Why Give Birth at Home?

Today’s post is the third in the series: HDYDI, Choose the Right Birth Plan; click here to read about non-medicated, natural births and hospital births. When I say she’s done it all, she has. Bonnie Engstrom, blogger at A Knotted Life, is one of my virtual buddies, but that doesn’t make the friendship any less authentic. Bonnie and I first bonded over our sons’ NICU stays and the shared stink factor of that bond. Bonnie has an amazing story of sainthood and miracles, told on her blog, that I think is worth reading. Aside from her profound faith, Bonnie’s humor and honesty about life are what make me wish I lived in Illinois. Bonnie just delivered a sweet little baby, Joseph, a few weeks ago. It’s lovely to have you here, girl!

I will never forget the words that led me to homebirth. I sat on the OB/GYN’s exam table, listening to him confirm and explain my miscarriage and he told me to “chin up; think positive.” The office was highly recommended to me but as I heard his words I thought to myself, “Who says that to a grieving mother? If he thinks so little of a baby’s life I don’t want this guy anywhere near me and my womb again.”

As a way to work through my grief and anger I began devouring birthing books like Birthing From Within, Ina Mae’s Guide to Childbirth, and Baby Cather: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife. I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born and I met the wife of a coworker, a woman who had delivered her own baby at home in a planned, unassisted birth. While I didn’t agree 100% with all the new information I was learning (some of it was a little too new age-y and crunchy for me) I was very compelled by the research from respectable sources from all over the world that that showed homebirth, especially when attended by a certified midwife, to be a safe and wonderful choice. In fact, for the first time ever I saw that there are a variety of choices related to how a woman can give birth. Before my investigating I had always assumed I would have an epidural, lie on my back, and push out a baby under hospital lights. Now I saw that there were many options available to me and I began to think and pray about what was best for me and my family.

Home birth was drawing me in, though. After my experience with the ob-gyn and my miscarriage, I was especially impressed with how pro-woman, pro-baby, and pro-life homebirth supporters were. For the first time ever I saw my body as something good, capable, and magnificently created by God. As a woman who had struggled with bulimia in college and then felt like my body had failed its most important task ever – caring for my unborn baby -this new perspective brought a lot of healing to my life.

My first three babies were born at home and those experiences were wonderful, each in their own way.Me & Lydia

For other moms considering home birth I would strongly recommend both prayer and research. Don’t just look at the stats that favor home birth, either. Do some digging and talk to home birth advocates along with people who prefer traditional medicine. And pray. I truly believe that God has a plan even for things like where and how we give birth and so seek His will and peace about it. Because if something bad happens at home (which is unlikely) you’ll want to have that peace. Lastly, I don’t know if I would have done it had my husband not supported the decision. I’m pretty sure that my husband watching me suffer through labor has been one of the hardest things he’s ever done in his life and I need to respect and appreciate that. 

My fifth child was born at a hospital. My labor was still unmedicated and except for breaking a forebag of water that hadn’t emptied with the rest, it was intervention-free. Moving from home to hospital was a big but necessary move for me and my husband. I knew I needed to be in the midst of modern medicine but I still didn’t want to give up all the things I so loved about home birth. My new midwife was very supportive and arranged for my nurses to be pro-natural birth. The labor was a wonderful experience but the delivery was horrible, through no fault of the hospital or my midwife’s. As it turns out, pushing an 11lb 9.5oz baby out of your body is excruciating work. The physical pain was too much for me and while I delivered my daughter and she was healthy, the experience of feeling all that pain was scaring.

Teresa & me

For moms considering a natural birth at a hospital I would suggest finding a provider who is on the same page with you all the way. Once again, prayer and research are important – know your options and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the best choice for you and your unborn baby. I would also suggest hiring a doula – mine was a huge help. And lastly, I would say that if you think the baby is going to be bigger than 10lbs then you should labor naturally with the contractions but get pain medications for the delivery. 

My sixth child is just a few weeks old. Because sonograms predicted that he’d be about the same size as his big sister he was induced a week early, through my suggestion. Because I knew that I could not suffer through the pain of delivering a big baby again I had an epidural. Since he ended up being 11lbs 7.4oz I know I made the right decision on both of those matters. In the end I needed modern medicine to help me through and do what I could not do on my own, and while this birth was very different from my homebirths it was exactly what we needed this time around.JP

For moms wanting to go full out with medication I say go for it. But just because it’s done in a hospital doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe. There are still risks and make sure you know and understand them. And once again, along with your research, pray. 

Don’t be afraid to switch things up from birth to birth. Each baby and pregnancy are different and will need different things. I don’t think an epidural would have been a great experience for me with my first babies but I’m glad I had it for my last one! And while home birth  is no longer an option for me, I’m very grateful for the three I had.

Guest Blogger: Bonnie Engstrom, A Knotted Life
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  1. Claire on August 8, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Awesome post! I am absolutely loving this series. I mentioned yesterday my appreciation for how balanced it is, and your article is a great example of that. As someone who is discerning homeschooling, it reminds me of my favorite homeschool motto: year by year, child by child. What works for one child this year, might not work for a different child or even the same child in a different year. Love it!

