home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies

Before our youngest son was born, I blogged about my plans to give birth at home.  It had been my hope all along to have a home birth, and I was very lucky that my dreams became a reality.  Now that our baby is nearly three months old, I wanted to reflect on our incredible experience…and the bullshit that comes with wanting to give birth in the comfort of your own home.

I thought I’d turn this in to a mini-series. In this first post I talk about why home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies.  Look out for future posts about my own experience, and why I think every woman should consider a home birth.

home birth - not just for crazy hippies

 

only hippies home birth

Thanks to stellar “news” sources such as Channel5 documentaries and the Daily Fail, we know that childbirth is a traumatic and dangerous experience.  So it stands to reason that only crazy hippies who care more about their birth experience than the safety of their unborn child would plan to give birth beyond the safety net of a hospital.

It may come as some surprise to you that I shave my armpits.  Or that I vaccinate my kids.  Or that I don’t breastfeed, I’m not vegan, I send my sons to mainstream school and I have never eaten/drank/planted any of my placentas*.  I also most certainly don’t think I know more than any midwives or obstetricians. Have I forgotten any stereotypes of your typical home birthing woman?  No?  Good.

 

what kind of weirdo are you?

I trained as a midwife many moons ago, so know that most of the time birth isn’t traumatic and it isn’t dangerous.  I also didn’t think that only deluded eccentrics gave birth outside the confines of the labour ward. But I’ll admit, home birth was something that was never on my personal radar.

Until I gave birth in a car park.

Trust me, that will change your perspective on most things.  An unattended delivery in my husband’s car with an audience of strangers was not on my birth plan. It made me certain that next time around I would do all I could to have a calm, positive experience.  It made sense that being in my own home would be the best way to ensure that happened.

 

announcing our home birth plans

I was embarrassed to tell people about my plans though, out of fear of what they might think.  I’m lucky that I don’t have many people in my life who are straight up arseholes, so I was never treated to some of the choice comments I know other home birth mums have received.  Like being accused of wanting a home birth purely to have a dramatic story to tell when it all went wrong.  Can you imagine saying that to someone?

But what I did experience a lot was The Look.  That split second where a person’s thoughts are displayed on their face before they remember to rearrange their features.  The Look is usually followed by “oh really?”  And about nine times out of ten the person then goes on to tell you they would never have a home birth because they/their partner/someone they met once on the bus had a horrible 5 day labour which ended up with failed forceps and an emergency Cesarean under general anaesthetic with a three week stay in hospital for an infection.  Thanks Belinda, for sharing your experience.

It took me a while to feel confident enough to state our plans.  I had a store of responses for the comments I was likely to get.  Most of the reactions focused on pain relief, so the fact I’d had a drug-free labour previously made it easier for me to prove to others that I was just fine on that front, thanks.  My midwifery experience also came in handy to bat off those who tried to scare me about safety aspects.  I was able to stop them in their tracks with the fact that in a healthy pregnancy with a history of uncomplicated previous deliveries, giving birth at home with a midwife was just as safe as delivering in a hospital1.

 

getting midwife support

I was still scared to tell people that I wanted to give birth at home, in case it didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to build up an image of the birth only for people to say “I told you so” if plans had to change.  Not just for my own self-preservation, but on behalf of home birthers everywhere.  I didn’t want to let the side down.

When a hospital birth doesn’t go the way the parents hope for, there is (quite rightly) sympathy and morale bolstering.  But when a home birth has to be abandoned or transferred to hospital, there is a lot of tutting and “well what did she expect” type comments.  Not always, not from all, but audible enough.

I was even nervous to ask the midwife if it would be possible.  As if I had to ask permission. I was worried that she’d see me as a trouble patient.  Someone who was going to be difficult or demanding or who would refuse all advice.  Because that’s what a typical home birth mum is like – tv tells us so.  Home birthers only believe in alternative therapies, and if they don’t agree with their care providers they’re liable to go rogue and freebirth in a forest somewhere.

I didn’t have the most supportive of midwives, either. The one I saw most frequently made a point at each appointment of up-selling the birthing unit.  She always cheerfully reminded me that if someone else went in to labour at the same time I’d have to go to hospital because there would be no staff.  Her argument was that I might want to save myself the worry and just go for a hospital birth anyway.  She sent me for growth scans, and started pushing for induction as soon as I went past my due dates2.

Thankfully I did also have some supportive midwives, as well as a close friend who is a midwife passionate about home birth.  I also joined various Facebook groups to get advice and reassurance from some incredibly knowledgeable women.  I was able to counteract the lack of professional support, but I don’t think it’s always so easy.

 

support women’s birth choices

Women – all types of women – deserve to have their birth options open. For some, a medical condition or a complication with their pregnancy means that hospital is absolutely the safest place to give birth.  But for so many other women, a home birth can be perfect.  It reduces their risk of medical intervention3, can help them cope better with labour and is ultimately more relaxing than being in a medicalised environment4.

