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Today Monday, 21 January, 2019
August 12, 2016
The Mother of All of All Risks: A Home Birth Story
The first time that I had heard of women choosing to birth their babies at home was when I was studying in University.
It was rather a shocking thing to hear about, considering that at that point in life I had never heard of anyone birthing at home, and if they did, it was something that happened by fluke, and definitely not according to plan. One day in class, a classmate named Anne, had mentioned to a group of us that she had chosen to birth her baby at home. The pride in her voice could not be missed, which made my initial reaction even more judgmental, I thought, this was woman must be crazy. Who in their right mind chooses to give birth at home, without a doctor or hospital staff, putting themselves and their baby at risk? During that time, my husband and I had just gotten engaged; I was between two degrees and far from thinking about birthing babies, and every fibre of my being knew for certain that the only place a woman should birth was at a hospital. However, little did I know back then that one day I would look back at Anne, think of her curly red hair flowing back and forth as she spoke, and realize, that I would be like her, making the same choice, with the same pride, to birth my baby at home.

Years later, I was pregnant with my third baby and planning my third hospital birth, when my husband mentioned to me that he had caught a show on television, all about home-birth. After having two hospital births, suddenly the idea of birthing a baby at home seemed exciting; Wouldn’t it be great to just sleep in our own bed, and eat our own food? We wouldn’t have to deal with all those hospital protocols and waiting to be discharged, etc. etc. Of course my husband was talking about it as if it were a fantasy, something that maybe one day we would get to experience, yet doubtfully would, but it planted a seed in me.

I found myself day-dreaming about this home-birth all the time. Imagine, birthing your baby in the very house you would raise them in. Their first breathe of air, in the same room they would go to for comfort and love. I would wait for this baby to arrive without a rush, without anyone poking at me, without strangers in my face, labour in my own hallways and bathtub, and have all my supporters allowed to go anywhere they wanted to, have my husband sleep beside me, and my children, be there to meet their new sibling, without having to wait for us to get home, since we would already be home!

However turning a fantasy into a reality was another thing. ”Maybe with my fourth.” I said to a friend.

“But what if you don’t have a fourth?” What if this was my last baby? What if this was the last time I would ever labour and birth a baby again? During my last hospital birth, I got very frustrated when I felt that my needs were not being met because I had opted out of any medical interventions. There were moments where I had felt that I was being bullied and threatened because I was not obliging to hospital protocols, and I was really wanting my next birth to be a more positive experience where I had more control over how I laboured. Since I knew I wasn’t going to be needing any medical interventions, being at home was the best option for me, and after I had spent so much time fantasizing about it, I didn’t want to let the opportunity go.

Out of impulse I called the local midwifery clinic and was stunned to get an appointment, considering how far into my pregnancy I was, and equally surprised by the mix of emotions that I was feeling since our only birthing experiences were at a hospital. Just about everyone we knew who had given birth, did it at a hospital. Giving birth at home meant that we were going against the norm, which meant we would also have to prepare to defend our decisions to family and friends, and even ourselves.

After meeting with the midwives and receiving the news that they were willing to take me on as a client, made me equally excited and torn. Birthing at home was such a big fantasy, but making it a reality meant that I would have to part from my doctor who had been with me since the beginning of my very first pregnancy, 6 years back. She wasn’t just an OBGYN, she was our family doctor, and she was always providing me with enough support and care throughout my pregnancies and births, and beyond. Leaving her made me feel guilty, but knowing that the hardest part for me was the labouring, at which point doctors weren’t around for, also made me acknowledge that I didn’t really want to or need to be at the hospital. If I needed medical interventions or if I was an at-risk pregnancy, being at a hospital was where I’d need to be. But, I had great labours and great births and believed that I could naturally have a baby based on my own instincts in my own comfort, in my own way; I knew in my heart the best place for me would be at home.

At 33 weeks of pregnancy, I along with the support of my husband and Doctor decided to switch my pregnancy care to midwives, so that I could have a home birth.

