plans plans plans: home birth

At my first birth preparation class my midwife (who teaches the course) mentioned that in October she had assisted with five home births.

“PLANNED?!” A women with short dark brown hair and glasses blurted out. Her eyes were huge.

“Four of them were planned,” Midwife replied. “One of them wasn’t.”

“People PLAN home births?!” She could not believe that there were people in the world planning home births. Her tone implied that she thought anyone who would do such a thing might be missing a few cards from the proverbial deck. From what the others have said, I seem to be the only one in the class who is not planning on going to the hospital when labor starts.

“I would be happy if every woman I assisted wanted to give birth at home.” Midwife didn’t elabortate, and the subject quickly drifted back to the plastic model pelvis bones she held in her hands. But I remembered her telling me a few appointments before that hospital births were always more stressful than home births. More running around. More noses being stuck into rooms, decisions, and vaginas. More beaurocracy. More pressure, and women who were far less relaxed.

“I don’t understand why people want to go to the hopsital to give birth,” I had said, though it’s not entirely true. Intellectually I can understand the desire for security in the case of an emergency, the fear of making a mistake that will harm the new life for which you are responsible. But—I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I feel more secure in my home with an experienced midwife among trusted friends who know me, my quirks, and my preferences. In the case of an emergency the next hospital is five minutes away (our hospital of choice is ten), so even at home I have the security of hospital access. This is the beauty of home birth in the western world in this time and place. We really can have it all.

“Most women just don’t trust themselves to be able to give birth at home,” Midwife had replied, leaning in the frame of the red Wagen’s door. “They get scared. They don’t believe they can do it. And if women don’t believe they can give birth without a hospital, eventually they won’t be able to.”

So much knowledge is already being actively (intentionally!) forgotten, lost. Doctors are no longer even taught how to deal with a breech birth (ie a baby who is butt down instead of head down when labor starts). Strike that. They are taught how to deal with them. They are taught to reach for the scalpel. Despite the fact that a breech baby can be safely born vaginally. Though probably not with a doctor who hasn’t been taught how.


Alongside my midwife, I’m planning on having two birth partners with me for the labor. The Beard will be my main support. But since the baby is due in February, I want a second set of hands to tend the wood stove. (Or to run for more water or snacks or to take pictures.) I also want a second set of hands there to support me if the Beard needs to go take a nap or a piss. Though you never do know—maybe I’ll be overwhelmed by the presense of so many people and send everyone away so I can labor alone.

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin—a really excellent book for expecting mamas and anyone who might be attending a birth—hasn’t been translated into German, so the Beard is ploughing through it in English. Meanwhile, Frau Doktor has a German copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (German title: Die selbstbestimmte Geburt) to prepare her. Who knows if they’ll make it to the two birth classes to which partners are invited—they are the last two classes in the series, and they fall two weeks and five days, respectively, before my 40-week due date.

The rest of my plans are fluid. The Beard knows what I want if we end up in the hospital with him advocating. We even have a code word for pain meds so that I can curse and rant without anyone coming at me with a needle. The midwife will also know what I want—though we haven’t had the detailed conversation about it yet—and whenever she talks I feel like my birth philosophiy is coming out of her mouth.

I can’t rave enough about how happy I am to have found this woman. Someone who I can actually trust and believe if/when she says, “Sorry Nikki, it’s time for a C-section.” Sitting on a red yoga mat in a room full of watermelon bellies and listening to her talk about birth in class, I have to stop myself from shouting “WOHOO YEAH RIGHT ON LADY!” and running up for high fives every time she makes a statement. She believes women’s bodies are made to give birth, she is against the over-medical-management of birth, she keeps her ladies at home for as long as possible (those planning a hospital birth that is), she won’t induce a birth a pre-determined number of hours after the waters break, she waits longer than hospitals do after the due date before giving labor a push, and she has assisted almost 4,000 babies into the world.

I’m not using her name here for the sake of privacy, but if you are reading this, live in the Mainz area, and want to get in touch with her for your own birth, send me an email and I’ll be happy to get you in touch.

UPDATE! Had another midwife’s appointment before last night’s birth class and SHE’S TURNED!!! Good bye breech position, hello head-down-and-ready-for-launch position! I am giddy. Just hope she doesn’t decide to turn back. Particularly because she was just doing some serious gymnastics in there. My stomach looked like a stormy sea for a good five minutes.

