I had an amazing home birth… But I might not do it again.

Home Birth

Yep, you read that right.

I am a huge advocate for choices in birth. I think that all women deserve to have access to knowledgeable birth professionals who actually deserve the title of ‘professional’. All women deserve to be able to make informed choices about where and how they choose to give birth.

And that is exactly the reason why, right now, I’m not sure if we’ll shoot for another home birth when we eventually have another child.

It seems strange for someone like me to say that. My first birth was in a hospital, and it wasn’t a great experience. We had a lot of trouble bonding afterwards, too. My second birth was at home, and it was everything I could have dreamed of and more. It healed me, restored my confidence and faith in my body, gave my son the gentle welcome to the world he deserved, and I couldn’t wait to do it all over again.

So why on earth would I shy away from home birth with the next child?

I believe that birth is the most beautiful natural process of the body. It is, of course, a means to an end (a healthy, live baby) – but it can be a very important journey for the birthing family. Birth matters, and I will defend that until the day I die.

However, I don’t believe that birth is inherently safe. Yeah, I know that’s not the party line of natural birth advocates. Shoot me down if you want. I don’t believe that it is, and that’s just the way I feel. I won’t go further into this right now because this isn’t what this post is about.

For some people, having a home birth adds very little, if any, risk to a birth. If a low-risk woman is birthing with an experienced, trained and qualified midwife and the hospital is very close by, there really is very little difference – especially here in the UK, where CEFM (continuous electronic foetal monitoring) is not used routinely in low-risk births (the only difference is that, upon admission to an NHS hospital here, you would be expected to have EFM for a period of time).

Thing is though, for me, the risk is higher. I live 30 minutes away from the hospital – and that’s when there’s no traffic. If I were to suffer a placental abruption, I would have to wait for an ambulance (15 minutes if I was lucky), travel to the hospital (30-45 minutes depending on the time of day), and be prepped for surgery (15 minutes for a crash section, assuming that the theatre was prepped while I was on my way in the ambulance). So that’s an absolute minimum of one hour from abruption to delivery. That’s a dead baby, or at the very least a severely brain-damaged one.

It’s not that I didn’t realise this when I was expecting Squish. My intuition was telling me that everything would be fine, which is why I planned our home birth with absolutely no reservations, no fear and bucketloads of confidence. And everything was fine. Looking back, I doubt myself and feel like I didn’t take on board the risks, but at the time I trusted my body and my baby – and I was right to.

Obviously, any choices I make about giving birth will be made if/when we are expecting another child – after all, each baby and birth are different. I couldn’t say right now how I will feel at the time. But right now, my intuition is telling me that I should give birth in the hospital. The thought of it kind of sucks, after having such a comfortable, empowering and relaxing experience at home, but logically I know that I can still have a birth like that in a hospital. I will hire a doula, and remain in control of my care.  I will feel confident to advocate for myself and my child, whereas I didn’t have that confidence before.

I have been guilty in the past of wondering why on earth anybody would choose to give birth in hospital if there were no obvious medical reasons to do so.  I understand now, a lot better than I did before.  Who knows, I may still opt for home birth again when the time comes, but right now I am happy with the possibility of birthing in hospital – a novel feeling, but a welcome one nonetheless.

Where did you give birth? If you’re planning any more children, where will you plan to have them? Has anybody else considered hospital birth following a successful home birth? I’d love to hear your stories!

Comments

  1. says

    hmm my DH is a doc and very anti-home birth so I had a hospital birth for my first which ended up as a EMCS and then had an ELCS for my second. Interestingly enough if I had had a home birth for my first the problem (footling breech) would have been picked up earlier as I would have had 1-2-1 midwife care a lot earlier, as it was I was doing hypnobirthing which worked so well that I didn’t go into hospital until I was 8cm, cue EMCS when they did a VE and felt a foot!
    Anyway, I was discussing home births with an (anti homebirth) GP at the weekend and mentioned the above story and he said that he hadn’t considered the fact problems might be picked up earlier due to the 1-2-1 care a homebirther gets.

