The Homebirth Experience
This 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 Stadol and 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.
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 Birth and 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!
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.