The good, the bad, & the downright ugly of home birth

The moment my midwife handed me my baby boy right when he was born.

Where do I even begin? Let’s start with a little backstory… I’ve always had an interest in having a home birth. Something about being in your own space, without nurses and doctors poking and prodding you (and potentially trying to move your labor forward quicker than your body wants to), without the cold feeling of a hospital (I’ve always hated hospitals), without the sense of people’s lives both ending and beginning in the same building (IDK, I’m sensitive to energies), without the extra worry of germs and infection… all of that appealed to me. Before my husband and I even started trying for kids I had read up about how much a home birth could potentially cost and while it seemed like a large amount, the peace of mind it would bring seemed completely worthwhile.

Fast forward to me actually finding out I was pregnant after trying for 6 months, and we decided a hospital birth would be just fine (read: easier)… it would be mostly covered by insurance (aka you save a f**k ton of money), if anything bad were to happen you are already at the hospital, and I planned to make sure I was in the right mindset to not let the hospital “things” I wanted to avoid get in the way of my experience.  By the way, the birthing experience was very important to me and I wanted to be 100% present for it all… something I wasn’t certain I could accomplish at a hospital.   

But, at 28 weeks I decided I hated my absolutely bullshit excuse of an OB/GYN (truly, she’s terrible) and I could no longer continue as her patient. Additionally, I was over not being allowed to bring my husband to my appointments, and I was absolutely not willing to adhere to my doctor’s rule of going to the hospital three times per week for the remainder of my pregnancy nor agreeing to setting an early induction date. My insurance also limited me quite a bit on other OB/GYN options and when I checked them out they all had similarly shit reviews SO… I saw it as a sign, I was indeed supposed to continue with my original plan for a home birth. Finding a midwife — that’s a legal requirement in the State of California for home birth and not something I would suggest anyone skips in any other state — was the next task so I found one I felt I could trust completely who was willing to take me on as a patient and her, along with my doula team I already was working with, made me feel secure in my decision. NOW that you know how I got to having a non-traditional birthing situation… on to the bulleted — and hopefully helpful — good, bad, and ugly of home births.

I should say before you read any further, that I read exactly zero pros and cons/good and bad lists before giving birth at home. I already knew it was what I wanted to do and I didn’t want to know what went wrong for anyone else or what could for me (I mean I didn’t go into it blindly but I stuck to scientific information about what happens to the body.) I did watch a few videos at various stages of labor and after with people who I already knew had had positive birthing experiences. My story is relatively without incident so if you’re trying to avoid negative energy or images, you can read ahead. I get it, your headspace matters… take care of yours.

The Good

My husband cut my baby’s umbilical chord — that we let blanch completely — on our bed. The whole process was so much more warm being in our home.

  • During the time of Covid-19, I was able to find a midwife who aligned with my feelings regarding health and safety during this pandemic
  • I was wrong, everything about a home birth (to include prenatal and postnatal appointments) is significantly easier than going to a doctor’s office or hospital
  • Most important: my laboring process was carried out exactly as I wanted and had previously depicted to my midwife (no intervention, no pain killers, at home in any position that felt comfortable, with my husband and doula by my side)
  • My husband was FINALLY able to attend my prenatal appointments that were held in my own home
  • Though I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes with my OB/GYN, my midwife was reassuring and willing to work with me to make sure my pregnancy and birthing process were safe despite my diagnosis
  • My midwife was always open to conversation about anything and everything which was a vastly different experience than I had with my own OB/GYN who wouldn’t even look over my food log when asked
  • My midwife was available to me throughout my pregnancy via phone, email, FaceTime, and text
  • I developed an amazing friendship with my midwife which meant trust during and before my labor, but also a closeness afterwards
  • I never had to leave my home once the laboring process was truly under way which was extra great because I dilated super slowly despite my strong contractions so I likely would have been sent home and done a back and forth process had I gone through with a hospital birth
  • I was able to be in my own space (and set the environment of my choosing) through the entire labor which added to the comfort factor and also made it possible for me to try many different positions — including hopping in the birthing tub I rented — that may or may not have been available to me/allowed at a hospital
  • While I did not begin any type of induction process, there are natural ways to do so from home that can be done (including some very strong herbs)
  • You and baby are monitored throughout the labor just like you would be in the hospital but without the incessant beeping of a million monitors
  • Your care team believes in your natural ability to give birth safely just as much as you do, so the chance of being rushed along or forced into a C-section is absent from the process
  • You are allowed — and even encouraged — to eat and drink during labor
  • My baby was born in my own freakin’ bedroom! Like, how many people get to say that?!
  • After my baby was born I didn’t have to go anywhere which was great because my body was TORE UP (and I didn’t for 4 weeks… like I didn’t even leave my bedroom for the first 2)
  • At no time did I ever feel anything but reassurance that I could do it even at 41 weeks (which would have been an entirely different scenario if I had stayed with my OB/GYN because she wanted to induce me before I hit my due date)
  • Even when I said, “I’m serious, I really don’t think I can do this” to my husband, my midwife, and my doula, they didn’t let me stop because they knew what I had envisioned and that I was still in a safe space to make that happen (I know that sounds awful and in the moment it was, but trust me when I say that I wouldn’t have ever gone through with going to the hospital unless it was medically necessary so it was important that they weren’t bending to my pained requests)
  • Bad for some people, but I’m glad I didn’t have the option in the moment for drugs because in a hospital setting they would have been offered many times by that point and it would have been damn near impossible not to take them up on that offer
  • Your midwife will have training in emergency situations; ie. if the baby came out not breathing, they’re prepared to resuscitate and have oxygen on hand
  • My doulas were able to attend whereas during Covid-19 times, they wouldn’t have been able to be in person and we REALLY leaned on them during the long labor
  • My aftercare appointments have all been at my home and my midwife even helped to do a little tidying to make sure everything was in order for me and baby

The Bad

  • I will cherish these first moments in our bed forever.

