The adjective ‘homey’ has two possible meanings, either ‘cozy’ and ‘intimate’ or ‘unattractive’ and ‘ugly’. My home birth, or rather my son’s home birth, was anything but homey, in the second sense of the word. My handy thesaurus tells me that, as well as the aforementioned ‘cozy’ and ‘intimate’, it was also ‘comfortable’, ‘snug’, ‘welcoming’, ‘warm’, ‘pleasant’ and ‘cheerful’. I’d have to concur with these sentiments. It was hardly a relaxing day at the spa but it came a close second. My son was born in my parent’s living room, in the same home that had welcomed me after my birth. I for one think that’s rather fantastic. ‘Fantastic’ also coveys the meanings ‘bizarre’, ‘outlandish’ and ‘grotesque’; I obviously don’t intend it in that way. And as marvelous, superb and terrific as it was to have delivered my son inside a family heirloom, getting there was no easy feat.
‘You are not giving birth to my grandson in this house!’ exclaimed my father obstinately. I had just moved back to England from the United States of Super Sized Caesareans, very much pregnant and expecting to pick up from where I had left off – prenatal check ups in the bedroom and youtube-ing home birth videos in preparation for our looming arrival. I tried to make my case as casually as possible, after all my father and his five siblings had also been born at home. So what if that wasn’t of his choosing, nor of my grandmother’s in fact. So what if it was because there were no maternity wards, let alone hospitals, near the some what remote town where he grew up in the fifties. There, women simply gave birth at home, surrounded by well experienced, albeit medically untrained, local doulas because they had no other choice. So I figured that reminding him of his own home birth may make him reconsider … ‘I don’t think so!’ was the response. I heard it loud and clear.
I still drafted out my birth plan and ordered the birthing pool in the hope that my father would eventually be convinced that the best place for me to deliver this baby was indeed his living room. ‘The best place for you to deliver this baby is on the maternity ward’, decided the obstetrician whose care I was placed under. She had spotted an ancient anomaly in my medical history which apparently deemed me unfit to birth away from the hospital. This hiccup had not been on the agenda. My father I could likely win over, but an allopathic doctor was a whole other fight. I stood my ground, not wavering in the least, whilst she too was resilient and refused to hand me over to the midwives. It was a deadlock. The doctor’s office transformed into a boxing ring. It was medical protocol versus home birth enthusiast. No spectators, just the doctor, her unrelenting patient and my unborn baby. (Warning: Do not try this at home). She swung first with, ‘Even if you were fit and healthy a home birth is too risky!’. I blocked and countered with, ‘Actually, you’ll find that the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology would disagree with you!’.
We continued to exchange blows. She was simply unable to comprehend why anyone would want to give birth without the surveillance of medical staff, beeping machines and the numbing magic of the epidural. She had me up against the ropes and jabbed, ‘why are you so hung up on a home birth anyway?; it’s so silly’. I had had a sneaky feeling all along that this was less about my health and more about her own notions that home birth sucked, to put it mildly. I wiped the sweat from my brow ready to throw the final blow, ‘Let’s just put it this way’ I announced confidently, ‘If you don’t provide me with midwives, I’ll go it alone!’. Was I being serious you ask? Of course not! I’m not that brave or insane, depending on how you look at it, although there are women who are resorting to unassisted births. For me it was a tactic, my knock out move… and well, it worked! That and the fact that a second medical opinion rendered me a picture of health. The doctor’s parting words were, ‘if this all goes wrong, I take absolutely no responsibility!’. Gee, thanks for the encouragement!
I never answered her question though; why was I so hung up on a home birth? Well, it was because of Ricki Lake (something I never would have admitted to my opponent). Yes, the host of the eccentric daytime chat show of the same name. Thank goodness that she has opted for a career change and is now a natural birth advocate. And she’s darn good at her new job because she certainly had me convinced me. One night after having watched ‘The Business of Being Born‘, in which Ricki and her side kick Abby Epstein chronicle their respective birth journeys, I also joined the home birth camp. And I’m mighty glad I did. I acknowledge that birth isn’t always ‘relaxed’ and ‘pleasant’, regardless of where it takes place, but I’m extremely grateful that mine was. It was homey. ‘Homey’, can also mean ‘simple’ and ‘ordinary’, and in one sense my son’s birth was exactly that; no complications, no interventions. It was birth, simple and ordinary, yet cozy, intimate, comfortable, snug, welcoming, warm, pleasant and cheerful.
Before you proceed please be aware that there may be some graphic images of women giving birth. If you are squeamish then please wear sunglasses. Also note that a home birth is not for everyone and complications can arise. Please make an informed decision based on your particular circumstances, and discuss with a medical professional – hopefully they’ll be less bias and more honest than my doctor was.