Everyone thought I was crazy. Some days, I thought that I was crazy too. The idea of being at home seemed to imply that we were taking unnecessary risks, that we were somehow defying nature and playing with fire, because there was always a possibility that something could wrong. However those very same risks applied to women birthing at hospitals as well, and just like at the hospital, we weren’t going to be on our own, but rather with well experienced professionals who were experts in the field of “normal” labour and birth.

“What about the mess?”

There is a certain assumption that if you’re having a baby at home there’s going to be an exceptional mess. Midwives take extra care in making sure that there isn’t much of a mess, and provide a list of things to help us in preparing a head of time, such as a plastic bed sheet, extra towels and sheets that could either be washed or tossed, and any preferred labour aids.

We followed this list closely and had everything prepared and ready to go, except for the baby. I waited and waited and waited for him to come. And every day that past the due date felt like an eternity, except for the third time around I was totally okay with that.

One evening, a week past my “due date” I started to have contractions. I waited until they were about five minutes apart before I called it in. My midwife arrived a little passed midnight along with my parents, but when she checked to see how far along I was, her face became stern, and almost annoyed as she announced that I was only 2 and half cm dilated. My husband and I watched her in shock as she packed up all her things and told us that she was leaving. ”The baby’s head is still not in position, and based on your last labour and birth, we may be here all night.” I tried to defend my last labour, knowing that it was not an indication of any kind that this one would be the same, but she was right, I wasn’t dilated enough to have her stay.

As I watched her gathering up her things I felt like crying. I suddenly got scared, and felt totally lost and alone. This definitely was not what I had in mind. We followed her downstairs and my husband turned to me in frustration, “now what?”

I was really upset that she had left, but I was also very determined and not ready to give up. ”Let’s go for a walk”. I suggested. We got dressed and started walking up our street. All of our anxiety and doubt started pouring out. “Why did we do this?” my husband began. At this point the only thing I had regretted the most was not hiring a Doula to reassure us that everything would be okay, and to support us in this frustrating moment. Instead we were not sure what was going to happen, “We don’t even know if you are progressing, what were we thinking?” my husband continued to rant. I stopped for a second, dealing with a contraction. I realized that suddenly they were coming on quite aggressively. ”What’s wrong?”

“These contractions are getting stronger, I think we better go inside” I said. When we got back into the house, my younger daughter woke up and my husband went to her. I had decided to take a bath to see if it would help take the edge off of these contractions and asked my mom to come with me for support.

As I got into the tub, I found my contractions were coming on longer, stronger and more together. My mother started to time them and we found them to be two minutes apart. The fact that this was not the gradual labour I had prepared for was clear, and I had decided that I had to call back the midwife or I would be delivering this baby without her.

It was only a half an hour after she had left that I had called her back. I could barely talk and after listening to me go through one intense contraction after another, she had reassured me that she was turning around and coming back. All of the sudden everything started to happen really quickly. The contractions were so much stronger than what I had remembered experiencing.

When the midwife arrived yet again, I was labouring in the upstairs hallway. The contractions were coming on one on top of the other. We slowly moved into the bedroom, where she checked me again, only this time she was impressed with my progress. I was almost 7 cm. dilated, and by the time she had set up all of her equipment I was telling her I was ready to push. It didn’t take me much longer to birth our baby. I birthed him in our bedroom, standing beside our bed holding onto my husband for support, and when it was time, we both caught him into our arms.

We had our son in the home where he would be raised, born in the room that he would come to for love and comfort. Although this was by far the most intense labour and birth that I had, having my family surrounded in our bedroom to greet our newest member was definitely the best part of my plan. Despite our moments of panic, I was grateful that we had made the decision for a home birth, considering that we were able to sleep in our own bed, eat our own food, and find our own comfort in our familiar place. I also found that I recovered much quicker, and for the first time did not have to battle any infections post-birth.

I am Malvina, mother of three, and proud to have chosen to birth my third baby at home.


  January, 2019  
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