In the typical lineup of pregnancy questions from local friends and family, eventually the conversation steers toward the hospital. I dreaded the moment when I was asked where I was going to deliver. I was not at all embarrassed by my decision to try for a homebirth with my third daughter, but I was frequently uncomfortable with the responses I received. Even my husband Chris and I got into a heated argument about it the first time I brought it up. His objection was the same as my mom’s and everyone else who was appalled that I would even consider this option: “But what if something goes wrong?!”
Choosing to try for a homebirth was a very long process indeed. If you had told me when I was pregnant with my second daughter that I would deliver my next baby at home, I would have laughed my head off. I don’t fit the homebirth “mold,” or at least I don’t think I do. But after having two babies in the hospital, I couldn’t help but feel that it was not the right choice for me. I did not have terrible experiences in the hospital by any means. I have many friends that have had truly traumatic labors and birthing experiences, so much so that I feel silly expressing my frustrations. But my experiences were not at all what I wanted.
I was induced with my first daughter, Hannah, because an ultrasound determined that I had low amniotic fluid, even though the non-stress test was perfect. When my water later broke on its own, the nurse bust out laughing at the explosive splash on the tile and ran to go get the mop.
The entire birthing process with Hannah was full of additional unnecessary interventions. I received an epidural at 10 centimeters because no one anticipated that a first time mom would go so fast, no one paid attention to my textbook labor signs, and no one checked me before administering the epidural. If I had known that I was done, I wouldn’t have requested the stupid thing. My labor instantly stalled, either because of the epidural or because now I was lying flat on my back, which is the most ineffective way to labor or push out a baby. They finally had to give me Pitocin to get my contractions going again.
My labor with Becca was even more frustrating to me. The nurses were again completely oblivious to the quick progression of my labor, one of them leaning over to Chris and whispering, “If she’s like this now, what will she be like in active labor?” I was in transition at that point, and about five minutes later they were screaming at me to stop pushing. I told them I was pushing anyway, and no one caught Becca when she came flying out in one push. The resident that came sprinting into the room had to scoop her up off the bed, which they had not had time to break down. They then gave me Pitocin without my consent to “help” me deliver the placenta and argued with me when I told them to stop the drip.
With both deliveries, it was actually the remainder of the hospital stay that was the most frustrating to me. I begged my OB to release me as soon as possible after Becca’s birth. I remember looking up at the clock one hour after she was born and wondering if they would let me go home yet. (They wouldn’t.)
Why do I hate hospital stays so much? Becca slept for four hours that first night, but my sleep was interrupted three times in those four hours—once by a nurse to give me pain medication (because clearly I was in an obscene amount of pain if I was SLEEPING), once by a lab technician to draw my blood, and once by the photographer. Why the heck was the photographer even at the hospital at 5:00am? Why did any one of those things necessitate waking me up in the middle of the night?
I am a home body. I have been ever since I became a mom. I do not sleep well in strange places in the first place, and truly felt set up for failure after I was so sleep deprived after Becca’s delivery—not because of the newborn baby, but because of the hospital environment and staff.
I immediately began formulating a list of things that I would fight for the next time around. But that was my light bulb moment. I didn’t want to fight. I should not be fighting anyone in labor; I should be focusing all my strength on bringing this beautiful baby into the world. My dream of a homebirth began.
I am not sure what finally brought Chris on board with the idea. Truthfully, I think a lot of it was how much money it would save us. Ha. We paid $1,200 dollars out of pocket for the doctors to NOT catch Becca, and because of our new high deductible plan, we were looking to pay a minimum of $4,000 dollars this time, potentially as much as $8,000. My midwife charges only $2500, and suddenly a homebirth became a viable option.
My decision was reinforced when I coached my best friend Kristy through her labor four months before I was due to have my homebirth. The triage nurse first did not believe her when we told her she was in labor and proceeded to tell her all of the horrible things that could happen if her baby was born three weeks early, which was entirely not helpful when we both knew that this baby was coming tonight.
Like with Becca, the staff was completely clueless about how quickly her labor was progressing. After Kristy displayed every textbook symptom of transition, one of the nurses screamed at her to stop pushing because she was only five centimeters and was going to tear herself to shreds. I will never forget the look on that nurse’s face when she checked Kristy and confirmed what I already knew. Baby was coming NOW.
I really didn’t want much from my homebirth. I wanted to labor in my preferred surroundings and to sleep in my own bed that night. I wanted to work with someone who would be focused only on me and would know exactly what my body was doing. More that that, I wanted to work with someone who would trust my body and trust me to do what I needed to do.
And that’s what happened. And it was perfect. Amazing. Priceless. The biggest difference? The absence of fear and chaos. I never once felt out of control, even in transition.
The biggest shocker to me, however, has been the positive responses I’ve received from others, especially after the fact. I am amazed to hear how many women wish they had had a homebirth, or wish they were brave enough to try for one next time. It makes me sad that many women do not consider a home birth because fear holds them back.
I do not feel brave. Or heroic. But I do feel proud. A home birth is not the best choice for everyone, and I have not become a home birth fanatic who insists everyone should have one. I would not have been ready for a home birth with my previous two girls. But this time I was ready. And it was absolutely the best choice for me and baby Elizabeth Claire, born at 7:23pm on May 1, 2014. At home.