancies and births do qualify as “normal.” And for normal births, the outcomes are just as good, if not better, for home births as for hospital births. We felt more secure that we would not end up having medical intervention forced on us by staying at home. To give an example of unnecessary medical intervention, induction is one procedure that women are often pressured into undergoing in the hospital, despite the fact that there is often no medical necessity. And induction is not without risk to baby and mother (An increase in your chances of having a vacuum, forceps, or caesarean delivery; Stronger than natural contractions or uterine activity and thus more pain; Your baby may have an abnormal heart rate over the course of your labour; You are at greater risk of a uterine rupture source). We don’t know why labour starts when it does – it’s one of those magical mysteries of life not yet explained by science – and due dates are just “guess dates”, so why in the heck are we inducing labour? I’m of the belief that babies come when they’re ready.
- The worst possible position to be in for labour is lying flat on your back. It goes against your body’s natural labour process, making labour longer and even preventing it from progressing. Unfortunately in order to have an epidural, this is exactly the position you need to be in. Add to that the fact that epidurals lower your blood pressure and consequently lower the amount of oxygen that gets to your baby, we decided that this would only be an option for us if absolutely necessary. There are a lot of other reasons why epidurals are not so great for the mother or baby, but the above were the main reasons we decided against it.
- Deciding to have a natural birth does not mean that you will have a more painful birth experience. The pain during normal childbirth comes from fear and anxiety. If you can reduce the fear and anxiety you have around birth, then you can reduce the pain, even to the point of having a pain-free birth. I knew for myself that I would be much more fearful and anxious in the hospital. I don’t like being in hospitals during the best of times. Even going to the doctor gives me a mild panic attack! In order to reduce my anxiety about birth (from years of hearing that it’s painful and seeing painful births depicted on tv and in movies), we decided to try hypnobirthing (I’ll be writing a separate post about our experience with that). It was the right fit for us. Definitely choosing a natural birth requires a lot more preparation than going to the hospital and letting the doctors take over. It takes time to learn and practice a fear/pain management technique that will help you through the stages of labour. And it takes time to educate yourself on all the standard hospital procedures and decide which ones are necessary/unnecessary for your situation. Even though we chose a home birth, the possibility was still there that we could end up going to the hospital, so we made sure to inform ourselves just in case.
All of our research and preparation paid off for us. We got to have a natural home birth, and I experienced minimal pain. It was an amazing, empowering experience. I sincerely hope more women will come to realize their options so that they too can enjoy their baby’s birth.
I thought I would share some of the resources that helped us:
This book really was our definitive guide. It explains midwifery care vs. obstetric care, birth at home vs. birth centre vs. hospital, the various medical procedures you may encounter in the hospital, and much more. I highly recommend this book to anyone preparing for birth.
- Book: “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth“
Ina May is a famous midwife and proponent of natural, intervention-free births. This book is more on the hippie-dippie side but is a great source for positive birth stories. The second half of the book covers a lot of the same things as “Creating Your Birth Plan” but I preferred the above for that and skipped that section in Ina May’s Guide.
- Film: “Gentle Birth Choices”
This comes with the book by the same title but I managed to find the film online so I didn’t read the book as well. The film includes interviews with midwives and physicians and includes six actual births which demonstrate the various birth options (home birth, water birth, vaginal birth, and VBAC). I tried to watch as many positive births as possible to retrain my thinking that birth can be a positive experience.
- Film: “The Business of Being Born“
Most people who take any time to inform themselves about birth come across this documentary produced by and starring Ricki Lake. It’s a good introductory into why you might want to consider your options. While it is centred on the American health care system, Canada is very similar when it comes to the management of birth so it is still worthwhile to watch. I found the births depicted still focussed on birth being a painful experience so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to re-envision birth as a positive experience. I watched it early on in my pregnancy so I still had lots of time to focus on positive birth stories.
This website includes 250 positive birth stories. I liked that they were categorized so that you could avoid stories mentioning pain if you chose to.