The first time I heard about home birth, it was in an article I read about a woman who had an unassisted home birth, high off her ass on LSD. This was maybe 2 years ago? I distinctly remember thinking “Damn, those crazy hippies. Why would anyone give birth outside of a hospital?! It’s so dangerous!” Looking back on that, I feel like an idiot. Obviously, there are going to be some women who choose to do crazy things like that, but the majority of home-birthers are just like you and me, only they want an empowered birth experience where they call the shots – something you can kiss goodbye in the hospital! And as for dangerous, multiple studies have shown that it’s no more dangerous than giving birth in a hospital. Take THAT, Obstetricians!
For some reason, most people today think that home birth is dangerous and insane. It’s something that they expect a woman in flowy skirts and hemp sandals with dreadlocks in her hair to be doing. That stereotype is a crock. All types of women go for home birth! Hell, Gisele Bundchen had a home birth!
Back in the day, home birth was the only way to give birth. Medicine didn’t have a solution for women who really needed help. That all changed when the field of obstetrics came to be. The advanced new methods they offered were intriguing and piqued the curiosity of pregnant women everywhere- giving birth in the hospital became the fashionable, safe thing to do. In 1938, home birth accounted for half of births. In 1955, fewer than 1% chose home birth.
In the 1920s, a doctor described birth at home:
You find a bed that has been slept on by the husband, wife and one or two children; it has frequently been soaked with urine, the sheets are dirty, and the patient’s garments are soiled, she has not had a bath. Instead of sterile dressings you have a few old rags or the discharges are allowed to soak into a nightdress which is not changed for days.
This experience is contrasted with a 1920s hospital birth by Adolf Weber:
The mother lies in a well-aired disinfected room, light and sunlight stream unhindered through a high window and you can make it light as day electrically too. She is well bathed and freshly clothed on linen sheets of blinding whitenes… You have a staff of assistants who respond to every signal… Only those who have to repair a perineum in a cottars’s house in a cottar’s bed with the poor light and help at hand can realize the joy.
Obviously, these days beds aren’t soiled that way, and I sincerely doubt most home births in the twenties were that unsanitary, either. And women were completely abused by hospitals while giving birth – completely sedated, strapped down, and subjected to forceps or worse. Advocates of hospital birth are excellent at making women feel embarrassed if they choose any other option. These kinds of stereotypes were one of the many ways they achieved that.
Today, out-of-hospital births account for around 1% of all births. 27% of those are in a birth center, 65% in a home. It’s crazy, because the treatment received by obstetricians in hospitals can be horrifying. Personal acquaintances of mine have been bullied into interventions, given interventions without being asked, and walked out on by their doctor for saying no. I’m certainly not saying every doctor does this – I’m absolutely sure most don’t – but even just a handful treating women in this vulnerable state in such a way is unacceptable. Home birth is one of the ways to take back that loving, joyful birth experience.
I think it would be so much healthier for everyone if only high risk births (such as preemies, birth by a mother with an STD, etc) were attended in the hospital. Low risk, normal pregnancies aren’t an emergency. They don’t require all sorts of help to happen. They just flow. So, all you mommas out there: consider your options carefully. It’s possible to do things your way at the hospital, and if you feel more comfortable there, great. Go to the hospital. But if you’re not comfortable with the idea, then explore other options. Interview a midwife. Tour a birth center nearby. Research as much as possible. You’ll know what’s best for yourself, girlfriend.
All that being said…Home birth rocks!! I can not wait to have a child by laboring in my own bed and seeing all my loved ones anytime I want, eating as much food as I want (NOM!), and screaming my head off at anyone who doesn’t do things the way I want! I can’t wait until I get to be that woman. Until then…the plan is to help all the currently pregnant ladies who desire my help and give them everything they want! It’s going to be a rush.