    I’ve always been known to have a high pain tolerance but no one on Earth could have prepared me for how fucking awful the contractions were… oh also, did I mention that I was in labor for 36 hours?? Perhaps the pain wouldn’t stick out in my mind as much if I didn’t have such a ridiculously long laboring process with some contractions being back to back lasting 10 minutes with only a minute in between…

  • I was literally putting my hands in the air by my face and shaking — just like my baby does when he’s upset — with each new contraction because I couldn’t stand them anymore… of course, I did stand them and they eventually ended so it was all worth it 🙂
  • Home births are almost never covered by insurance and they require a midwife (and in reality you should also have a doula), plus there’s just a ton of stuff you need to buy to be prepared for the birth… so they can really add up
  • I was in so much pain that I roughly forgot all of my breath work, hypno-birthing, and affirmations that I had prepared for before going into labor… like my mind was mostly blank other than the fleeting thought that I could really use an IV of anything that would make the pain go away (haha but at the time this was no laughing matter), and on the other end of the spectrum, sweet — and very periodic — thoughts of working with my baby to get him into this world safely
  • Unlike at a hospital where there’s no mess for you to worry about pre or post labor, there is when it is at your home (there’s also a lot of preparing I did to make sure I felt like everything was SUPER clean and ready for the big day) but if you have a good midwife and doula team, they’ll take care of a lot of the yucky clean up for you afterwards
  • If something were to go very wrong during birth or you simply were too tired to continue laboring at home, you would have to transfer to a hospital; that being said, one of my biggest worries for whatever reason was hemorrhaging so when I found my midwife, I found one who had extensive experience with that due to work she’s done in communities where she saw a lot of those cases which really eased my fears
  • If you tested positive for Covid-19 just before giving birth, you would have to go to a hospital because your midwife wouldn’t be able to expose herself when she has other in-home clients
  • If you had any complications like high blood pressure, uncontrolled gestational diabetes, etc. during your pregnancy, your midwife might need to transfer your care and/or labor process to a hospital
  • Honestly, I was trying to think of any other “bad” parts and there really isn’t a whole lot as long as you find a midwife you fully trust and take the time to prepare yourself and your home for the birthing process

The Ugly

  • Giving birth is a mess and I’m just thankful I decided to spend my hour of pushing in the bathroom because after baby boy was born and the birthing process was over — including the placenta because birthing a child isn’t enough — I assessed the “damage” and my bathroom looked like an actual crime scene… bravo to my midwife and her assistant for making it look like nothing ever happened in there by the time they left
  • The aftermath to my body was a bit ugly considering how long my labor was and how large my child was (9 lbs 3 oz)… but that could have been the case at a hospital as well (well maybe not, they probably wouldn’t have let me labor naturally for that long…)

Looking up at my husband smiling as I lay on our bathroom floor… so happy to be holding my little one, and so very exhausted.

At the end of the day, the “good” list is long and the points like having the birth I want, feeling connected to my midwife, and feeling comfortable (not with the contractions but with the situation and setting!) throughout the process are far more compelling than anything on the “bad” or “ugly” list. That being said, I don’t think it is incorrect to say how necessary it is to be steadfast in your why’s for having a home birth. In my opinion, women are truly magical unicorns for carrying and growing life in their bodies and then giving birth — however that happens — BUT not one of my friends who’ve had children themselves have told me they could do what I did.

In writing this, I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged by the possible negatives… it feels right for me to share the genuine truth of what I experienced more as a resource to make an informed decision. That being said, people who are seriously considering home birth tend to be of a different breed and mindset (I don’t say that as a bad thing, I’m a different breed haha). Just know, if it is what you truly want to do, what you feel drawn to (and for more reasons than being worried about being in a hospital due to Covid-19), you can absolutely do it. My extra long laboring process with no breaks really isn’t the norm, but beyond that, with any birth but especially a home birth, you simply need to be open to whatever and however your baby comes into this world because your body and your baby know exactly what to do and at the right time. Also, our bodies are made to make room for baby to be born, and as long as you’re having a healthy pregnancy, it is totally safe to give birth at home… people have been doing it for forever and if you want an extremely beautiful (okay beautiful in the spiritual sense) and primal birthing experience at home, it absolutely is an amazing option. Home birth made me feel like Super Woman… and I’m still riding that wave almost 6 weeks later.  

I also realize there’s many things I had to gloss over because this post was getting rather long and wordy, so know there will be a lot more information shared on my blog in the future.

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