  2. Pamela A. on August 8, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Great post, Bonnie! I’m a huge fan of A Knotted Life, too! I like how you emphasized how each pregnancy and birth is different – and may require different plans/approaches each time. Also, thank you for encouraging prayer and discernment throughout the process – God does indeed have a plan for each of us.

  3. Lisa Schmidt on August 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

    “Each baby and pregnancy are different and will need different things.” WORD to your mutha. I love how you approached writing this post, Bonnie, with the emphasis on prayer, research/information, and discernment. Thanks for continuing the balanced approach and sharing your great insights.

    When I delivered Jude via c-section (10-1/2 lbs), there was a woman who had labored a 15-pounder in the same hospital a day before. No meds, all natural, etc. Of course, that was THE gossip in the birthing unit and I heard all about it from the nurses. Shoot, it was the headline story on local news stations and in the paper. And for a moment, I began second-guessing my birthing decision; I began to feel “less than” because I couldn’t do what that mama did. Then one lovely nurse who could sense my growing feelings of inadequacy simply said, “Just because it worked for her doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. You’re making the right choice.” That was all I needed to hear.

  4. Why Give Birth in a Hospital? on August 8, 2013 at 9:29 am

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  6. Nicole on August 8, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Oh my word… over 11-1/2 lbs?! You must be some sort of super hero. I like this post since it really outlines that just because you did a home birth for the first, didn’t mean you couldn’t change it for other births. Congratulations on your new bundle of joy!

  7. Kendra on August 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Lovely post Bonnie! You are wise in the ways of having babies . . .

    I think ALL birth decisions are motivated somewhat by fear. Some women choose a medicated hospital birth because they are scared of pain or scared that something will go wrong with the birth and some women choose home births because they are scared of hospitals and being bossed around by nurses and the fogginess and loss of control that you get with pain meds.

    It’s not that one group is scared and the other is bold and fearless and natural, it’s that the two groups are scared of DIFFERENT THINGS.

    I’m a natural childbirth at the hospital (at the very last minute) type myself. I’d totally be a home birth gal, but the husband isn’t comfortable with it. I agree with Bonnie that both parents need to be totally on board with the home birth thing. So our compromise is that I spend a lot of time in denial about actually being in labor, then drag my feet about leaving for the hospital, then have a huge contraction and demand that we GO NOW AND WHY DIDN’T WE GO BEFORE?! Then we make it to the hospital minutes before the baby is born.

    It’s not for everyone, but it works for us!

  8. Stacy Duval Woodruff on August 8, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I highly recommend the video mentioned above, The Business of Being Born. My first child was a hospital delivery, and I had intended to go med-free with him, but it didn’t work out that way. After he was born, I watched that movie, and I fully intended to do a home birth for my next. But then, we found out we were expecting twins, and that went out the window, too. But I was planning to try for a vaginal birth again, and all was going well for that until about 8cm when my boy twin suddenly turned breech. So, they wound up being born by C-section. I think the most important part is that they arrived safely. Every pregnancy is different, and plans change. It’s great to have an idea of how you would like to do things, but always keep in mind that sticking to the “birth plan” should never come before the safety of mom and baby when circumstances change. I’ve seen too many women who are so devastated that the birth didn’t go according to plans, that they forget they made it to the finish line anyway. The whole goal of this is to have a healthy baby.

    • Claire on August 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Well said Stacy! As someone who was never able to carry a pregnancy beyond the first trimester (and was only able to conceive a couple of times), it bothers me when people lose perspective. I acknowledge the need to grieve a disappointing birth experience, and to demand respectful treatment from the medical profession. But I would hope that the disappointment and grief would eventually take a back seat to the joy over having a healthy baby.

  9. Karen on August 8, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Love this series. I am strongly considering a home birth if we have more children and all this discussion of birth is making me itch. 🙂

  10. Mary on August 9, 2013 at 6:24 am

    “I was especially impressed with how pro-woman, pro-baby, and pro-life homebirth supporters were. For the first time ever I saw my body as something good, capable, and magnificently created by God.” – YES!!! This has been a major factor in my home birth decisions as well. I love how the baby and mother are treated with the utmost respect and dignity and the process designed by God is revered.
    The more I attend hospital births as a doula, the more I am confident that I would never birth there unless I had a complication necessitating it. Especially for the newborn care. I appreciate your reminder, though, to pray and discern where one should birth because that aspect of God actually being involved and caring about the decision is often neglected.

  11. Catherine on August 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Great series, and thank you for this post, Bonnie! I can absolutely relate to your experience. I have birthed four times–freestanding birth center to hospital transfer, a homebirth, hospital birth with ob/gyn, and hospital birth with midwife. The homebirth was wonderful at the time, but for later births (one of them twins), I realized it wasn’t for every situation. Prayer is what gave us the discernment to choose the best birthing place each time. Thank you for emphasizing that. And congrats on your newborn!!

  12. Micaela @ California to Korea on August 13, 2013 at 1:25 am

    What a great series, Kathryn. I love birth stories!

    I’ve had all kinds, too: a scheduled c-section for placenta previa, an unmedicated hospital VBAC, a homebirth (accidentally unassisted! I misjudged how far along I was!), and another hospital birth for financial reasons. I think there can be beauty found in every birth, as long as a woman is made to feel empowered and supported.

    Great post!

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