Besides homeschooling, this is the biggest thing I get questions about. People want to know "why" and "how," so I'm going to try to answer that today.
I will start by saying that I know a home birth doesn't fit every person or situation, so I'm not trying to convince my readers that it's the only way. But for a normal, healthy woman I certainly think it's worth considering.
I first witnessed a home birth when my sister had her first child. Technically, she had him in a birthing center, but the process was the same. It was such a natural, relaxed event that I knew it was for me. So when I became pregnant with my first, I called the same midwife. The rest is history!
I will give you my personal experiences, since midwives and their methods may differ some, and explain the pros and cons as I see them.
First, I've always used a Certified Professional Midwife. There are other variations, such as a Certified Nurse Midwife, etc.
At each prenatal visit, they do many of the same things a doctor would do. They check weight and vital signs, question your physical state, measure the baby, listen to baby's heart rate, and sometimes perform blood tests. The visits are monthly up until about the 7th month, when you begin going every 2 weeks. Then during the last month, you visit weekly until birth.
Depending on the situation, the midwife may come to your home, or you may visit her. I used one midwife for my first birth, and then (because the first one was retiring) began using a new one for the rest. With her, we've had many different circumstances. She first worked out of her home, which I visited with child number 2. With the 3rd child, she came to see me for many of the visits. With number 4, she had an office. Now with number 5, she is opening a birthing center in a historic home, so we visit there.
If any exams result in information that is less than desireable for a healthy pregnant mom or baby, the midwife will immediately work to fix the situation. It could mean a change in supplements, a sonogram, a visit to the doctor, or even the ER. Home birth is for low-risk pregnancies, and if the pregnancy cannot remain low-risk, a midwife generallly will not continue as the primary caregiver.
Although my first trimester sickness can be very severe, it never has endangered me or the baby to the point of taking me out of the low-risk category. I'm thankful that I've been able to continue on with each pregnancy with no further problems.
Late in the pregnancy the midwife will generally give you a list of birth supplies to assemble by about 36 weeks. This includes things like 6 clean towels and washcloths, 2 sets of sheets, a heating pad, various medical supplies and disinfecting ingredients easily purchased at your local store, and of course, baby clothes and blankets.
Some midwives may have the ability to perform sonograms in their office or birthing center. Mine does not, but she has a list of home-birth friendly establishments that will do a sonogram for a fairly low fee. She sets up the appointment for us. We've usually paid between $60 and $80 to find out what gender the baby is. This is optional, of course.
Labor and Delivery
The "big day" is when you will notice the main difference with home birth. As with any situation, when the mom begins to have contractions fairly close together and it seems like the real thing, she calls the midwife. The midwife takes note of the signs, prepares her bag, calls her assistant, and heads to your house.
When the midwife arrives, she sets up her supplies in the birthing room. This room can be wherever the mom is comfortable. I've always had my births in the bedroom, but you can use any room. It's your birth, and your home! This is one of the main differences between a home and hospital birth: freedom. The lady having the baby gets to make many of the decisions based on what is comfortable for her.
Now we wait. Or, at least, everyone else waits. Mom is busy with labor! There may be many people or just a few in the home. Again, it's mom's choice. I always have my husband, my mom, my sister, and the midwife. My dad is always around, but he stays out of the birth room (usually watching the little ones and preparing the herbal bath) until the baby arrives.
As my girls get older, they've chosen to witness the birth. Not everyone likes to allow their children to watch. I'm fine with it.
During labor, mom is encouraged to do several things that are forbidden in the hospital. First, she is encouraged to eat a healthy meal. Food provides energy, and she will need it for the task ahead! Second, lots of water and fluids are encouraged. No ice chips here! Third, mom is allowed to labor wherever and however she would like. Take a walk outside, clean out the fridge, relax in the tub, or just lie in bed. Whatever is comfy is what she does. Movement is encouraged, but not necessarily required.
During this time, the midwife and/or assistant are constantly measuring dilation and monitoring baby's heartrate.
When it's time to push (hallelujah!) that's when the midwife takes over. It's time for mom to focus every bit of energy on the birth at hand, and the midwife does a wonderful job of coaching her through. When mom hears "there's the head!" she knows the work is almost over.
Since I'm telling this from the viewpoint of the mom in labor, I can only say that everything is handled smoothly while I'm either pushing or in that deep sleep that comes between contractions.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will describe the handling of the birth and after care and fill in some details not mentioned today. Please feel free to ask questions, and I will also try to answer them. Share