Stereotyping those who chose home birth as weird or selfish means that so many women who might chose a home birth just wont even consider it.  We live in a society which is obsessed with negative birth experiences.  Many times I’ve seen people claim that women who share their positive experiences are showing off.  That they’re rubbing it in the faces of those who had more traumatic routes into motherhood.  But focusing on what can go wrong blinds so many to what goes right, the majority of the time.

Why perpetuate a myth which cheats a woman out of a positive birth experience?

If someone tells you that they’re planning to birth at home, the correct response is “good for you.”  Not “wow, I couldn’t do that…but good for you” or “you’re brave…but good for you.”  Just “good for you.”  Because after all, home birth is good for her.  Whether she’s a hippie or not.

 

 

* I’m not bashing any of these things, they’re all valid life choices.**  Except not vaccinating your kids…that just makes you dangerous.

** Whilst I shave my armpits, I have been known to leave it a very long time between shaves…

 

1 NCT – home birth
2 Home Birth Reference Site – you can’t have a home birth because…
3 “Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician.”
4
AIMS – benefits of home birth

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16 Comments

  1. Great post! I accidentally gave birth to my second son in our bathroom. My first labour lasted 30 hours so I thought I had lots of time, this one was all done in 4 hours. My mum delivered him while my husband took instructions from the midwife over the phone. It was without doubt one of the best experiences of my life. #bloggerclubuk

  2. Glad I read this because I was listening to a podcast talking about supporting women’s birth plans and choices. Women are different and their birth plans will be different ranging from home birth to an elective c-section. Everyone needs to support the mother regardless #coolmumclub

  3. I had a home birth, it was a surprise! I planned a home birth with my first and it never went to plan and my second I planned to be in hospital and she had other ideas!
    I think the best plan is just go with it you never know what kind of labour you’ll end up having!

  4. This is a really great post! I don’t think I personally would have liked a home birth but it’s not fair to knock other people who do. Labour can be a daunting prospect and everyone needs to do what is right for them and will make them most able to deal with it. My first labour, I had an epidural from the earliest possible moment. My second labour, I had 2 cocodamol and that was it! I would recommend both methods even though they’re poles apart – each was the right choice for me at the time. Well done to you for sticking to your choice and going with your gut instinct. #stayclassymama
    Lucy At Home recently posted…Blogcrush Week 31 – 15th September 2017My Profile

  5. My midwife offered me a home birth, it is something that scared me because the subject has always been so taboo. I did give birth in a pool at the midwife unit which was amazing. Knowing I did that on no pain relief, I may have considered a home birth if we ever had another (we wont) but certainly if my first birth had been like my second, I may have considered a home birth #ThatFridayLinky

    1. I think that’s the step many women take – a home birth after a straightforward one. I wonder if we were shown more positive representations of birth in the media, more of us would have the confidence to choose one for our first birth?

  6. I planned a home birth with my second son as I hated going into hospital with my first born. It was such a straight forward labour with my first that I just wanted to go and I couldn’t for ages! I spent months planning my birthing room at home and had images of a beautiful homebirth, music, candles, the works. Reality was he flew out within an hour in front of You’ve Been Framed on the living room floor. We never made it to my beautiful room!! But it was amzing, two hours after having him we were tucked up in bed and it was perfect x #BloggerClubUK

  7. Firstly I love your * at the end. I 100% agree about vaccination. I think it is a good thing that home births are on the rise as there are many births that don’t need intervention. I had 2 inductions and 2 difficult pregnancies. It was not an option for me but that said I would have opted for hospital anyway, as a nurse at the time a medical setting was very much my comfort zone. But I know I am in a minority with that so the chance where possible for mums to get what they want is a wonderful thing. I don’t know where this home birth stigma has come from though, it wasn’t that long ago that was the only option available.
    #BigPinkLink

  8. Wow, a car park. Goodness me!

    I would consider a home birth – although I am highly unlikely to get pregnant again. My first birth was not too traumatic and I can see that being at home rather than in a strange hospital room would be more relaxing.

    I would reassurance around my carpets though – they are new, I wouldn’t want them to get blood stained!

    Pen x #AnythingGoes
    Pen recently posted…It’s autumn and time for a pep talkMy Profile

  9. I couldn’t be further from being a hippie and gave birth at home twice but I completely agree with you that people do judge when you tell them that’s your plan and u+in fact even now if I mention that’s what i did i get either “were you not scared?’ or ‘I would never be able to do that. What f anything went wrong? you are crazy’ Thank you for sharing with #StayClassyMama

  10. Wonderful post, I honestly wish I’d been more informed about birth options before the birth of both my daughters as I’m pretty sure I would have either opted for a home birth or at the very least a water birth. I know people do judge when the words ‘home birth’ are mentioned but I really can’t understand why- we gave birth at home for hundreds of years before modern medicine played its part!! Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x
    Hannah Jane recently posted…It Happened Again….My Profile

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