All about my uneventful hospital birth and my plans to home birth the rest of my kids

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Helen Scottsburg
By: mrgreen09CC BY 2.0
To date, there are three women on my mother's side of the family I can think of who've had children in the hospital: myself, my mother, and my cousin. The other thing the three of us have in common is that we bore our children in the United States. My family on this side is from the Philippines, where midwifery & homebirth are more common practices for childbirth than hospitals are.

You could honestly replace "Philippines" with the name of any other country and the sentence would still hold true. Like many expecting mothers, I Googled the hell out of every random factor I could think of that might influence whether or not my Seed Creature came out with three arms or jellybeans for eyes.

One thing I discovered was that, despite the United States having more births take place in hospitals rather than at home or birthing centers, our mortality rate is unfortunately higher. I watched The Business of Being Born and, while I wasn't sure how to take medical information as processed by Ricki Lake, it did start making sense to me: an understaffed hospital with only so many beds requires a certain degree of in and out in order for it to profit. Why would I want that, assuming I required no true medical care, if I could have the individual attention of a midwife?

My boyfriend, initially, wouldn't hear of it. "You guys came from a developing country, and now you're in the United States, so why don't you just take the medical care?"

I replied something that probably sounded like, "BLAH BLAH BLAH BECAUSE THEY'RE TRYING TO PROFIT OFF OF MY BODY AND THE ONLY PERSON WHO'S ALLOWED TO DO THAT IS ME!" Or something. Whatever my rationale was, the boyfriend agreed: should I have no complications during this first delivery, he would support me homebirthing our next seven children. (We intend on having eight. That's another story.)

My due date was December 21st, 2012. It was December 20th. Around six-thirty the day before I was sitting on the toilet and started having some pretty bad butt cramps. I tried watching It's Always Sunny reruns to distract me, but couldn't be distracted, which annoyed me. After hours of not realizing that I was in labor, my boyfriend and our good friend — whom we'd named my birth advocate — scooped me up and took me to the hospital. But since my child is related to, well, us, she decided to start coming around the same time an ice storm started brewing. At the time, our family-friendly ride of choice was a '79 Impala with no heat and bad breaks, and we lived on the side of town without the hospital.

I'd been in labor for three hours by the time we made it. In my birth plan, I stated I wanted to labor in a birthing tub before actually giving birth. The hospital and my doctor made plans for me to have access to one. When we got there, I was told the tub was broken and was offered the shower instead. After another cervix-widening hour in there, I shuffled back to bed and waited for my doctor to examine me. He brought a long, skinny wand with him for this round of vaginal exams, poking me up there with it like he was checking my oil.

"Are you breaking my water?" I asked.
"Mhm," he replied.

I sighed and went, "Maaan, this is going to really suck." I requested no labor augmentation in my birth plan, but figured at that point that I'd rather have a baby any way I could than not.

I went from contracting a centimeter per hour to four centimeters per hour; do the math, and you'll figure out that the Seed Creature was born at 10:57 PM, after four-and-a-half hours of mostly non-hospitalized labor.

Our daughter's birth proved two things. One, that indeed there were reasons why a person from a developing country might reject this first world's interpretation of healthcare. I don't blame any single employee or system for my water breaking or the tub or any of the hospital-related unpleasantries. Those just come with the territory of business. Two, and more importantly, it proved to my boyfriend that many women are capable of giving birth on their own.

Has anyone else successfully convinced a hospital fan to think about birth in a non-medical fashion? (Plus fifty experience points if you did so by having a kid somewhere really awesome, like the back of a car, or going camping!) I look forward to having Seed Creature present when her siblings are born, in the comfort of our living quarters, with a midwife.

    • Unfortunately yes. I wrote this not too long before homebirth was banned there. So you're going to tell a woman who lives an hour from a hospital, possibly with no access to transport, to make her way to the hospital? Somehow? Horrible.

      They also–whatever, I'm not gonna get into it.

      Happy things: here in Indiana, we have recently made it legal to homebirth with a certified practicing midwife, instead of only nurse-midwives.

