reflections on having a home birth

Below is a collection of thoughts I've had about Sunday's birth while either preparing for it, experiencing it, or processing it. I understand my thoughts may bother some people, open a debate, or otherwise simply annoy others. Please know it is never my intention to offend anyone and my hope is that perhaps someone, even if it is just one person, will be inspired by my rambling to further research and educate themselves on their own childbirth options. It is important for you to know that I am not an expert nor do I consider myself an expert in this field at all. These are simply my thoughts and experiences from my pregnancy and labor with Sunday. Being my first go-round, I learned and processed a lot. Below is my little collection.

  • People are quick to assume that having a baby at home is equal to having a baby alone in your bathroom with no medical professional around. Not always true (and not true for me).
  • I lost count how many times people said to me "If I had had my baby at home, I would have died." First, please don't ever insinuate to a pregnant woman that she could possibly die during labor. We all know it is possible. You saying that is not going to make her to change her mind. Second, as soon as those words were shared I knew immediately that the person saying them was unaware of the midwifery model of care. While it couldn't be more opposite from a doctor's model of care, just because it is different doesn't mean either model is wrong.
  • The midwifery model of care is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes, using intuition, observation, and very minimal intrusion. I spent 9 months of pregnancy (trying my best) eating healthy, exercising, accepting the educated advice and guidance from my experienced midwife, having my urine tested at every appointment, and accepting less-risky alternatives to GBS, Strep-B and blood testing. My midwife observed me throughout the nine months, we had an open relationship about how I felt physically and mentally, and together we trusted my body and both of our intuitions to communicate to us if there should be anything to be concerned about.
  • I feel extremely blessed and thankful to God for a healthy, normal pregnancy and a complication-free delivery. While I tried my  best to do all that I could do (eating well, taking vitamin and mineral supplements, staying active, and choosing a less-intrusive model of care), I know that there are so many things I have no control over and I cannot express how grateful I am that everything went as smoothly as it did. I credit only God for that.
  • I cannot imagine making the transition from hospital (read: 24/7 assistance and company) to home so soon after delivering a baby. I know I was emotionally all over the place those first few days after having Sunday and it was an adjustment enough for me to be awake and stuck to a baby every 2 hours on the hour. Moving myself and baby from a hospital environment to a quiet, empty home environment would be a whole other situation to process. I am grateful I did not have to do that.
  • I am not sure that I could have avoided the temptation of an epidural had I labored in a hospital.
  • I did not deliver Sunday naturally because I wanted to have a natural birth. I had a natural birth for two reasons: 1. I wanted to deliver at home and it was my only option, and 2. I wanted the least intrusive birth experience possible. But it wasn't about "the experience" of doing it naturally... if that makes sense.
  • I was inspired to research home birth options after I photographed a home birth in 2009. It was the most calm, intimate, and enjoyable birth I had witnessed (I had witnessed a handful by that time) and I left that birth positive that I would also attempt to have a home birth.
  • When I got pregnant, Tommy asked if he could name the baby "Jubal Bedford." Jokingly, I said "Sure, if I can have a home birth." He immediately responded with "I think you should totally have a home birth, that would be awesome." And I was suddenly freaked out. And definitely not okay with the name Jubal Bedford.
  • It took some time for me to feel comfortable having my pre-natal appointments in a living room (midwife) vs. the comfort of a doctors office. I grew up going to the doctor, so in my mind, the Dr's office had all the answers and security. It wasn't until I was about 5 months pregnant that I truly felt comfortable and confident in our decision to have a home birth. Had I not come to that place of confidence, I would have transferred my care and delivered in a hospital.
  • I recognize now how important it is for a woman to deliver her baby where she feels the safest and most secure. For more on this, check out Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. That book was, hands down, the most influential for me during my pregnancy. I began to really trust my body and my intuition after reading it and I now recommend it to all of my pregnant friends. (Here is a great, unbiased review of the book from a father-to-be.)
  • I was not once checked for dilation before or during labor. While it can be exciting to know "how far dilated" you may be, I found that it was neither helpful nor hurtful to know or not know. However, being checked does have health risks and the more often you are checked, the higher the risks. I was encouraged by my amazing doula to avoid being checked and I can say I do not regret my decision to stick with that plan.
  • It's kind of fun to tell people you're doing so many things "out of the norm." Home birth, no scheduled induction, no dilation checks, no sugary drink for the diabetes test, etc. That was a little too enjoyable for me.
  • I found myself surprised by how many women are pregnant and completely in denial about birth. "Don't talk to me about labor, it freaks me out." Unfortunately, I have taken that same mindset with other aspects of my life and wish, in retrospect, that I had been educated about options ahead of time. I didn't want to have that same regret about birth.
  • I am so grateful I hired a doula and do not plan to ever deliver another baby without a doula by my side. Laurie ran the show, comforted me, coached me through a birth that could have lasted hours longer had I been stuck in one position, encouraged me, encouraged Tommy, and nurtured us.
  • I am also grateful that I hired a doula who was also a certified lactation consultant. I had complete confidence in my ability to breastfeed as long as Laurie would be there to coach me and make sure I was doing it right.
  • I cannot believe how badly breastfeeding hurt at first.
  • In fact, motherhood itself is the most physically painful thing I have ever experienced. From the discomfort of pregnancy, to labor, delivery, the pain of getting started with breastfeeding, to the soreness in my body from losing core strength during pregnancy... I didn't realize how much of a BABY I was. And how low my pain tolerance is as well. Good to know now. :)
  • Slowly, but surely, motherhood gets better daily.
  • I have no regrets about having a homebirth. I am so glad we did it and by the grace of God, we'll do it again.
  • If I could change anything about my pregnancy and labor experience I would: eat better & exercise throughout the pregnancy as well as take a hypnobirthing class. I could use a bit more relaxation next time around. :)

Liz Cook

Liz Cook is a wedding, birth, and motherhood photographer based in Central Virginia. Her intuition and creative perspective allow her to connect both professionally and personally with her subjects, and thus, her portfolio is saturated with authentic emotion. Whether she's sharing her story with fellow entrepreneurs or enjoying quality time with her husband and two daughters, Liz is both present and passionate about capturing and celebrating life. Her work has been featured by O "Oprah" Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Glitter Guide, Essence Magazine, domino, Rue Magazine, among others.