More and more women are defying convention and doctors' guidelines and choosing to have their babies at home. Here, three women talk about the ups and downs of delivering their way.
"I was happy to be in my own bed. But let's face it: Birth without drugs sucks." —Mardi Douglass, Seattle
I gave birth to my first son without pain medication at a birthing center. I found out the most surprising thing about birth is the pain. Let's face it: Birth without drugs sucks. When I got pregnant again, I swore I wouldn't do that again, but I couldn't bring myself to give birth in a hospital without a midwife. So I decided to do it at home.
I spent most of my labor kneeling on the floor with my arms on our bed. I felt more present than I was during my first birth and made a conscious choice about how I was going to react to the pain. When the midwife arrived, we moved to the bed and Tanner was born shortly thereafter. The most painful part is when the baby's head is coming through your cervix, but it's also a good feeling because the next sensation is feeling the baby completely out of your body—and the pain is gone.
I was so happy when it was over and very happy that I was in my own bed. And, I didn't have to drive to a birthing center while in labor. Overall, the four hours of painful labor relative to nine months of meaningful care from a midwife was worth it.
"I didn't want to be in a hospital where there are people I don't know. It just didn't feel right." —Elizabeth Halpern, Los Angeles
During my first pregnancy, we went to a birthing class at a local yoga studio. The midwife who taught the class said the most important thing was to have your baby in a place where you feel the strongest and most confident. So, I thought, I need to be home. I didn't want to be in a hospital where there are people I don't know and they are telling me what to do. It just didn't feel right.
My first labor at home was long. For my second, I was sure we would have a water birth, but everything moved so fast we didn't have time to fill up the birthing tub. The pain was also very different. It was harsh and quick compared with the dull and drawn-out pain of my first labor and delivery.
As soon as my 5-year-old son, Hudson, found out we were having a baby, he was steadfast about wanting to help with the birth. I delivered his brother, Winston, lying on the cement floor of our loft. The first thing Hudson did when Winston was born was sit next to me and ask, "Mommy, are you so happy to finally have your baby?"
"After three hours of pushing, I knew something was wrong. We couldn't figure out why my daughter, Harper, wasn't coming out." —Renee Pietrangelo-Brown, Los Angeles
When I got pregnant, I started going to the doctor and it never crossed my mind to have a home birth. But one day, I thought: "Why am I going to the doctor? I don't have a medical condition. I'm just pregnant." I started interviewing midwives and I realized that it was a completely different experience. I felt empowered.
Early in my labor, my two midwives arrived at my house and we went for a long walk. Walking through my contractions actually made them a lot easier to deal with. When I was 10 centimeters dilated, the midwives broke my water and I started pushing. I tried squatting on the floor while holding onto the side of the bed, and then I tried sitting on the toilet. The baby just wouldn't drop. And, I was in so much pain, I was screaming.
After three hours of pushing, I knew something was wrong. My daughter, Harper, wasn't coming out. The midwives called and told the hospital we were coming. When I got there, they gave me an epidural right away. Then they backed off on the pain medication and I pushed for another 90 minutes. I tried different positions and she still didn't come out. The doctor suggested I have a C-section and I started bawling. I thought, "I'm not good enough. I can't even push out my own baby."
The experience taught me a lot. No matter how much you want things to go one way, you have to remember it's not just about you anymore. It's about you and your baby.