There was nothing romantic about it.
I gave birth to both of my sons at home.
I'll start by telling you that choosing homebirth wasn't something I chose on a whim. I visited hospitals, birthing centers, and interviewed doctors and midwives. I knew I wanted to give birth with as few interventions as possible, in a homelike environment, and without pain medication. I also wanted to do so as safely and responsibly as possible.
The midwives who ended up attending my childbirth were medically trained and had partnerships with doctors and hospitals. I was considered low-risk, and if that changed at any point in my pregnancy, homebirth would no longer be an option. If there were an emergency during the birth, we were minutes away from a hospital for transfer.
I understand that homebirth isn't for everyone and that many women are too high risk to consider it. Women should birth where they feel most comfortable, where it's safest for them. If a woman does birth at home, she should receive top-notch care from highly trained professionals.
But now that that's out of the way, I want to tell you what it was really like to give birth at home. For me, there were some clear benefits to giving birth in the privacy of my own home. But there was nothing romantic about it.
Simply put: it was birth. There was screaming, cursing, elation, blissfulness, more cursing, blood, vomit, tears, hugs, reassurance, fear and pain. A whole lot of goddamn motherf*cking pain!
There was, "There's no way I'm going to be able to do this," and, "Oh my God, why did I ever think this was good idea?" Then, there was, "I have no choice," and, "I want to meet my baby." Finally, there was me squeezing my eyes real tight, mustering up all the energy and bravery I had ever had on earth and pushing with a power I didn't know existed.
But there was also what there wasn't: There were no beeping machines. There were no doctors and interns milling in and out of my room. There were no constant checks to see how much I was dilating. There was no heartbeat monitor strapped to my body. There were no restrictions on what I would eat or what position I could labor in or birth in.
Instead, there were frequent checks of the baby’s heartbeat by the midwife with a doppler (which never restricted my movement; I was even monitored while immersed in water). There were hands on my shoulders, reassurance given. There were reminders to drink, and a barf bucket that magically appeared when I needed it. There were notes taken, assessments done—but most of happened it without me noticing. My midwives did their work and watched me for signs of progression, but their goal was to step back, and let the birth be about me, my family—my power to birth this baby.
There was everything familiar. My bed. My shower. My own floor to pace on. My own kitchen counter to lean over and moan. My mug to drink from. My toilet to vomit in. My smells. My artwork on the wall. My decision on who could stay with me. My decision on who could touch me. My energy. My turf. My comfort.
And after the baby came, I could tuck myself into bed, nursing my little one, and not have to think about getting everyone home in the next few days. I could eat leftover lasagna, drink a warm cup of tea, and get in all the rest that those who just pushed seven-pound babies out of their bodies so desperately need.
Ultimately, what mattered most was what matters most in every birth: a healthy mom and baby at the end of it all. I was lucky to get that, as do the many women who choose to birth in more traditional ways.
For me, the way I birthed mattered. I was able to forgo pain medication partly because I was in such a comfortable, calming environment. I was given freedom to move through the contractions in any way that felt right. If I needed to be alone, I could be. If I needed to bury my head in my couch pillow and scream, I could do just that.
Yes, there's an inherent feeling of losing control when you give birth — your body is doing this crazy thing whether you like it or not. And yet, I felt like I was able to call the shots at my birth.
Giving birth at home was safe, familiar, and entirely empowering.