When my husband and I made the decision to have a planned home birth, I knew we would be met with some opinions and concerns, both from our loved ones and from any random stranger within an earshot of us talking about it. So after doing a ton of homework and arming myself with every fact and statistic I could find on the subject, I felt ready to take on the haters. I did a ton of research on midwives and bookmarked several websites on my phone that I would always have at the ready in case I needed some backup explaining why someone would choose this method of delivery. The problem is, many people just don’t know much about home births, nor do they want to. They’re happy picturing you burning sage while a woman in Birkenstocks chants over you and your naked family floating together in a giant inflatable tub in your living room (which, by the way, is totally cool if that’s your thing). One major thing I’ve realized is that most people who were upset with or concerned about our decision didn’t even know what a midwife was. Trying to argue the virtues of a home birth with them is like trying to talk politics with your parents – you just can’t.
The moment you tell someone you’re having a home birth you can feel the judgement and disapproval seeping out of their eyeballs. There is a litany of responses you’ll get. There’s the usual uninformed response of ”Isn’t that really dangerous?” and the guilt-laden ”Wouldn’t you just feel awful if something went wrong?” But my favorite has got to be the TV-viewer response of, ”Well I watch Call the Midwife and midwives are NOT doctors!” How do I even respond to these? I obviously wouldn’t be doing anything that would put me or my baby at risk. All of these comments are actually thinly veiled ways of saying something that is very troubling: If things do go wrong, it’s the mother’s fault for choosing to have a home birth. Do we blame the mother who had a C-Section (planned or unplanned) when she has a complication like hemorrhaging or infection, both of which could end in death? Also, let’s please not compare my planned home birth in 2014 to a BBC series about nuns helping women in post-World War II London.
There are also the horror stories people want to tell you about their friend’s cousin’s sister’s friend that had a bad home birth experience. How do you argue with someone telling you a personal story about someone they know who had a bad experience? You don’t want to try and one-up them with a horror story that you heard about someone birthing in a hospital. What good is that going to do for anyone?
I feel guilty enough as it is talking about what a great experience the birth of my first child was. Sure, there was barfing, pain, animal sounds and a terrible bumpy car ride. But I waited at home a little too long before going to the hospital, so when I did show up, I was fully dilated and ready to push. My daughter was born in less than 30 minutes of walking through the door, which is less time than it takes a pizza to show up at my house and exactly the reason we decided to do the whole thing at home for the second baby. A planned home birth just seemed like a natural fit for us. We’re lucky that we have access to some amazing midwives whom we trust implicitly, and there is a hospital where we have a backup doctor five minutes from our house. We have an amazing doula who has assisted many home births and who helped coach us through the birth of our first child, and we have read up and feel educated about the decision we are making. We are grateful for all of these things.
I get it that home birth is not for everyone, nor do I expect it to be. But when people stare at me with their mouth open and then recover with a, “Wow. That’s”¦different,” I know they think that I’m an insane person. I’m over it. I just want to be comfortable, in my home, with my husband and daughter as we welcome our new family member into this world. I want to eat muffins I made and labor in my cool birth pool that has handles and a seat. I want to take walks, breathe fresh air, and want to deliver the baby in the position that feels best for me”¦then I want to order a pizza, watch some garbage reality TV and sleep in my own bed. We are all doing what we think is best for us and what is right for our families. Let’s try to hold the judgement on all labor and delivery methods and embrace this crazy ride that is child birth together.