True Story: I Gave Birth at Home

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced amazing/interesting/challenging things.  This is the story of Brandy, her family, and her decision to give birth at home.

Brandy and her son

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m a strange balance of extreme maturity and childishness. I think that’s why people like me. I could spend hours milling around a bookstore or a library. In fact, most days that’s exactly what I do. I was born and adopted in Pennsylvania. I grew up in Virginia and North Carolina. And I lived in the DC metro area for a few years. Besides the traffic, it’s my favorite.
Why did you decide that you wanted to give birth at home rather than at a hospital?
My kids are 10 years apart. I had my daughter in a hospital when I was 20. It wasn’t traumatizing, but I basically just did as I was told. With my son, I wanted to play a much more active role. My friend had a homebirth a few years ago and I’m embarrassed to say that in a conversation about it, I told her I could never do it, for fear of what might happen. Watching the documentary, The Business of Being Born, really opened my eyes and inspired me to do more research. It’s not for everyone. But it really was for us.
How does one go about organizing a home birth?
There are two main options in choosing a midwife: a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). I chose a CNM. I liked the fact that she could write prescriptions and administer IVs if needed, but some people prefer CPMs.
After you choose your midwife, she’ll set up appointments for you in her office or at your home. It’s not like going the doctor’s. You really get to know each other. My midwife often stepped in as a therapist. She also gave me a lot of homework: researching vaccines, tests, etc. The vast majority of them are optional, and come with their own risks and benefits. It is absolutely your job to know what is being injected into your body and your baby.
Tell us about the actual process of giving birth at home.
You can choose a birthing pool, or your tub, if it’s big enough. Or even the dreaded stool, which looks like some sort of perverted torture device. If you labor in the pool, you’ll need plastic sheeting to save your carpet and a garden hose that hooks up to something in your laundry room. Since much of the pre- and post-birth happens in your bed, a plastic cover for your mattress is essential.
She brings everything else, right down to the emergency Pitocin, should you need it. My actual birth was, let’s say . . . intense—14 hours of back labor. Four of those hours were in transition, which is after the baby has crowned. It usually lasts about 45 minutes but I couldn’t bring myself to push because his face was on my pelvic bone and it hurt like, well . . . a mother.
At 4:05am on September 9th, 2011 in a blow-up pool in my living room with my husband behind me, rubbing my back and sobbing, I gave birth to an eight pound baby boy. Our daughter sprang into action, calling loved ones to wake them up with the good news. Afterwards, my midwife stitched me up in my own bed and laid my newborn on my breast to nurse. I was depleted, so she spoon-fed me yogurt and then she and her assistant cleaned up the mess we had made. Even the dirty dishes in my sink!
How did your friends and family react to your decision?
Most of them were pretty supportive. I got a couple of emails from well-intentioned friends trying to scare me back to the hospital. The thing many people don’t understand is that a lot of the terrifying “interventions” that happen in hospitals were inadvertently created by the way hospitals do birth. Emergencies happen, of course, but women are built to give birth.
Do you think there were any drawbacks to giving birth at home? What were the benefits?
It was costly for us. A homebirth actually costs thousands of dollars less than a hospital birth, but our insurance wouldn’t cover all of it. Interestingly, had we birthed in a hospital, they would have.
In the weeks leading up the birth I was scared. The pain and the worst-case scenarios. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to handle it all. Honestly, the pain sucked. But now I know I am much stronger than I imagined. And she came back to the house for all of the follow up visits from birth to six weeks. Not having to deal with clothes or car seats for several weeks was definitely one of my favorite parts.
Vodka was also a perk. Things were progressing slowly, my water broke the day before, but I was dilating at snail speed, so my midwife asked if I wanted to take a shot of vodka and get some rest before round two. Friends, the answer is always vodka.
If you had another child, would you give birth at home again?
I think so. Every birth is different. If there were new risks, or if I was carrying more than one baby, I would most likely opt for the hospital.
What advice/resources would you share with couples who are interested in giving birth at home?
Review the laws in your state or country. If homebirth is not your tea cup, there may be a birthing center in your area. Or, you may be interested in hiring a doula and birthing naturally in a hospital. The Business Of Being Born is a great introduction on the subject.

Ultimately, go with your gut. After you’ve done all the research, decide what’s best for your family and your baby and be lovingly unapologetic. Trust your instincts. People are going to give you flack either way.Thanks so much for sharing, Brandy!  Have any of you given birth at home?  Any questions for Brandy?