    • says

      That’s a very good point! That was part of the reason why I chose home birth in the first place – because I would have two midwives with me rather than whoever had a chance to stick their head round the door. Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. Jamie Parker says

    While I may not agree with some of your points, I take pride in following the path of a woman who is so blissfully intelligent, well spoken and thoughtful. I think its marvelous that we each get to choose our birthing road, and that we all meet again on the other side. All that matters is your personal comfort with your decision, and why should we, your readers, feel like we get a vote? Good for you!! <3

    • says

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I fear my head will not be able to fit through the door at this rate ;) You’re bang on the money – we all choose our own path. And how lovely that we are able to make that choice in this day and age :)

  3. Makawee says

    I am also an advocate of choice and INFORMED consent. I am glad you have options to shoose. I wonder if you have considered all of them. If you lived closer to the hospital, would you still birth at home? Is the distance the only things stopping you? If so, would you consider birthing at another location closer to the hospital? I have heard of women lodging at a bed and breakfast or hotel, brining all their own clean supplies and having at it somewhere else, closer to the hospital in similar situations. Just one more option in the cards for you. Good luck and stay empowered! Thanks for sharing.

  4. says

    Birth slows down when we’re anxious. Really birth place has little relevance so long as wherever it is we feel safe, secure and in control. The fact is that the ‘in control’ bit (not of our bodies, but of decisions etc.) is far more likely to happen at home, unless you are a confident, assertive woman who is informed enough to be able to surround herself by confident, assertive birth supporters who will stand up for her in hospital.

    If you feel instinctively safer in hospital, then it’s likely your birth will progress more smoothly there.

    I had all mine at home, and *loved* having my family around me nearly immediately after birth. You know what a good home birth is like, so I don’t need to tell you that, but I know what a good home birth is like surrounded by older children, and I can tell you that it’s just wonderful. Frightening for them a little, but the presence of a confident adult that they love and trust takes care of that – someone who’ll listen to their cues etc. – and the bond that seems to be created as the family grows organically and in such a shared way is something really special. No disappearing off and returning with a baby…IYSWIM.

    Ideally, though, the most important thing is that you do what is right for you and your family.

    Hope the need for a decision comes soon! ;) x

  5. Trudy says

    While I was pregnant, I wanted a non-medicated all natural birth and became very informed about birth and was healthier than ever. I exercised, did yoga, ate very heathy (except for a little ice cream here and there lol) and gained confidence that what I wanted could become a reality. But… I also had a deep intuition that something would go wrong and require a c-section. I had a doula and after going thru my birth plan, she wondered why I wouldn’t have elected to birth in a birth center. And I explained that I just had these thoughts that I’d require a hospital and couldn’t risk it. My whole third trimester I felt horrible and my bp was getting a little high but after talking with 3 OB’s and my primary care physician, they said I had nothing to worry about. Labor day came and I felt so empowered and confident that I felt I was going to get my all natural hospital birth- until I hit 10 cm and my bp spiked. They did some blood work and found that I did have pre-eclampsia… Then had to have magnesium sulfate which left me too ill to move and stopped my labor. I ended up with a spinal and a c-section… It really was my biggest fear and hated the whole outcome. But, I survived and so did my baby, and I was able to nurse within a half hour and still am at almost a year. I do feel like I’ll be able to have a vbac next time around, but personally can’t risk not being in a hospital. Love this post!

  6. Elsabie says

    Every person has to do what is right for them. If you feel you need to go into hospital than that is what you should do. Making informed decisions is the most important thing. I am planning a homebirth with this one, but then again our hospital is only 10 minutes from here. If it was half an hour away like you, I would choose to go into hospital as well. You never know what can happen. Mother Nature has the upper hand. :)

  7. says

    Imogen, I’ve had similar thoughts lately. The placental abruption is the only emergency that truly scares me and that is with a hospital just a few miles down the road.

    Thinking about #3 has me with lots of thoughts of birthing at home and the innate risks of birth….and life itself. But, for me to choose the hospital again, I would walk into the hospital pushing simply for the doctor to catch the baby. And, then I wouldn’t have had my experienced midwife taking my blood pressure and checking the baby’s heart tones during active labor.

    When I toy with this thought in my head, I always know I’ll have subsequent children at home but I think it will be harder to trust that everything will be just fine.

    Maybe it’s the thought of leaving my children without a mama…..I’ll have to give this more thoughts.

    As always, thank you for your insightful and thoughtful posts.

    • says

      “Maybe it’s the thought of leaving my children without a mama….”

      You totally hit the nail on the head, here. This is mostly what it boils down to, for me. This, and of course the worry of the safety of the unborn child. It almost feels as though now I have had the amazing birth experience that everybody is looking for, I cant take the risk again. I took on the challenge of home birth and succeeded, and maybe now I need to take on the challenge of having an empowered birth in a hospital setting. It’s somewhat of a different story here in the UK, because the NHS isn’t a for-profit organisation (yet).

      Thanks so much for your comment. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one having these thoughts.