      • That's what I found so funny, that there'd be a homebirthing movement over there (US) while people are trying to phase it out over here (Philippines).

        Good for Indiana though 🙂

  1. The medical system spoiled your chances of having your baby on the day you wanted? Because there's no possibility whatever your water might have broken spontaneously and you'd had the baby quickly regardless. Nope, must be someone else's fault.

    Including the words "hospital fascist" is unlikely to convince anyone who supports hospital birth to change their mind. Singularly unhelpful article.

    • I changed "fascist" to "fan." I want to note the use of the word was the author's, note mine when editing!

      Also, I'm 99% sure the comment about not having the baby on the day she wanted was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but I removed it to avoid potential drama.

      • I wasn't. We're in the process of taking them to court over it. I'm also trying to improve my use of online sarcasm.

        Anyway, the comment was mostly an attempt to show that, in a hospital setting, lots of things are done in order to manage many birthing women at once rather than give mother individual care. There were -tons- of women squeezing babies out at the hospital that night. I picked the birthday aspect because I thought it'd be lighthearted, and a little less graphic than "… and then there was the part where they yanked the placenta out even though I wanted to deliver it on my own."

        This article is only trying to be helpful to show that, yes, it -is- possible to have an easy delivery–and that maybe some deliveries would actually, for that reason, be better off at home. Pregnancy & childbirth are not inherently medical; they happen to us because, well, they're supposed to. It's become so hardwired to assume a baby is born at a hospital that we often forget that.

    • While I understand some off your concerns about this article and can see your passion for the subject of hospital births, your comment seems overly angry. Your stance would have been more well received without the seemingly catty comments "Nope, must be someone else's fault" and "Singularly unhelpful article." I don't think any article on this website needs to be "helpful." I see offbeat websites as a glimpse into other peoples life.

      The spirit of offbeat websites has always been to not attack each other. These types of comments discourage people from putting themselves out there to do original posts.

    • I would also like to apologize if I came off, in any way, as possibly dismissive or disrespectful to what physicians do. OBs have a lot to deal with! Managing high-risk pregnancies, complications, c-sections–doctors & hospitals are absolutely necessary in order to reduce risk in these situations! For that reason, I don't think they ought to have to devote time, which they could be spending on offering more individualized care to high-risk patients, to totally-textbook mothers like myself.

  2. I gave birth to both my children in a hospital setting and honestly love the idea of an at home tub birth but I am terrified of the idea of something going wrong and my stubornnes being the thing that hurts my baby. >< Both my children were premature, my son much more so and needed intense care and my daughter didn't need anything at all and roomed-in. If my next pregnancy is as low key as my daughter's birth I'm going to sweet talk hubby into the tub.

    • Real question: would you be able to? I know that for a lot of health care providers premature deliveries are considered high risk… would they even let you use a birth tub? I'm genuinely curious.

    • I had a birth center birth but had preparations made at a hospital just in case. I was in their computer system, I talked with my midwife about transfer plans, etc. In the case of a premature birth it would be especially easy to know in advance, I think–you'd know when you went into labor exactly how premature the baby would be and how great the risks would be. I'm pretty sure most midwives won't do a home birth if labor is before 36 weeks anyway.

      For me, I decided that most of the risks of a home birth were ones that could be seen in advance, or that wouldn't need medical treatment in less than 30 minutes. For instance, my water broke several days before I went into labor, so my midwives and I kept a very close eye out for any signs of infection, and went ahead with the out-of-hospital birth only because there were no signs of infection. If I had developed a fever or any other signs, it would have been a pretty straightforward decision for me to head to the hospital.

      I think it really depends on your personality and on how you deal with risk in general. For me, I research the sh*t out of risks, that's just my coping mechanism. 🙂 I want to know exactly what the possibilities are and what the likelihood of each possibility is. And if it's a statistically low likelihood of something really bad happening, I feel reassured. I know some people don't feel at all reassured by statistics and are more worried by the one in a million chance, so if that's you then probably sticking with a hospital birth will feel better to you in the long run.

