When I became pregnant, like most other women, I assumed that I would give birth in a hospital. The thought of a home birth had occasionally flitted through my mind, but I didn’t know much about it and told myself that I wouldn’t with my first child.
It was about halfway through my pregnancy, as I tentatively began to seek out information about labour and birth, that my thinking began to change. A friend had recommended a book about hypnobirthing, suggesting that the philosophy behind it might resonate with me. It did, immediately, and before I’d even read the book my ideas about giving birth had begun to evolve.
I clearly remember when I knew that something in my gut was telling me to stay at home for our baby’s birth – it was when we were on holiday in Santorini last August, and I was 24 weeks pregnant. Laying on the sun lounger, allowing myself to chew the cud a little, I had a strong feeling deep within my heart that I wanted to stay at home to give birth. I had picked up a little information at that time about how most mammals seek out somewhere private, dark and quiet to give birth, and the desire grew in me to do the same.
I questioned myself over why I might opt for a hospital birth over a home birth, and the only answer which echoed back was that I would do it out of fear – fear that something might go wrong. And of course that is totally valid – birth can be a scary thing, and things can indeed go wrong. But the more I learned about it the more I was convinced that they were less likely to if I was somewhere I felt comfortable and safe – for me that place was at home.
In addition, after going through so much to conceive, who was to say we would get a chance at doing this again? That there would be a ‘next time round’? I’d love to have another baby (even more so now), but we know there’s no guarantee – and if I truly believed that this was the best decision for us and our baby, then it would be the best decision whether it was our first or any subsequent child, right?
I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to tell Alex about this gut feeling I was having. I felt quite nervous because the feeling I had was so strong, and I assumed he would have had a hospital birth in mind too – and perhaps be worried about giving birth anywhere else (as I was to begin with.) Still on holiday, as we strolled down to the seafront to find somewhere to eat that evening I practiced in my head what I would say. Over a rather disappointing vegetarian moussaka I took a deep breath and blurted out, “So…I think I want to have a home birth!” Alex is just brilliant, and by now is surely used to me sometimes making suggestions which might seem a little left of centre! He calmly said “ok, let’s talk to our midwife about it, get some facts and take it from there.” I knew that I wanted him to be fully on board; I needed him to be fully on board, as he would be my biggest support throughout the labour and birth.
Luckily, as Alex is a teacher and it was the summer holidays, he was off work for my next appointment with the midwife and we’d already planned that he would come along so he could hear Luna’s heartbeat. After learning that all was well we asked the midwife what she thought about home birth, explaining that we wanted to explore the possibility. By then I had already Googled the crap out of it of course, and was totally sold, but for Alex the positive response of the midwife was really reassuring. She asked that I speak to my consultant about it (I had been under consultant-led care for my thyroid condition), and said as long as they were happy about it then there shouldn’t be a problem!
As time passed both Alex and I only grew more and more convinced that this was absolutely the plan of action we wanted to take. We researched the statistics and felt satisfied that we knew the various swings and roundabouts! Yes, there were some slightly higher risks with first births when having a home birth, but for us the benefits outweighed these and we felt 100% confident that we would be transferred to hospital quickly should we need to be.
I had always really hoped I could have a water birth and I knew that if we went to the hospital it would be pot luck as to whether there would be a pool free – at home we could buy or hire one and have exclusive use of it as and when needed! I also hoped to have as little intervention as possible and I knew that my chances of having a natural birth were higher with a home birth.
We spoke to other parents and heard heartbreaking stories of how the dads were sent home after the birth, to an empty house, leaving their partners and new babies at the hospital. We couldn’t bear the thought of being separated so soon after such a momentous occasion and felt happy that if we had the home birth we hoped for we wouldn’t need to be apart.
I’m sure that as well as all the other advantages of staying at home, there was something somewhere deep within me that was drawn to a home birth to balance out the way our baby had been conceived. Most babies are made at home and born in the hospital – our baby had been made in a hospital in very clinical conditions, wouldn’t it be lovely for her to be born at home? I’m not sure if that really makes any sense, but on some level it did to me!
I was anxious about telling people our intentions once we had decided this is what we wanted to do, I was worried that people might be fearful on our behalf or tell us we were taking unnecessary risks, but overall we had mostly positive reactions. A common response from some people was “You’re brave!” But I didn’t see it that way – to me it seemed braver to travel in a car during labour, to go to a hospital where you would be out of your comfort zone, attended by strangers in an unknown environment. We would be at home in an environment we know and love, with our very own personal midwife – in fact, not one, but two midwives just for us and our baby.
And so we set about researching and planning our home birth, gathering the bits and bobs we would need and learning all we could about what to expect.
To hear in detail about how it went you can read my birth story in full here. In short, it was everything I had hoped it would be and more and I am SOOOO glad we opted for a home birth. I would recommend it to everyone if you have a low risk pregnancy.
- The newly published book The Homebirth Handbook: How to have your baby calmly and safely at home has been written by a British midwife and is a really good read if you are considering a home birth
- The Facebook groups Home Birth UK and Home Birth Chat Group UK are great sources of information and inspiration and a great place to ask questions to other women who have had home births and read about their experiences.
- Additionally there is loads of information out there on the internet about home birth, you can read the stats yourself and find out how to go about planning it if you decide it’s for you. A good place to start is the NHS and NCT websites.
- If you decide it’s for you read my other post about how to prepare for your home birth here.
- Speak to your midwife or healthcare professional about it and get their advice.