  8. chloe says

    Gosh, it’s all so difficult isn’t it? And yet, I don’t think it really should be. I believe women do have a strong empathetic connection with their unborn child and their own bodies and instinctively know when everything’s ok. They should be allowed to have faith in this sense and I don’t believe many doctors/hospitals are happy with the idea of that.

    My experience with my first two (1st started off at home, all natural, ended with a nightmare of epidural & forceps; 2nd home and fantastically easy!) was that the doctors in both cases treated me like an idiot (calling me young lady, as if I was a wayward schoolgirl, during labour for example). As soon as the medical profession become involved, a pregnant mother becomes another box to tick off. During the second pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and threatened with a hospital birth and even being induced, despite the fact that my “diabetes” was barely above normal readings and the baby was normal weight throughout…. I had to fight throughout to be allowed a home birth, because I KNEW everything was fine – the only thing that was stressing me out was the damn hospital visits!!

    Now I’m pregnant with no 3, unless I start to feel in any way insecure about the baby for any reason, I will not be pressured into going into hospital – to my mind, the very worst place to give birth: we’re not ill, after all! – as I say, unless there is serious doubt in my mind that things aren’t going right, I’m happy to take that risk.

    • says

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! That’s what it boils down to, at the end of the day – there are risks in birth regardless of where you do it. You just have to be informed about those risks so you can make an educated, individual decision.

  9. stephanie says

    What a thoughtful, well-articulated post. I think it is always important for people to share their process of change. I went from thinking one thing to another as well and I know there is a blog post in me yet about this! :)

  10. tara says

    I think this is a beautiful post and I agree most passionately. I researched homebirth for myself and while I believe it may be right for some it is not right for me. I’m encouraged that there aren’t negative comments here and if some do show up, just know that you have my support! Tara

  11. Anda says

    I was a med student when I gave birth and pretty close to my final exams. I had already finished my coursework in pediatrics, surgery and gynecology at that time…and from the knowledge I gained in those classes, I knew I DEFINITELY wanted to give birth in a hospital, with an NICU attached to boot….even though I was young, healthy and low-risk.

    The birth at the hospital was really mellow and nice. Husband roomed in with us. When the contractions started, we went for a walk in the park around the hospital. When the pain got too much, I got to spend some time in a hot-water bathtub, which was great. I also was induced with cytotec (kid was BIG and waiting any longer would have made birth dangerous for both of us, because she would have become too big for anything other than a c/s…she was 9 pounds at birth!). I was offered an epidural, initially declined, but when I ended us asking for one at 3 in the morning, I got one, no problem. I’d been ready to deal with the pain…but I HADN’T calculated on the utter and complete exhaustion that came with it. So with the epidural, which felt really pleasant (my lower body felt toasty warm and completely pain free ^_^) I got to nap for a few hours. Kid needed a bit of help with a suction cup, but the doc was real gentle, tugging slightly with each contraction, and it after just a few tugs, I got to hold my darling daughter, who almost instantly started suckling on my breast. They checked up on her and me (and sewed up the tearing / episiotomy…Kid’s head circumference was almost 40 cm…and I stretch…but not THAT much.) They made sure I could walk, pee and that my BP was stable and then our whole happy little family went back to our room and caught a few Zz’s. ^_^

    We also hired a midwife for after the birth and she was great. Helped us with any questions we had, from how to use a baby-sling to how to bathe our daughter properly and how to treat any breastfeeding troubles that might arise.

    Btw, here in Germany, any birth HAS to be attended by a midwife, so the Gyn docs were close, but it was the midwives at the hospital that took care of us for the most part.

  12. says

    I think every woman who feels uncomfortable with homebirth, for any reason whatsoever should have the option to birth wherever she feels most comfortable.
    I had a hospital birth with my daughter and an unassisted with my son.
    For the unassisted, I went back to Belgium and rented a house. I wanted to be close to a hospital if anything happened. I do trust birth and my body, but I also think one should not take unnecessary risks.
    Birth is natural – yes – but like with anything, there can be complications.
    I trust my body enough to birth unassisted in Africa, but I do not think that is a safe decision.

    So yes, I understand you. In some way

  13. Rose says

    I always thought a home birth could be beautiful but it is just not for me. I gave birth to my second child in a hospital and thank God I did it in the hospital! There were some complications and it took 4 professionals acting simultaneously in a split second to deal with them WHILE she was coming out of me! (Won’t go into details)

    I had a low risk, no complication pregnancy and she was my second child following a low risk, natural, perfect birth with my first. You just never know! While I do not want to tell other women how to choose and I respect a well informed choice, if my daughter grows up and wants to give birth at home, I am going to remind her how she entered the world.

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