One of the first things I said to Dan after finding out that we were expecting baby number three was ‘I can finally have a homebirth’! He laughed and said he’d been just waiting for me to announce this. I am really excited by our plans to birth at home and hope that all goes smoothly to make this plan a reality. I’ve talked a little bit about my previous two births before on here so won’t repeat myself but allow me a moment of indulgence if you will…
When pregnant with Sophia, my midwife asked if I had considered having a homebirth but to be honest, I didn’t know much about them and was put off by the thought of mess and worrying about who would have to clean it up! By the time I was pregnant with Isaac I was much better informed about all things birth related and longed deeply for a homebirth (this article having helped me with my questions surrounding mess). We were living on Pinafore by then (our 31ft sailing boat) but despite this, my midwives were unfazed. They said they had supported births on boats in the marina before and were happy to do so again. I excitedly booked in and that was that.
However, at 36 weeks I started to rethink my decision. The boat was really very small…. the only place to labour was on our bed (which was a table in the saloon during the day) and there was no space really to pace or move around. Furthermore, the midwives would have been quite literally, about half a metre away from me at all times due to the cramped environment. Quite possibly, a bit of a claustrophobic atmosphere! I wasn’t even sure where we could have a hard surface for their equipment other than in the cockpit and in January, it would have been pretty chilly! So I concluded that it wasn’t a good birthing environment for me and decided to have him in the hospital (the nearest midwife led birth centre being 45 minutes drive away). I went on to have a very quick, natural, unassisted birth in the pool and it was nothing short of amazing! The only downside was the hours spent in hospital afterwards as a blood sample got lost and paperwork took an age to complete – I just wanted to be home in bed.
So this time, it was really a no brainer where I would plan to give birth.
But as I participated in a playful poll about parenting styles the other day, I was surprised to see how few people were supportive or on board with the idea of birthing at home. I went searching and found that in the UK in 2012 only 2.3% of babies were born at home. This is a startling low figure; I knew it was low but hadn’t realised quite how small it was. And I have to say, I’m still at a loss as to why so few people choose to give birth to their babies at home.
I’m guessing that a lot of people would state that they feel safer in hospital and with quick access to medical equipment and knowledge if needed. I assume some people are put off by the idea of mess (as I was) or don’t have a suitable home environment in which to have a homebirth. Possibly, it doesn’t even enter into the minds of expectant parents as an option to consider. The default place to have your baby has been the hospital for many years. But is it time for more of us to consider another option?
The Birthplace Study of 2011 concluded that ‘for women having a second or subsequent baby, planned home births are as safe for the baby as planned birth in hospital, and offer health and other benefits for the mother (emphasis added by me). However, for first-time mothers there is a small increase in risk for their baby.’ The benefits that the report refers to are listed as lower risk of induction, cesarean section, episiotomy, vaginal tears and augmentation. In my opinion, these benefits are not to be scorned at!
Dr Sarah Buckley adds to this list by highlighting what you might call the ‘soft’ benefits to having a homebirth. She talks about the ability of fathers to have a more ‘intimate involvement’ in the birth, of siblings being able to be present, of having a midwife consistently caring for you throughout the birth and of being able to offer your baby a more gentle and quiet welcome to the world. I think all of these are factors that appeal to me. Sophia has asked to be there when the baby is born and I’m more than happy for this to be the case but it wouldn’t be possible if I was to give birth in hospital.
Furthermore, I relish the idea of being able to labour in my own home, with my own things around. To be able to potter, make food and drink as needed, to distract myself. I especially love the idea that once baby has arrived all I need to do is climb into bed with our new little bundle and relax. There is no waiting for paperwork to be completed, no trying to keep small children quiet in a curtained cubicle while they excitedly meet their new sibling, no having to get dressed and in a car to get home. We’ll already be there! We can just relax in our own environment. For us it feels like the most natural choice in the world.
Hombirth Reference Site (a brilliant resource for those thinking of or planning a homebirth) is a veritable treasure trove of information and birth stories from people in a variety of different circumstances and with varying reasons for their desire to give birth at home. If you are interested and would like to read first hand, some accounts of people giving birth at home, it’s definitely worth a visit.
By writing this post, I’m most definitely not trying to browbeat every pregnant mother into having a homebirth. I am more than aware that it won’t be the right choice for every family for personal or medical reasons. But I would love it if someone benefited from reading this information and my experiences, from knowing that it could be an option where they didn’t previously. Having your baby at home can be safe and highly beneficial. But like so many things, it doesn’t get talked about enough in a considered, balanced manner. The media is biased towards sensationalist, dramatic birth stories (a la One Born Every Minute) as they make better entertainment, better reading. But birth doesn’t have to be that. It can be calm, gentle and most importantly, it can be a positive experience.
For more information, check out http://www.tellmeagoodbirthstory.com or the Positive Birth Movement, two brilliant organisations that are trying to turn the tide on the negativity that overwhelms the discourse surrounding birth.