From Hospital to Home Birth

Do you ever astonish yourself?  I don’t, very often.  But as I enter my eight month of pregnancy, an older version of me is more than bewildered at the current me.

MidwifeDoula.  Breathing.  Voice.  Red raspberry leaf tea.  Birthing pool.  Natural birth.  And – wait for it – home birth.

I wasn’t always like this.

Five years ago, I gave birth to my first son prematurely by caesarean.  It was an emergency – at eight months, the placenta partly abrupted from my uterus.  It’s not the fact of the caesarean that bothers me, for I am forever indebted to the medical world for that surgery and the safe delivery of my baby.  But it’s the way in which I half expected to have a ceasarean that’s troubling, my own lack of confidence and professed disinterest in my body to carry a child to term.   I even requested general anaesthesia for the caesarean rather than regional because I didn’t want to be awake during the surgery.  (This request was refused.)  And when I overheard that a colleague at work was planning a natural (unmedicated) birth process to see whether she could do it, I responded with (and I quote), “Who cares?”.

Fast forward five years.  I have my heart set on a home birth.  What changed?  So very much.

Somewhere in between I had a second son.  In my eighth month of pregnancy, a friend recommended an inspiring book by a remarkable woman.  It was filled with stories of women who had had positive natural birth experiences.  I hadn’t heard anything like them in real life (just the opposite, actually), but I was moved.  I committed more firmly to having a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC), in spite of my OB’s nervousness.  And I hired a doula, and laboured with her for a long time at home.  Here is an excerpt of my thank you letter to her:

As you may remember, my birth experience wasn’t perfect.  I was and remain horrified at how things unraveled at triage at Mt. Sinai [the hospital].  This process, this birth, that had been so carefully and lovingly nurtured until then was so quickly taken out of our hands, and taken over, that I was stunned with sadness.  But I also have the memory of labouring at home with you until then, which is one of challenging satisfaction and accomplishment to me.  And to have been awake, wide awake, to watch Nathaniel come into the world and then take him to my chest – the memory of this can still leave me breathless.  It is the only birthing I have ever seen.

So I carry a basket of great things:  the labour at home; the vaginal birth; a process largely unmedicated; your companionship and guidance; the big, beautiful baby; my intact body; the ease and pleasure of breastfeeding.  I have joy.  These early experiences with Nathaniel cut such a sharp contrast against those with Sam, and only now do I understand how much I lost that first time. 

Now I know the [caesarean] scar will hold.  If I ever have another baby, I will seriously consider labouring at home, with midwives and with you, if you are still doing this work by then.  I’m 37, and more importantly, Ben seems to think two is enough (“If you want to have another baby, Carol, you’ll have to find another husband.”).  But for me, I wouldn’t rule it out, and often feel like I would love to have another baby.  This is such a far cry from what I felt equipped to do only a few years ago, it’s hard to express.

I imagine your work to be very challenging, especially because of the generally unreceptive climate in which you do it.  I guess that you see a lot of unfulfilled potential, of women, of their bodies, of the babies within.  So I wanted you to know that you have helped to reveal, one contraction at a time, my body’s potential – for me to want to birth at home, naturally, is a far distance to have come, and I want to claim it with you for its entire worth.

Somewhere in the last couple of years, my husband’s stance on a third child cracked, and here I am, with a belly full of baby and over the moon with gratitude.  And part of that gratitude is being gifted with the chance to have a baby intentionally, governed by my own values and experiences, rather than fear.  Part of the blessing of growing this child is the excitement I feel about being able to experience labour again.

I’m not foolish; I know there are no guarantees.  If I need medical intervention, I will accept it and be thankful.  But I’d basically be denying my own life experience if I were to fail to try to have a home birth this time around.  Plus I’m a researcher by trade and I’ve done my homework, so I know that the statistics repeatedly demonstrate that home birth for low-risk women cared for by midwives is at least as safe as hospital birth.  (More pragmatically, the data on this point would have to be rock solid in order for the government to fully fund home births attended by midwives in Ontario, which it does).

If you’d told me five years ago that I would be a home birth enthusiast, I would have said you were crazy.  But then again, if you’d told me back then, when I had the unbridled freedom to go for a walk without telling a soul, that I’d find my greatest happiness tethered to two tykes wrapped around my knees, only partly visible under my watermelon tum, I’d not have believed you either.   So maybe stranger things have happened.


18 thoughts on “From Hospital to Home Birth

  1. Good luck! I hope it goes well for you! I am not a home-birthing enthusiast, per se, but I have had two home births, and I remember both births fondly (with nothing to compare them to, mind you). What I love most about those experiences, I think, is how often, when I am in the places I gave birth, I am flooded with the memories of meeting my babies for the first time, right in this very spot. My older daughter’s bed is almost exactly where she was born, and I think about that often when I am kissing her goodnight. It will be hard if we ever move from this house.

    • Kelly, that is such a beautiful anecdote. I hadn’t even thought of that as a benefit to the birthing at home. I hope against hope that I will be able to experience the revisiting of the birth moment as you do. Thank you for sharing it,


  2. Amen, Sister! You have my support. Pregnant with my first child my parents gave me the copy of Spiritual Midwifery the read prior to my birth. It may be a bit “out there” in a few ways but it absolutely gave me confidence and knowledge which is sorely lacking for most women. The climate of fear and distain that still surrounds womens’ bodies and childbirth in particular only makes it harder to follow one’s instincts. Really, if we were as fragile a species and modern medicine would have us believe why are there 7 billion people alive today, most of whom were born at home, often on a dirt floor? I love your post.

    • Thanks for your support, m! I am in awe that your parents gave you Spiritual Midwifery, which I have almost finished reading. I recently heard Ina May speak, and she largely accounts for the success she (and the Farm midwives) had with birthing to the way they treated the mothers: “We were nice to them. We told them how gorgeous they looked.” In other words, no fear or disdain! My own experience is that being at home carried some basic intangibles that are difficult to quantify/measure/research but are so important to the birth process (familiarity, security, quiet, comfort, control) that made birthing here a special (but normal) event.

  3. Beautifully written, Carol. It’s funny how our views change as get older and gain more life experience. My wish for you is that everything works out for the best and that you always feel in control of the process in which your little one makes his/her way into the world.

  4. Carol,

    This peace brought tears to my eyes because I Identified with so much of it. Congratulations, I had no idea you were expecting. I am thrilled for you. I trust that it will go beautifully for you.


    • Negar, thank you so much for your note and good wishes – I will keep them close. I love your use of the word “trust” here; I too will trust.

  5. Congratulations on the baby. I did a home birth for my second child in ome of the colest winters (right after a huge snow storm) and it was wonderful. Gestational diabetes and a lack of midwives in my area prevented any more. But if you can it is a beauiful experience. Good luck with everything

  6. I have, however, ,just realized a downside. For a few hours this weekend, we considered putting an offer in on a bigger house down the street that is for sale. The prospect of leaving the house where I gave birth, twice, is REALLY distressing, and I was a bit surprised that my husband agreed, albeit in milder fashion. Now we’re thinking of building on an addition instead. 🙂 Anyway, be warned: if all goes as planned, you might not ever be able to leave!

    • I confess I never thought of that either, Kelly. I *guess* we could make this house work forever if necesary… Best of luck with your (modified?) home plans!

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