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The Homebirth Experience

Aug18

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bounceback_sprecourt.jpgThis week I had the supreme pleasure of interviewing Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing about homebirths. It’s a topic I admittedly don’t know that much about — and I’m sure at one time I would have wrinkled up my nose and thought “weirrrrrd! who does that?” Ah, the narrow-mindedness of How I Was Going To Do Things, back before I had children. How I do not miss it.
Anyway, Stephanie patiently put up with my ignorance and shared her story — why she chose a homebirth and why it was right for her, plus some of the more practical aspects of recovering from a birth at home from the get-go.
Q. After three hospital births, what led to your decision to have your daughter at home?
My first son had a rare form of epilepsy starting around age 2-1/2. We already had our second son by that time and in trying to figure out what the heck was going on with Noah suddenly having seizures, we started researching everything from laundry detergent to the food we were eating, the water we were drinking, and we even moved out of our house for a week to see if that was the cause. During this time we found some connections to vaccines. Looking more deeply into that led us to changing a whole bunch of things in our lives — and living a much more “natural” lifestyle than before.
When we decided to have a third baby, it was my first time giving birth with our new way of thinking. My first two were all-natural births and I had planned on going no drugs, but within a couple hours of each I had an IV of Stadoland did whatever else the nurses told me to do. They were pleasant hospital birth experiences, but I did not listen to my body or use my own instincts in any way. I just kinda did what I thought you were supposed to do.
So when we planned our third baby, I had a specific birth plan, I researched baby slings and took a whole natural approach to my pregnancy (all the while still staying with my OB). I did a lot of natural things that I didn’t even tell him about because I knew he would laugh at me (like he did when I said I wanted to wait to cut the umbilical cord). I read Mothering magazine and consulted a local natural parenting support group and soaked in every word of the midwives that attended the meetings. I took red raspberry leaf and drank red raspberry tea religiously toward the end of my pregnancy and eight days before my due date I had my third son, Gray. completely natural in the hospital — he came so fast that the doctor didn’t make it — they didn’t even have time to transform my bed or hospital room into the delivery stage.
I refused the IV and that went well until they wanted to speed up the birth of my placenta and shot me in the leg with Pitocin, without my consent. Everything else on my birth plan was followed — we kept him with us the entire time — they weren’t allowed to do a thing to him. We were pretty much left alone and that was nice. But those contractions following that dose of Pitocin lasted for days. Was seriously worse than labor.
So when we decided to try for our fourth baby, we knew we would have a home birth. It only made sense as basically we were using the hospital for the space — we didn’t do any of the procedures they routinely do to Mom or baby. And I really wanted to birth the placenta on my own next time, and cut the cord later, too.
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The day I found out I was pregnant, I clutched the card I was given by a homebirth midwife a couple years before (it had been in my jewelry box all that time) and called her before I even told my husband.
I hadn’t even made it to my first appointment with her (usually around 6-8 weeks) when I was hit with horrible morning sickness. I ended up in the hospital very dehydrated and because of the stupid laws in our state, I gave the name of my OB to the ER, and proceeded to follow up with him. I was so sick and confused, and didn’t know how I could go on like that without seeing a “real” OB. I convinced myself that maybe the homebirth wasn’t meant to be. Financially things started to make sense for us to just go with a hospital birth as it would be covered by insurance and the homebirth would not.
I made the call to my midwife and let her know. I was disappointed but truly believed I was doing the right thing.
Over time the morning sickness passed and I felt much better. We found out that after three boys, we’d be having a baby girl. We began to write our birth plan and it pretty much stated that we didn’t want them to do anything they normally do. We also made arrangements with the pediatrician and OB that if all was well with both me and baby, we’d leave the hospital immediately after birth.
We kept adding to the birth plan stating things we did NOT want them to do and eventually my husband and I just looked at each other and asked why we were having this baby in a hospital. It just made sense to have her at home. And it was a deep desire in my heart to do so.
I realize this is a really long answer to your question, but I think it’s a good example that many people that choose to have a homebirth have a story and a big background behind their reasons why. It’s not something we just decided one day. It was a long time coming. It has roots and arms and legs and it was and is part of our story.
Q. What resources did you find the most helpful when planning your birth? Any must-read books or websites?
I had read Having A Baby Naturally when planning my birth with Gray, my third son. I remembered a lot of what that said, and then went completely by what my midwife provided me with. I found the documentary The Business of Being Born extremely helpful. I also read Tina Cassidy’s book Birthand think I also felt that since it was my fourth baby, I knew I what I was doing and I was pretty relaxed about it all.
Q. Was your husband on-board with a homebirth from the beginning…or did he have to work through some worries about Ivy’s and your safety? All the what-ifs and fears? Where those worries worse for you or for him, do you think?
He was unsure at first. He had many misconceptions, like most people who are unaware of how a homebirth works. He had already agreed to the homebirth because he knew it was such a great desire of mine and my previous labors were easy and quick, but after watching The Business of Being Born, he was way over on the other side wondering why anyone WOULDN’T have their baby at home.

