Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I Choose Homebirth

Birth should be empowering. It should be safe. It should be allowed to progress as naturally as possible, without intervention, without obstruction. When it came to making an informed choice about birthing my daughter in 2010, I chose the only option I felt could meet these needs: home birth.

Now, its obviously not for everyone but here's a few reasons why it will always be my first choice.

The Best Care

Right from the start of my pregnancy, I felt completely respected, honoured and involved in my medical care. My midwife would visit me in the comfort of my own home for our regular check-ups, usually staying for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. In that time, not only would she thoroughly check my blood pressure, test a urine sample, listen to my baby's heart beat and discuss my health/pregnancy in a holistic way, she would talk to me about the emotional aspects of pregnancy. Like my fears and doubts. But also my excitement, my joy at this marvellous process making my body fuller and more life-containing with every passing day. I came to look forward to these visits immensely, particularly as the third trimester approached and I was getting closer to meeting my baby.

The Chance to Labour and Birth Naturally

I read A LOT before and while I was pregnant, about birthing options, the nature of each birthing environment. It seemed to me that the only place I would be allowed to birth without constant monitoring/pressure to accept pain relief/pressure to be induced if I went overdue (and I did go overdue), and in a way that was natural and nurturing, was to labour and birth at home. When I did eventually go into labour 4 days after my due date, I was able to move around my house, in whatever position I wished, and feel completely comfortable in my own surroundings. I was reassured that I could combine the safety and comfort of my home environment with the expertise, knowledge and experience of my midwife attending me there.

The Best Outcomes for Baby and Mummy

With a home birth, I knew I was guaranteed to have my baby placed skin-to-skin on my chest straight after birth. I knew I would be allowed to birth my placenta when it was ready, without being given syntocinon. I knew my baby would be given the chance to find my breast as nature has programmed her to do and initiate our first breastfeed. And I knew all of these elements would ensure I received that lovely cocktail of hormones that ensures my baby and I bond instantly. I was not convinced that I would have these elements in a hospital setting.

As it turns out, I was right.

Though I did labour at home to full dilation, my labour halted after physically exhausting myself, fighting against the contractions instead of surrendering to them. As a result of this extreme exhaustion, my blood pressure skyrocketed and we decided to transfer to hospital. I was blessed to have lovely midwives and a very patient obstetrician attend my birth in the hospital, all the while allowing my home birth midwife to keep 'running the show'. With her determination and fortitude, she helped me avoid the cesarean that was being suggested as a result of my halted labour. Thankfully, not long after we were admitted to the labour room, my urge to push finally kicked in and I was able to birth P. naturally, without drugs or medical intervention.

But much to my distress, after a brief moment of skin-to-skin contact, the on-duty pediatrician (who seemed to know very little of my birthing experience and the way in which P. came very quickly down that birth canal) determined that my baby needed to go immediately to special care for 48 hours of intravenous antibiotics. This was to prevent a possible infection, indicated by some nostril flaring after the birth. My mothering instincts knew there was no infection, that P. was just trying to recover a bit after coming out a little too quickly and having lots of birth gunk in her passageways. But I let myself be bullied, told I would risk her dying if I didn't agree. So we missed that first breastfeed, we missed those first precious hours of bonding. And in the end, no bacteria were cultures were grown, there was no evidence of any infection. This, I am certain, would not have happened at home.

When all is said and done, I got to birth naturally, I birthed a healthy, beautiful girl and I was supported throughout my birthing journey by a midwife (and her wonderful student midwife assistant too) who genuinely cared for me, my birthing wishes, my baby, my family and my overall experience of becoming a mother. While I ultimately ended up in a hospital, I benefited from all the supportive elements of a planned home birth. But I also got to experience what I never thought I would - how birthing is treated and managed in a medical environment.

