• Mon, Dec 23 - 11:00 am ET

Anonymous Mom: I Had One Baby At Home. And I’m TERRIFIED To Do It Again

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In high school, one of my basketball coaches had a homebirth. That planted the seed in my mind and I came to think of homebirth as something strong women do. Then I married a man whose mother was a midwife and many of my beliefs were fortified. I did my own research years before getting pregnant and I decided that homebirth was the best option for me.

I believed in homebirth scientifically. To this day I read the data to say that a homebirth is safer than a hospital birth for most low-risk women. I believed in homebirth spiritually and emotionally as well. I wanted my baby welcomed into the comfort of my home. The pros and cons went on from there. There really wasn’t a decision to be made­— homebirth was the clear winner— and my son arrived on my bed on May 15, 2012.

During my first pregnancy, people would ask me, “Why do you want a homebirth?” With conviction in my heart I would answer that in hospitals things are done for many reasons: economics, fear of litigation, protocol, and what’s actually best for the mother and baby is unfortunately pretty far down on the list. I’m currently six months pregnant with my second child and someone recently asked me the same question. The best answer I could muster was, “I guess I’m crazy.” I no longer know if I’m doing the right thing.

If the answer were clear I wouldn’t be up writing right now; I wouldn’t have been up crying last night. I am torn apart. I feel that a homebirth is what’s best for my baby but I don’t think it’s what’s best for me anymore, emotionally. I don’t think I can handle it. I don’t think I’m brave enough to do it again now that I know first hand what it’s like. I know I could push through the pain but I can’t help asking myself, “At what cost?” What kind of wreck will I be on the other side?

I never thought homebirth was the answer for everyone, but I thought it was right for me in large part because of how unappealing I find the alternatives in my part of the country. I have studied labor enough to understand the delicate interplay of hormones and chemicals in the body. Once we start blocking pain the perfect orchestra of actions and reactions is interrupted, replaced with something artificial, something that can cause more harm than good. Then the “cascade of interventions” is set off and we are left doped and cut while our baby is taken away and cared for by strangers.

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  • NYCNanny

    There are so many different types of births….and birthing locations. How about something in between a home birth and a hospital?…Like a birthing center? These tend to be quieter and more peaceful than hospitals, yet still have the emergency care (if needed) and whatever else you should feel you need.

    • Wowza!

      Are you on drugs? I’ve read all your comments (8+ comments/rebuttals) and they are all over the place! This poor AM should avoid your comments as you do not seem reliable, honest, or sane. This comment takes the cake as its the only one that is at all decent! Not sure i would believe anything you say (even with all your MD friends). Goodness.

  • NYCNanny

    OF COURSE Mommyish published this article…they love it. A used-to-be liberal mom changes her mind and becomes mainstream. Ha.

  • Chloë Ysabel Martin

    hello. I wanted a homebirth for my baby, I had my mind set on it. I labored at home for a day and a night bfore I finally went to a hospital and got an epidural. I don’t know what the protocol is where you live, but I had found a hospital in advance that would let me be cared for by my midwives instead of my care being transferred to a doctor. sometimes I wish that I could have been strong enough to stay at home and go without medicine, but honestly it was perfectly fine. all my wishes were respected and there were no complications. a hospital birth is not the worst thing you could do to your baby :)

  • ff

    If its stressing you out to have a home birth, you are losing the major advantages. I had an epi (unplanned) with my daughter, and thought I would like one with my son, but wasn’t able to get any drugs. It was traumatic. I’m not proud of it because it wasn’t best for me or our son. I had slower recovery, tore horribly trying to just get him out and told them to get him away from me. Neither affected my ability to breastfeed (got the both eating asap.) But it actually took longer for my son to get to the boob. We were able to room in, and I had the option of a nurse midwife. Look into your hospital and their restrictions as well as your local obs practices and policies. You may be surprised. Also vitamin k/ certain procedures is a legal requirement in some states, so be careful and check if it is you could lose your child for refusing. Any midwife who tells you to break the law is not trustworthy. Change midwives at least.

