Birth Right


Home birth scares me. It was a tenant of faith in the cult I grew up in, and my grandmother acted as an unlicensed midwife.  I attended dozens of births before puberty, including some with major complications. Because we were faith healers, there was no situation dangerous enough for my grandma to ever transfer the laboring woman to a hospital. 

I recognize not all home birth is like this. Certified nurse midwives have medical training and professional standards.  Many are willing to transfer in crisis. They may reject a woman with higher risks and suggest she birth with an OB.

But there are a lot of “midwives” like my grandma,  with minimal training and rigid ideologies that interfere with best outcomes.  To them, home birth is the only acceptable kind and “some babies aren’t meant for this world”.

I was born at home. I can’t say I detect any advantages it gave me. My mother and I talk a few times a month but I wouldn’t call us close. Birthing me on her living room floor alone and without pain relief didn’t give my mom any tangible benefits.  It didn’t stop me from being disabled. It didn’t prevent me from becoming an atheist and leaving the faith of my grandmother behind.

It’s not my place to tell someone else where to birth. At the same time,  I urge caution.  Find out if your prospective midwife has ever turned someone diwn for being high risk, has ever transferred to the hospital,  has ever lost a baby. Not all midwives are licensed or licensed equally.  Only certified nurse midwives have nursing training. 

If you pick home birth, remember that transfer is an option. Recognize that your baby will never remember the experience. Be willing to adjust the plan if needed. The benefits of home birth over hospital birth should be for the laboring person.  If it’s not better for mom, don’t do it. Baby will not remember.  Baby may not care.

Birth is a miracle,  but also a potentially deadly event. Hospitals are cold and clinical,  but they have machines that go ping and staff trained to use them. I’m glad I had my son in the hospital.  The labor was long and protracted and the epidural let me catch cat naps over the four days of my labor. Most wonderful of all, when I’d done my job I could press the nurse call button and someone would appear with juice as nd Percocet, and they would change the baby’s meconium diapers.

Give yourself permission to go to the hospital if it looks like it might be needed. Choose a midwife with admitting privilege or good rapport with the hospital.  Labor is hard work and some of us feel exhausted by the process.  Be gentle with yourself and your body.  Keep the goal in mind and don’t let other things get in the way. A healthy mom and baby is a happy miracle at home and in the hospital. 

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