There’s No Place like Home

How many times in our lives, have you been away traveling or even just coming home from work, where you have mumbled to yourself “there’s no place like home?

I’ve contemplated whether or not if I would write about this (or even tell people in general until after the fact) because I know how mixed the reviews are and the amount of potential backlash I might experience. But ultimately, I have done my research and consulted many people – some who are educated in the topics themselves or have experienced it themselves from a similar perspective as we will – and have decided that this is something I want to address and help remove the stigma and fear behind it.

So without further suspense… we are planning for a home birth!

I can already imagine the amount of concern, disappointment in our choice, and general misunderstanding as to why in any sane persons mind, would we ever consider this? I am not “crazy.” I am not uneducated. I am not doing this to defy the status quo.

Before we started trying to conceive (3 years ago this month, as crazy as that is!), I had told my husband I really wanted a home water birth to which he responded (pardon the cuss word) “over my dead (insert inappropriate word here that starts with F and ends with ing) body.” I knew his response was because of the lack of information he had about the topic. He had no knowledge of the benefits of home birth, or how things would work, how qualified midwives are or even how normal birth is.

There are two ways to convince someone to change their mind. 1) Throw a tantrum and hope they cave (very much not my style) or 2) educate them on the matter so they can see both perspectives clearly.

So I made it my priority to educated myself as best as I could. With the hope to slowly educated Robbie on why a home birth is just as safe as a hospital birth and why it was the best option for us. Slowly, fact by fact, I managed to educate him enough to make the switch to team home birth.

Also, random but interesting fact, only 20% of women in midwifery care plan for a home birth, in Ontario that ends up equalling out to approximately 4,000 births a year at home.1

To put it point blank – if you are a low-risk pregnancy, statistically proven, home births are just as safe as hospital births. There is no increased chance of babies perinatal or neonatal death, compared to low-risk women who intend to give birth and you are more like to have a spontaneous birth (go into labor on your own).2

In Canada, a study of 45,000 births with midwives were compared the outcome of births for both home and hospital births (for low-risk pregnancies) and the results were the exact same. The same number of babies were born healthy, regardless of the location of the birth.3

I’ll do my best to cover the topic in a general sense (and I’ll add more details later throughout my blogs for the remainder of my pregnancy) how home births work but mostly, the benefits of a home birth, and how we are preparing for it (another blog for down the line) – mentally and physically preparing for the occasion.

Part of the reason I was intentionally so upset that we didn’t originally get a midwife, was because I knew I wouldn’t get the opportunity to have a home birth. Which has been something I’ve been dreaming of for a while. With the thought of having this baby in the hospital and the possibility of our only remaining embryo possibly not implanting, I thought my opportunity at a home birth was gone.

So you can only imagine my relief that morning I got the email stating a spot in midwifery care had opened up. I finally had my chance at my dream birth.

After fighting to get pregnant, I was finally excited to just allow my body to do what it’s supposed to do – grow a baby, and birth a baby. And I have big plans on how I want that to go.

For Robbie and myself, a large part of that birth plan involves midwifery care. You can have midwives for home births, birth centers (not available in the Ottawa Valley but there is one in Ottawa and Toronto – basically provide the comfort of home without actually being at home), or hospital births. They do it all.

And yes, with a home birth that does mean that I want a natural, unmedicated birth.

Before I start into the benefits of a home birth, I want to be very clear to clarify this because I know some of you are thinking this. If (and I mean IF) anything were to deviate from the norm during a home birth, I will be transferred to hospital before there is an immediate danger or concern for myself or baby. If something serious were to come up during my pregnancy and classifying me as a high risk, I would be transferred to an OB for care, with the midwives in attendance of the birth for support (at the hospital).

Midwives are licensed (mine are Registered Midwives, regulated under the Provincial Government) and have one concern – the health and safety of both Mom and the baby. Their plan is to safely birth my baby and keep me safe, while adhering to my birth plan as best they can. But (if for any reason something goes astray – I have to say this a lot because people are going to ask what if…) they don’t care one bit if I want a home birth. It’s off to the hospital we go.

In the case that something does come up, we will transfer to hospital as soon as possible. In case of a severe emergency (also not likely), an ambulance will be called and we will be brought to the hospital as well.

