Friday, February 19, 2010

Home birth hostility

Why is there so much hostility toward the idea of a home birth? It's as if people really believe that hospitals are everywhere and have been everywhere since the beginning of time. When I started telling our American friends in Malawi that we planned on having a home birth with Eli, I got all sorts of ridiculous questions. This time around hasn't been any different. People's jaws drop and seconds later, the questions come pouring out. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about, complete with my responses.

Them: "You're having your baby at home?? Are you sure that's safe? Aren't you afraid of what might happen?"
Me: "Ha ha, what are you talking about? Is there something specific you have in mind?"

Them: "Wow-you are brave"
Me: "No, I'm not. I just believe that pregnancy is not a disease that needs to be cured. I trust that my body was made to give birth and I prefer to do that in a comfortable place where I won't unnecessarily be interfered with."

Them: "You want to have your baby in the water? Won't that drown the baby??"
Me: This one makes me so mad. Why in the world would I ever choose do something that would drown my baby? It takes a minute for me to think of a response that is not rudely sarcastic. I manage to say something like "Don't worry, it's safe. The baby gets oxygen from the umbilical chord and doesn't stay under the water for very long, possibly seconds."

Them: "Home birth? Isn't that for hippies?"
Me: "Sure, and other types of people, even celebrities like Cindie Crawford, Meryl Streep and Demi Moore!"
*Speaking of Cindie Crawford, you can watch a short interview about her home birth experience HERE.

Movies like The Back up Plan do not help when it comes to freaking out the public with all things related to home birth. Just watch this trailer and you will see what most people imagine a home birth to be like.

I will admit, it makes me laugh. I love the music which strikingly resembles a horror film. The actress is laboring in a tub and her face is completely distorted. With a drum circle of 10 well dressed girlfriends and continual screaming and gnashing, no wonder people are freaked. Gee, thanks media!

To counteract the media, anthropologist Vicki Elson has created what seems to be a great documentary on child birth. It's called Laboring Under and Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. the Real Thing. Click on the link to watch the preview. I really want to see it, but you can't rent it anywhere and it costs a lot to buy. BUMMER.

Another great documentary on home birth/natural childbirth is called The Business of Being Born. It came out in 2008 with Ricki Lake as executive producer. It's a great documentary not only on the history of childbirth in hospitals, but also on home births and midwives. You can rent this one on Netflix.

I am not really into conspiracies. I don't agonize over what the government controls (maybe I should..?). I don't spend my night awake worrying about women delivering in hospitals across the globe. I do not mind if people prefer a hospital birth. There are plenty of reasons why women choose that over a home birth, and that's totally fine with me. But to a lot of people, home birth is a crime. It's an uneducated choice that women make, putting themselves and their babies in grave danger. Some people I've talked to have been surprised that I meet with my midwives in my home once a month and then every week at 36 weeks. They are surprised to find out that we do indeed have a plan in case it turns into a high risk situation. They must just think we are shooting at the hip, hoping it all happens quickly with no pain and the tools to deal with it all. Actually, having a home birth takes a lot of preparation, physically and emotionally. It is something to really plan out, talk about with your midwife and spouse and to prepare for. It's probably the most educated decision I've ever made.

I realize that not all women who choose a hospital birth is hostile toward a home birth, just as women who choose a home birth are not always hostile toward hospitals. It really boils down to preference and that is okay.

The hostility isn't just coming from individuals but the government, too! In the state of Missouri, midwifery was illegal until summer of 2008. The Missouri Midwives Association along with others, worked long and hard to bring midwifery back. America prides itself to be a nation that is truly concerned with women's health and the right to abortion! Sure, it's okay for a woman to decide to terminate their pregnancy, but should they choose to keep it, the baby must be born in a hospital! How hypocritical!

I believe that child birth is an incredible gift and responsibility given to women for a purpose. I believe that as a result of the fall, God has cursed child birth and it is definitely more painful and difficult than He created it to be in the beginning.

"To the woman, he said 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;with pain you will give birth to children" Genesis 3:16

But just as God gave an answer to sin through the death of Christ, He can give women the strength to birth our babies the natural way without the use of harmful drugs. I also believe that because of the fall, the world is broken and things are not as they should be. In high risk situations, it is wiser to be in a hospital and medication is a need. The thing that saddens me is that many women are capable of a natural child birth, but will not consider it out of fear. I believe that child birth is not something to be afraid of. Pain is not always negative and does not always need to be remedied. Child birth should be engaged, not slept through. These are some of the reasons why I choose to have a natural home birth. The biggest reason this time around is simply because I loved my home birth experience with Elijah!

For now, I pray that my pregnancy continues to be low risk. I pray that all goes well. I also pray that should I need it, God will give me the grace to endure the hospital and will provide me with good doctors like He did after Elijah was born.


  1. I loved my homebirth experience and would not trade it for the world, ESPECIALLY after having two hospital births prior. I know how hard it is in Missouri, and yes, I got those same questions. But, even though it's difficult here, there are LOTS of women having homebirths. Please let me know if you need more support!

    And I never answered your other question in our emails, but YES, we would love venture out in the city to come see you guys! Maybe we could meet up somewhere cool and fun for the kids. We'll be in touch!

  2. Hey Bethany,
    Glad to hear you are doing a home birth again. I am certain you and Dan have made the decision wisely and I know it is totally safe. I was born at home, my mom hated hospitals. It was not an option for me with Áine and with Vincent I just decided it was not that big of a deal to me since my natural birth in the hospital went fine with Áine. With Vincent, the kid came 45 minutes after getting to the hospital so I could not have drugs even if I wanted them. Anyway, I support hospital and home births, but actually totally like the idea of a home birth better--just have never been on top of it enough to actually do it (because you are right, it takes WAY more planning and effort). So, don't let anyone get you down, keep laughing it off because you know your body and what you can handle and you will make the right decisions for you and your baby. Praying for you all!

  3. Good go girl! Remember the girl on the 'Business of Being Born' said in the extras...that it's actually more brave to attempt a natural birth at a hospital, since there are more options for medicine, etc. and I agree, especially after Flannery's birth! I'm glad I didn't get the epidural--glad for your support and that the timing just didn't work out!

  4. I'm so proud of my little sis. You really are a great woman. Congratulations by the way.

  5. i really enjoyed reading this! i agree wholeheartedly! congratulations on your pregnancy!!

  6. loved your post! my favorite concern expressed is, "but what if you are delivering at home and find out the umbilical cord is wrapped around your baby's neck THREE TIMES?!" i answer, "well, the midwife does the same thing anyone would do at the hospital - unwrap the cord THREE TIMES."
    congratulations on another little robbins in the nest! we are so happy for you four!

  7. I'm glad you write these posts b/c I don't think I could get away with them, and I live in Seattle. I've been think a lot about writing a giant post about why we "crazies" like to do our births naturally, but I don't have the energy and am too terrified of some someone somewhere feeling offended or judged. Looking forward to a planned home birth in about two months... let ya know how it goes :)