Even before I was pregnant, I knew that I would want a home birth – and that was only cemented as soon as I found out I was actually expecting. As I’m sure you’ve heard me mention, I have a real phobia of hospitals and anything medical, which has made certain elements of pregnancy very un-fun for me, and so it made sense to me to avoid that as much as possible. I’ll be honest, it was just a gut feeling at first, a ‘how do I get out of this?’ sort of decision, but as time went on and we discovered more about the whole process of labour (staying calm is key, it seems…), it started to make logical as well as emotional sense.
As soon as you mention that you are planning to have a home birth, you get one of two reactions; the first, quite predictably, is something along the lines of ‘ooo, you’re brave’ or ‘isn’t that a bit risky?’. I’m sure it’s not meant to sound quite so insulting, but it is certainly off-putting. I understand why; as a society we have ‘medicalised’ pregnancy and see labour as very much a medical process – only safe when there are doctors and surgeons on hand should the worst happen. Paul was very much of this opinion when I first floated the idea to him, and it definitely took a while to bring him around (although he is very much on board with the home birth plan now!). Labour is a scary thing to go through (she says, as it looms ahead…) and many people I imagine that it is comforting to have nurses and doctors around, but that is very much my idea of a nightmare even at the best of times. I have since learnt that for low risk pregnancies (of which I am lucky to have one!), there’s really no greater risk when having your baby at home. Yes, things can go wrong, but they so rarely go wrong so quickly that you can’t get to the hospital if you need to – and given that we live a short ten minute drive from two hospitals, that’s not something that concerns me massively. On TV, things tend to get a bit dramatic, but whilst it’s not impossible for things to turn sour within moments, it’s much more likely that the midwife would spot any upcoming problems ahead of time and get you into hospital with plenty of time.
The other reaction you get is the complete opposite; from people who have had home births (few and far between though they may be in my particular circle) you get nothing but glowing reports, and from those who haven’t, you can sometimes get an ‘I wish I’d done that’. Our health visitor actually did a little fist bump when he found out we were planning to have a home birth! After all of the former comments, it’s actually quite a relief to find out that not all people who do go that route regret it (I’m sure some do, although luckily no one has yet told me that!). It’s all very well to read all about it, and to work out all the reasons why it’s right for you, but quite another to actually go through with it when it’s not really the done thing. Of course, the baby may have other ideas entirely, and we’re prepared for a hospital stay if it is necessary, but we’re all prepped and primed for staying at home if we can. On top of my medical phobias playing a part, I also just like the idea of being in my own space – I’m a control freak at the best of times, and especially when I feel a bit vulnerable.
One thing that I will say is that planning a home birth means we’ve had to do a lot more ‘admin’. I had to chase the home birth team a few times to actually get them to come and chat to us (they do a home visit at 36 weeks to talk you through everything) and we’ve had to get a fair amount of stuff in that you wouldn’t have had to bother with if you were going into hospital where everything is already set up. We’ve bought a birth pool and all the accessories that go with that, and stocked up on extra towels and blankets to cover up the furniture (*insert cringing monkey emoji here*). I think it’s been quite good for us; we’re definitely planners and we like to have lots of ticked off lists, so it’s helped us feel a bit more prepared at a time when you really can’t be all that prepared for what’s to come, but I know that wouldn’t be for everyone. Now the only thing left to do is wait his arrival…