  • Jessica

    Holy Christ. A few comments I’ve heard on this subject before:

    1) There’s no prize for giving birth naturally. Thus, if you need intervention, you aren’t “failing” or “losing.”
    2) In a comment thread for a similar discussion, I saw a woman outraged at the whole debate. She had been born in a developing country and had seen women die in childbirth for want of appropriate medical intervention- she couldn’t get her head around the idea that some people in the USA thought it was “superior” to give birth without doctors, or looked down on those who went to hospitals. Not saying her POV was 100% right either, but it’s food for thought that through much of history and even today in much of the world, women have and do die during “natural” childbirth because they didn’t/don’t have the option of seeing a doctor or getting to a hospital. The natural process goes right more often than it goes wrong, but it’s not, and never has been, for everyone. The difference is, now you can choose intervention. 150 years ago, you’d just die.
    3) It’s not the 1950s anymore. Hospitals don’t just strap screaming women down and run the show, with the menfolk pacing outside. You will get a say in what happens when you’re in labour. You can choose whether or not you want painkillers, for example. And that baby will be yours, and bond with you, whether or not they get a freaking vitamin shot after birth.

    • whiteroses

      This. Personally, I don’t get home births and I’d never do it myself. But what I resent is other people pressuring a woman about “the right way” to undergo a medical procedure where a crapton can still go wrong. When it comes to a procedure that could kill me or someone else, I’m going to read up on the science, speak to doctors I trust, and move on from there.

      My son is 18 months old. Nobody asks me if he was born “naturally” at this point, mostly because after he was five months old nobody seemed to care. There are no prizes for suffering through an extremely painful childbirth.

      OP, sounds to me like you are deathly afraid of a home birth. That’s reason enough, in my view, to find other options.

  • Lexie

    I did it both ways. 1st time at birthing center with midwife, 2nd time at hospital ( with a midwife). Your description of giving birth at a hospital is very accurate. It all comes down to what is right for you at your birthing time. Both are right, both have cons. Do what is best for you- even if you decide half way through- it will be the right decision.

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  • OBPI Mama

    Oh, Anonymous Mom, I can only tell you my experience. I had a homebirth with my first. It was traumatic and ended with an almost dead, lifelong injured baby (thank God for miracles) and injury to me (3 years to feel normal at all times again). Severe shoulder dystocia. I felt so duped by those who said, “Natural is better”… natural disasters don’t discriminate between those who trust it and those who don’t and nature doesn’t always mean wonderful… Anyway, I was so SCARED of hospitals and all the things you listed, but I couldn’t have another homebirth again either because of risk. Well, fast forward 3 more babies… I’ve given birth at a hospital for the last 3 kids… and it’s NOTHING like what I read in Natural Childbirth books! NOTHING like it! I have to drive over an hour to get to the hospital I love and the doctor I trust and respect… but I haven’t been let down. Compassionate, caring staff await me… staff that can treat me and treat my baby (my old midwife had to neglect me to care for my in need baby). It’s just been the biggest blessing and has give me so much peace.

    If you are worried about “bad” hospitals, hire a doula to advocate for you and shop around for doctors… wonderful ones are out there… laid back ones are out there… it’s not like how the homebirth/natural childbirth books make it out to seem. I hate that I risked the life of my baby because of the fear-based lies they spread.

    Good luck to you.

    • OBPI Mama

      I wanted to add one more thing…

      Sometimes, in the end, childbirth just doesn’t go as we want. It’s hard to accept, but reality doesn’t care. I had c-sections after my homebirth because my risk of another shoulder dystocia was so high and I did not want to risk another child going through what my first son goes through (or worse). But my c-sections have been SO much more peaceful than my homebirth… less chaotic, less traumatic, less painful (longterm-wise)… and they’ve resulted in 3 healthy babies. It’s been pretty humbling for this once-homebirther. haha. So, c-sections are not the end of the world…

  • Teleute

    “I believed in homebirth scientifically. To this day I read the data to say that a homebirth is safer than a hospital birth for most low-risk women.”

    In other words, you have astoundingly poor judgement.