Q. Was your family supportive? Do you have any advice for women who are getting resistance from family and friends about homebirths?

Our families were very supportive. I will have to say that showing them The Business of Being Born really helped, too. (I am not some huge promoter of this movie, but it was timely and helpful!)
Q. So I work from home, and I have a terrible time with setting boundaries about when work starts and ends and when my SAHM-ness begins — did you have any problems with being at home from the start and not taking some time to recover from the birth? I feel like I’d be tempted to get up and do laundry right away, or bark orders downstairs about my older kids’ lunches.
Well, my midwife had strict orders after the birth. I was pretty much on bedrest for three days after the birth. I could get up slowly to go to the bathroom, but I was ordered to stay in bed and rest and nurse my baby. I was not allowed to go downstairs until the third day (this is to protect the uterus as well as promote great bonding and breastfeeding for Mom & baby) and so I had my Mom stay with us to help with the other children and made sure everything I needed was upstairs with me for right after the birth.
Then, for two weeks I was encouraged to stay home and not drive, but to rest and take it easy. And I DID!
Q. How much of a….you know…mess was there afterward? (I know, I know, but these are things I think about. Giving birth at home sounds so beautiful and natural and empowering and ACK MAH GOOD SHEETS.)

Well, there was really no mess at all! That was one of my husband’s concerns. We protected our bed by putting a shower curtain between two sets of sheets so that we could just pull it off afterwards and clean sheets were already on there. But, I felt most comfortable standing during labor and when it came time, I was on all fours on my bedroom floor. We placed towels down and I think some of those absorbent pads you see at the hospital, and she was born right there on my carpet. No stains!
My midwife took care of all that clean-up afterwards, too, and I was so smitten with my new baby girl that I don’t really know what happened to it all. I do still have my placenta in the deep freezer….
Q. Your homebirth was a success, obviously, but do you have any wisdom for someone who ended up having to have a hospital transfer, or some other scenario where things didn’t go as planned?
Definitely be prepared. I had a hospital birth plan ready and had already gone over that with the pediatrician. When I “broke up” with my OB — in the middle of the pregnancy to have the home birth — I made sure we still had a good relationship and asked him if I would be able to call him if it were necessary. Although we agreed to disagree about my choice for a homebirth, he said yes.
I think any woman deciding to have a homebirth should choose a midwife that is someone she is 100% confident in — I had no doubt in my mind that my midwife was capable no matter what situation was thrown at her. Ivy was the 1,631st baby she “caught.” And over the years I grew to know her and watched her speak about these amazing home births — short cords, long cords, breech births, scary situations where she handled it naturally and without harm to Mom or baby.
I didn’t have a doula — I am the type that wanted to be left completely alone and untouched during labor and when it was time for help, I asked for it. I highly recommend having a doula, though, if you want more physical and emotional support. I had asked my midwife if she preferred that a doula attended alongside her. If she had made me feel like it would have been best to have that “back up” I would have definitely hired a doula. And I also knew that if during my labor she felt we did need back up, she would have called one in.
I also knew my midwife’s rate for transfer to hospital (only about 1-2 times per year) and what most people don’t understand is that usually when a midwife decides to transfer to the hospital, it is not always a life or death within minutes type of situation. They watch the Mom, listen to the baby, and will make that call early on, before there is an extreme emergency. I felt confident in having her attend. It did make everyone feel a little bit more at ease knowing we were just 2 minutes from our local hospital, in case there were an emergency. This also goes along with many home birthers’ theory that having a baby is not a sickness- we’ll go to the hospital when there is an emergency!
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There is definitely a risk that the hospital staff will frown upon your decisions, especially after being transferred, but I think, along with being prepared, it’s important that you stand by your decision and desires. And no matter how the baby gets here- whether it’s at home, in the hospital naturally or with a bunch of drugs, or via c-section, if you are ok and baby is ok, then that’s all that really matters in the end.
Having a home birth is empowering. But, I felt empowered after my hospital births, too. I did not feel like I was more of a Mom or a hero or anything like that after my home birth. But I did feel proud of myself for listening to my body and being able to experience giving birth outside of a cold hospital setting. Being in my bedroom, it all just felt right and I wish I could explain it in the right words… it just felt right. And for me, it was right.

