When my sister decided on having a home birth for her second
baby, we were all slightly taken aback—even me, someone who fully believed in
the midwife/natural birth process, who had friends with successful home births,
who knew all about "The Business of Being Born." (In fact, that documentary was
instrumental in my sister's decision.)
But it's my SISTER, you know? I worried about her safety,
about my unborn niece, even if I didn't show it. As her due date crept closer,
I took a deep breath and hoped for the very best.
Yet witnessing the experience from beginning to end
profoundly affected my own perspective on what a home birth is and isn't. It's
far more modern and safe than anything I imagined. If I have another baby, I
just might choose a home birth, too.
So what's it really like? I chatted with my sister about her
Why a home birth?
During the first few months of her pregnancy, she was most
worried about how her first son, Ben (who was not quite 2 years old), would
handle her spending a couple of nights in a hospital. He was still so young—they had never spent a night apart—and she worried that an overnight hospital
stay would be a jarring, traumatic transition for the family. It would be
painful for her to be separated from him, too.
That, and she didn't exactly love her hospital birth experience
the first time around.
"I wasn't happy with my first birthing experience, which was
in a hospital," she said. "The random shift nurses that came in and out, the
lack of control over my body and decisions, the quick leaps to medical
intervention to 'speed things along.' Even though I had a relatively smooth birth experience, I
just knew that I didn't want to go that route again. It didn't feel right or
natural. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but the more that I talked with
local moms and researched my options, the more comfortable I felt with a home
birth decision. And then when I actually met the midwives, I knew it was
She was still a little anxious and uncertain about how the
labor would play out, but she ultimately trusted her intuition. And she's glad
that she did.
"My home birth experience really shifted my perspective. My
midwives taught me how natural pregnancy and childbirth is for women and
helped me trust my body and the birth process. Home births are perceived to be so risky, but I never once
questioned my safety in their care. They were qualified and professional, and I
felt completely comfortable and confident in their abilities. They weren't some
hippies in burlap sacks, coming to catch my baby with bare hands and scramble
for a rag to wrap her in. They have decades of education, training and wisdom,
and they came fully equipped to handle a modern-day birth."
My sister was responsible for gathering the necessary
household items that she'd need (things like a large pot, hydrogen peroxide,
paper towels, receiving blankets, vegetable oil, etc.), and she also purchased
a "birth kit" from her midwives, which included sterile and disposable supplies
she'd need. The midwives came equipped with oxygen, suturing materials
(including local anesthesia), medications, a baby scale, sterile instruments, resuscitation
equipment, suction devices and fetal monitors. They were PREPARED.
"I didn't feel like I was at a medical disadvantage at
home," she continued. "I felt completely safe. My midwives took care of my
physical needs, and all I had to focus on was my mental and emotional well-being."
Her home birth story
On the morning of the biggest winter storm of the year, my
sister went into labor. Of course.
Her midwives were an hour away, the roads were slick with
fresh, relentless snow, and yet they arrived in plenty of time.
The birthing tub was set up in the living room, and Ben
periodically popped in with some bath toys for his laboring mama. He leaned his
head into hers and held her hand, providing a silent strength.
"I had a little boy in the next room who could come in and
see his mommy at any moment," she told me. "He could see me being strong, or he
could see me unraveling. He kept me strong."
Even though she spent some time in the tub, she ultimately
labored in every corner of her apartment, bringing Faye Winter into the world
on their bedroom floor after 12 hours of labor.
"Ben was napping while I pushed. He woke up and walked in
maybe three seconds after she was born. He was right there, kissing his new
baby sister's head while she was still attached to me and laying on my chest.
The smile on his face told me that I made the right decision. He was absolutely
delighted. He stayed by my side and stared at the baby while I
delivered the placenta. He was in awe over her tiny features, and seemed like
he both expected and accepted what had just taken place."
She was out and into the family, in one swoop. No "bringing
baby home." They were all home, together.
"It's not even a question in my mind. If I ever have
another baby (which is not likely anytime soon!), and I had another
uncomplicated low-risk pregnancy, I would 100 percent want another home birth. No
doubt in my mind."