I first started learning about homebirth a few years ago after my best friend had a less than pleasant hospital birth experience with her first baby. Her birth resulted in a beautiful and lively baby boy, but also in an unwanted, unplanned, and likely unnecessary C-Section. This set us both on a journey of finding out more about other options out there. The first thing I did was do a little research on cesarean rates in the U.S. What I found shocked me. In 2014, the national rate for cesareans was 32.2%! That's 1 in 3 births! To me that seems crazy! While the cesarean option has saved many babies and mothers since it was first introduced, I cannot believe that 1 in 3 babies need to be delivered via c-section in order to be birthed healthily and safely. Birth is a natural process that women's bodies were created to preform. In my opinion, it is absurd to think that 1 in 3 births are unable to happen naturally. There is also the issue of interventions in the hospital. Doctors are great at fixing problems and when a baby or mama are not progressing or performing the way they want them to, they have a solution to fix that problem. This works great for them and for some people, but these things were not for us. We wanted a natural, unmedicated, vaginal birth without interventions. Now, I know that it is very possible to have a wonderful natural unmedicated vaginal birth in the hospital, but that just wasn't what we wanted.
Now, there are often a lot of questions surrounding the idea of homebirth. My husband and I have received many questions, puzzled looks, and concerned comments through this process. One of the questions we've heard quite a lot is, "Will you have a doula or someone there??" This question always makes me laugh. Yes! Of course! We may live a bit on the hippie side of life, but we were not at any point planning to birth this baby by ourselves. Ha! No! We not only had a doula, but we had two highly trained and qualified midwives. Our main midwife, Jeanne, has been practicing for 35 years and has delivered over 1500 babies. She was accompanied by an apprentice midwife, Joanna, who has been apprenticing for a few years and works as a doula as well. Many midwives, especially in our area, work in pairs and so if some emergency were to come up on their end, at least one of them would be at our birth along with a backup midwife. (This did happen to us. Read our birth story here to find out more!) We then had our doula, Anna, who is also in school to become a certified nurse midwife. We were always planning to be surrounded by a very experienced birth team.
With homebirth, people also often ask, "What if something goes wrong?" The answer to that is--then we go to the hospital. Most home to hospital transfers with homebirths are non-emergencies where the birth team and laboring mother agree that more assistance is needed, for whatever reason, and they hop in their own cars and head to the hospital. However, when there is a real emergency, we live in a society where it is generally very easy and quick to get to the hospital and so emergency care is usually only a few minutes away. For us, there are three hospitals within 3 miles of our house and one of them is just over a mile away, so we were not too concerned about this. Also, when you work with a homebirth midwife, you have continuity of care. That midwife is with you the whole time and so she is very aware of your progress and your baby's. This makes her very in tune with any possible complications and gives her ample time to watch for and be prepared to act if something should come up.
With all this in mind, here are the 3 main reasons that we decided to have a homebirth.
- Comfort. When most people think about comfort in birth, they probably think about pain relief. However, I'm talking about feeling comfortable with the location. Homebirth is not for everyone, and I'll be first to say that. I think that women should give birth where they are most comfortable giving birth. Our bodies perform better when we feel safe and comfortable. For me, that wasn't in a busy hospital surrounded by strangers. For me, I felt most comfortable in my house, with my things, surrounded by people who knew me and who truly cared about me and my little family. Also, because I wanted a completely natural birth, I knew that having a homebirth would set us up to have the birth we wanted. Being at home was also wonderful as after the birth we didn't need to go anywhere. This was wonderful for my recovery and shielded our newborn baby from all the nasty stuff out there.
- Care. As I mentioned above, with a homebirth, you have continuity of care. Meaning, you have a birth team who is not only with you through the entire birth, but they are also with you through all of your prenatal AND postpartum appointments. We started meeting with Jeanne and Joanna at week 14 of pregnancy and continued to meet with them until this past week when our little guy turned 6 weeks old. We had regular prenatal appointments with them throughout the pregnancy, in which we talked through how I was feeling, they checked the baby's heartbeat, my vitals, my urine, my weight, and occasionally my blood/hemoglobin. Then after the birth, they did a home visit on day 1, day 3, 1 week, 2 weeks, and we went to see them at 4 weeks and 6 weeks. At these appointments they checked our baby's vitals, his weight and length, and checked him over for overall health. They also checked my vitals, my overall recovery and talked through how I was feeling emotionally.
- Cost. Hospital birth is expensive!! Ideally, most people have insurance that covers most of their costs, but insurance aside, in the US, the cost to have a baby (prenatal care & delivery) typically starts around $9000 and goes up from there--with the low end being for an uncomplicated vaginal birth. Our total costs for all of our prenatal & postnatal care, labor & delivery care, doula services, and birth supplies were less than $6000. While, insurance can make homebirth options tricky for some as it may or may not be covered, the actual dollar amounts make homebirth a cheaper option. For us, thankfully, everything was covered for a homebirth and so this was not an issue.
If you want to read more about homebirth, there are some great resources out there. First of all, I think having a solid understanding of natural birth is the best place to start. Anything written by Ina May Gaskin will provide you with that understanding, especially Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. For info on homebirth, Midwifery Today has some great background information and things to consider on their website. A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, provides a lot of great information on things to consider when deciding the birth setting that is best for you. While the information is a bit old, not much has changed in since it was published. There is also a lot of great information on birth options and midwifery through Minnesota Families for Midwifery and the Minnesota Council for Certified Professional Midwives. If you live outside of the Minnesota area and are looking for information on midwives, I encourage you to research it! It's amazing what a simple google search will turn up. Facebook is also a great way to connect with people in the birth world. My biggest piece of advice to anyone who is pregnant is ASK QUESTIONS. Don't be satisfied with just doing what people tell you you are supposed to do. Research things. Get second opinions. Ask other mothers and grandmothers. Do what's right for you and your baby--even if it goes against societal norms. Be confident. You were made for this.
The picture above is of Joanna, our apprentice midwife, weighing Oak on his 1 week appointment.
Oak getting footprinted. :)
And lastly, our wonderful midwives with our little guy. It was such a pleasure working with them both.