Q. Why would someone choose to give birth at home? I understand that homebirth is as safe as hospital birth, but are there any specific benefits? A. Ask ten people who have given birth at home, and you might get ten different answers. The benefits of homebirth are as personal as the people who choose it. But I can list a few of the more commonly mentioned merits. In fact, I’ll list ten.
1. Undisturbed birth. Homebirths are usually less disrupted than hospital births. There will be fewer medical professionals observing or prodding, you don’t have to listen to strangers’ labouring sounds through the walls, you don’t have to humour medical students or meet new nurses, and you can be as private as you like. You are less likely to feel like a ‘watched pot’.
2. Having your stuff, and knowing where it all is. At home you know where everything is kept. You don’t need help finding towels, you don’t need to ask a stranger for more toilet paper, and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to pack socks or lip chap. You have access to all your usual stuff.
3. Familiar surroundings. People tend to feel less inhibited in their own homes, more comfortable being naked, or being loud, or asking for things they want. The shyness factor is eliminated, and the perceived requirement to be polite or respectful in a medical establishment is removed.
4. No weird rules. At home you can eat or drink whatever you want, whenever you want, you can wear anything, you can have a bath, you can have a nap… perhaps most significantly you can leave the premises for any reason, for any length of time, which is near impossible once you’ve checked into a hospital. There are no protocols to follow. At home, you are the master of your own domain.
5. Less boredom. Women at the hospital tend to be more aware of time passing. Maybe this is because they get checked at regular intervals, or the nurses change shifts, maybe it’s the large clock on the wall, or perhaps its because caregivers tend to mention how much time has passed. Maybe its simply because there’s nothing at all to do in the hospital room except labour, whereas at home you can really do whatever you want. But for whatever reason, people often report that labours feel shorter at home.
6. Smells, sights, and sounds. Hospitals smell like hospitals. They also look and sound like hospitals, with medicines, cleansers, beeping machines, and people in scrubs. Some people find it harder to relax in this atmosphere.
7. Avoiding the drive. Many mothers will tell you that the worst part of their labour was the dreaded drive to the hospital. It can be hard to cope with the contractions while constrained in a moving vehicle. And the drive itself can be stressful if the driver is feeling rushed (which they usually are). Truly, some mothers choose a homebirth simply to avoid that drive!
8. Your children can be there. If you have other children, you can choose to have them present at the birth if you are at home. Or not, but the choice is your own.
9. Your own bed. One of the most pleasurable moments right after the birth can be snuggling up with baby, looking into each other’s eyes, and then gently dozing off together. This is delightful and delicious in the peace, quiet, and comfort of your own home, and your own bed. It is still wonderful, but of a slightly different quality when strapped to monitors in a narrow hospital bed, in a chilly medical room: the afterglow is rarely as strong.
10. Satisfaction. Many hospital births are wonderful, pleasurable, intimate, and deeply satisfying, but almost all planned home births are. In surveys, families who give birth at home almost always rate their experience in glowing, positive terms, and recall their birth stories with intense satisfaction.
Home birth is not for everyone. It is not safe for all pregnancies, and nor is it even appealing to all mothers. But for those who like the idea, and who qualify as low-risk candidates, home birth can be a truly beautiful thing.
photos by Morag Hastings from apple blossom families