Homebirths. . . at home?

7 August 2009 at 1:00 am 5 comments

A previous poster here recently mentioned: “There’s a lot about homebirth that appeals to me, but for a few reasons […], it wasn’t a realistic option for me.” Clearly, bottom line, if a woman doesn’t want a homebirth–for whatever reason–then homebirth is not the right option for her. But I’ve heard this train of thought (homebirth = appealing but not a realistic option) voiced many times, and I have to confess I just don’t understand it. 

When I’ve asked friends (both RL and Internet) who’ve voiced this idea more about their reasoning, they tend to elaborate by saying one of the following things:

1) Home/apartment not ideal, not big enough–space too cramped, too dark, too close to neighbors. 

2) Pregnancy not going perfectly smoothly–baby too big, iron too low, blood pressure too high, etc.

3) Husband/partner/family not ideally supportive–would be too nervous at home, too concerned about noise, mess, emergencies.

Honestly, I think all three of these reasons are just the surface-level symptoms of the underlying reason–the woman herself, voicing these “reasons,” does not feel comfortable trusting herself, her body, and her midwife. I don’t mean to sound harsh here–not at all: I’d just like to strip away some of the veneer here to point out that really, if you trust yourself, your body, and your midwife, these objections to homebirth tend to disappear. 

House too small? Believe that your midwife would tell you if she really thought your apartment was impossibly unworkable for a birth. 

Pregnancy not ideal? Again, trust your midwife: midwives want good outcomes for their clients, and a good midwife will screen you out if she truly does not think you are a candidate for homebirth. But realize, really, that the percentage of women a midwife (who views birth as a natural process and who trusts your body to birth your baby) will screen out is almost certainly going to be smaller than the percentage of women an OB (who views birth as an unpredictable event that must be managed and controlled and kept from veering into disaster) will declare “high-risk.” 

Partner not supportive? Many, many partners begin the process being unenthusiastic about–even unsupportive of–homebirth, yet go along because they don’t want to contradict their wives. By the end, partners/husbands tend to be huge supporters of homebirth. And, honestly? Even if they’re not supportive, if you trust yourself and your midwife, you can still have your baby at home. 

Of these three objections, I really think the unsupportive partner is both the most common and potentially the most serious. Still, while no one would suggest a woman have a homebirth at the risk of completely destroying her relationship with the baby’s father, if you and your partner disagree so strongly on homebirth and your partner cannot support your wishes in this, then you will have major problems with other aspects of parenting once the baby is born–in the hospital or at home!

In the end, as I said above, if a woman feels for any reason at all that homebirth is not for her, then she’s right, of course–she’s the authority on herself, she has the power of choice, and if she doesn’t want it, then homebirth is not the right option for her at that time.

I just think that sometimes it’s too easy to shift the decision onto other people or external factors; I think the impulse to say, “Oh, homebirth would be great, but I can’t have one because of my apartment/partner/body” is a dangerous one because it actually removes the decision-making power from the woman herself and allows her to sit back and go with the flow. And in this day and age, in this country–in this culture with its medicalized view of pregnancy and birth–the “flow” is of course a medicalized, managed birth in a hospital.

Good luck to all, of course–have your births, at home or in the hospital, but have them on your own terms, articulate your own reasons for or against them, and have them be your decision.



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More on the Homebirth Debate First exposure to a midwife?

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jessica  |  7 August 2009 at 10:06 am

    i agree – i recently interviewed women for my thesis and many agreed with the theory of home birth but for various surface reasons didn’t do it (at least what they told me were similar with the above responses). our culture is so steeped in fear of what could go wrong and lack of systematic trust in our bodies (as women – on a cultural level not just individual) that to be faced with the reality of birthing away from medicine is frightening. we as a community have to move past that, but also to keep pushing hospitals to be more woman friendly – because home is not always safe for all women.
    to be honest i am weary of hospitals – of losing control of being treated as a powerless – and they are just not happy places. my option, pay out of pocket (you can’t put a price on this kind of care) with a wonderful midwife to birth in my cramped apartment, because all i really need for space is love and support anyway.

    • 2. christinamichaud  |  10 August 2009 at 2:58 pm

      Sounds fascinating! What was your thesis on, specifically, and in what department? I’m doing a talk as part of Boston University’s Women’s Studies Program on women’s birth stories–if you’re in the Boston area and free on the afternoon of Thursday, September 3rd, please drop by!

      • 3. Jessica Montalino  |  10 August 2009 at 4:35 pm

        It was for the women’s studies graduate certificate at umass amherst. It was on the discourse of natural birth and how this shift to mainstream has had an effect on women’s birth expectations and outcomes (in a nutshell).
        you could email me at montalino at gmail dot com if you would like more info or to connect.

  • 4. Jessica  |  10 August 2009 at 8:42 pm

    The partner issue is particularly tricky… and it is somewhat tricky to navigate respectfully. I often find that the partners concern is minimized- which doesn’t help winning them over- even if they are being stubborn, disrespectful, childish, or just ‘silly’. There are a lot of issues and sometimes it is really hard to get to the bottom of the real issues. Besides, I think that having a partner who is not truly supportive and is apprehensive in the environment is not a good idea… the assumption is that eventually the partner will be ‘won over’…. but in our case it really didn’t seem like that was going to happen and I guess I was unwilling to force the issue.
    And I found it REALLY frustrating when people told me that I should just go ahead and do what I wanted… and my husband should just ‘deal’ with it and get over it.
    I wish I knew some ways to reach people like my husband. He could actually probably spout out several reasons why homebirth is great, and he is a supporter of many shared issues/values… but for him homebirth was something that he did not feel comfortable with. I should ask him, he might have some great ideas, actually(-;
    My husband was adamant and really didn’t want to talk about the issue. It was a closed subject and after much discussion (and not so calmly on my part) it was pretty clear I could have my homebirth if I didn’t mind if he was not present. I WAS very tempted to take him up on that offer, but also really wanted hm there.
    Had I not found a great alternative I may have had to fight and find out if it would have ruined our marriage or see if he really would skip out on the birth. I had so much stress out of the whole issue that my compromise was really a wonderful blessing, too. I was able to relax and everything about my pregnancy felt healthier once I let go of all the stress the issue was causing. We truly had a beautiful birth, with a doula too, someone he was REALLY glad to have on board, he just isn’t really into birth much. I think this birth was really a wonderful experience for us and because it was a positive compromise it was very good for our relationship.
    Truthfully, I had such a wonderful experience I simply thought homebirth would be an easy ‘sell’ after it went so smoothly (and quickly) with a wonderful midwife in hospital… but brief mentions with my husband have informed me he is still just as fearful of homebirth. So if baby #3 ever comes, I’ll have another battle and tough decision to make. Once I get over the shock (we really are happy with just 2, quite overwhelmed enough, thank you).
    Now, my husbands response is maybe not ‘normal’ he has his own issues with anxiety that I really needed to be respectful of— but many partners react strongly– with fear.
    So the more we can do to reduce that fear and change the was society sees birth the more others like him will embrace homebirth- or at least embrace it with a little less drama.
    Sorry for the ramble

    • 5. christinamichaud  |  11 August 2009 at 6:44 am

      Oh my goodness, what a difficult situation! Thanks so much for sharing it–I can’t imagine what it would be like to struggle so much over a birth choice, but I am very glad you found a way to have a peaceful birth that both you and your partner were happy with!


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