Robbie and I will still have a hospital bag packed for us and the baby. I’ve been in a room on the labor and delivery floor, otherwise I would request a tour, in the off chance I ended up there. Part of life is investing in plan A, but also knowing what Plan B is too. I am fully prepared either way, for a home birth, a hospital birth, or a c-section.

At the end of the day, we will do whatever is necessary to make sure that our sweet little baby arrives safely. And if that requires deviating from our plan of a home birth, that’s what we are going to do.

Ontario Midwives are: regulated health professionals, bring medical equipment and medications to every home birth similar to those available at hospitals that provide Level 1 care and birth centers, have hospital privileges, receive regular continuing competency training to attend to births, respond to birth emergencies both in and outside of the hospital setting. They are more than qualified.4

I know home birth isn’t for everyone and that’s perfectly okay. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your choice and that you are given options to help you feel included in the conversation and choices being made, and that you and your partner are comfortable with your final decision.

So here are a few reasons as to why we are personally choosing a home birth. Some reasons may seem smaller (and possibly less significant than others) but they all contribute to the larger picture.

You Are Not Restricted:

You can move around freely. You aren’t hooked up at any point to a fetal monitor (the midwives will check the babies heart rate through doppler monitoring), blood pressure cuff, and you won’t have a saline lock already in your hand (basically an IV insert that isn’t yet connected to a drip).

You aren’t confined by any wires or machines so you can move as you please and aren’t stuck in a bed or left dragging an IV pole. In fact, moving around, whether its just walking, swaying back in forth (picture doing figure 8’s with your hips) or dancing, actually help your cervix dilate and helps bring baby into a better position to make their way down into the pelvis.

Better Positioning for You and Baby:

When giving birth on your back in a hospital setting (which is usually how it goes because your Doctor will prefer that), your pelvis opening is closed up to 30%. Meaning, you are unwillingly narrowing the exit for baby. At home, you can give birth in any position that feels most comfortable for you (most natural position to give birth that actually opens your pelvis – plus have the benefit of gravity on your side is on all fours, but squatting/ standing have very similar results).

Being upright in labour activates the benefit of gravity, increases circulation between Mama and Baby (no compression of the baby being on the Mom’s blood vessels, which lessens blood supply to baby – better stability in babies vitals), better alignment of baby in the pelvis, and your pelvic diameters are more open in an upright position.

The History of Women Birthing on Their Back:

The first recorded birth of a women laying on her back in labor was in 1663. King Louis XIV of France wanted to sit behind a curtain to witness the birth of the baby. In 1668, a treatise was published that recommended that women lay on their backs for the convenience of the physician (which is a large majority of why women still birth on their back in hospital settings).

Then in the 1800’s it was considered low-class to squat during labor and was not considered very lady-like. Then with the rise of hospital births in the mid 1900’s, laying on your back was encouraged yet again for the proper body mechanics of the Doctor.

Your Chance of Tears and Use of Interventions are Reduced:

The use of an epidural increases your chances of using a vacuum, forceps or episiotomy. In some cases, epidural or pitocin drip can slow down labor and your surges (contractions – you want strong surges as this is what helps bring baby down the birth canal), drop babies heart rate, induce a fever, etc which also increases intervention rates. Epidurals may affect your ability to push and can lead to an increase in tears.

You are far less likely statistically to tear when midwives are used, even the tears that are present, are typically more minor tears (midwives can do stitches as well, for those who may not have known).

A thorough Canadian study was done, and stated that:”Planning birth at home or in a birth centre (with midwifery care) compared with hospital is associated with a higher rate of spontaneous vaginal birth and lower rates of postpartum hemorrhage, perineal trauma (3rd and 4th degree perineal tears) and of obstetric interventions, such as caesarean section, assisted vaginal birth, episiotomy, augmentation of labour with oxytocin, epidural or spinal analgesia/anesthesia.”5

Ability to Eat and Drink, if Desired:

I know, this seems so small in the larger picture but when you think about it, labour is a very physically intense (but also very natural) thing. I doubt anyone would eat an entire meal but it’s nice to have the option to snack away.

When you think about it, you would NEVER go to the gym without eating before or after, and without drinking lots of water or electrolytes. That is just for your average 1.5 hour gym session. And we all know labor can be a longer race. If you wouldn’t do that, why would you go hours (half a day to a full day) with only a few ice chips. Food is energy, and if you feel the need to snack on something, you should be allowed to have it.

