The truth about home birth
The good, the bad… and the messy of giving birth at home.
Deciding on a home birth is the easy part, relatively speaking.  I had my first child in hospital, and found it a clinical, impersonal and disempowering experience.  I didn’t realise that my “caregivers” would come and go as shifts changed during labour, I would be left to labour alone for long periods of time, and that my obstetrician would only really support the end bit, the part that required my legs to be in stirrups.  That was almost 16 years ago and hospital births, for the most part, can be quite different today.  But when I had my second child, 7 years later, I told my partner that he could agree to my home birth ideal, or drag me kicking and screaming into a labour ward.  

Varied reactions

So the decision to birth at home, once researched and supported by our doctor and midwife, was the easy part.  Sharing our choice with friends and family was not.  I have known couples who elected not to share their decision with anyone before the big day, announcing it only on their post-birth media release.  Something like, “Baby Smith was born today at 2:30am weighing 3.2kg.  Mom and daughter are doing well. Our carpets will never be the same again.”

Other couples are selective in who knows about their decision to birth at home.  Reactions vary from upsetting to quite entertaining!  Many people don’t even know that home birthing is a real and safe option; a sad indication that we’ve lost touch with what birthing is about.

In South Africa, where our average rate of Caesarean births in private practice is more than 3 times that of some first world countries, confirming your choice to birth naturally is already a surprise to many.  Sharing your home birth choice raises more than an eyebrow or two.  Some insinuate that you have actively chosen to put yourself and your child at risk, others wipe you off their social media radar, thereby protecting themselves from the trauma of coming across a photo album entitled “Our Beautiful Home Birth, Up Close and Personal”.

The freedom of home birth

The truth is birth is not a medical procedure, but a natural process that sometimes it requires medical intervention.  A home birth allows a couple to manage their environment by making it as quiet, private or public as they desire.  A relaxed state often enables a mother to birth confidently and successfully. The birthing mother can move between the comfort of her own bed and the familiarity of other favourite spaces as she chooses.  She can wear as much or as little clothing as she wants to without feeling vulnerable, and the couple can bring in siblings, friends or family if they wish to share their experience.  A home birth is carefully monitored by experienced midwives who won’t hesitate to recommend a transfer to hospital if there is any cause for concern.  

During our home birth, my mother managed to prepare a meal for an army, my 7-year-old daughter watched Finding Nemo and I enjoyed constant physical support and comfort from my partner and our midwife.  There were moments of hilarity too.  When the gas heater suddenly stopped working, my partner raced out to get a canister refill, grateful for a reason to have a break.  On returning, eager not to miss the big moment, he sped into the drive way and crashed into the back of my car.  His sheepish return in to the house was met by lots of between-contraction laughter. I was clearly high on endorphins and utterly unphased by his blunder.

When our little boy was born, his sister was one of the first to see him coming in to the world.  She looked up at me and said, “Its magical mommy”.  After a bath and comprehensive clean-up operation, we all enjoyed a home cooked meal courtesy of a proud granny, and a glass of bubbly in the family bed.

Home birth is messy, yes, so is a hospital birth.  When your midwife gives you the list of things to buy prior to the big day, don’t skimp on the plastic sheeting!  A couple that is very close to me recently experienced a perfect home birth, right up to the end when a varicose vein down below ruptured.  The lovely new mom recalls gazing calmly around her in that post-birth high thinking, “Hmmmm… this looks like an episode of CSI.” And even though they had to transfer to hospital for a blood transfusion when the placenta did not come away, the couple does not regret their home birth choice.  They are grateful for the uninterrupted labour and that allowed the birthing mom to go into her own “zone”, allowing her body to do what it had to do, naturally.

Home birthing isn’t for everyone, but it was my best birth of three.  My son, now 8, has a t-shirt that says “Home Made”, he wears it with pride.

Kim is a qualified doula and communication specialist. Single mother of 3. Walking the tightrope between teenager and toddler.

Would you consider giving birth at home?

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