The decision to try a home birth actually started with my oldest son, Hunter, who is now 5. He was born in the hospital, I was fully medicated, had pitocin, an epidural—the whole kit and caboodle. After that I said, “I’m not having any more drugs. I’m not going through that again.”
With my second son, Jackson, 2½, I planned to labor at home as long as I could. I figured once I felt the need to go to the hospital, I would.
Well, I actually never felt the need to go to the hospital, but my sister, who is a registered nurse, said, “You’d better go.”
I showed up at the (St. Joseph’s) Birth Place 9 centimeters dilated. I had done most of my labor at home.
So, 28 weeks along into my pregnancy for my daughter, Brooklynn, my husband, Michael, and I finally said, “Why don’t we just have her at home?”
I went down to Ithaca to talk to a midwife who does home births in this area. I found her through a mentoring doula who was helping, Chris Goldman, a doula I used with my second pregnancy.
I knew that it was going to work. Chris and I had gone through a birth plan and I told her what I didn’t want. I had done a lot of research on my own, so I pretty much knew what to expect.
Every time you go in for an office visit, the midwife gives you a packet outlining what you are going to discuss at that time in your pregnancy. She’ll give you the pros and cons of everything from blood work to gestational diabetes testing.
There were some concerns. My sister brought up all the “what ifs.” But statistics show there are usually fewer emergencies and less intervention at home because you are comfortable. At the hospital, once they start with one intervention, such as breaking your water, it starts a domino effect.
Kate Finn, my midwife, brings everything that would be the first line of defense at the hospital. She has the oxygen, she would suction the baby’s mouth, she has medicines for hemorrhaging.
And there is always a plan for hospital transfer. Say you aren’t dilating, which only happens in a small percentage of moms—usually first-time moms. Then you have a plan for a regular hospital birth. Then you have another plan in case an emergency comes up and you have to be transferred by an ambulance.
Around 36 weeks, the birth team meets at your house and they discuss what you want, see where the bathrooms are. The midwife will go through and make sure you have everything set up, talk to any family you want with you, discuss where the children are going to be.
For my husband, home birthing wasn’t an issue. I wasn’t sure he’d be on board. But he was comfortable with me laboring at home. He went to every midwife appointment with me.
I did need to purchase some birth stuff: cord clamps, a scrub brush for the midwife, maternity pads and mesh underwear. She gives you a list of everything you’d get in the hospital.
I had also opted to have a kiddie pool set up for laboring. I wasn’t sure how I felt about birthing in the pool because I hadn’t done that with either of my previous labors. I got in there late in my labor, and once I got in, I didn’t want to get out. So Brooklynn was basically born in the water.
I did have a bit of tough time because I had some early labor. It kind of went on and on at the beginning. There was a point when I said, “I can’t do it. I’m going to the hospital.” My husband called Chris. She and Kate told me to get out of the house, get in a different environment. They told me some herbs to buy and chamomile tea, to help relax. I got home, drank my tea and said, “I’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight and tomorrow’s a new day.” At 11 o’clock that night my contractions picked right up. And Brooklynn was born at 1 in the morning. Once I got myself relaxed, it went right along.
Another plus about home birth is being able to have the baby with you for all of the initial care. At home, you can nurse the baby anytime you wanted to. The only time the baby gets taken away from you is to be weighed and measured.
It was rewarding having the other children here so soon after Brooklynn was born. They came home about 12 hours later and it was great. Even the recovery time was quicker. The midwife stays basically three hours after the baby is born. She does all the checks and gets you settled. She basically tucks you into bed and locks the door on the way out. If there is an issue, she’ll stay longer.
Also, midwives handle any cleanup. They don’t want it to be a traumatic experience for the family. I chose not to have my children here just because I have a hard time shutting off the “mommy mode.” And it’s harder for me to focus on myself when they are here. Even if someone is here for them, I’d always want to make sure they are OK. I’m lucky to have family nearby who will take them when I deliver our new baby boy this summer.
A midwife will come after one day to check on you and the baby, then three days, or seven days if it’s needed. Brooklynn was very jaundiced; head to feet, she was yellow. Every day we had to take her in to the office and have blood drawn just to make sure everything was OK. So they are on top of things just as an obstetrician would be.
Afterward, obtaining a birth certificate from Onondaga County was difficult. They don’t like to recognize home births. I had to have a letter from my pediatrician to prove that she did exist. I had to send a copy of the electric bill to prove the address, plus a copy of my license and my husband’s license; the midwife had to write a statement. I think Brooklynn was over 2 months old before we even had a birth certificate.
When we found out we were pregnant again, there was no question that I would birth at home. When I took the pregnancy test, my husband just said, “OK, call Kate.”
My family? There are still reservations. But they trust my judgment. My sister is accepting of it. She doesn’t like it, but she knows this is what I’m going to do. At this point, I don’t think I could go back to a hospital birth. The hospitals are there if there is an emergency and if you need them. Most mothers, with an uncomplicated pregnancy, don’t.
To first-time moms I’d say, “Don’t discredit the idea of a home birth.” Getting through that first trimester is key. Do your research and ask questions. Call a midwife; they will answer any question you have.
Bring your husband, because I talk to so many moms online who say, “I’d love to have a home birth but my husband isn’t too keen on it.” There are groups in the area so you can talk to moms—and dads—who have done home births. Moms are always willing to share their stories.
What do you think about this story? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and opinions about U.S. maternity care, watch the documentary The Business of Being Born on May 10 at the Palace Theater. See the calendar for details.