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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18 Responses to “The Homebirth Experience”

  1. Olivia Aug 18 at 10:40 am Reply Reply

    Great post! I planned a homebirth with our first baby, like Stephanie it was years in the planning and researching. I’d like to second everything she said and add to the hospital transfer question.
    I had back labor (it was hell!). I reached 6 cm dialation, but stalled there for about 8 hrs. After 24 hrs of labor and stalled dialation my midwife made the suggestion to transfer. She believed pain relief would allow me to relax and rest, and could help me get past 6 cm. I agreed, we transfered and my midwife was right. I rested, relaxed and reached 10 cm.
    Though my story does end with a c-section because it turned out my baby had her foot by her head, I never doubted, and still don’t, my decision to have a homebirth. The prenatal care I received with my midwife, and the relationship I have with her is priceless. I already know I will make the same plans for our second baby.
    I will also add that my treatment at the hospital as a “homebirth transfer” was very respectful. My midwife and doula stayed with us during the entire labor, and our birth wishes were followed as much as circumstance allowed.

  2. Ryley Aug 18 at 11:06 am Reply Reply

    Beautiful article you two!
    I love that you love to talk about your births, I am a sucker for birth stories.
    I very seriously want to consider a home birth for next time, but I love the freedom a hosiptal gave me afterwards. I know you said you had to stay in bed for 3 days, but I know I wouldnt. And having someone cook for me was amazing! I have a feeling I’d be eating Ramen for 3 days if left to just my husband! :)
    Still.. I am seriously considering it and hope that it does happen…
    Thank you for enlightening us.. and sharing with us.

  3. Philippa Aug 18 at 11:09 am Reply Reply

    Thanks for the inspirational story. I love reading of women who were able to listen to their bodies and have the expeirence they want. I am 35 wks pregnant now and will be delivering at a birthing center (if I make it 2 more weeks). My husband laughs but I tell him if everything goes smoothly this time I would love to try and have our second at home also. Maybe we will watch that video together.

  4. Jenny Clark Aug 18 at 11:41 am Reply Reply

    Great story! Homebirth is such a safe and natural option for women with healthy pregnancies. I wish that more people would be open to this and more doctors would be supportive of this because it would decrease the insane medical costs DRAMATICALLY that women are charged by OBs and hospitals here in the states. Its really one of the bigger problems I see with our health system. Unfortunately, hospitals and docs would lose lots of money, so its unlikely to happen anytime soon. I love hearing about moms who have chosen this route and especially their experiences at home vs. hospital birth. Its very educational and empowering for women who may not have heard about homebirth or ever considered it an option for them!

  5. Erin Aug 18 at 12:50 pm Reply Reply

    Great interview!
    Interestingly, I think a lot of hospitals are more open to the idea of home birth and are hopefully more kind and welcoming to moms who have to transfer than in the past. When we got to the hospital with Tommy, our doula told us that he might not be able to go in the nursery (no biggie since we planned on rooming in). Apparently it was hospital policy that home birthed babies were not allowed in the nursery because they were considered “dirty,” but the hospital has since changed that policy and will let babies in immediately. I also had a L&D nurse remark to me that after Tommy’s birth, I’d better just plan a home birth the next time around! I was really impressed at how open they were… only one nurse looked at us like we were freaks, and she was a jerk any way.;)