Midwives Come Fully Prepared:

The equipment midwives bring to home births and that is available in birth centres is similar to the equipment in a level I community hospital, including oxygen, neonatal resuscitation equipment, medications to treat postpartum hemorrhage and sterile instruments, to list a few. Midwives are trained to manage emergencies in all settings and undergo regular re-certification in neonatal resuscitation (NRP) and managing emergency skills (ESW, ALARM).6

More Say in What to Do:

In a traditional hospital setting for a birth, the doctor and nursing team can very much dictate what you do – even from small things like making you hold on to a birth rail above you (as opposed to holding your significant others hand or doing whatever you please), positions you lay in, also making you not push yet because the Doctor isn’t close by yet (yes that does happen!). At home, with a midwives who have a very humanitarian model of care, you have much more say and involvement in the process.

You have Unlimited Options:

You can walk, lay in bed, on the couch, labor on the toilet, in the tub, on a birthing ball, whichever feels more comfortable to you, in the moment. You can’t predict whats going to feel most natural, but its certainly appealing to have the choice to pick whats most comfortable for you in that moment.

Creating Your Own Atmosphere:

In your home you are in a safe and familiar setting. You get to establish the most relaxing environment. I plan to have essential oil diffusers going (not allowed in most hospitals as they are scent free), the lights dim (no fluorescent hospital lights shining in your face or on other aspects of your body), music playing, control over the thermostat, I won’t have doctors or nurses bargaining in and out of the room while my legs are in the stirrups for all to see. In fact, there will be no stirrups in general.

Instead the midwives will be there, silently checking on me, and monitoring myself and the baby. They are so atmosphere centered they don’t come barging in, and making their presence known. At home, you are there only client, so they can focus solely on you.

Labor is Primal:

Labor is very primal, and as advanced as we get, we will never stray from that. Animals in nature always find a safe place to give birth. You won’t ever see a bunny give birth in front of a fox. Why? Because of animal instincts – fight or flight. They are going to find a place that is safe to give birth. Adrenaline increases blood pressure, and disrupts blood flow from the uterus and baby, and directs it to the heart, lungs and major muscle groups. This explains why when something bad might occur you can literally feel your heart beating in your chest.

As a result, your body goes into protector mode. If you feel rushed, not involved in the process, have doctors around you saying “5 more minutes until we have to try _____”, having rough cervical checks done, various medical professionals coming in and out of your room that you aren’t familiar with, your body can actually reverse its dilation process or stall in order to delay the birth until you feel safe again. Animals too, when they feel threatened during birth, can slow down their labour until they feel safe again to continue.

With the midwives, by the time I give birth, I will be well acquainted with my two midwives, and have met the other two so that in case my two midwives aren’t available, it will be a familiar face as opposed to whoever happens to be the OB on call.

The Midwives have You and Baby in Mind, not Themselves:

Most doctors want things to go quickly for their benefit. Faster delivery, faster placenta delivery (they usually give you an injection in the hip right after birth to speed up placenta delivery) so they can be in and out. That’s also part of the reason why c-section rates are at an all time high (ever think about how women have been giving birth since the beginning of time but it’s only the last three or so decades that suddenly women can’t give birth naturally?). C-sections are quick, you can be in and out in less than an hour.

I am very happy for medical advancements (after all, its the only reason I am currently pregnant) and there are countless studies that prove that interventions and c-sections are necessary at times, but they are often over used in situations that they aren’t fully required.

At home, I am given the opportunity to do what my body naturally knows how to do and that is to give birth.

You Can Have Whoever you Want There:

Most hospitals only allow two people in the room – usually your significant other and one other person. In your home, you can have as little or as many people as you choose. You are in control of who is in the house and you get complete control over your birth team.

You can Wear What You Please:

Some women say the first intervention you encounter at the hospital is wearing a hospital gown. I can speak from experience when I had to wear hospital gowns for my egg retrieval and embryo transfer, I felt gross, unkept, and very not comfortable in that hospital gown.

At home, you can wear your comfiest bra, go in the nude, wear whatever you want. It’s your house, your rules. I watched one home birth video where a girl wore this tight-fitted semi-formal dress. Why? Because she said it made her feel good to look good and she felt empowered by that. Not that I would wear a dress, I’m just stating the options you would have.

Those are just a few of the reasons summed up of why a home birth is just as safe, and a completely viable option to choose to give birth.

