midwives and home births in germany, part the first

The first midwife that we met with was a young, bubbly woman, friendly in the way that you expect people who work in American customer service to be. We chatted with her about her experience and ours, but it was clear within a couple of minutes that she wasn’t the midwife for me: she didn’t do home births or offer Beleghebamme services (that means “a midwife who you pay a little extra to accompany you to the hospital for your birth). Ah well, she told us, I’ll send you a few contacts to try calling, call me if you can’t find someone who does do home births, and good luck!

Home birthing in Germany is legal, but rare. (Apparently Holland is the country of home births. Anyone with experience there??) In order to be allowed to practice in Germany, midwives who perform home births are required to buy such expensive insurance that, for most of them, it simply doesn’t pay off because demand isn’t high. The majority of folks want the securtiy of a hospital when they’re laboring, and considering all the fear-mongering that is done about giving birth, I don’t blame them for wanting to err on the side of caution.

But me, I despise hospitals. When I think of giving birth, the last place I can imagine wanting to be is in a hospital. I know, I know, some of them have comfortable, less-sterile-looking rooms for birthing and great staff and etc, but even so they are not places where I feel comfortable or relaxed, which in turn means they are not places where I particularly want to be when I’m in pain—or having one of the most intense, beautiful, life-changing, intimate, and skull-crackingly painful experiences of my life.

When I’m in pain I want to be in the most comfortable place there is: my own home. There is so much comfort in familiarity, in the way things smell, in the heaps of blankets and pillows on my bed, in not needing to figure out new things like where the bathroom or the light switch are, in not having to deal with any strangers. Knowing that being able to relax can help a birth go far more smoothly makes home birth a great fit for me. I love the idea of not having to drive anywhere once the contractions start and of not having to get home again once some other strangers have deemed Peanut and I fit for release. And I can’t think of anything more beautiful than giving birth in a place so important to me, in bringing Peanut into the world in the place that will remain our heart’s shell for many years to come.

And of course there is also the fact that hospital births tend to be overmanaged births. Many doctors have been trained to deal with birth through a slew of medical interventions, and so, logically, that is how they approach each birth that comes their way. I don’t want to have to fight someone every step of the way (not that I’ll be fit to do so at the time, so I suppose I should say that I don’t want to have to listen to the Beard fighting them) in order to have the birth experience I want. I’m not against medical intervention in general—it is certainly a relief to be living in a time when even extreme medical complications during birth generally end with a live child and mother—and when it comes down to a question of survival, I’d consent to be stuck with needles or cut open or sent to the moon. I’d just prefer not to be.

Birth doesn’t scare me. Hopsitals occasionally do. Birth will be intense, but the way I see it, my body was built to do it, and, more likely than not, will be able to do so without a lot of poking and prodding. With a midwife to guide and help me, I see home birthing as an exciting oppurtunity, and I feel for all the ladies interested in home birthing who live in states in America where it is illegal (or nearly so).

Of course, with child birth you never do know what is going to happen and because I don’t deal well with disappointment I tend to prepare for the worst. So while I am visualizing how fantastic it would be to give birth at home in the red trailer, I’m also preparing myself to be confronted with every situation that I dread. As Nina Planck says in Real Food for Mother and Baby: “The best preparation for pregnancy, birth, and mothering—even better than eating real food—is an open mind. Perhaps your life and work are well planned, orderly. Perhaps you find that satisfying. (I did.) Let go. Having a baby is stupendously wonderful, but things may not go as planned. If you have no fixed expectations, nothing can surprise or disappoint you. The ideal stance is a kind of gentle wonder, now and again brimming over into radical amazement, as your story unfolds.”

Read part two of “midwives and home births” here. Or read further musings on gorilla parenthood here.

0 Comments on “midwives and home births in germany, part the first

  1. I hope you can find someone to work with you. I didn’t realize that homebirths are so rare in Germany, but I’m not surprised, based on the reasoning you mentioned. I knew a woman who was planning one in our town but ended up having to go to the hospital. I had a great homebirth in TX three years after a pretty good nurse midwife-attended hospital birth in OR.

  2. two of my sisters were born at home. i cannot imagine having to go through birth in a hospital, stuck on my back, with strangers. i hope you find someone. have you read anything by ina may gaskin? both “spiritual midwifery” & “ina may’s guide to childbirth” are amazing.

  3. I hope you can find someone to attend you at home.

    My daughter had one baby born at home–it was beautiful.

    Then her doctor gave up attending homebirths because of the cost of insurance. With the next two I was with her at home until she was well established in labor (6 to 7 cm. dilated). I went with her to the hospital and she had a birth plan– no IV, limited monitoring and freedom of movement. Each time she gave birth within 3 hours.