  6. Kara Aug 18 at 12:55 pm Reply Reply

    What a beautiful interview and a beautiful birth story.
    I am a big supporter of home births, and a woman’s right to informed birthing options, and I love hearing success stories!
    Congrats! ;)

  7. Quinn Aug 18 at 3:39 pm Reply Reply

    Yay! Thank you for this column, Amy and Stephanie! This seems silly, but the mess aspect was one of my concerns about having a homebirth. I didn’t want to be at all responsible for cleaning up afterwards! Fortunately we found one of the few midwife practices in the area that does water births in a hospital and is generally non-invasive. The only drugs I had were a couple shots of lidocaine to stitch up my tears (and I requested them).
    I don’t want to leave the practice, but I’d kind of like to try birthing in a real birthing tub next time, instead of just a bathtub. The water made a real difference in pain management, but the tub was too shallow to really let me move freely and keep my lower back underwater. That is, sadly, not available in the hospital. Maybe I can get one or two of the midwives to deliver me out of the hospital.
    Anyway, thank you for the beautiful birth story! Yay for natural births!

  8. Rachael Aug 18 at 4:52 pm Reply Reply

    I’m so glad you broached this subject as I am a cloth-diapering, baby-wearing, BF’ing, crazy-for-natural mama.
    I had the amazing experience of having a natural water birth with our daughter, Mya, at the Birth Center near our home with only our FANTABULOUS midwife and my husband in attendance. I longed for a homebirth my entire pregnancy, but we decided to compromise with the Birth Center which is MUCH closer to our local hospital.
    IF you’re bored and feel like a some light reading (and you don’t mind some, OhEmGee, wayy TMI) you can read my/my daughter’s birth story here:
    http://novakfamily.wordpress.com/2009/03/24/birth-story-of-mya-lin-novak/
    Otherwise, for the rest of you with a life (life? I have a life.), I just have to concur with what Stephanie said. I also watched The Business of Being Born over, and over, and over again during my pregnancy. It really did help me gain perspective and feel more confident playing defense (as I consistently had to do with friends/family with bug eyes, LIKE OMG NO DRUGS?!).
    I did wish that they explained how rare the condition was the director’s son had, cause she ended up having a C-section at the end… it looked disappointing for her, but there was nothing she could have done.
    I’m babbling. All-in-all, kudos Stephanie!

  9. Jaymee Aug 18 at 5:32 pm Reply Reply

    Why would you wait to cut the umbilical cord? How long do you wait? What is the purpose of keeping the placenta? I have never heard of doing either of these things.

  10. Jaymee, I’ll try to explain without looking things up (so I hope it makes sense!) but there are many benefits in delaying cord clamping because while the cord is still pulsating, it’s transferring good stuff to the baby. It usually stops pulsating after birth around 20 minutes or so, and that’s usually around the time when the placenta naturally births. And this is also usually about the time the baby starts nursing. I am sure each thing has a cause/effect sequence, but this is from my memory.
    As for the placenta, there are many things you can do with it after birth- like burying it or planting it with a tree, eating it, making it into capsules to be ingested by Mom for post partum help, or just throwing it away. I would not eat the placenta personally, but I wasn’t ready to throw it away. So it’s in our freezer until I decide if we’re going to plant it or not.
    I hope this helps some!
    Steph

  11. Ruth Aug 19 at 8:03 am Reply Reply

    Thanks for this post! It’s nice to feel included as someone who read all your Zero to Forty posts (about six weeks behind you) and had my son at home. Like Stephanie, the home birth just felt right for us. I have never had a single regret about it — all of my birth memories are positive, and I am so grateful for that.

  12. Penny Aug 19 at 2:44 pm Reply Reply

    I’m sooooo disappointed in this interview. First of all, it seems mostly about having natural birth and vaccine mis-information and how doctors are evil and blah blah blah not post partum stuff at ALL.
    With all the other articles and interviews you’ve stuck to the issue: post partum. but here it’s all over the place and it pisses me off that the interviewee managed to get a couple of licks in about how vaccinations supposedly caused epilepsy in her son. What the hell? That’s not even researched, it’s just stuck in there.
    Disappointed Alpha mom.

