Our primary midwife has just asked whether Joel and I would speak at an upcoming home birth information session. Because this request also coincides with Finn turning 6 months, I’m poignantly mindful of his birth — mostly just to wonder how I arrived at this stage so quickly! The decision to birth at home was one of the earlier decisions we made after learning we were pregnant — the first, of course, was to shout for joy before Joel began making plans to renovate the basement. We’d need a new guest bedroom to house the helpful in-laws, right?
As it turned out, that newly renovated basement made for an ideal birthing space. Knowing I’d be labouring in sunny July, I looked forward to the darkened space the basement would provide. We imagined that we could easily prep the bed for birth and use the nearby bathroom to fill the birth tub (which is currently on sale for a steal at midwiferysupplies.ca) which sat just outside both spaces. Once the baby arrived we could go upstairs to the clean master bedroom away from the business of the birthing space. Or at least that was the plan.
Opting for midwife care was a quick decision for us. Joel is THE question guy and we liked the idea of midwives as resources throughout pregnancy, but also for postnatal care up to six weeks (or longer if required). Midwives would even come to our home in those early days after birth — which I learned was invaluable as we became accustomed to life with our new baby. Our relationship with the midwives quickly became comfortable and reassuring.
We arrived at a decision to prepare for home-birth after many long conversations with our midwives. Here are some great resources we also looked at in making our decision:
Ultimately, we made the decision to birth at home for a few reasons. A year earlier I had witnessed the birth of my sister’s second child, Chael, at home. He was born in a birthing tub in the same family homestead – in fact the same room – his great grandfather John was born in. This was a very powerful experience for me, and motivated me to consider a similar birth for myself.
Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Birth Story were very influential for us. From those resources we learned that a woman’s emotional and mental state affected the body’s ability to loosen and do it’s work during labour. Knowing that I can become anxious easily, we knew I would labour at my best in a comfortable, safe and stress-free environment: our home!
Another goal was to have a natural birth, free of interventions. Were we to labour at the hospital with the lures of an epidural, I just might have been tempted. Another plus to home-birth is that the baby can immediately be introduced to the bacteria flora local to the family dwelling rather than potentially picking up pathogens from the hospital. Not to mention, what better way to revel in the joy of your baby’s arrival than in your very own bed?
Our midwife also did away with our fears about the kind of care we would receive, which we could later spell off to concerned family members. Midwives attend birth at a residence with the same tools available to a level one hospital. They come equipped with oxygen for mama and baby, IVs for Mom if she becomes dehydrated (which I needed while labouring), sterile gloves, gauze pads, etc., necessary fetal monitoring devices and suturing items. Best of all, midwives come prepared with a variety of positions and techniques beyond laying on a bed on your back to aid in labour.
Despite our best intentions and carefully laid plans, Finn was not born at home. We laboured at home, but required a transfer of care in the end. Our midwives joined us at the hospital (two attend the birth during active labour) and continued to support and advocate for me despite the transfer in care to an Obstetrician – to whom we are forever grateful for her role in bringing Finn into the world.
Comfortably welcoming your baby at home isn’t for everyone, but women with low-risk pregnancies it is an alternative that shouldn’t be so quickly discarded. We certainly will try again to birth at home for our next child.