Choosing a home birth was not an easy decision, but I’m glad we gave it a try.
“Redemption” is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think about childbirth. But for me, it was. The moment I realized I was pregnant with our second child, I wanted redemption. My experience of birthing my first baby was pretty tame as far as birth stories go, but there were elements that made it a traumatic experience for me.
I gave birth to my first baby in a hospital and I came out of that experience feeling unheard, disempowered and simply run through the system. I wanted to do it differently the second time. I wanted to actually experience birthing my child the way I was built for it.
I chose to get a midwife instead of an obstetrician since my first pregnancy and birth went well and there were no indications that there would be major complications this time around. [Side note: Obstetricians are invaluable for high-risk pregnancies and people who need particular medical care. Midwives are excellent for low-risk pregnancies (they can also write prescriptions and have all the medical equipment; they aren’t backwoods hillbillies). Because obstetricians have so many patients, they cannot give the same level of attention and care as midwives can.]
The next big decision was where to give birth – because with midwives, I actually had a choice of whether to birth at a hospital or at home. This was an easier decision for me than it was for Tim. Having been through the hospital experience, I knew that I would be more relaxed at home and that me being more relaxed would probably mean a smoother birth experience. I was also fairly confident that this pregnancy and birth would most likely be low-risk. Home birth was only an option if I continued being a low-risk case. Of course, choosing a home birth was really only choosing to plan for a home birth. Whether I would get to birth at home in the end remained to be seen.
We made our list of pros and cons. Reasons for a home birth included: me being a homebody and my home being where I function best; not having to drive to and from the hospital; not having to worry about my older child being in a new environment; being able to shower in my own bathroom and rest in my own bed right away; eating home food; Tim actually having a bed to sleep in. Reasons that made us hesitate: the risk of something going wrong with the birth; the mess.
At our midwives’ suggestion, we watched a couple documentaries including The Business of Being Born (affiliate). After seeing how other families did it, Tim felt more assured that birthing at home could be an option for us. I learned after reading the documents on home birth by the College of Midwives of British Columbia that even if I was planning to birth at home, I still needed to pre-register with the local hospital because my midwives had to call them when I went into labour so that if I did need a transfer, the hospital would be ready. It comforted me to know that the medical system worked in tandem with the midwives to provide the best possible care for us. According to my midwives, most home birth transfers to the hospital are for lack of progress and not emergencies. Also, the majority of these transfers are for first-time births and not subsequent births. Home births were also required to have two midwives in attendance, so if for some reason only one midwife was available, I would have to deliver at the hospital.
In preparation, we toured the local hospital and I felt comfortable with that environment if I did indeed need to birth there. It was a different hospital from the one I’d birthed in previously and it was much smaller and quieter. I ended up visiting that maternity unit three times at the end of my pregnancy for non-stress tests because my baby was overdue.
As for the mess, the midwives gave me a list of supplies to collect for the home birth, including two large garbage bags. I had everything set aside in a box beside our bed as well as a small hospital bag packed just in case. When it became clear that home birth was a go and the midwives arrived, they set up one garbage bag for the garbage and the other for laundry. When it was all over, they cleaned everything up while I was in the shower. It was messy though and let’s just say I’m glad we have hardwood floors!
In the end, I’m really glad I chose to birth at home. It took six hours, similar to when I was induced at the hospital the first time, and it was harder work without the narcotics to knock me out. However, I felt so empowered and strong to have done it. My recovery was so much smoother and quicker because I was more relaxed. I wouldn’t have chosen to a home birth for my first child, because I still think there are too many risks when you haven’t had a previous birth. But for a subsequent child, it was the best choice for me.
The redemption I prayed for? I got it.