I now have even greater confidence in my body's natural ability to birth a baby, despite difficulties, despite pressures for it to be augmented and taken out of my hands. I understand now, from personal experience, what it feels like to be caught up in the risk-management culture of modern obstetrics/pediatrics - to apply a procedure or medicine in a situation that did not call for it, that interfered with the natural post-birth bonding with my baby. I feel blessed to have walked the path of home birth, even if my ultimate destination was the hospital. And I have even greater resolve to walk that path again when we conceive our next child.


  1. You are so right, your choice to be at home did make all the difference. The fact that you were well read and well informed about the process of birth was the most important factor.
    Thanks for the validation. I really need it at the moment.

  2. Oh Sam, it meant SO much to have you at home with us while I was working that little precious girl down and out! You have such a serene, calming presence, a gift I'm sure you share with your women at the hospital. And I'm also sure that in no time at all, you're going to be a treasure to other women outside of the hospital environment xo

  3. Love the post Kate!

    I feel very strongly about natural births. I would have loved to birth at home, but given my 'home' location, it was never an option. I was lucky enough to birth in the 'Birth Centre' in Brisbane and was immensely grateful for it.
    I did everything that you described pre-birth too. I read, I bonded with amazing midwives etc etc. With my first I also had 'complications' (Olivia's heart rate dropped and we were rushed into a quick ventuese extraction, which (although helpful) I feel could have been avoided with some gentle exercise. You don't want to muck around where babies are concerned though.

    Darcy was a perfect birth. Also at the birth centre.

    By the time I had Sam, I felt confident enough in my ability to birth naturally, that I chose to deliver at the local hospital out west. I was confident that I would not be bullied into anything I didn't want, and I took with me a birth plan that was bullet proof.

    They still took Sam off me to run 'tests' as apparently he wasn't breathing properly. I feel certain that it was because it was a 1 1/2 hour labour. Nothing more.

    I birthed placentas naturally and made use of the showers too.

    I support home births, but more importantly, I support freedom of choice. I am sad that Australia is still a little behind the 8 ball in regards to this.

  4. Thanks Jessie, and it is lovely to hear about your birth experiences. I think you're absolutely right - it's about a woman's right to choose, and our government should recognize the valid choice to give birth at home safely with an experienced, qualified midwife. The way they're going, they'll drive homebirth midwifery underground, which makes it more likely that there will be bad outcomes.
    Gosh, I'd love a nice short birth like yours next time! 19 hours was too much!

  5. How I would have loved to have given birth naturally! It was not to be and I really need to blog about it and release the demons.

    Mich x

  6. One of my friends had a planned home birth on her third and she absolutely loved it. I am full of admiration for women who have the strength and determination to have a home birth - and no I wasn't happy with any of my hospital births, but I don't think I would have felt safe anywhere else. Thanks for posting in Blog Gems x

  7. Michelle, I can absolutely vouch for the need to write about/process your birthing experience. Sometimes I feel as if I had to talk non stop for months after it to clear it through, and there was STILL more left! Def consider blogging it x

  8. Thanks for your comment also, Looking For Blue Sky. It's sad how many women are unhappy with their hospital experiences... If more attempts were made to make it a more nurturing environment, perhaps there would be far less horror stories coming from hospital births.

  9. Home birth (or even a natural delivery) was not medically an option for me, but oh, how I would love to have had one. I feel so strongly about the right for a woman to experience birth in the way her body and nature intended her to. With the support of other women, in an environment comfortable to her and where she is in control.

    Great post (found you at Blog Gems).

  10. I did not want a home birth, but did want to use my local midwife centre for many of the reasons you mention: more relaxed atmosphere, less chance of intervention, more freedom to choose my own route. As it happened, I had to go to hospital as Baby Badger arrived too early, but luckily I still managed to birth drug free and enjoyed skin to skin contact for a good half hour before she was taken off me (and then only briefly).

  11. It's the most wonderful moment in the world, that first skin-to-skin contact. If only it got to last longer in a hospital setting. Glad you got to still have the natural birth you wanted to have.