Maybe home birth isn’t so crazy

When I told people this weekend that we were going to a home birth group discussion around the theme of attitudes to pain, they looked at Laurence as if feeling for his pain.

Truthfully, neither of us was sure what to expect. The idea of home birth is not an alien concept to me. My mother had my brother and me at home and I suppose I kind of always thought that I’d have my babies at home some day.

But since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve only met women with hospital births and so I was intrigued to meet others who wanted to do it or had done it at home. I’d begun to feel like they were the stuff of myth.

Looking around a room of, perhaps, fifteen couples, it felt like what we’re trying to achieve isn’t so ‘out there’ or as one friend suggested, frankly, crazy.

We’d joked beforehand that it was probably going to be a lot of hippies. Though I immediately looked down at my shalwar pants and had to admit that we sort of fit that bill anyway. A home birth on the cards and a room full of ‘real’ nappies? We’re those parents-to-be.

Actually, there was a lot of talk about meditating on labyrinths and quite memorably, one guy suggested that birth sounded like the biggest ‘trip’. But couples ranged in age, dress, number of children and stage of pregnancy. A summary of the room would admit that thinking about home birth seems to be for everyone.

The night kicked off with a birth story from a couple who’d recently had their baby at home (the current popularity of the name Bella astounds me – it’s pretty though). Their little girl kept staring about and I couldn’t help but wonder if everyone was looking at her and thinking the same thing I was: “We’re going to have one of those.”

During the break, Laurence and I caught up with each other’s thoughts. I’d been worried he was bored and wondering why we’d come but he was bursting with things we needed to get ready for the baby. His excitement was palpable. It was as if everything had suddenly become real and he’d realised that when I said we only have 12 weeks left, it actually wasn’t very much time at all.

In the next segment we broke up into two groups: one for pregnant women to discuss ideas for dealing with the pain and another for our partners to think about how they might support us. I’ve put a photograph of the lists we came up so you can get the gist of the conversation.

I’m still working out how I feel about all the different options. Some feel quite obvious to me – I will be hitting the bath a fair bit, I’d imagine. Visualisation on the other hand just wouldn’t work for me. It’s just not how my brain is wired.

But then each of us had something of an epiphany when our respective groups were asked to think about how we’ve always dealt with pain or tried to relax. When we talked about it afterwards, it was astounding how similar our thoughts were.

As Christians, our instinct is prayer. Why shouldn’t we aim to make our birth a spiritual – even worshipful – experience? It suddenly all clicked for us. While I’m not about to stick Tim Hughes on iTunes, mantras will be helpful, especially if they come from the Psalms.

I think the important thing to take from all this is to recognise that everyone’s got to make the birth experience their own. For us, that’s just opened a world of possibilities.

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  • I think giving birth should be completely, 100% the mother’s choice. She shouldn’t be made to feel bad, guilty, stupid, weird or anything negative if she wants to give birth at home. However, in some cases, there will be complications which means home birth isn’t an option. It wasn’t with me because I’m epileptic and at risk of seizures when I’m over tired and stressed!

    You enjoy the experience. After carrying for 9 months you deserve to at least remember those special moments.

    CJ xx

    • I agree a woman should have the freedom to choose, as far as she can. I’m so glad that it’s really easy to opt for home birth in Bristol. I’m sorry you didn’t have that option. So far I’m in good health and am an ideal candidate but I’m very open to the reality that we can’t control everything and I’m trying not to set my heart so firmly on a home birth that I’ll be crushed if I do end up in hospital. I imagine you must have an interesting birth story. Is it up on your blog? I’ll go hunting…

  • I’m sure there must be a home birth group on BMB which would have lots of information and insights.

    One of my memories of my first birth is my husband reading to me from the psalms while I lay on the bed, waiting for the next contraction. (I was at home at the time, but of course you could also do that in hospital.)

    • I’ll look around for the group. 🙂

      Yes, of course, almost everything on these lists could be done either home or in hospital. But the emphasis on find creative ways to deal with pain gathers strength when you know an epidural is not an option! Sounds like your husband was involved in a lovely way.

  • I agree, I think you have to go with what feels right for you, whether that is home birthing or hospital, pain relief or none, visualisation, chanting or watching a DVD! But also be prepared in your mind to go freestyle – go on a different journey to the one you may plan, and as long as the outcome is a happy, if crying, one, how you reach the destination won’t be important anymore once you’re there. Wishing you lots of luck and positive vibes and blessings xx

    • Yes, someone was suggesting watching comedy but I’m not sure whether I’ll feel weird about watching TV while in labour. I don’t know why but it might feel like I was wasting time somehow? (My husband’s already told me that’s ridiculous) I think you’re right about the freestyling…one mustn’t overthink these things!

  • All the while I was pregnant, I seriously only wanted to be mid-wife led and have a home birth (which I think must have freaked DH out somewhat), I ended up being induced 3-4 weeks early, (pre-eclampsia), and ended up with a C-section (almost but not quite emergency), and complications post-delivery.
    I think, have your ideal birth plan and try to go for it, if possible, but don’t let medical intervention (if it happens) keep you from enjoying and appreciating the truly amazing experience of meeting your little one, in person for the first time.
    I wish you all the very best!

    • Certainly. We’ve got to be open to things beyond our control. The most important thing is our baby’s safety, whatever that’s going to mean in terms of medical intervention and so on. But we’ve got to make plans and, like you, we’re trying to make sure they’re not over-medicalised to begin with. Funny about your husband getting freaked out about it at first. When I first mentioned it, I think Laurence was thinking “What?!” but we talked about it and he soon came around. Now he can defend the decision with the best of them. The power of feminity. 😛

      • I am qualified to teach pregnancy yoga so I was “meant” to deliver naturally and that had been my dream. Eventually decided on a water birth in a birth centre rather than a homebirth….
        They were always trying to put me off as I was “large for dates”… Aaron was born 9 lbs 10 oz with a head @ 42 cms!
        Anyway despite being late 30s I had NO contraindications and a perfect pregnancy BUT when I went in (to the birth centre) they said I had protein in urine (NEVER had before) and swollen feet (they’d come out of nowhere) and high blood pressue (never had before) so because they feared pre eclampsia I was “sent” to Labour Ward… they started intervening as if I had PE, but when the blood tests came back, a few hrs later, I did not….
        Anyway, I survived 18 hrs on gas & air, and eventually pethadine, but despite being drip induced, and 9cm dilated, his big head was not descending, so ended up having a full spinal block and a C section.
        I was so pro natural birth and know all the tips and tricks but it wasn’t to be.
        Please get that book IT IS AWESOME

        • Sorry you had such a rough time and didn’t get to have the birth you’d wanted but now you have your beautiful little boy! I think it’s another reminder that we need to just be aware that life has other plans even when we make our own. But yes, I’ll get my hands on that book. x

  • I’ve had two homebirths and would say go for it to anyone BUT more importantly than where is taking charge of your own birth experience, educating yourself and empowering yourself

    I’ve met so many women who meekly did as they were told and, inevitably, ended up with birth experiences that spiralled into a cascade of interventions – you don’t have to do what you are told, you can challenge and question

    • Wow, fantastic hearing from someone whom it’s actually happened for! I’ll have to head over to your blog to see if you’ve written about it. I think you’re right about the need to educate yourself and we’re learning so much in preparation for this. My husband and I are basically amassing a chapter of knowledge which might as well be entitled “Challenge everything”.

      • I actually started my blog to put over the view that not all homebirthers are selfish hippies! If you go back two years there are several posts about the birth of my first and then 18 months ago about the birth of our second

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