I told my husband that I was almost done writing my birth story. He corrected me and said that to really tell my story, I had to first tell all the preparation that went into the birth. From before we even conceived I knew I wanted a certified nurse midwife to oversee my care. I even picked my insurance to make sure my hospital and midwife of choice would be covered. January 3, 2013 we found out we were expecting. We were ecstatic. I called the midwives and made an appointment. The next few months were typical with regular appointments, ultrasounds and lots of peeing in a cup – you know the drill.
I knew my goal was natural, unmedicated birth. Most people heard that and told me I was crazy, that I would change my mind. But it was really important to me. I knew the many risks of medicated birth and I trusted my body. So to increase our chances of natural birth we hired a doula. She highly recommended not taking the hospital birth class as they are less thorough and geared more towards a typical hospital birth, with a focus on epidurals and interventions. So we signed up for an independent natural birth ready class. Let’s just say our educator was amazing! Through the class I gained even more confidence in my body and my ability to birth my baby.
Then as a homework assignment we watched The Business of Being Born. It was very thought provoking and made me question how likely a natural birth would be in the hospital. It painted a bleak picture for healthy pregnancy and normal birth in American hospitals, showing how cascades of interventions lead to increased risks for mother and baby. Exaggerated for the sake of a documentary? Maybe. But I’d heard story after story of being tied to a monitor, begging for an epidural and then being rushed for an “emergency” c-section from plenty of friends and strangers alike. So maybe it was over dramatized, maybe it wasn’t. But it was official: we needed to research our birth options.
So we dug. Deep. We read study after study and book after book. And somewhere along the way we considered it. Home birth. Two little words that separately bring feelings of warmth, comfort and joy but listed side by side instill doubt and fear. How could we consider a home birth and put our safety, our lives at risk?!?
But the truth was a home birth, for us, was statistically just as safe, if not safer, than a hospital birth. I was healthy, mid-20s, 10 minutes from the nearest hospital, and a mile from the nearest fire station. My baby was healthy, developing well, and head down. Our pediatrician was on-board. So why not? Why go to a hospital only to fight for the birth we wanted when staying home was just as safe?
It was decided. We would plan for a home birth. We would trust my body and my instincts. We would have midwives present as guardians of our safety. And if needed we would transfer to the hospital and be thankful to have access to the best technology around.
At 28 weeks gestation, we called our doula (who was also a home birth midwife) and asked her to assemble the team. The midwives started prenatal home visits, listening to the heartbeat and keeping an eye on nutrition, blood pressure, etc. We closed the door behind our midwife after our first home visit and my husband looked at me and said, “we made the right choice.” It was comforting to spend a couple hours with our provider, not a couple minutes. It was unnerving to compare true informed consent with the “informed” consent we had been receiving at the hospital. It was great to discuss nutrition, goals, hopes, and emotions. It was wonderful to have my husband lay next to me on our bed while we all listened to the baby’s heartbeat. And when our baby kicked the midwife’s hands, it was refreshing to hear her laugh and say hello to our baby.
The next several weeks were a whirlwind of preparation. We ordered the birth kit and started collecting supplies. We ordered the birth pool. We cleared out our spare room (well really junk collection room but let’s not call it that!) We created a “safe space” in our spare room where I could labor in the birth pool. We hung birth affirmations around the house. And we debated who to tell. We didn’t want to explain and defend our decision again and again while we were trying to create a positive birth space, both physically and mentally. We told a few close friends and at 36 weeks we told our parents and siblings the plan. We held off on telling extended family and friends until after the birth.
We were very excited when we reached 37 weeks gestation. We could stay home from that point forward provided everything continued to be healthy. Everything was ready. The shower gifts were away in the nursery. Our hospital bag was packed in our trunk, just in case – a good luck charm they say. The birth team had done the final walk through of our house, getting to know the location of things. They had placed their bets on delivery being in the smallest possible space (spoiler alert: they were right!) The transfer plan was reviewed, important numbers were tacked to the fridge, and the birth team was ready. All we had left to do was wait with anticipation.