5 reasons I planned a homebirth:
I'm not going to hold back on this: Having a homebirth has been my dream for a very long time, since before I even started training as a Midwife.
There was a brief period where I thought I wasn't going to be able to birth at home in Paris (for reasons I will elaborate on another time!) and it quite literally broke my heart. I sobbed tears of actual grief at the prospect of not being able to even attempt to birth at home; it meant so much to me to be able to birth in my own environment, in my own way, on my own terms. And having 'achieved' it is my greatest joy and my greatest feat. (I'm not keen on using the word 'achieved' in this context but I can't think of a better one right now!). I could write pages on this topic, but with a newborn in arms I'm pretty tight on timeframes where I can scribble out a few notes on my smartphone.
So here's a quick whistlestop tour of why it was so important FOR ME to birth at home:
(I emphasise the *for me* here because this post really is about my own personal experience and I appreciate that a homebirth is not for everyone...)
1. Born into gentle hands.
This was my number 1 reason for wanting a homebirth & the thing I am most grateful for.
I caught my baby in my own hands. No medical gloves have ever touched him.
I know this may seem superficial & irrelevant to some, but to me this was incredibly profound. That his first contact with the world was soft, human, gentle...reassuring. I believe that first touch says a lot to a baby. It sets a precedent for what he expects of the world: it says you are safe, you are loved, you are home...welcome home baby.
And since that first touch, gentle, reassuring kind hands is all he has ever known...
I had many reasons for wanting a homebirth, but the overriding feeling - that I felt most acutely throughout - was wanting to avoid all of the unnecessary prodding, poking, and testing that so frequently goes on in a hospital environment, serving only to undermine women's bodies & their birthing physiology. To do this I knew I needed to step out of the fear and the institutionalism of the hospital setting, to put the power safely in my own hands, to literally 'come home;' to myself, my body and my baby.
2. I did it my way
The very nature of a homebirth is that you are on your own turf. That speaks volumes for the power dynamics of the whole context in which you are birthing. It flips the script on so many things: You invite a midwife into your home, at the moment you decide to call her. She is entering your familiar world, as opposed to you entering hers. I have never been scared of birth. I never wavered on my complete trust & conviction that my body was entirely capable of bringing my baby into this world almost independently of 'me' - (i.e. my mind) - or anyone else...
I knew that all I needed was a quiet, respectful, watchful midwife who observed from afar & trusted my body to do this as much as I did.
Birthing at home thus gave me the liberty to do things in my own way, to my own rhythm. To let my body dance this unique dance to its own beat. To never have anyone doubt me or interfere with the way me & my body needed to live it.
There were no rules, nobody trying to impose on me the way things should be. No examinations, no tests, no questions....very little talking.
I was able to sway & to sweat & to roar in any way I needed to. I was able to say NO to whatever didn't work for me...And most importantly YES to everything that did.
3. Unspoken terms: No need for a birth plan.
There is most often a kind of understanding between a homebirth midwife and the woman who has chosen to birth at home that renders an 'official' birth plan almost unnecessary.
Firstly, there are certain assumptions about why women want to birth at home, which revolve around a greater respect for a birthing woman's autonomy, her birthing physiology & the desire for less intervention.
On the other side there is an assumption that a homebirth midwife has taken on this role because she believes in a woman's capacity to birth autonomously & wants to support them in an empowering way.
The two hand-in-hand made many aspects of a birth plan - for me - kind of a given. And since I knew which midwives would attend my birth and had chance to discuss my wishes and desires beforehand, I never felt it necessary to put pen to paper and write an official 'plan'. If anything this would have felt a bit patronising & superficial.
Consequently I was able to completely let go on the day. There were no question marks in my head, no reservations about whether me & my midwife were on the same page. So my mind was quiet & my body was able to take over & do its wise work. My mantra was simply "Let life live through me."
