Childbirth was a huge transition for me. The rhythm of my entire life changed when I became a mother, and I believe with all my heart that PART of the reason it was so profound for me was that I was able to have a completely natural birth, in the comfort of our home.
It’s certainly not for everyone, or for every pregnancy, but I think it’s an amazing option that I wish more people knew about. It’s fun when people find out Myles was born at home; I get asked lots of interesting questions. I love talking about my experience with it, so I’m always more than happy to answer their questions. Here are some of the most common things I’m asked…
You had your baby at home ON PURPOSE?
This is nearly always the first question I get asked when someone finds out that Myles was born at home. Inevitably people assume that a home birth occurs accidentally as a result of not getting to the hospital in time. The majority of people aren’t in-the-know that planned home birth experiencing a resurgence in popularity. YES, I did have my son at home — ON PURPOSE, even!
I wanted to feel in control of my pregnancy and child birth.
I had strong feelings regarding what I feel is “over-medicalized” birth in the US today, and particularly I did not want to have an unnecessary interventions like fetal monitors, Pitocin or a c-section.
I wanted to introduce my baby into the world in the gentlest, healthiest way possible, and have the best opportunity for natural birth-bonding to occur.
I felt confident that I could handle the physical pain and mental/emotional challenges of childbirth without medication. I’d heard my mother tell my birth story for years as a case of “mind over matter”, so I felt encouraged to just BELIEVE I was capable, and I would be.
Weren’t you scared there could be an emergency?
No. To be honest, I was more scared of a hospital birth. I subscribe deeply to the believe that a healthy pregnancy is not an illness that’s cause for the care of a obstetrician. My real fear was that I’d end up in the hospital, forced to stay in bed with monitors and IVs and not be able to make any decisions about my birth.
I had complete trust in my midwives, who combined had attended over a thousand births. We talked with them a lot about what supplies they had in the event of an emergency, as well as under what circumstances they would recommend going to the hospital. I felt confident that if necessary, they’d make the call early enough to go to the hospital.
Wasn’t it painful?
Everyone’s pain threshold is very different. Having had kidney stones and gallstones, I can say that childbirth (for me) was less painful than either of those things.
If you want to know the (yucky) truth, when I went into labor, I really believed I had either the world’s worst gas-bubble in my stomach, or that I was horrendously constipated. I was still convinced when my midwife got there that I wasn’t in labor and she’d end up teasing me for thinking that my gas pains were labor. Turns out, though, that I was 5cm dilated!
I was only really uncomfortable in the last hour of my labor. From early morning till 9pm, I sat in a recliner in my living room and chatted and laughed with my midwife, Mike, and my mother. We watched TV and I ate yogurt. (Yogurt never tasted so amazingly good to me as it did that day!) Everything was relaxed and happy. Seriously.
When I got truly uncomfortable around 9pm, that’s when I went into the birth pool. The warm water was immediate relief and I got a second wind. I’m not exaggerating when I say the pool reduced my pain level by at least 50%. I was pretty good for another hour (till 10 or so). Then things got rough, warm water or not.
Even when the pain was at it’s peak, I was completely present in the moment. I was able to reach down and feel Myles’ head and I was able to pause mid-push and talk. I did experience the “ring of fire” that many women describe, but at that point, I was so used to the pain that for me the burning didn’t register as pain – it registered as “you’re almost there!” – I knew when I felt that sensation, if I just gave a couple more hard pushes, my baby would be born. It excited and motivated me, so I really didn’t notice the “pain”.
Did you tear? Did you need stitches? How was the healing process?
I’ve heard horror stories of women tearing, and I’ve heard episiotomies are no picnic for healing either. I didn’t have either one, thankfully.
My midwives didn’t tell me when to start pushing. When I was in the birth pool, I said to my midwife “I think I want to push” – and she told me, “Then push!” When birth is allowed to take it’s natural course, the body stretches much more readily. I pushed for a long time; I really don’t remember how long, but I’m guessing it was between 30 and 45 minutes. That slow stretching made all the difference. It also helped that I’d been soaking in a warm pool of water.
