Last month, I was at a doctor’s appointment and as the nurse was taking my vitals, she casually asked where I gave birth to my son. I think she had assumed I would name one of the local hospitals, maybe even a birth center, but when I responded “at home”, she got a bit awkward then quickly told me how her friend’s neighbor’s friend (or something like that) had a baby at home because they didn’t believe in hospitals. I smiled and stopped myself as I was about to launch into detail why we chose a home birth (because we didn’t have time for that lengthy conversation, nor did I think I needed to defend my choices) and instead just thought to myself no, it does not mean “we don’t believe in hospitals.”
Let me start off by telling you that if you want the research and the history behind how birth has been treated in the US, then get the popcorn ready, pour yourself a glass of wine (if you aren’t currently pregnant) and watch The Business of Being Born on Netflix.
Once I found out I was pregnant, my husband and I watched the documentary I just mentioned. That pretty much solidified my decision that I did not want to have my baby in a hospital setting, even though having a baby in a hospital was what I had assumed I would do for my whole life. I mean, that’s what everyone does on TV shows and movies… However, there was more to this decision for me and knowing there were other options available was a game changer.
You see, in my personal experience, hospitals = brain tumor. After three brain tumors and three brain surgeries, you can see the connection. So, if surgeons need to cut open my head to remove a tumor, by all means, check me into all the hospitals. But, for a natural phenomenon that women have powered through for thousands of years, and that is bringing life into this world, a hospital environment is just not for me (unless of course my baby’s life or my own is in danger, and we need to medical personnel and equipment at the hospital).
So, while I knew I did not want to have my baby in the hospital, I still played the “What if…” game in my mind. “What if there is a medical emergency?”, “What if the baby is in danger?”, “What if I need an emergency C section?” One of the local hospitals had just opened their own birth center where you could have the experience of a pro-unmedicated birth, non-hospital environment but you were in a building CONNECTED to the hospital if there was an emergency. This sounded like the best of both worlds so it was the route we took for the first 25 weeks or so. Then I got food poisoning over a weekend that involved multiple trips to urgent care and when I wanted to speak to the midwives at the hospital I had been going to, I was told a nurse would get back to me in 24 hours and I ended up having to schedule an appointment to come in (while I still had food poisoning) just to have a two minute conversation with one of the 15+ midwives in the practice. This didn’t feel right to me, and when the other mamas to be in a pregnancy class I was taking were talking about texting their midwives when questions came up and getting immediate responses, I knew I was not getting the care I had hoped for. I then started to question whether the hospital birth center and hospital midwifery practice was the way I wanted to go.
After a bit of research, I found a birth center with 3 midwives across the street from one of the local hospitals. So, if I did need to transfer to the hospital, I could be there in minutes. That sounded like a good option so I went to meet with one of these 3 midwives and WHOA. It was like night and day to my experience thus far. I walked out of that initial appointment (that lasted about 90 minutes) feeling genuinely cared about and I knew that I would be well taken care of by these midwives. At that point, my husband and I decided that the independent birth center was where we would have our baby.
Now, I am going to pause here and backtrack a little. Before even finding out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to try to have an unmedicated birth. Long story short, my husband and I make a lot of choices to minimize the likelihood of a brain tumor recurring. This involves being conscientious of what we put in our bodies, so that my body is the least hospitable environment possible for tumor growth. So it just did not make sense that I am so focused on making sure that a minimal amount of processed junk, chemical ridden stuff, unnecessary medications, etc. goes into my body, but to be ok with medications for labor, especially when plenty of women before me have had successful, unmedicated births. (Again this was my why and no matter how a mama brought her baby into this world, epidural, C-section, etc, she is incredibly strong!)
To further solidify my decision to have an unmedicated birth, I found out at about 30 weeks that because of the tumor I have in my sacrum (it’s small, unchanging, and does not cause symptoms), an epidural was out of the question for me because puncturing the lining of my spinal column could cause a change in my spinal fluid and then could cause the tumor to shift. So, even if I had wanted an epidural, it was not an option for me. Which was all the more reason that I needed the most conducive environment possible to an unmedicated birth.
Ok, back to being about 36 weeks pregnant, planning to have our baby at the independent birth center, unmedicated. Because of changes in insurance, deductibles, coverage, blah blah blah, we found out that what we thought was going to cost $800 out of pocket to have a baby at the birth center was going to be $4,000. Well, that was an unwelcomed surprise, but it led us to entertain the idea of a home birth (because we thought it would cost less out of pocket). After talking with my midwives, and some other mamas I know that have had home births, I realized that the idea of laboring at home, not having to get in the car and drive 30 minutes to the birth center, being able to have our two dogs stay at home during the whole labor and birth, being able to get into my own bed with my baby right after birth- that all sounded pretty fantastic. I had the utmost confidence in my midwives, and I had a pretty awesome birth team (my husband, doula, midwife, student midwife, and birth assistant). It was then decided that we were going to go ahead with planning a home birth! And the window for an acceptable homebirth is about 37-42 weeks, he could be here any day, which meant I needed to get my ish together…
Pretty soon, I will be posting my birth story so you can find out when our baby boy arrived, and how a home birth went for me. Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading about how I ended up deciding on an unmedicated, home birth.
Again, there are many different ways and places that mamas bring their babies into this world, and no matter what, they are all strong, incredible women, and no one way is “better” than the other. This was just MY thinking and reasoning.