Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Birth Plan": Considering homebirth

Last night Chris and I attended a home birth information session at my midwife's office, designed to help expectant parents to learn about the pros and cons of planning a home birth. Maybe you saw my tweets expressing frustration at how directly the session was geared to first-time parents, which is something I'd like to elaborate on later, but tonight I just want to talk about why I think a home birth might be right for me. And (with his permission) why my husband doesn't agree.

I'll start with me. Everything about giving birth at home appeals to me. I harbor no delusions about a pain-free, spiritual birth experience, and having come out the other side of an out of control birth experience, I know that even using the term "birth plan" is a bit ludicrous. I know that controlled, calm births do happen for other women, but I am not expecting anything quite so wonderful for myself.

However, I know I'm going to be doing this without pain medication (as I did with Ollie), and I know that I'm capable (I have a proven pelvis - yes, that is a saying), and I know that once the birth is over and the baby is in my arms, the only place I'll want to be is curled up in my own bed, sleeping or introducing Ollie to his little brother or sister.

And I know that home birth is safe. I trust the research, I trust my midwife, and I trust the experiences of friends and acquaintances who have delivered their children safely at home.

... my husband, not so much. Although he's heard all of the many reasonable arguments in favor of home birth, he can't get past what he believes are the safety risks of giving birth at home. And unfortunately, his one sticking point - the fact that 1% of babies require intubation and midwives cannot perform newborn intubation at this time in Ontario, happens to be exactly what went wrong when Ollie was born. He just can't let go of the idea that if we had been at home, Ollie would have been in trouble.

I've been assured by my previous midwife as well as my current midwife that that is in fact not the case for a number of reasons but when you stand by and watch your child as you believe he is struggling for life, it kind of sticks with you.

The problem is, my labor also stuck with me, and it's making it hard for me to even consider the fact that I have to give birth to this baby without experiencing a borderline panic attack. I've done some reading, talked to my midwife, consulted with some friends I trust, and that has brought me a tiny bit of peace, but ultimately I know that I have no control over any aspect of this birth - except it's locale. And that matters to me a lot.

Besides the horror of thinking something was wrong with my son, which is just so far outside the realm of my ability to process that I can't even consider it, the worst aspect of my labor BY FAR, was the feeling of being completely and utterly out of control. Of course, most of that probably came from inside of me. I've been assured that it wasn't this way, but I remember bright lights, hustling and so many people talking and all of that added to my fear and panic. At home, we can have quiet, we can have dim lighting, we can limit the people in the room. I can labor in my tub, or in my bed, or just wherever I land as I throw myself around in agony.

And most of all, I think it might be inevitable. My labor with Ollie started at 1:30 pm and was over by 5. That's 3.5 hours. Total. I've read that often (not always) second labors are about half as long as firsts, which is a theory that is also supported by the birth histories of my quick-delivering mum and maternal grandmother. So, doing the math that puts me at a ONE HOUR AND FOURTY FIVE MINUTE labor.

OK, obviously that's not a hard number, and I could end up being one of those second time mums who ends up with a long, delayed labor.. but what if I'm not?! In just under two hours I'm supposed to call the midwife, arrange someone to watch Ollie, get our stuff in the car, get in the car and head to the hospital. And that's while I'm in labor. The end stages, not the early stages. Nothing about that sounds good and a lot of it sounds like a recipe for delivering a baby in the back of our car. It seems to me that it is safer to plan to give birth at home than to accidentally give birth at home or somewhere en route to the hospital.

The session last night did nothing to quell Chris' fears, and did nothing to dissuade me from my certainty that a home birth is the right choice for this baby and pregnancy (so long as things remain low risk and uncomplicated). So how do you break this kind of a tie? Good question, and one we don't have an answer to.

When we similarly struggled with this question while I was pregnant with Ollie, I extremely reluctantly committed to a hospital birth. And of course, as it turned out, I would have ended up there either way. This time around, having been through it before, I feel even more strongly about birthing at home and likewise Chris feels more strongly about the need to be in a hospital. So for now, we are at an impasse.

We've got eight weeks, give or take, to figure this one out and while we also haven't picked nursery colours or a boy's name, this decision is the most important right now, and so also, the most difficult.


  1. Meagan!! I love this!! I'm crap for never re-scheduling our lunch date. I'm still open to it if you are not sick of talking about home births...
    Dennis and i rarely agree on much (we often ask "how did we get married?!") but one thing we both agreed on was the home birth. We both couldn't imagine getting in a car at that crazy time. HOWEVER we approached it like this... Let's start at home and we'll see where the labour takes us. This way no one was set on, in your words, the locale of the birth. Would Chris go for that?
    I don't know much about hospital births but could you ask the midwife to make it like home?? Dim lights, no L&D nurses, just the midwives, Chris and you allowed in the room?? That way, you can have more of a calm experience and Chris will feel safer at the hospital.
    If you still can not come to a happy meeting place, pull the 51% card! You are the mom so you get 51% of all decision making!!

  2. I love the 51% card!!

    Yes, let's do a lunch date.. I'd love to talk about home birth more... and also about this "how did we get married" question.. I love (but of course, with empathy for it's challenges) that you said that because Chris and I feel the same way all the time, but don't hear it articulated that often without a lot of doom and gloom associated with it.

    Message me on Facebook so we can make plans!


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