Hi Heather, I can relate so well to your experience and feelings. I had a similar labor with my first son, but what resonated the most with me was that your confidence is shaken. We try to believe that our bodies can do it... we are strong... birth is natural. I meditated, did yoga, read everything I could get my hands on, and prepared in every way I thought possible to have a natural, intervention-free home birth. Afterwards, I wondered -- what did I do wrong? why was my baby posterior? Did I not walk enough? Did I not do enough yoga? Did my midwife miss anything? Why didn't I have a back-up plan? (I was completely unprepared for a hospital transfer -- during my pregnancy I naively thought that such considerations would detract from my experience, as I didn't want to express any fear or doubt in home birth. I also lived 5 minutes away from a hospital, which provided some comfort.)
I am pregnant again with my second baby, and can not decide whether to try to have another home birth. I have little confidence in my body or the birth professionals around me. And this time I am scared, because I know how painful it can be.
I think the home birth community has focused on advocating home/natural births, and we have not talked enough about the hospital transfer. We have tried to take the fear out of birth, to reclaim power over our bodies, to reclaim our strength. I understand all of this in a historical context -- births had become so hospitalized, sterilized, medicated, feared, etc., and we want an alternative! Of course, we first want to normalize home/natural birth. We want people to know that it is safe, and that this can be a responsible decision for a mother to make. And all of those things are usually true.
But, I think it's time to talk about the complexity of home birth. We need to have a sub-community of women, just like the one you have started in this conversation, to pull together and encourage one another. How can we help other women prepare for home/natural birth, including a scenario with a hospital transfer and interventions, without fear? How can we tell ourselves that we are strong, that our bodies are made to do this, and then not feel like a failure when it doesn't happen?
After my labor I would look at my books and magazines and think, why didn't that work out for me and my baby? It was like the natural birth community had created a standard that I couldn't live up to. I do not blame the community for this -- I just think we are part of a movement in its infancy, and it's time to dig a little deeper.
I have heard from numerous midwives and birth centers that 1 out of every 8 home birth patients transfers to a hospital. That seems like a lot to me (although when I was pregnant with my first, I brushed it off -- thinking I'd be fine...) In my state, midwives are not required to have a back up OB. (I ended up in the emergency room of a teaching hospital.) I think that's a problem, but I'm not sure how to fix it. But I don't feel like anyone is even talking about it. I feel like the focus is still on hey, home birth is on the rise, it's natural, it's ok! And that's great. But there's more to it than that, which apparently 1 out of 8 of us can attest to.
Heather, your post was incredibly encouraging to me. I only know a handful of people that have tried home birth, so there aren't that many people to talk to about this. (I mean in real life, not internet life.) When I read your story, I felt a connection and a relief -- it's not just me. When I talk to most of my friends and family, they see my hospital transfer as normal and inevitable, and don't understand why I have struggled with it. They keep telling me -- we have no control over birth. As in, what made you think you could control it in the first place? (Of course, choosing home birth is not an exercise in control, quite the contrary.) So thank you for posting what you did, and hopefully, we can keep this conversation going.
Edited by nabisco - 3/19/12 at 1:43pm