Would you have a home birth?

In this month’s debate, two moms discuss whether they prefer a home or hospital birth.

Photo: Miki Sato
Photo: Miki Sato

“No”
Janet Smith, mother of two

There are many things I enjoy doing in my living room. For example, I am perfectly at ease sitting on the couch reading the newspaper while my two boys re-enact a wrestling match next to me. What I am not comfortable doing is squeezing out an eight-and-a-half-pound blood-soaked infant in the middle of my living room floor.

Obstetrical hemorrhage, prolapsed umbilical cord, ruptured uterus: I may not know exactly what all these terms mean, but I do know women can still bleed to death giving birth. For both of my pregnancies, that rudimentary knowledge was enough to send me—cursing like a truck driver—across town to the hospital when the time was nigh.

Read more: My (mostly) drug-free hospital birth> 

In hindsight, I’m so glad I gave birth in a medical facility. After a prolonged labour with my first son, it was clear the kid was wedged in there. As his heartbeat climbed, nurses whisked me into an operating room and prepped me for a C-section in case the forceps didn’t work. Fortunately, they did, and I didn’t need surgery. But it was reassuring to know my baby and I were in safe hands if a crisis arose. When my second son was born, he didn’t cry or scream, and a paediatrician was rushed in to revive him. He was diagnosed as “stunned at birth” and, while he is healthy now, it was terrifying at the time.

The other upside of a hospital birth is, of course, pain management. With my first, I endured hours and hours of contractions while lying in bed reading People and sucking on sour candy—by far the most relaxation I would have for several years afterward. An epidural is not always a sure thing, however. With my second child, the magic numbing potion didn’t work, and—according to my husband—my accidentally drug-free, all-natural labour turned into a scene from The Exorcist.

Read more: Should you have an epidural?>

I’m the first to admit that hospitals are not always idyllic; I have shared a closet-sized recovery room with a new mother whose TV volume was cranked to 50. But give me access to drugs, a nearby operating room, and an anaesthetist and paediatrician within yelling distance, and I’m good to go. (People and candy are optional.) Added bonus: I don’t have delivery-room flashbacks while sitting in my living room.

“Yes”
Jaya Bone, mother of one

Empowering—I can think of no other word to describe a home birth. During my labour I paced, laughed, grunted, swayed and squatted to my heart’s content. I had a shower, went for a walk, and before things got heated, we even went grocery shopping to satisfy a sudden craving for pancakes. The experience was completely in my control.

Read more: What supplies do I need for a home birth?>

Our daughter, Johanna, was born in our living room—the same space where she is now clapping along to Teletubbies, harassing our two dogs and learning to walk. The placenta’s buried under a tree in our backyard, and if you lift up the living room rug, you’ll see the hole in the floor that my darling husband drilled for the hose to the birthing pool.

Every birth is miraculous, sure, and not everyone has the option of a home birth—I was lucky to have a low-risk pregnancy. My midwife tested and monitored me regularly, dealt with my anxieties and ensured I was informed in my decision to deliver at home.

I admire and respect when doctors are able to help us overcome illness and heal disease, but pregnancy is not a disease. I believe that birth is natural and your body knows what to do, even when your head might not. I didn’t want a doctor to suggest “speeding things along” with a bit of synthetic oxytocin. I also didn’t want to choose between having my husband, best friend or mother attend the birth—I wanted them all there, and I didn’t want their smiling faces to be hidden by surgical masks. I also didn’t want to be in close quarters with someone else having their own miraculous (or traumatic) experience. And personally, I wouldn’t have felt any safer with a red emergency button at my elbow.

Read more: Home birth: Is it for you?>

Birthing at home garners some mad street cred (you get a lot of “You’re so brave” comments), but that’s not why I chose it. I wanted to stay where I felt safe and comfortable from the earliest stages of labour through birth and recovery, when I could relax in my own bed (plastic sheets and bloody towels abounding) and cuddle with my baby. Yes, some icky things will happen in your house instead of at the hospital, but I wouldn’t trade my home-birth experience for anything.

A version of this article appeared in our May 2014 issue with the headline “The debate: Would you have a home birth?” p. 106.

15 Comments