I’m one of those crazy moms who had a home birth with a lay-midwife. I suppose what makes me even crazier is that I did this for my first child. Most home birthers I know choose it as an alternative after having a disappointing hospital birth experience. Plus, having a home birth takes some degree of guts, and it makes sense that a second-timer would be feeling a little more confident about giving birth sans hospital than a first timer. It’s also common for home birthers to get hooked, to have the rest of their children at home. It’s addictive, some say.
But I don’t know if I’m going to do a home birth again. Most of everything went well. Labor started the evening of my baby’s due date, and after thirty minutes I was already fully dilated much to my midwife’s surprise. But because the cord was wrapped around baby’s neck, pushing took two full hours. I was so exhausted I would actually lapse into a deep sleep for the sixty seconds or so in between heavy contractions.
When my midwife finally did an episiotomy and baby came out, baby was bluish from lack of oxygen and we had a few very scary minutes in which we desperately tried to warm her up with body contact and warm towels. Although this was scary, it would’ve been just as scary in a hospital. It’s actually the aftermath that makes me hesitant to have a home birth again.
To my understanding, at a hospital, there are a handful of people looking out for both mother and baby at all times. At home, it was just my midwife, and she was running on very little sleep due to attending three other births in previous days. She actually napped for the majority of my labor, thinking it would take me hours to dilate. I suffered through transition, the most painful part of labor, all by myself (my husband, poor dear, was scrambling to fill the pool, which we never got to use).
Then, after baby was born and stabilized, my midwife went in the other room to nap again. Granted, that crazy surge of post-birth love hormone was coursing through my body so I didn’t care much about anything but the tiny face staring up at me. But when my midwife left us alone with baby just hours later, things started to get rough.
First of all, there was blood. On the carpet, in the bathroom, coming out of me. Shaun did his best to clean things up, but I couldn’t blame him for wanting to bond with our daughter rather than a bottle of Resolve.
I really started to worry when I tried to walk again after labor. I could barely take a step without completely losing my breath, and the only way I could breathe was to hunch over and carry my still-large belly with both arms. Using the bathroom was painful and frightening because of the incision my midwife had made. And it just kept bleeding. I called her and asked about these things; she assured me they were normal.
Even a week later, after my belly had shrunken somewhat and my wound had healed a little, I still found myself breathless whenever I had to walk. I couldn’t sit comfortably — not on a couch, a bed, a Boppy, nothing. I had spoken to other new mothers, even those who had episiotomies, who said they didn’t experience anything like this. So I was pretty irate when my midwife came back after a week and commented lightly, “Oh, honey, your balance is off…you need to wear the brace for your belly!” Um, yeah, what happened to all the talk about this being “normal”?
The real kicker was months later, when I still couldn’t go to the bathroom without the feeling like I was giving birth again. Despite being a vegetarian fiber queen, bowel movements were so bad I had to Lamaze myself through them. I visited a doctor about it and after she consulted with the midwife on duty, they had bad news for me. “You should’ve been stitched up,” my doctor said as I lay on the chair. They glanced from me to my ladyparts like they were assessing the damage on a car. “This really didn’t heal right.”
Thinking I’d need surgery or something, I asked what would happen now. “Well, the pain should go away with time. There’s really not much we can do now. Who did you say your midwife was?”
I told her. She went and looked her up in some database. “Oh, you had a lay-midwife. They aren’t required to be certified. Next time you should really work with a nurse midwife.”
Aside from feeling totally criticized for my choice of having a home birth, I felt a little betrayed by my midwife. I don’t think my midwife meant to hide anything from me, and she did do an excellent job of responding to the pseudo-emergency with baby’s condition at birth. My midwife was a wonderful midwife to my baby. But it just didn’t seem like she was all too concerned with my well-being, at least once she’d emptied the contents of my uterus.
Looking back, I feel a little robbed. While other new mothers got cleaned up and stitched up and tended to, they also got to focus exclusively on their babies. I wasted so much time walking at snail speed and napping while my husband watched my daughter (okay, the napping wasn’t all bad), I don’t remember much of those early weeks. Hell, even hospital food would’ve been a luxury — at least it’s made for you and brought right to your bedside!
So if my husband and I ever do have another child, we’re probably going the birthing center route. And if any readers out there are considering home births, don’t be deterred, just hire a doula or some friends and family to come take care of you so you don’t feel left in the dust. And by god, if you’re still walking funny after a week, don’t wait as long as I did to go to the doctor.