    “I certainly don’t want an episiotomy or a forceps or vacuum delivery, or a C-section and the mess that that entails. I don’t want the baby to be separated from me for a single second. Ever. I don’t want the cord cut immediately, my placenta discarded. I don’t want gel in my baby’s eyes (just in case I have gonorrhea), I don’t want Vitamin K shot… [yadda yadda yadda]”

    In other words, you have higher priorities than your new baby’s health.

    Why exactly are you breeding? See you on Dreamin Demon in a few years when the kid dies because you refused to seek medical treatment in favor of “holistic” remedies.

  • http://www.makingloveinthemicrowave.com/ Aja Jackson

    This is why the homebirth “movement” is so flawed in my opinion. I don’t argue against anyone who wants to have a homebirth, but it has also created the myth that it is impossible to achieve the birth you want in a hospital and that it is always a fight tooth and nail. I’ve had two hospital births without the trauma and cascade of interventions that many homebirth proponents always tout as the norm. I went in and said I didn’t want an epidural and was pretty much left alone to walk around and labor as I chose. It is entirely possible to find a healthcare professional that you trust and have the type of childbirth that you want in a hospital setting and I think instilling the idea that your only option to having a safe birth experience is giving birth at home makes it so that women don’t know how to advocate for themselves if they want or need to give birth elsewhere.

    The fact of the matter is, having a hospital birth doesn’t guarantee a horrible birthing experience anymore than having a homebirth experience guarantees a great one. And I also wonder why people talk about the evil OBs who want money as though midwives are delivering babies for free.

  • AutoIronic

    I’ve never felt the need to comment before, but this needs to be said: This isn’t the place to wage the homebirth vs. hospital birth war. Anonymous Mom is hurting and traumatized from an experience that wasn’t what she wanted or deserved. Her story alone isn’t evidence that homebirth doesn’t work, nor is it an excuse to rant about hospital birth. There are wonderful OB’s and wonderful midwives; I’ve met both. Can we agree that the only “wrong” kind of birth is one where mother and baby’s needs aren’t the top priority?

  • Maura

    I’m sorry that your first birth was so difficult, and that the recovery was so terrible. I have had two hospital births, one medicated and one unmedicated. For ME my second, unmedicated, hospital birth was much, much easier than I ever anticipated. Yes, I had IV access, but just a hep lock. I was not tethered to fluids. I had intermittent monitoring, was free to move about my room or the floor if I wanted to, and had 1 nurse with me the whole time. No episiotomy, no forceps, no vacuum. No discussions of “failure to progress” because I was progressing. You’ve done it before, you KNOW your body can do it. For ME just knowing that pain relief was available if I needed it, and that the OR was just down the hall for emergencies made doing the whole thing much easier. So long as you choose the right hospital/OB practice your hospital birth can be as minimalist or interventionist as you desire. I hope you have peace with whichever decision you make.

  • jenny

    I have feared many of the same things about hospital birth as you did. I had some very severe anxiety that led me not to have prenatal care during my first pregnancy. I walked into the hospital in labor, young, poor, having had no prenatal care, and was treated with utmost respect and kindness. All the things I had feared did not happen. I did wear a gown. No one shoved their hand up my vagina. I was not tethered to anything, although I did agree to a saline lock. I was able to get up and move around and because I preferred to labor mostly alone in the dark, I was able to do so. What I remember most is how unexpectedly gentle and kind everyone was. No one yelled at me or lectured me, and my family and I had a pleasant enough post-partum stay.

    I later had a second pregnancy with regular prenatal care through a hospital CNM group. My daughter was born out of hospital (she arrived too quickly and we had to call 911) and my treatment in the hospital afterwards was similarly compassionate, even through a necessary manual placental removal. The doctors who did it for me made sure to offer me pain medication (I declined the full dose of morphine because with everything that was going on, I wanted to be lucid) and spoke to me with respect. They looked me in the eyes and explained what they were doing, and apologized for the fact that it was painful. This made all the difference to me.

    My daughter experienced unexpected complications during her birth and we stayed in the NICU four days before she died. She was treated like the very special human being she was by every doctor and nurse who met her, and all her needs, both physical and spiritual were take into consideration as they worked to care for her. In fact, our whole family’s needs were taken into consideration. Despite how horrific it was to lose a child in that way, when I pass by the hospital where she and I were cared for, I have feelings of warmth and happiness remembering our time together. I remember that as a place where she was surrounded with love. This shocks me sometimes given how fearful I was at one time. This is the same hospital that I once stood outside of, crying because I could not go inside of it to get to my prenatal appointment.

