I might as well start this blog off with a confession of sorts. I gave birth to both of my children at home, and I liked it.
Now, having experienced pregnancy and birth and the incredibly personal, individualized experiences that they are, I cannot sit here and call myself a “home birth advocate.” I am certainly in favor of women and their partners making the best, safest, most informed decision possible when it comes to pregnancy and birth, but that may be home birth, hospital delivery, or some other option.
Of course, I do tend to get a little… annoyed… when I hear stories like the one I heard on NPR’s All Things Considered last night. The story was a report on the CDC’s findings that the trend of home births are increasing. Or rather, that they have increased. From 2004-2009, home births in the United States increased 29%.
The problem with the NPR story, as with many reporters who write and speak about home birth, is that the Home Birthers (if I may use a phrase that I find weird) end up looking like a bunch of women who are out to beat the system. They are trying desperately to avoid a C-Section or a repeat experience of a hospital birth they had previously. They interviewed a woman who is not a midwife and they interviewed two OB/GYNs. They did not interview a home birth midwife, and they failed entirely to include a list of all the various precautions that a well-trained midwife takes in the context of a home birth.
For example, when I went into labor with my daughter (who is now 2 years old), my midwife came and set up oxygen tanks, saline IVs, antibiotics, pitocin (in case of hemorrhaging), sutures, and many other pieces of medical equipment that I never even saw. My temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure were closely monitored, and the baby’s heart rate was checked every 10 to 15 minutes both during rest and during contractions. After I gave birth, I got several sutures while my husband walked around with our newborn baby and the midwife assistant did laundry. Before they left for the night, the midwives trained my husband to take care of me and the baby; he spent the next twenty four hours checking temperatures, heart rates, respiration rates, bleeding, and even urine output. Our midwife then made house calls for a week to monitor me and the baby.
Midwives are field medics. They are trained for normal birth and for emergency management. But when home births are reported in the news, so often, they make it sound as if the choice to give birth at home is risky, dangerous, and anti-medical. In fact, it is simply choosing a different medical professional to assist.