  13. Isabel Kallman

    Penny, thank you for sharing your opinion.
    You are correct that most of the interview with Stephanie does not fall into the “postpartum” category. It has to do with Birth. Birth is an area that most pregnancy sites and books ignore, and we didn’t spend much time there either in Zero to Forty.
    We have decided editorially to discuss birthing experiences and will continue to do so in this column. It is what we want to see and as this column has evolved, we have found that readers of our Pregnancy Calendar “jump ahead” to read this column even before giving birth.
    On the issue of Stephanie and vaccines, this is was a written interview and those are her words. In the context of her story it was important and we decided to leave it in.
    Best,
    Isabel

  14. Chris Aug 20 at 12:40 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you for the interview. While I used to think that home births were only for people who were “extreme” now that I am pregnant and rigorously researching the use of Pitocin and other “interventions”, I’m finding myself thinking that most hospital births are actually very extreme! Both of my sisters-in-law ended up having unwanted surgeries and after seeing what they went through, I am staunchly opposed to any intervention that isn’t a true emergency. I wish there were more options (more birthing centers!) for women to have the best of both worlds without the risks inherent in each. I’m in the process of exploring my intentions for a completely intervention-free birth plan with my OB, but if I feel that she and the midwives in the practice cannot provide me with the care that I seek – I may end up having an assisted home birth after all. It greatly saddens me how managed birth has become in this country. I am confident that my body can do what it needs to do in order to birth without a million tubes, monitors, and other tools plunged into me. Thanks again!

  15. Mommy Reporter Aug 20 at 10:59 pm Reply Reply

    I had a homebirth and it was the best decision I ever made. I’m so glad I made the choice to have my baby with a midwife who was really concerned about my and my baby’s welfare. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!!

  16. Darcey Sep 03 at 11:45 am Reply Reply

    I don’t disagree with some women who choose to have homebirths. I think it is great that they have that as an option.
    However, it also needs to be said that, even with the author only being 2 minutes from the hospital, there are still risks involved with homebirthing.
    Case in point:
    My mom had a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy. She was 32 and having her second daughter (I was 9 at the time). Mom’s labor was fairly easy, she had an epidural when it was appropriate, and after 17 hours of labor, my sister was born a perfectly healthy baby at 8lbs, 5oz.
    On camera (because my parents wanted to video tape this miracle and one day show it to me), immediately after Haley was passed off to the nurse, you could see something was wrong. When it came time to deliver the placenta, the doctor found that it had grown into the uterine wall and ruptured the uterus (known as a placenta accreta), causing my mom to hemmorhage.
    Had my mom not been in the hospital, with a very capable doctor (one of the best in his field with high-risk births, even though, prior to this point, there was no reason to believe this), she would have died within minutes on the table. NOT enough time to get from a home to a hospital, or for EMTs to get to the home.
    Nineteen years later, after a 40-pint blood transfusion and emergency hysterectomy, my mom and sister are both fine. But when it comes for the day that I one day am pregnant and ready to deliver my baby, you can bet that I will be doing so in the hospital, just in case…

    • Maree Apr 29 at 1:30 am Reply Reply

      This is a very old post but I feel I need to comment for the sake of those coming behind me. With respect to the poster and her (/mothers) experience which would have been traumatic this is not particularly relevant to the decision to homebirth today. Placenta accrete seems to be linked to placenta previa, previous C/sections and premature birth all of which are contra-indicators for homebirthing. By my reading (and the poster scared me enough to make me do some reading) there are also links to the manual removal of placenta (ie when the placenta doesn’t detach because of the PA and you try manual removal then the bleeding is triggered) – but manual removal of the placenta is not part of my midwife’s practice (this is a transfer situation). all of these factors make me feel that despite the posters personal fears these factors aren’t relevant with current medical practice.

  17. heels Jan 11 at 5:57 pm Reply Reply

    I had my son in a midwife-run birth center and my daughter at home. There were pros and cons to each (which, if anyone is interested, I’d be happy to enumerate!). I was ultimately thrilled with my homebirth, though it was a lot more work in some ways. We had concerns about the mess, but that ended up being a total non-issue.

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