Aside from the never-ending what-ifs, another thing that gets mentioned a lot when I’ve said we are planning a home birth is “but so many babies died when they used to give birth at home in the 1800/1900’s.” We also had higher chances of dying from the flu, having polio, etc. but those are not really of any concern now. Neonatal death was much higher, and for a variety of reasons.

Lack of hygiene (especially in the 1800’s, early 1900’s hand washing wasn’t overtly common), lack of medications or lack of access too, increase of diseases, ultrasounds weren’t commonly used until the 1970’s so there was hardly any indication if there were internal problems/ complications, maternal malnutrition, if complications arose during birth you were much farther from medical care, women with high risk pregnancies couldn’t afford to “rest” as they had a home and family to tend to etc. Times have advanced greatly, and mostly to our benefit.

A lot of the fear surrounding home births comes from the general fear from giving birth, the lack of knowledge with how qualified the midwives are, the disconnect of what their expertise extend too, a misunderstanding of how much medical equipment they bring, and this wonderful rationale that something bad is always going to happen.

Birth is natural.

It’s not a punishment, its not an illness, a disease, something to be feared, it’s not something to be endured, that our body is forced to go through. It’s a very normal, instinctual process, that brings life into this world.

BIRTH IS NORMAL.

I am not opposed to a hospital birth, interventions, c-section etc. I know that if something were to stray from the regular course of pregnancy/ labor/ birth, I know and am fully accepting that in that scenario, a hospital would be the best option for the birth of my child. And Robbie agrees.

However, if all continues to go well and I continue to have a low-risk pregnancy, it is just as safe for us to deliver at home, then it is at a hospital.

Choose a birth setting (and plan) that is best for you and your partner, something that you both agree on. If one has fears about a home birth, it might not make it feel as safe of an environment as you anticipated.

For me, even if I had the freedom of movement and choice as I would at home, but in the hospital setting, I wouldn’t be as comfortable. I wouldn’t feel comfortable squatting over a public toilet, I wouldn’t be comfortable in a hospital bed, I would feel constricted in a gown. The thought of giving birth at home and having the comfort of my own toilet and bed afterwards is literally the nicest thought in the world.

Something to remember, not all midwives are the same. Meet with your midwives, find others who have used them, ask about their experiences. Just as all Doctors are equally trained but not the same. Same as how you might find yourself going into your favourite restaurant and hoping a certain someone is there to make your order, because they always seem to make your food just right, compared to their co-workers.

Find a midwife or OB that suits you, one who understands you and your concerns. You need someone on your side, someone you can trust throughout this process.

If you are planning a natural, unmedicated or medicated birth at a hospital, I would encourage you to consider getting a midwife, hire a doula, or just educate yourself as best as you can so that you have the facts and knowledge to stick up for yourself and your beliefs when you are in labor.

Ask your friends or family what their birth experience was like so you can think hmm that doesn’t settle well with me and you can know whats coming to prepare for it. Be your own advocate. You also know your body, you know your birth plan, you know what you want, so use your voice to be heard. Tell your husband (or whoever is in the room with you) what you want and don’t want so that if you are overwhelmed, they can simply remind you, is this still what you want?

If you have questions about home birth, I have no problem answering them or adding them to my list of questions to ask my midwives. But I kindly ask you keep any opposing opinions and negative comments to yourself. This is already something we have discussed and we know we are going to pursue.

This is something we have decided to do based solely on the fact that it is just is safe as a hospital birth and the best option for us and our baby.

“When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.” ~Marie Mongan

Rebecca

To Apply for Midwives in the Ottawa Valley Region, click here:

  1. Association of Ontario Midwives. “Why Give Birth at Home.” [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/home-birth
  2. Association of Ontario Midwives. “Choice of Birth Place: Guideline for discussing Choice of Birth Place with Clients.” [Internet]. Available from: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/sites/default/files/CPG%20supplemental%20resources/Choice%20of%20birthplace.pdf
  3. Association of Onatrio Midwives. “Home Birth Safety.” [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/home-birth-safety
  4. Association of Onatrio Midwives. “Home Birth Safety.” [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/home-birth-safety
  5. Association of Ontario Midwives. “Choice of Birth Place: Guideline for discussing Choice of Birth Place with Clients.” [Internet]. Available from: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/sites/default/files/CPG%20supplemental%20resources/Choice%20of%20birthplace.pdf
  6. Association of Onatrio Midwives. “Home Birth Safety.” [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/home-birth-safety

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close