    I would recommend interviewing with several OBs and hospital CNMs to find out what their policies are. You might be surprised. I have a lot of issues surrounding touch and my body because of previous abuse. I discussed this with my CNMs and we were able to come up with a care plan that protected me and helped me feel safe, respected, and autonomous. I was also reassured that I never had to have a VE unless I wanted one, and that many women in their practice never did, for no other reason than, “I don’t want one.” That simple.

    I’ve only scanned the other comments. Please ignore the criticism. You aren’t a bad mom, or selfish, or dumb, but you do sound like you have some anxiety that’s keeping you from getting the care you need. I’m not saying all hospitals are amazing – I’ve definitely had my fair share of bad doctor experiences, among other things. But when fear gets in the way of our own self-advocacy, it doesn’t matter how rational or irrational its roots may be – its time to do something about it.

    It sounds like having the option of pain relief during your upcoming birth would help you breathe easier. You sound like you were traumatized by the pain of your previous birth. You should be able to have pain relief without all the other scary stuff, and I hope you can find a way to get it. You might also find it helpful to have counseling around your birth. Wishing you well, you shouldn’t have to live with this kind of pain or fear.

  • Joye77

    As a nurse I have much confidence in other nurses and my Dr. so I did not have any issues with any hospital birth, besides my own knowledge made everything less scary. That being said I have had unmedicated and medicated births and by far prefer medicated. I don’t like pain and I love, love epidurals. I am so thankful for whomever invented them. especially after my last birth had many unexpected complications that resulted in lots and lots of bleeding and much uterine massage by my nurses and Dr. to stop excessive bleeding. Proof you never really know what might happen…

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  • Maddi Holmes

    All of the things you mentioned on page 2 (while some simply don’t happen) do not have to happen if you do not want them to. My mother gave birth without an epidural because she didn’t want it, and I will probably do the same. Giving birth is the most dangerous thing a woman can do, in today’s society it seems to have been forgotten that pregnancy/birth used to be the number one cause of early death for women, and it still is in developing countries. Personally, I would much rather give birth surrounded by people who have dedicated their lives to what they are doing and know exactly what to do when something goes wrong; and I do mean mean, not if.

  • SusannahJoy

    Aw, I just want to give you a hug! I think what you need to do is find a good hospital and a good doctor. My hospital made it VERY clear to me that they would NOT give me anything until I asked for it. They didn’t require IV’s, they didn’t require monitoring, they didn’t even require that you use a doctor, you could use a midwife if you wanted. Also, for what it’s worth, I was pretty dead set against the constant monitoring at first, but I’m glad I went with it. Otherwise they wouldn’t have known that every time I tried to move off my back his heart rate plummeted to the 40s, and didn’t recover after contractions.

  • redzulu

    The best advice I can give you is go with your gut, research everything, have an strong advocate. (Maybe a Doula) If your hospital doesn’t have a birthing center in it, you may still be able to have a doula and labor how you want if you are low risk.

    I wanted a non medicated birth at a birthing center, away from the hospital. I thought it was going to be the best thing for my baby and I. My whole plan got flipped upside down when I developed high blood pressure at 30 weeks. I spent a week in the hospital at 34 weeks until it was decided we couldn’t wait any longer because it wasn’t safe for baby and I. There is nothing wrong with getting pain medication, or not getting it. It really all boils down to what is best for you. Research epidurals get lots of information and don’t take any one story more than the next. Same with any birth information. Every birth is so different and so is every person. There is no guarantee that a home birth OR a hospital birth will go %100 smoothly. The only thing we can do is get information, tell your advocate what you want so they can deal with it during your labor. Work on accepting change. Plans change and it’s ok.

    I hope you are able to decide what you want and that is all does go smoothly for you. You are a strong women, and there is no wrong answer. Go with your feeling, you will get through it no matter what you decide.