0 Comments on “plans plans plans: home birth

  1. Good luck with everything! 😀 I would like to have a home birth, too, when the day comes. And I have to say it’s very refreshing and reassuring to hear someone ELSE “rant” about home birth like I normally do. YOU GO, MAMA!

  2. On Tuesday I met with a birthing center run by 5 midwives. They do water births which is something I’m interested in. More the idea of being in a bathtub for labor… not so sure about delivery, guess I’ll figure it out when the time comes. They have a very cosy birthing center that is basically a house built for laboring. Origonally designed for the Amish and Meninite families in the area that were remote and wanted a place closer to a hospital to give birth, it seems perfect for us too. There will be no one pushing drugs on me because there are none to be given. It will be just us a midwife and a nurse and us. I feel really good about this choice. So much better than any of the hospitals I looked at.

    I haven’t started the classes yet, but I hope I feel like high-fiving the midwives everytime they make a statement. So far so good.

  3. Lina: Thanks! Oooh man, now that she’s turned I’m feeling totally crazily excited. (Before I was excited but hesitant because my pessimism had me thinking, “well, she’s just not going to turn and I’m going to have to deal with the hospital stuff.”)

    Foy: That sounds awesome! The water aspect is the only thing that would make a hospital birth neat in my case. At the hopsital we’d be going to they have tubs in all the birthing rooms, and one room has an enormous crazy awesome tub. At home we have a number of outdoor bathtubs, which I don’t want to deal with/put the midwife through standing next to in February weather. We also have one in the house, but the hot water heater tends to have a really small supply of hot water. Doable I suppose, but rather a lot of work as there would need to be a hoard of people boiling water on a bunch of different stoves to make it work. I’m not ruling it out though. (Not even if there’s a concert in the house that night. Haha, that will be quite a situation if that is the case.)

    Fishie: Woo! I seriously feel like she’s my own personal Ina May. Awesome.

  4. Good luck nikki! i think having 2 birth coaches is a great idea. For me, toward the end of the process, as much as I love him and he helped me so much throughout, my husband as a “focal point” just wasn’t working anymore. it’s nice to be able to change it up. the two things that helped me so much throughout a “drugless” labor were: 1. breathing and 2. sitting on an exercise ball. i LOVED the ball. i sat on it til I was about 8 cm and my husband and my nurse massaged my back throughout the contractions. everyone’s different, but that was really helpful for me. i wish you all the best for a safe birth and a great experience! there’s nothing like being a mom.

  5. jillian: Awesome that the ball was so much help. I picked up one at the flea market this summer thinking of the home birth. Hope it helps me as much as it helped you!

    christie: No I hadn’t, but they do look pretty interesting. Would like to see one in action sometime.

  6. I think it is so useful to go to the birth classes with your midwife – and so awesome that when she speaks you agree. Gives you a good sense of really what they are all about. In the end, we did a hospital birth (annoying to be dictated by insurance) which is not a quiet entry into the world for anyone – babe into world or woman into being a baby holding mama.

    And, Jillian is totally right on, sometimes in the middle of such an experience you need multiple people to help (what works for one contraction or part of the birth may work well for that contraction or part of the birth but may not for the next).

    woo hoo for moms and babies.

  7. YES! So good to read about your preparations for home birth in this way. I wish I had known more in time for my first baby (hospital), but my daughter was born at home and it was such a positive experience. All I can say is that you’re already doing the things I’d recommend – reading Ina May, finding a midwife that you like and trust, and choosing someone else to support you and your partner during the labour. We hired a doula, but a close and capable friend would be even better. Like you say, someone to make sure that the stove has enough wood, or to go make everyone a cup of tea. Everyone’s labour is different and you know what you will need; trust your instincts. Be aware of the power of words, like Ina May I inisted everyone said “rush” instead of “contraction”, and at the toughest point of labour, my husband’s words (“You’re amazing, I love you”) literally took all the pain/fear away. I’m really not a tough/stoic person, so the fact that I had a natural, drug-free home birth should give others the confidence to do the same! Anyway, all the best for Peanut’s birth – I have every faith that all will be well and you will have the home birth that you so want. Best wishes!

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