How To Have A Home Birth Versus A Hospital Birth


I feel that it is appropriate for my first blog entry to be about the birth of my baby.  After all, this is a blog about how to take care of a baby.  Now even though this is my fourth child, I was able to have a new experience.  I decided to try a home birth this time.  I know this makes some people cringe or wonder, “Why the hell would anyone want to do that?”.  Trust me, I have heard it all.  My family and friends all told me their opinions.  But in the end, this is my baby and my body and I had always wanted this experience.  Plus, my husband was completely supportive which definitely helped.

I suppose I should start with my hospital experiences with my first three children.  I want to start by saying that my hospital experiences did not influence my choice to have a home birth at all.  I am lucky enough to live within driving distance to a Baby Friendly hospital.  If you have never heard of that, it basically is a hospital that is very accommodating to mothers who plan to breastfeed, bond skin-to skin and have an overall natural experience.  The infants room-in with their mothers and most examinations and procedures are completed in the room.  It basically allows mothers and infants to bond as much as possible.  The hospital and obstetrics practice I chose also was very supportive of a natural experience.  Now this does not mean that they do not allow epidurals or formula feeding.  They were very supportive of the type of experience that each mother wants.  I chose them because I wanted a natural, unmedicated labor, no IV, no Pitocin, and to have a water birth.  There is actually a hospital that is 10 minutes away from where I live.  But I chose the hospital and practice that was 30 minutes away.  It’s all a very personal choice of where you feel the most comfortable and that’s what I wanted.  So, I took Bradley birth classes while I was pregnant to practice techniques to help me successfully have a natural birth.  Again, most of the people that I knew thought I was crazy to want to have a natural birth.  I have nothing against women who choose to be medicated.  Again, it is a personal choice and I wanted to at least go into it planning to do it au natural.  Now I want to add that I am not one that deals with pain well.  But, I am happy to say that I was able to have my natural experience.  

I went into labor at 12:49 am at 37 ½ weeks pregnant.  As a first time mom, I had no idea what to expect as far as what contractions felt like or how long I would be in labor.  I had heard that you usually follow your mother’s experience.  Well she was in labor with me for like 15 hours so I had thought the same would happen with me.  But, when the contractions started, they were pretty intense and started getting closer very fast.  I thought to myself, “How am I going to deal with this pain for 15 hours?!”.  I arrived at the hospital at 3:45 am.   My contractions were 2-3 minutes apart on the long 30 minute ride to the hospital.  I did not realize that I had gone through the transition period in the car.  The nurses showed my husband and I  to the room and told me to change into a hospital gown.  While I was in the bathroom changing, I felt the weirdest feeling of the baby pushing herself down the birth canal.  I yelled out to my husband who yelled out to the nurse.  She came in and tried to calm me down, probably thinking I was a first time mom who had only been in labor for 3 hours and was overreacting.  She said she wanted to give me an internal exam to check how far labor was.  She started to check me and was very surprised to see that the baby was crowning.  I had also started feeling an urge to push.  However, the nurse informed me that the midwife from the practice had not arrived yet and I should try to breathe through the contractions.  I thought to myself, “Is she nuts?!”.  But luckily, the midwife walked into the room a few minutes later.   She told me I could start pushing.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  I had thought I would be in labor all day and there I was, pushing my baby out after 3 ½ hours.  With five pushes my daughter came into the world at 4:33 am.  I was able to pull her out myself and she went right on my chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact.  My husband put his hand on her as soon as she was on my chest to also have skin-to-skin contact.  She was here and she was perfect.  Even though she was 2 ½ weeks early, she was perfectly healthy.  My husband cut the umbilical cord after it had stopped pulsating.  She stayed on my chest through their initial exam, the delivery of the placenta, stitched from a small tear, the erythromycin eye ointment, and the Vitamin K injection.  I put her to my breast and she immediately latched.  I was able to bond with her for over an hour without interruption.  They asked if I was okay to let them weigh and measure her at that time.  After that, my husband was able to help give her first bath.  I had a wonderful first birth experience.  The rest of the hospital experience was great as well.  They checked the baby and I minimally to allow us to have time with visitors and to rest.  The wonderful lactation consultant helped me the next morning.  The baby and I were both doing well the next day and we were able to go home.  Even though the staff and hospital were great, I wanted to be home.  Overall, I loved my hospital experience and didn’t have any thoughts to the contrary about subsequent deliveries.  My second and third children were both born there and they were equally great experiences.  