4. Continuity of care, trust, and checking out of my mind.
I had 2 independant midwives (sage femme liberales) who had agreed to attend my birth depending on which one was available. My principal midwife -who did all my antenatal appointments - was on holiday around my duedate in July, therefore I also had her sidekick as my backup.
In the end it was the backup midwife who attended my birth. I had only had 1 official antenatal appointment with this midwife - right at the end of my pregnancy (although I had met her in other contexts & knew other women who had birthed with her so I had a good idea of her philosophy).
Fundamentally I knew 2 things in particular that allowed me to trust her completely & let go without reservation when it was her who arrived the day of my birth:
1) She would let me do things my way as much as possible - and intervene as little as necessary.
2) She is an incredibly experienced and competent midwife, so should anything go off-piste I knew she would absolutely own it. That was crucial for me - being a Midwife myself - that I checked out of my mind and let go of any kind of reflection about things being okay. I gave myself over entirely to her hands. I barely even looked up from the birth pool when she arrived at my house less than 2 hours before I gave birth ...there was nothing left to discuss on the day - her reassuring presence was enough.
5. The power and the glory.
Ok so I realise I have to tread carefully on this one: there is a long & complicated history of women who birth 'naturally' appearing -to some -as claiming some kind of superiority over those who have more complicated and medicalised births.
So I am going to step out of any comparative quagmire entirely here and reclaim what I said at the beginning of this blog: This is about my own personal experience only. And subjectively I can tell you that the fact that I did all of the above- and ended up catching my babe in my own bare hands whilst squatting on my living room floor - made me feel like F***ing superwoman. There is no other earthly experience that will reveal to me the depth of my own strength & courage - and an incomparable sense of being truly alive- as this did. And I am going to own that till the end of time - no matter what anyone else has to say about it.
It has undoubtedly contributed to how confident I feel - and continue to feel - about my ability and conviction as a mother. And it has by no uncertain measure contributed to how much of a zen, reassured, joyful & 'awake' baby Clovis is.
I can only look back and feel incredibly proud of myself for the insane amount of time and energy I put into planning and preparing for my dream birth.
I did it all; mindful birthing, prenatal yoga, hypnobirthing, active birthing, prenatal swimming, massage, acupuncture, osteopathy..no stone was left unturned.
And I don't believe I was too extreme. Because going in this hard on every little thing left only 2 options for me, both of which I came out on top:
Either it worked and I got my dream homebirth. Or it didn't and I would look back with no regrets; that there wasn't anything I could have done differently.
Perhaps the latter was the thing that really sealed the deal for me. I went into my homebirth with an open mind and zero resistance (and I worked especially hard on this one - on being ok with the potential of 'failure') feeling that if it didn't work out I would still live it positively & with zero regrets.
My mindfulness preparation is what left the door truly wide open for me to live my birth feeling confident that I did it truly my way, whatever the outcome.
And sometimes in life you simply get to win. And whilst I continue to shed a thousand tears for all those women who have their rights and their spirits and their dreams quashed by disrespectful, dishonest and at times quite simply horrendous, care during pregnancy and birth, I feel with every ounce of me that we need to keep singing these positive songs of empowered birth. Not to compare ourselves or seek one-upmanship, but to enforce and reinforce and reinforce again - till the GODDAMN cows come home - what it means for women to live their birthing experiences in a positive, empowered and respectful way.
That it truly does change women's and baby's lives, and - as such - has the capacity to change the world into a more peaceful, respectful & awakened place.
My personal homebirth experience has strengthened my conviction in everything I have ever believed about birth. Because after nearly a decade spent as a midwife, doula, & prenatal 'educator' I finally put theory into practice. Finally my body knows what my mind has always believed. The strongest and most profound of all human knowledge; that deep knowing of an embodied memory of a moment where we truly touch life at it's core. Where this human body brings a brand new life into this world. When you stop & think about it it's a bit of a no-brainer (and I mean this literally - in the sense that we have to leave our brains behind and truly feel what this means on an embodied - perhaps even 'spiritual' - level)
When you see it, feel it, on that level - how can our birth be anything but transformative?