  • meghancnyc

    Your experience sounds incredibly traumatic. Please consider talking to a therapist over the next few months who can help you find some peace with your first birth, as well as make a decision about the next one. Like childbirth itself, this is a time for you to call upon external resources to shore you up at a vulnerable time. Good luck and best wishes for a peaceful birth experience.

  • JM

    I can only imagine trying to make this decision! Thanks for sharing, it’s important for women who might be going through the same thing, that they’re not alone. Whatever you do, it will be the right decision, the only person who you have to answer to is you, you will pick the option that brings your baby to life, while preserving your own peace.
    My friend is a huge advocate on all natural birth, she is passionate about it and really studied and learned how to have that birth. But after 48 hours of labor, she had to get an epidural, but soon after her baby was born healthy and happy. And when we were talking about birth the other night, she seemed like she had to be sorry or explain herself. Which is when I mentioned that 48 hours of pain like that can break your mind, and I was proud that she let herself have relief after 48 hrs. Also, the fact that she went that long counted for bad-ass points!
    I hope you can find peace with whatever you choose! Be strong !

  • Larkin

    Have you considered a birth center? That might be a happy medium between a home birth and a hospital, if it’s available (you mentioned something about the alternatives in your area of the country, so not sure what’s a viable option for you). Some birth centers are connected to hospitals so the option for a higher level of care is there at a moment’s notice if something goes wrong, but otherwise it’s a more “homey” atmosphere. Maybe?

  • Legih

    I think you need to speak to someone about this, and also – visit the hospital, tour the labor and delivery ward, talk to an actual dr or midwife you could use there. I think people get all up in arms based on what they hear on the internet, and sure lots of those things are true and do happen, but I think you can also have a good experience at the hospital with a lot of things you want. I had a meds free birth, I walked around until it was time to push, most hospitals in my area no longer due episiotomies but in RARE cases, or forcep birth. I opted out of the vit K, the hep B shot before my child was even born when I was admitted by signing a form, I had to wear the bracelet in case I passed out, lost consciousness or something but really – what is the big deal i a bracelet? I wore my own nightgown, and I left my bra on (this was a big deal to me LOL) You might be surprised to find its not as “me against the establishment” as you think.

  • hope4u

    We all have a birth story and these are important. They shape who you are as they are part of your experiences and they are what you will or won’t tell your children when they are older. They determine if you want to do it again or not. They are a true test of our strength as women and what we are willing to do and go through for our children. I don’t think having it naturally, with pain meds, c-section, at home or in a hospital makes any of those experiences greater or lessor than anyone’s experience. How you feel and how you experience those hours is deeply personal and only that person has the right to judge it.
    My friend had what she describes as super easy deliveries at home where she never felt any pain only pressure. Mine was tramatic, that is the only word I have ever used to describe it. I was thankful I was in a hospital and though I survived it, it haunts me 21 months later. It was not the hospitals fault at all, they couldn’t have been better. My baby turned during labor causing swelling, horrible pain and made it impossible for me to deliver her. My mom had a safe and “normal” delivery with me but hated the treatment she received from the hospital staff (back in 78) and my mom had a harder and more painful delivery with my sister but loved the staff at the birthing center (back in 84).
    My feeling about your situation is that you are too scared to do it at home so for your emotional well being you shouldn’t have it at home. Or if you do look into having a different midwife. My OBGYN practice and associated hospital had an option for non-high-risk patients, they could choose to have only a midwife (for visits and birth) and have it at the hospital but without any of the normal hospital procedures (of course they were there if something went wrong). Otherwise see if you have a birthing center in your area, they also have the midwife/home feel with the hopital just a hallway away.
    I don’t blame you for being scared of the pain, that fear is making my child an only child at least for now. Not everyone has to have a home birth even if that is what they believe in. I know my friend would not risk her life or that of her child’s just to have it at home if she felt something was going wrong or the pain was too much. If you are this stressed now, what will your bp be when you start to feel even the beginning of the labor pains. It is dangerious to be stressed when you are expecting and it is more dangerious to be overly stressed durning labor. I hope that you don’t do what you don’t want to do because of your MIL. Mostly though, I hope you find some peace and confidence with your decision and I hope you have a safe delivery and a healthy child.