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  1. The Dame Intl

    I was absolutely traumatized watching a teenager give birth live on television and my mom had to have her vagina cut open to get me out. I absolutely do not want to be pregnant, give birth or raise a baby so I really admire those who do it.

    My mom wanted to have a water birth with me also, but didnt in the end, so I have always been fascinated by it and I remember seeing a video somewhere once where they umbilical cord got caught around the babys neck during a water birth but because she was at home and calm, it turned out alright.

    Fascinated by it, but not something I want to experience.

    • Brandy

      Gah, yeah! That would be traumatizing! It's been my experience, tho, that the TV versions are highly exaggerated. I mean, heh, it hurts! But I've heard it said that there's no real pleasure/joy without pain. In the middle of it, you're like, this is NOT worth it. But right after, you're like, OH, well, I would do that again. For THIS.

  2. Jessica

    I watched The Business of Being Born and was less than impressed by the participating physicians. They seemed to be devoid, and hardly interested at all to begin with, with home-births. They didn't seem to know about the extensive training midwifes need. I found the documentary refreshing, yet somewhat disturbing in how pregnancy and birth has become increasingly problematised and medicalised. It's great when you need specialist treatment and if there's a dire emergency.

    Where I live, midwifes are the ones who deliver babies in the hospital. A doctor comes if complications arise.

    I don't have children so I don't know what I'd feel comfortable with when it came to myself.

    • Brandy

      I feel you. I think it's definitely a personal decision. And I also think that the way the U.S. handles birth is pretty wild and not at all "intuitive". I think it really has become, in large part, about money. Which is really crazy.

    • Amy

      I have to agree. My experience in the hospital felt really impersonal. I didn't feel like an individual woman, there to give birth to her child – to them I was just another woman who knew nothing about childbirth or her body. Which couldn't' have been further from the truth. Everyone should be able to make their own decision, and more importantly, respected for that decision. What's right for me may not be right you you.

  3. Courtney

    I love the Business of Being Born. Any woman considering kids should also consider watching it.

    • Brandy

      Yeah, man! Definitely. And there are "More Business of Being Born" episodes that go into more detail and answer more questions.

  4. LynnieBee

    I loved *The Business of Being Born*!!! I learned so much and it inspired me to do a lot more research into the subject. When I have children, I plan to use a Midwife, and my first choice would be to have a water birth at home, second choice, a birthing center with minimal to no medical intervention, unless there is a real emergency, of course….

    • Brandy

      Right on – go you! 🙂 It's definitely an empowering and life-changing experience.

  5. Mel

    Way to go, Brandy! My sisters-in-law are both huge proponents of natural birth; of their 11 (combined) children, 10 were born without drugs. I LOVE telling their birth stories, but here's a brief recounting:

    Baby 1 – C-section at the hospital, breech position – BigSIL and BigBro were not pleased with the experience

    Baby 2 – birth center with midwife (50 miles from where we live)

    Baby 3 – at home with the midwife on the phone telling BigBro what to do; EMTs got there in time to cut the cord

    Baby 4 – birth center with midwife

    Baby 5 – at home with midwife

    Baby 6 – birth center with midwife (LilSIL)

    Baby 7 – birth center with midwife

    Baby 8 – hospital before doctor arrived (too risky to drive to birth center an hour away)

    Baby 9 – at home with midwife (LilSIL)

    Baby 10 – hospital before doctor arrived (too risky to drive to birth center an hour away)

    Baby 11 – in the hospital elevator on the way up to L&D; BigBro delivered

    • Brandy

      Thank you! And wow! So beautiful! Each birth really is as unique as the tiny person being born, eh?

  6. Selma

    In The Netherlands giving birth at home is the standard. Giving birth at the hospital is less stimulated and is expensive when you don't have a medical reason to give birth in the hospital.

    • Brandy

      I wish it were like that here. Hoping someday!

    • Amy

      That's amazing, I too wish it were like that here!

  7. Amy

    When I got pregnant last year I was terrified of the hospital but I didn't think I had an option. Then I found my midwife. I was so confident and excited about giving birth at home! Then during a routine appointment one day, at 37 weeks, my midwife was concerned about my weight gain and sent me in for some tests. Those tests came back bad. I went in for more tests, they came back perfect. While waiting for a third opinion, I went into labor. Turns out the negative tests were incorrect and everything was actually perfect with me and my baby, but we had to go to the hospital anyhow.

    At the hospital I was bombarded with nurses and doctors, they were constantly touching me and testing me. Some of them were rude, demeaning and harsh with me. They wouldn't let me get into the water tub because my water had already broken. They wouldn't let me eat or drink because of hospital protocol. They were constantly trying to get me to take drugs, induce – they wouldn't leave me alone. After 72 hours of natural labor in the hospital my baby's heart rate began to drop and they said I needed a C-section. I gave in because I was exhausted. I felt defeated, and I still do.