After Myles was born, I was super-energized. Once I got out of the pool, I took a quick shower and then I chatted excitedly with my midwives, Mike, and my mother about how amazing everything had been. I was, with no exaggeration, high as a kite with absolutely zero drugs in my system. I don’t think I got to bed till about 3AM and I wasn’t the least bit tired.
The next day, I was running up and down the stairs doing laundry and tidying the house. I had some abrasions in my nether-regions that made my skin sore, but that was the most discomfort I had. I was 100% healed by week 3.
Was it safe to have a baby at home 5 weeks early?
This was completely a personal decision, and our decision would not have been right for everyone. I went into labor the exact day I was 35 weeks. When my midwife arrived and confirmed I was already 5cm and 70% effaced, she gave me the options to weigh out: We could go to the hospital and I could have him there, but being 5 weeks early he would almost certainly be whisked off to the NICU for observation and tests, even if he didn’t really need it. (Hospitals have to cover their asses.) I wouldn’t have the immediate birth-bonding that I SO desired. Or, we could stay home and if any complications occurred, I could go to the hospital. My midwife had never delivered a baby quite that early at home before, and her general rule is never before 37 weeks. She knew how important staying home was for me, and I was so grateful she gave me the choice.
I based my decision to stay home on a few things: First, I knew the hospital was only a few minutes away. If we lived further outside the city, I may have hesitated, but my preferred hospital was only about a 10 minute drive. Second, I’d been measuring ahead of schedule my entire pregnancy, so I thought perhaps my due date was a little off-track anyway. What I thought was 35 weeks could possibly be 37 weeks. Third, my gut instinct and deep in my heart, I KNEW it would be OK. Up to the point of making this decision, I had never felt out of control in my pregnancy. I felt in touch with my body and my baby, and I felt confident it would be just fine. Was that a sound reason to make that decision? Perhaps not. But because I felt in control, I was relaxed and confident going into labor, and THAT was important. I knew I was up to the task of remaining calm and focused to birth my son at home. So with Mike’s support, we decided to have Myles in the living room, despite being 5 weeks early.
Our midwives had emergency supplies ready just in case Myles needed help when he was born. But when I pulled him out of the water and hugged him, he cried almost immediately. His heartbeat remained strong and steady throughout labor and though he was small (5 pounds, 10 ounces), he was totally healthy.
What about all the post-birth testing and post-natal checkups?
Midwives aren’t just there to deliver a baby and leave. They check the baby over every bit as well as a doctor or nurse would in the hospital, and they do post-natal visits as well to check on the wellness of both mom and baby.
(And let me tell you how AWESOME it is to have your caregiver come TO YOU for post-natal checkups, rather than having to put a tiny newborn in a car seat and go out!)
The only concern we had for Myles was his hearing. We didn’t have a hearing test because of him being born at home, and when he was a day old, our smoke alarm went off because of something we were (over) cooking in the kitchen. Myles didn’t even flinch. I didn’t let on how scared I really was, but I was deeply afraid he was deaf. Mike knows sign language because of having a deaf friend years ago, so I rationalized that if our baby was deaf, maybe God sent him to our family because he knew we’d have a head-start caring for and communicating with him.
A couple weeks after he was born, we did take Myles to the hospital to have his hearing tested. It turned out that though he was unfazed by the smoke alarm, dog barking, and every other loud noise in the house, it was just because he was THAT laid back of a little dude. His hearing was perfect.
Would you change anything? Would you do it again?
I can’t really think of anything I would change, except (and this will sound crazy) I kind of wish we had documented the process more. If my friend Erica hadn’t been pregnant and due within days of when I was, I’d have invited her over to photograph the event. We do have snapshots and a video (recorded on Mike’s cell phone) of the birth. I didn’t know at the time if I wanted to have it all recorded or photographed, but I now love watching the video, crying, and getting goosebumps all over again. I kind of wish it had been recorded in better quality. So next time, bring on the fancypants cameras!
Myles is too little for us to be making any decisions yet about more children, but when/if we have more, and assuming it’s a healthy pregnancy again, I will ABSOLUTELY stay home again. Myles’ birth was so much more than physical for me; it was an emotional and spiritual journey that has changed me in so many ways. I should only be so lucky to get to experience that more than once in a lifetime.
If there are any questions you have that I might not have answered, feel free to leave a comment! I’ll be happy to answer them here or in a follow-up post.