Earlier in this pregnancy, I wrote that I was strongly considering a home birth but was still not completely sold on the idea. And Sam was definitely not sold on the idea.
One of my first thoughts after having Arlo in hospital was “God, I wouldn’t want to do this at home”. It was messy (and not just the last bit). Plus, that’s a lot of racket to subject our neighbours to (we live in an old terraced house, I swear we can hear each other whisper through the walls)
So, what’s happened since then?
Well, we had our initial appointment with a midwife from the home birthing team, who not only really identified with my way of thinking without trying to influence us either way, but also offered some sensible solutions for containing any possible mess (Why did no one tell me to put on a pad during labour with Arlo??)
I was still unsure about a home birth. I couldn’t figure out whether I would be more comfortable at home or in the birth centre. With Arlo, I needed to be on my feet and walking through the contractions – with a birth pool taking up the majority of our dining room, I wouldn’t have much pacing room. Plus, would it feel claustrophobic for me to have Sam, two midwives and a birthing pool in our 3 x 3 metre dining room?
But, as I had more appointments with my midwife and the due date loomed closer, making the thought of labour seem more ‘real’, something changed. Without me really being aware of it, the thought of being at home had now become the most comfortable option, my preferred option. I think that the more I saw my midwife and the more familiar I became with her, the more I could clearly picture doing this at home. It was no longer the impractical or scary option.
Sam is still not happy about it. He would rather we went to hospital. For a while we skirted around the issue, not really wanting to confront it and force an ultimatum. But eventually one of us would have to make a decision, because I couldn’t relax and prepare until we had ‘a plan’, and because I felt bad to string along our case-loading midwife only to opt out of her care at the last minute. And so I made the decision that we were definitely going to try for a home birth.
It has not been the most straightforward decision to make. I feel that there are quite a few pros and cons:
It’s more work for Sam. More for him to concentrate on. Not only is he birth partner, but he also has to take in the role of host for the midwives, and cleaner after it’s all over.
It’s more stress for Sam. In his own words “Arlo’s birth was stressful because it was a completely new situation. Having done it once before, I feel like I have a good idea how things would go in hospital, and now you want to do things differently and put us in another unknown situation”.
It’s more disruptive for Arlo. If we were going to hospital, someone could come and look after him in his own home. He’s never spent a night away from home without us so this could be a big deal for him. (The worse case scenario will be that we have to wake Arlo up in the middle of the night and pack him off to grandparents). Having him at home for the birth is not an option we are considering, it would be far too distracting for both me and Sam, and in the event of an emergency transfer to hospital we can’t be waiting around for someone to come and look after Arlo.
It’s more expensive. Hiring a birth pool, buying tarp, mattress protectors, etc, adds up. A birth in hospital or at the birth centre costs nothing.
The safety issue. I read somewhere that, ultimately, choosing to have a home birth is showing more respect for the mother’s comfort and the process of labour rather than giving priority to the baby’s safety. Whilst I don’t think it’s as black and white as that statement, I do sort of agree – if I was hugely concerned with a possibility that things could go wrong, there’s no way I would be considering a home birth. My choice to have a home birth is because I’d rather be here in labour, I haven’t really considered what the baby might prefer in this situation (although I am a believer in the ‘happy mother, happier labour, less distress for baby’ way of thinking).
Whilst the safety of both myself and the baby is praying on Sam’s mind, I don’t find a need to really think about it – I am optimistically assuming that everything will go to plan and things will be similar to Arlo’s labour (why do I get the feeling that I am jinxing myself by writing this??) When the time comes, I know I am not going to be stupid about this, if I feel in any way unsafe at home or that we might be better off at hospital, then hospital is where we will go.
Not having to move location half way through labour. I can just relax, get comfortable, get on with the natural progression of labour. Dominating my thoughts in early labour with Arlo was, “Right, when should we leave for the hospital?” Sam doesn’t drive, so as with last time, we would be reliant on taxis. So there’s also, “Let’s call the taxi company, check someone is available and there isn’t a wait” and “Lets make sure i’m not in the second stage before we get in the taxi”.
With Arlo, once we got to hospital, it took a good few hours to acclimatise to the new setting. I do think that a move during labour can slow things down a bit. For me, knowing I have to take a car journey in labour means I will always rock up to the hospital earlier than necessary. With Arlo, I could have stayed at home for another few hours at least, but all I wanted to do was get to the final location straight away so that I could just get on with it with no worries. None of this is an issue if the plan is to stay at home.
I can’t imagine that there is a better feeling than being able to rest in my own bed, eat my own food, Sam not have to abide by visiting hours, putting our baby straight into his or her own bed rather than a fishbowl cot amogst all the germs floating around a hospital.
I can better control my own comfort at home. There is no worry that the birth centre will be full, or that there won’t be any birth pools available. I already know how to get comfortable in my own home, I won’t have to figure it out in hospital whilst I’m in the middle of labour. I find the inflatable type of birth pool used at home far more comfortable than the hard pools like the one I used at hospital with Arlo.
The one to one care that comes with having a case-loading midwife. Because we have chosen a home birth, I’ve had the same midwife for every single antenatal appointment. And better yet, all appointments have been here in my own home. Except for the unlikely event that my midwife is busy when I go into labour, I will know exactly who will be with me at the birth. The combination of being familiar with my midwife and being in my home surroundings means that I already feel very prepared for this labour and have a pretty good idea of the coping mechanisms I will be able to call upon.
So, if there are no complications in the next few weeks, we will be doing this thing at home. I feel very positive about it at the moment and am trying to convince Sam that it could be good, it could be enjoyable. We will be able to do this birth exactly how we want to… and he will get to eat all the sandwiches that he can fit in (he was starving the whole time we were in hospital having Arlo).
It does make me a bit nervous that it has been my decision alone, as if that makes me more responsible should things not go to plan. But I am quietly confident, because I have to be. And I am very appreciative of Sam basically bowing to my wishes – silently agreeing to take on all the extra roles at the birth, and wanting to keep me happy despite not being completely at ease with the safety of a birth at home. He’s not even sent me any links to “home births gone wrong” websites in the last two months, now that’s what I call progress.