    Many people say "Thank God you had to go to the hospital anyhow, because you needed a c-section, you may have died!" Well, yes, but my experience just further proves to me that the hospitals "interventions" are what causes so many women to have unnecessary c-sections.

    From my experience, there is nothing in the world worse than not being able to choose the way your baby comes into this world. My wish for every woman and her baby is that she is able to have the labor and birth that she wants.

    • Brandy

      Oh Amy, that's so hard. Thank you for sharing your story. It means a lot and it will help other women when it comes time for them to make some of the same decisions you had to make.

      So much love to you.

    • Amy

      Thank you. I also should have thanked you for your story. I have such a mix of emotions when I read or hear about women who give birth at home. I am slightly resentful because it's what I tried to have but couldn't, however it makes me so happy to hear when it does work out well for other women. So thank you for sharing your story. My hope is that one day, by hearing stories like yours and talking about my own, I will no longer have any resentment, only peace.

  8. Caitie

    I just wanted to comment on how balanced of a story this is! This is such an emotional issue that both sides often seem to come at it with crazy rhetoric and are completely unwilling to see the point of the other side, so kudos to you for keeping an open mind, doing your research, and demonizing neither the medical birthing establishment or the home birthing establishment. I actually lived with someone training to be a midwife, and we had some truly fascinating discussions about the pros and cons of out-of-hospital births. It's definitely not for everyone or every pregnancy, and a reputable midwife should recognize their limits and refuse high-risk pregnancies. Midwives also do things that L&D wards won't do- follow up visits for the first 6 weeks after birth that include Post-partum depression screening and breastfeeding help. At least they do here in Ontario.

    Also, I wanted to re-iterate the point about being careful to check your midwife's credentials. I know from my roommate that in many states, women with no medical training can call themselves Lay Midwives, whereas the medically trained midwives are Certified Nurse Midwives or CNMs.

    • Brandy

      Thank you! That means so much! Haha, I'm getting emotional. I really tried hard to keep it balanced. I think it's a personal decision, one that you should make with care, but also one that you can feel confident about regardless of what you choose. You have to do what's right for your baby and yourself. <3

      And yes! There are midwives that possibly mean well, but, are not trained to the full extent. It's so important to do your homework.

  9. Eternal*Voyageur

    !a lot of the terrifying "interventions" that happen in hospitals were inadvertently created by the way hospitals do birth" — so true! My midwife used to work in a hospital and she saw it all the time and couldn't stand it. Basically the staff and the doctors loved to hurry things up so that everything goes efficiently. We had a home birth twice, and it was amazing. Fortunately, the insurance in Germany covers almost everything.

    • Brandy

      Ooh, I love Germany! I am excited I may get to visit later this year! I think the U.S. has a lot to learn from how other countries do birth.

  10. Vanessa

    Thank you to Brandy for sharing her story. I am fascinated with home births and really enjoy reading different stories and experiences. I'm not sure that I want kids, but if I ever do have one I think I'd like to have a home birth.

    • Brandy

      Thank you Vanessa! They are fascinating indeed! 🙂

  11. helena.heliotrope

    I firmly disagree with is: "She also gave me a lot of homework: researching vaccines, tests, etc. The vast majority of them are optional, and come with their own risks and benefits. It is absolutely your job to know what is being injected into your body and your baby."

    Vaccines are not optional. They're a societal responsibility – not immunizing is not only harmful, but also puts other children at risk. (If an optionally non-vaccinated child gets measles/mumps/rubella/small pox/etc., it puts children who were medically unable to receive the immunization and probably already have compromised immune systems at risk – and they may not be able to recover from a serious illness the same way a healthy child does.)
    Also: proven by science. Lab tested, peer reviewed, non-anecdotal evidence that it works, with minimal side-effects in a tiny percentage of cases. (The exception does not prove the rule.) Until significant scientific studies prove otherwise, immunization is always the best route. (It's like climate change – 99.999% of scientists agree on the issue – the other 0.001% write articles that get lots of press.)

    But otherwise, thanks for sharing your story! I know lots of women who want to have homebirths, and I can't even contemplate giving birth, so it's interesting to hear how it worked out for you. I'm glad it was a good experience, and that you and your baby are doing well!

  12. JD

    We had two babys at home, not too difficult, except when the Midwife had been out drinking…we delivered that one ourselves.

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