My first two children were born in a hospital birthing center. They were lovely births, especially the second one (which was fast, super straight-forward and in the water). My third was a water birth at home. It was also great, but it was a hard birth (she was 10 pounds and in a weird position), and I got a uterine infection after. Basically, each birth is what it is: unique in its challenges and "easy" parts (as if a birth is ever "easy").
When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth (I'm currently 20 weeks) and started wondering about where to give birth, I was genuinely unsure. You see, there were aspects of the homebirth I didn't love. In fact, there were aspects I didn't even like.
I realize this may sound crazy, but I kind of missed the experience of going somewhere else to have the baby. This is particularly insane because one of the reasons I chose homebirth with my third was so I didn't have to get in the car in labor. But here's the thing: When you give birth in a hospital, you have at least 24 hours of a mini-vacation — or at least time away from home (which feels like a mini-vacation to me). People bring you food. Your other kids aren't with you. After you give birth at home, you're still at home. The laundry pile is still there. The dishes are still there. Your other kids are, yep, you guessed it, still there. I missed those 24 or 36 hours sitting in a room with my husband and baby and nobody else, with nothing to do but nurse.
Also, the cost. My hospital birth cost $100, total. My homebirth (after the insurance coverage) was around $2,000. Though I don't have the awesome insurance I did before, a homebirth is likely to be more expensive for me (unless there are complications, in which case the opposite would be true).
I also didn't like the random people showing up at my house. Since it was at home, people figure, "She's cool. Let's go say 'Hello.'" People didn't do that when I was in the hospital.
But alas, I called my midwife anyway and scheduled my first appointment.
The midwives themselves. I couldn't let them go. We meet at my house or one of their houses (they're a group of four) and we talk for an hour. An hour. We drink tea and maybe eat some banana bread and they talk to me about my whole person: sleeping, eating, concerns. It's like a special gift I get when pregnant. Time with these wise, loving women. This is an impossibility for even the most caring provider in a hospital. Unless there's something seriously wrong with me, nobody's spending an hour with me at a regular clinic.
"Standard hospital procedures." I don't want to wear their stupid gown. I don't want to lie down on a bed for 20 minutes of "continuous fetal monitoring." I don't want a port in my hand (it hurts!). I don't want to be told when I can and can't be in the water. I don't want them to wash my baby. I don't want them to put my baby in one of those crib things while they wheel me from birthing to recovery rooms. For many, these are small things. And indeed, in the big picture, they are small things, but the bottom line is this: I don't want them. At home, I birth the way I want, how I want, wearing what I want in whatever location I want. That's not every woman's dream, but it's something I won't give up unless I have to.
Having my kids present. I cannot tell you what it meant to my older children to watch the birth of their baby sister. And no, they didn't think it was weird. And no, they weren't traumatized. And yes, it's one of the joyous memories of our family. I can't give it up. Plus, now they expect to be there. It would break their hearts for me to tell them "Sorry. This time you're not invited."
I want my kids to grow up witnessing birth as a natural process. Every time my kids hang out while I meet the midwife, and with each birth they see, they're learning that generally speaking, birth is not something to be feared or "managed." Against the American media depiction of birth as a terrifying sickness and condition, I want my kids to understand that birth is a natural, safe process until proven otherwise. Modern medicine is wonderful, but it's not always necessary, particularly when it comes to birth.
I learned from my mistakes. My midwives warned me to tell people not to come over for 48 hours. I didn't listen. I'll listen now. I'm going to hire a house cleaner before and after the birth (or at least get friends together to help me). And my mother-in-law has already agreed to take the older kids "away" for a couple of days after the birth (maybe a beach trip) so I can have my private time to rest and bond with the newest one. I'm hoping this gives me my "mini-vacation."
So yep, there you have it. Homebirth, you aren't perfect, but I can't quit you.