  4. I live in the Netherlands and my 3 children were all born at home. But even in the Netherlands you wouldn’t qualify for home birth if you live in a trailer. There needs to be running (hot) water and a shower INSIDE your home. There are all kinds of requirements and they come to your home to check it in advance.

  5. I love hearing about all of this. Congratulations again and good luck on your midwife search! It sounds like you have an amazing outlook on the whole thing and I love that last quote. xo

  6. Pingback: midwives and home births in germany, part the second | click clack gorilla

  7. Finn: I’ve read “Spiritual Midwifery” of those two. Really interesting book, though at times a little heavy on descriptions like “It was heavy” or “It was phsychedelic” and a little light on concrete descriptions of what giving birth feels like. If that had been the only book I’d ever read about giving birth I think I’d feel a little mislead about the amount of pain I was likely to be facing. But I love that they are trying to create a birth mythology that revolves around joy and love instead of fear and pain-mongering.

    Sascha: Thanks for the doula tip. Though I don’t really feel like I need one with my midwife doing her thing, the Beard, and one other friend as my birthing group. That looks like a really excellent resource though. I’ll have to spread the good word about them some more.

    Ellen: Interesting that they have that requirement. If that was the case here, which it luckily isn’t, I would just plan to give birth in the house on our property, which has both. Haha, actually a pretty funny thought, giving birth in an autonomous center.

    And to everyone else: Thanks for all the comments and congrats and input! You’re awesome.

  8. Hey Momma-to-be. We just had Melina 3 weeks ago. There’s a midwife program at the hospital, so we had the best of both worlds, so to speak. I was a little sad that we weren’t doing a home birth, but was very, very happy we were in the hospital. Baby suffered some stress during delivery and we ended up in the NICU for 10 days (kinda terrifying for the first 3 or so).

    You’re right about midwife recommended interventions: when our midwife told us that she’d like the pediatric team in, after seeing some meconium in my wife’s water, we knew it was 100% legit.

    Have fun, and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly to plan.

  9. yeah, spiritual midwifery is definitely dated in that woo-woo way. ina may’s guide is more modern & has more information along with the birth stories. they were good for me to read since i tend to be terrified of the whole thing.

  10. Pingback: The Expecting Expat: Midwives and Home Births in Germany | Young Germany

  11. You honestly are surprised that the formerly life threatening act of childbirth is recommended in a hospital- free from the germs of unwashed hippies where blood transfusion & obstetric surgical expets & equipment are easily at hand?
    What Mad Hatter planet do you people live on?
    I accessed this bizarre tale from Indonesia- a redirect from the German Embassy website. I am very shocked the allegedly ‘civilized’ westerner could possibly entertain such nonsense. This the thinking of Indonesian childish rural peasants. As per the Dutch- unsurprising as they are globally infamous as idiotic moralists or merely idiotic.
    In the real world (outside the EU & afluent North Ametica) only the poor give birth at home as they have no alternative- hence the deathly serious global issue of maternal childbirth mortality. This is a very serious problem for developing nations. Do you think some poor peasant in mud-floored hut would opt for “life affirmation feelgoodness” birth at home if they could have a choice?
    I am sorry, but your disconnection to the global majority’s reality and your lack of emotional maturity in overcoming irrational fears of hospital for the benefit of your newborn fills one with foreboding for their future welfare.
    I assume your kind of trendy hippy also despise immunizations? Perhaps you’d like to visit Indonesia so I can introduce you to grieving mothers whose children died of rubella, or worse crippled with polio as they lacked the money for the injections?

  12. Sederhana: Umm, sorry, but you very obviously don’t have a fucking clue what it means to give birth at home in the western world. You make it sound like giving birth at home is some sort of return to the dark ages, but home birth in a place such as Germany, for example, involves a whole lot of interweaving of traditional birth practices and modern medical knowledge and practices. Birth can be life-threatening, sure, but for the most part it isn’t so. It is not a disease that requires hospitalization in the majority of cases. We are all glad that there are hospitals for the cases when a mother or baby’s life is in danger. But guess what? Women’s bodies are made to give birth and saying that all birth is dangerous is incredibly moronic. You also obviously haven’t done any research on the negative effects many hospital birth interventions can have.

    And what do immunizations have to do with home birth? Nothing. That is a whole other subject, and a parent’s decision to immunize or not has nothing to do with the decision to labor at home.

  13. Pingback: midwives and monologues: week 26 peanut | click clack gorilla

  14. Pingback: Preparing for Birth: Choosing a Care Provider » A Little Bit of All of It

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