I should mention that my third labor and delivery did have a partial influence to my choice of a home birth with my fourth child.  She was born after 2 hours and 14 minutes.  I know most people hate me now (I know that my sister does).  I am very lucky and I want to add that most women do not get to have such quick labors.  I guess that it is my talent.  Anyway, she almost came out in the car because everything went so fast.  I also had a postpartum hemorrhage because my uterus slowed the contractions after she was born.  I was lucky to be able to treat it naturally with just breastfeeding the baby and did not need Pitocin or blood transfusions.  So when found out that I was pregnant with my fourth child, I thought about this experience.  For one thing, this may be my last child.  I had thought about a home birth with my first but was too nervous of the unknown.  I decided to meet with a midwife group who exclusively did home births to help me decide.  I was actually able to find the midwife who delivered my first two children.  She had changed to only home births right before I became pregnant with my third child.  I loved this practice and they thought that I was an excellent candidate for a home birth due to my low risk and history of fast labors.  My husband and I discussed it and decided to go for it.

Throughout my pregnancy, I still had the same amount of appointments, same tests, etc. as I would have had if I was having a hospital birth.  The difference was that instead of being in and out of  the office in 15 minutes, the appointments were 45 minutes to an hour.  The midwives really took the time to get to know me and asked a lot of questions.  When my due date was about a month away, they did a home visit to get to know the route and the layout of my home.  We discussed my birthing preferences and things that were important to me.  One main difference was that instead of packing a suitcase for the hospital and just grabbing it and going, we needed to purchase supplies for our home.  In a hospital, everything is already there.  But for a home birth, you need a birth kit and household supplies.  This included disposable underpads, gauze, gloves, maternity pads, disposable underwear, tape measures, a placenta basin, etc.  We also needed towels, baby blankets, washcloths, etc.  I wanted a water birth which meant we needed even more supplies, including renting a birthing pool.  You may have read earlier that I planned to have a water birth with my first.  However, she came so fast that I wasn’t able to.  So I planned to with my second and third, and, same thing.  This time, I was determined.  The midwives knew that this was one of the number one experiences that I wanted and they were prepared to help me have it.  However, I was not allowed, for safety reasons, to deliver the baby in the pool if the midwives hadn’t arrived yet.  So, due to this and my fast labors, they told me to call them after the first contraction so this could be possible.  

I went to my scheduled prenatal appointment at 38 weeks 6 days.  I was carrying very low and starting to notice that my mucus plug was starting to come out.  I had not had an internal exam yet so I decided that I wanted one while I was there.  I was 2 centimeters dilated and 70% effaced, which I always was at this point with my other pregnancies.  I went home and had lunch and my children took a nap.  My husband was working from home that day so he was helping me with the kids.  The kids woke up from their nap and started playing.  At 2:55 pm, my contractions started.  We called the midwives to let them know and we called my mother to pick up the kids.  My husband, then, had to get to work.  He set-up tarps on the floor and inflated the pool.  The midwife arrived with a birth assistant at about 4:30 pm and my husband filled the pool with water.  My contractions were very irregular and were anywhere from 6 minutes apart to 12 minutes.  I thought that this might me my long labor.  But, I was so happy to not have to go anywhere.  I just relaxed on my couch.  The other midwife arrived shortly after.  They brought emergency equipment and all of the sharps (clamps, scissors, stitches, etc.).  They began preparing their equipment and helped my husband with all of the supplies.  They suggested that I use the bathroom and then get in the pool.  Well, that’s all it took to set things in motion.  The 50 foot walk to the bathroom made my contractions go to 3 minutes apart.  I got in the pool and all I could think was how I was actually going to get my water birth.  It kind of scared the crap out of me because it was a new experience and if anything went wrong, we weren’t at the hospital.  But I stayed calm.  After about 30 minutes of feeling very relaxed (in between contractions) in the pool, I felt the urge to push.  Two pushes later, at 5:53 pm, my fourth baby came out in the water like I had wanted for so long.  I lifted her out of the water and she immediately took a breath and cried.  She was perfect and healthy.  It may have been a coincidence or it could have been the low stress of being at home.  But, this was my easiest labor and delivery.  I took a few minutes to collect myself and then stepped out of the pool and laid down on my covered futon.  I delivered the placenta and relaxed, snuggling with my baby.  I had some excess bleeding, but again, I was able to breastfeed the baby and it slowed down.  There was no hemorrhage and my blood loss was at a normal amount.  The midwives stayed with us for three more hours, monitoring the baby and I, helping me upstairs to take a shower, and helping clean everything up.  When they left, there was no evidence that a birth had just taken place there.  I was so happy that I was able to have this wonderful experience.  

I have had four babies and all four births were a little bit different.  However, I was very happy at the hospital with my first three and at home with my fourth.  I was able to have everything that I wanted between them all.  The ease of just going to the hospital and the comfort of being at home.  Both had parts that I really liked and both were wonderful.  I would say to people that are considering both options that you need to decide what is best for you.  It is all about your comfort level.  Wherever you feel the least amount of stress is the right place for you.  

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