Before I try to explain my choice, let me say that I am thankful and blessed to have a lot of friends and family that have been extremely supportive of my choice. Having said that, I have also been bombarded with the expected comments of: “Wow! You are brave” or: “That is ridiculous, given we have such amazing public healthcare services” and memorably: “I hope you know what you are doing?!”
“You are brave” – Perhaps! It is a matter of perspective. I like to think that birth is the most natural process a woman can ever go through; while it may be a physical struggle, it isn’t a battle to be fought over an illness. From my perspective, going into the hospital full of ill people and gloom to give birth is much braver than hiding in the comfort of your own home and giving birth on your own terms!
“That is ridiculous given we have such an amazing healthcare services” – And thankfully, that healthcare service supports home birth and provides a professional midwifery service for those who want a homebirth. Let’s be clear: by choosing homebirth, I am in no way dismissing the greatness of our healthcare services. Our local birthing centre is also literally 20 meters away from my house, if at any point I need a transfer, on my midwives recommendation, it would take me less than 3 minutes to get there. I don’t want to be pre-emptively poked with needles and surrounded by beeping machines. Why anticipate something going wrong? Birthing is as much as a mental process as physical and with years of yoga and spiritual practices behind me, I know one can overpower the physical through mental exercises and in an hospital environment, with midwives coming in and out, other momma’s screaming in pain that would be very hard to achieve and practice.
“I hope you know what you are doing?!” – I like to trust that my body will! My husband meanwhile witnessed two hospital births of both his children. One in England in a progressive midwife-led unit, which was pleasant and positive; the second one was in South Korea; a much more clinical experience, with the baby whisked off straight to an incubator afterwards. That makes him very well aware of the pros and cons of hospital birth and if he can see some of the obvious benefits of having his third baby at home and support me in that, I think we are on the right path. It is so difficult to talk about homebirthing and not sound defensive, but honestly choosing a home birth or hospital birth is entirely a personal choice which should have no judgements attached. The midwives attending have plethora of experience behind them to guide a mother through labour without much intervention.
Talking about whether we know what we are doing by choosing home birth, let’s discuss more about how did I come to the decision and why:
Intimacy and Privacy – To me, birthing is one of the most intimate moments I will share with my husband and I. I do not feel comfortable baring myself naked and open in front of complete strangers (a.k.a doctors and midwives). There are only 6 community midwives who assist with homebirthing in my area and during my nine months of pregnancy, I would have met most of them; whereas in a hospital if I end up having a long labour, midwives might change with the shift and I do not want to be assisted by a complete stranger while I am also dealing with some excruciating pain. I also like the privacy my house will provide me with no neighbours in the next room labouring alongside me. I do not have to listen to any other ladies scream in labour, I do not have to bump into them in the corridor when taking a walk or having to request for a cup of tea, toast or apologize for throwing up everywhere or pressing a wrong button I am not familiar with.
I know who I want to share my intimate moments with (my husband, a doula and the midwives) and I think it is easily achievable at home.
I have two children to consider – Labour, like any earthquake, is pretty unpredictable. Once in full term, baby can arrive anytime between week 37 – 41 (it is a bit too much to expect friends to be on call for such a long period of time). Although my mother aims to be here for the birth, if anything is to go amiss with childcare, we live with my two step-children and I have to make arrangements for them before I rush off to the hospital. Given it is my first labour, everything might go slow and take it’s time ( I could be completely wrong but I am going by the average). If I start contracting in the middle of the night, and my kids are fast asleep, they can continue sleeping, although I will prepare them about the possible screaming and in the morning, they can either be surprised with a new sibling or have daddy’s attention in getting them ready for school. And if the unlikely emotional tantrum of not wanting to be separated from their mum kicks in, I can be comfortable in knowing that they can stay in the house and don’t have to find their new sibblings arrival a traumatising experience of being snatched away from their mother even before its arrival.
Friends & Family experiences – My sister-in-law, mother-in-law and one of my best friends Ashleigh have all had homebirths after having experienced hospital births. They all vouch for it and have never regretted the decision even once. They all found their homebirth to be the most comfortable way to bring their babies into this world with minimum medical intervention and privacy. With such motivational stories and inspiration around me from my most trusted people, I am sure and confident about my decision.
Avoid medical intervention – Studies have shown that dilation actually has no baring on how soon the labour is or will progress. I do not want to rush the baby out because someone thinks my cervix is ready to let it out NOW. I know I can say no to the examination in the hospital but when you are in your own turf, you feel a certain amount of authority over your own labour choices. Also, sometimes when facilities are available to you easily, it becomes very difficult to say NO when you are in peak labour and excruciating pain. Now, I want to push myself and try and avoid having an epidural – unavailable for homebirths and which require a transfer to hospital. there is evidence that show that women who’ve had homebirth by default get less medical interventions like induced labour, use of forceps etc. than the ones who are already in the hospital.
Waterbirth: My husband, from his personal experience, strongly believes in the benefits of water birth. I am not a big fan of baths and so I always thought a water birth isn’t for me, but a lot of friends and people in our homebirthing groups have convinced me that it does help with pain. It is especially beneficial for someone like me who is also suffering from acute lower back pain. I am aware that our local MLU (midwife-led unit) provides this facility but on a busy day, all birthing pools might be taken leaving me with no option of waterbirth; whereas at home, I can have the birthing pool on stand by and dip in and out of it if I fancied.
Hynobirthing: I am also giving Natal Hynobirthing a go. I have been spiritually intuned with my body for over 20 years of my life through Yoga. Natal Hynobirthing is yet another way to enhance and alleviate my spiritual experience that helps achieve an absolute state of relaxation thereby being in total control of my mind and in turn my bodily changes I will be going through during the birth of the little spirit growing inside of me. There is no way I can reach a state of relaxation that I hope to achieve in the hospital, knowing there are other women in the next room giving birth, hearing some of them scream (I really do not want to have that as part of my labour), or having to stroll around the corridors of gloomy hospital building.
Home comforts: I have heard great things about the local MLU provided by the NHS and I will be visiting the unit later as the pregnancy progresses just to assess all my options very well, but no matter how accommodating the units are, home comforts can only be found where your home is, where you feel the safest. I like the idea of being able to lie in my own bed with my new born, and not having to worry about being discharged, shut the bedroom door and snuggle up with my husband for a few hours in my own home, wake up to mum’s cooked food and be able to give cuddles to my children without worrying about the visiting hours.
I have to say that unlike many women who have had previous birthing experiences, I, with my first pregnancy do not know how will my labour progress nor do I know my pain threshold. Hence, all of my plan can go completely kaput eventually. But with no harsh complication leading to a transfer into the hospital and some positive mental exercises, I should be able to achieve a positive homebirth. So wish me luck and pray that the little spirit grows stronger and healthier each day until it’s birthday and beyond!