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Quick: Why Birth at Home?

13 February 2011

I have noticed lately that some people who might not know me all that well, in the course of a casual conversation about my baby might quickly ask why I would choose to birth at home rather than in a hospital.  I find this to be a difficult question to answer.  There are so many, sooooo many reasons, but in these contexts I find that the individual really just wants a quick, nutshell answer.  So I have to consider what is really my top reason, or the defining reason for birthing at home rather than in a hospital.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I should list them.

1.)  Well, we could start with what my midwife said: “Births like yours don’t need to be in the hospital.”  By that she meant normal, very healthy, short, and straightforward.  It’s true.  Say what you will about my body (God knows that former managers and casting directors have), but when it comes to birth, my body really works.  I am a good birther.  As was my mother, and the women before her.

2.)  I have also said to people that hospitals have a tendency to intervene unnecessarily.  What I really wanted to avoid with both my births was the cascade of interventions.  You know, one intervention leading to another.  So you don’t avoid an epidural just to protect your mobility and keep your baby drug-free, but also to avoid labor slowing down, necessitating pitocin, etc.  Not sure that answer is quite right for the person to whom home birth is totally foreign.  Could do better.

3.) I want to avoid a(nother) C-section.  I personally never had a c-sec, but I know a lot of homebirthers go that route when VBAC in the hospital is either not allowed or they don’t think their provider will support them in it.  But it’s obviously not my reason, because I never had one.

4.)  Hospitals are for sick people.  I like this answer, because pregnant women aren’t sick.  And they don’t have a medical condition.  When a home birthing mother or baby develops a condition, then they transport to the hospital, which is what hospitals are there for.  But this response a little snarky.  And it could be offensive to those who consciously choose a hospital birth, as I did for my first.

5.)  A strong reason for my choosing homebirth was that environment matters.  It matters so much.  That’s why I chose to stay home until the last minute with my first and to stay home the whole time with my second.  When a laboring mother is at home, she can do whatever her body tells her it needs.  She feels comfortable and cozy and secure.  Birthing a baby is similar–hormonally speaking– to having an orgasm, so a woman needs to feel private, safe, and loved in order for things to go smoothly.  Home is the ideal place.  But this is far too lengthy of a response to give people in a hurry.  And the orgasm part is probably TMI.

6.)  Laboring in a car.  Sucks.  And leaving for the hospital also adds unnecessary stress to a time when you most need to be relaxed and still, and definitely not moving at 45 mph.  Oh, and if you rush to the hospital the way they do on TV, you are likely to stir up adrenaline, the hormone that works against labor.  So your labor could stall.

7.)  Risk of infection.  This is ironic, because if your water breaks, the doc will usually tell you to go straight to the hospital to avoid infection.  But actually hospitals are full of bacteria, and bacteria that your body isn’t used to.  Sure, your home has bacteria.  But your body is already immune to all the germs in your home.  Women get infections from the hospital all the time, and they can become a serious complication of childbirth or in the postpartum period.  This is turn could effect breastfeeding, etc.  So in a normal situation, the risk of infection is actually decreased at home.

8.)  A peaceful birth.  This means peaceful in every way– physiologically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.  This was very important to me this time around.  Birth is dramatic enough on its own– let’s not add to it!  But giving this as my nutshell answer might make me sound like a little too much of a hippy.  And people who think it isn’t safe might think I’m putting my own personal experience above the safety of my child.  Couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’m actually willing to go to great lengths to protect my child from harm.

9.) Newborn Procedures.  Believe it or not, this is actually the issue that after my first birth made me realize I wanted a homebirth for my second.  I was extremely dissatisfied with the way we were treated during 3rd-stage labor (the part after the baby was born but before the placenta is delivered) and beyond.  Our wishes were not respected AT ALL and things were done without our consent and directly against our birth plan.  And not because we had any special medical considerations– all routine.  I finally decided that a hospital is a place of business.  When you choose to give birth there, you go on to their turf and have your baby by their rules.  You can fight and manipulate and get a few things you want (hopefully the big things), but they are always going to try to stick to their policies, because that’s what makes their job easier.  It’s just a job to them.  When I finally let go of my anger and came to that realization, I knew what road I was on.

10.) I want a natural birth.  This is the bottom line.  Can it be done in the hospital?  Yes, of course.  I did it.  But it’s not easy (or even likely).  In fact, it was an uphill battle all the way.  Birth is hard enough.  No family should have to fight their provider or hospital to allow them to have a healthy, natural birth.  But this is what happens all too frequently.  Now that I’ve had both experiences, I truly understand what a natural birth is.  And it’s worth everything– every cent I spent on the midwife,  every moment of pain in labor, every judgmental thought or comment from friends and family, and well worth every worrisome and agonizing emotional moment as I came to this decision and carried it out.

I ran across this quote from The Unnecesarean the other day about a practice that some seemingly malicious OBs are adopting.  It’s referred to as “Pit to Distress.”  The doc uses the maximum dose of pitocin in order to intentionally distress the baby (nevermind what it does to the mom), necessitating a c-section.  This is way scary.  Here are the final thoughts on this topic:

Jill asks the questions, “OBs, do you still think women are choosing not to birth at your hospitals because Ricki Lake said homebirths are cool? Do you still think we are only out for a “good experience?”

I imagine that all of us who have openly questioned the practices of obstetricians in the U.S. have been hit with the same backlash. We must be selfish, irrational and motivated by our own personal satisfaction. We’ve been indoctrinated into a subculture of natural birth zealots and want to force pain on other women or just feel mighty and superior. We fetishize vaginal birth and attach magical powers to a so-called natural entrance to the world.

Nah. It’s stuff like “pit to distress” that made me run for the nearest freestanding birth center. If I had to do it all over again, I’d stay home.

Not knowing if your doc is one of these is another great reason to distrust the system.  There’s also some practical reasons: wanting to birth in water, wanting to utilize different labor positions that hospitals don’t allow, wanting other family members present (like your other children), wanting to eat and drink during labor, not wanting to be pestered about pain management.  But for me, I think I’ll stick with reason #10:  a natural birth is easiest achieved at home.  This is my bottom line.  What’s yours?  Do any of my homebirthing buddies read my blog?  Let me know your reasons!



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One Comments to “Quick: Why Birth at Home?”

  1. Hi Lana…I’d have to go with reason #5 as my main reason for choosing an out-of-hospital birth. I decided on a birth center for the birth of my son because I knew that in order to have a natural birth, I had to be able to completely relax, and I knew I would have a hard time relaxing in a hospital. I wasn’t too sure about being at home, so I chose the birth center option. I loved it, and had the kind of birth I was hoping for, but as I cut it a little close getting to the birth center on time, I’m considering home birth as an option for our next child, whenever we choose to have one.

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