  3. I really liked being in the hospital for my son's birth. My husband said it was kind of like a mini vacation except his bed was uncomfortable. We were in one room the whole time, huge private bath. No laundry, no cleaning up, room service, great cafeteria, nurses around to help constantly. The baby's doctor comes to the room, so you don't have to take them anywhere, plus they do the heel stick to send to the Dept of Health right there as well. I think it's great!
    ETA: I don't think it's necessarily a medical event, I just thought it was a great environment to have the baby. So convenient for us.

    • This is what was great for us about delivering in a birth center (Portland, OR) . We were able to have the non-medical birth we wanted and still receive great care. We did face some strong opposition on hubs side, but we expected that. Since we had a very uneventful pregnancy and delivery (despite little coming at 36 weeks) I have been trying to convince hubs to go home birth next time but he wont hear it. I guess that's ok because we really enjoyed the care we got at the birth center. We're lucky enough to be in a position that the extra cost wont be too much of an issue.

    • When I was healing after my homebirth, I kept thinking about how great it would be for someone else to take care of food and laundry for a while. A mini vacation would have been more than welcome.

      • Here in the Netherlands, the infrastructure is set up so that after every birth a nurse (well not really a fully certified nurse, but a person who has been trained to take care of newborns and check the mother) comes to your house for 6 days. During the hours that she is there (3-6 during the day) this person teaches you how to deal with the newborn, helps with getting breastfeeding going and takes care of some basic domestic tasks.
        I found it somewhat intrusive to have someone around the house for all that time, but on the other hand, it was so helpful to not have to worry about the laundry and stuff, and she also managed the people who came to visit, made sure they had something to eat and drink. Especially with the second on the way, I look forward to having the home-carer around, because she will also help a bit with the older children.
        Because of this system, if you have a hospital birth here in the netherlands you are usually sent home a few hours after delivering. I guess that is a downside. But since I delivered my first at home, it worked out quite well.
        There is a bit of co-pay involved (I believe we paid 200 euros), but most of the costs of the home-carer are covered by the (basic, universal) health-insurance.

        • This is a wonderful idea! A CNA could probably perform these duties well enough. This would be an invaluable resource, especially for women who don't have much support, or women recovering from c-sections or complications. My mother was there for the first week after I delivered: indeed, somewhat intrusive, but it really is great to have someone who "gets it" during that first rough week.

        • We actually have something like this available to us in the US, we just have to seek and pay for our own professional Postpartum Doula. They are specifically trained and prepared to help new families for the first few hours/days/whatever adapt and heal. A great website to find a birth or postpartum doula is doulamatch.net.

  4. I hope I could do a tub delivery. I really do. But the past 3 generations on my mothers side had long labors and placenta previa. And on my father's side, everyone had long labors as well. I'm not sure if any medical provider, doctor or midwife would allow me to do that. But I don't want to be trapped in a bed, hooked up to IVs, with a huge needle in my back! I want to feel that pain that I have been fighting for all this time, and emerge victorious with my child.

    Afterall, the Romans only gave tombstones to soldiers who died in battle and women who died giving birth.

    • Luckily there's a lot of options between the two! 🙂 Many hospitals provide tubs or showers for pain relief during labor, even when they don't allow delivery in the tub. I think hospitals are also more and more likely to encourage movement during labor as well, since research shows it helps labor progress. You might want to consider having a hospital birth with a doula present, who can help advocate for your decisions with the hospital staff.

  5. I gave birth in a birthing center and my mother was very against the entire process. I brought her to an appointment. The staff gave her a tour and sat with her as she interviewed them on all of her "what if" scenarios. I don't think she ever really embraced the idea, but she accepted that I had thought it through and that it was my decision. It was such a wonderful experience for us.

  6. I was curious about water birth, but from the impression I got, it works its best when labor is a bit drawn out and the contractions take time to build in intensity. My daughter's birth was RAPID and intense (my husband timing it at 2 hours and 38 minutes from water breaking to birth, and I take him at his word). My mother warned me about rapid birth (she herself had 5 of them), so I just kind of hedged my bets and took the epidural. I, mentally, did not believe that water could assauge a high level of pain that came on so quickly. If I find myself having another child, this gives me some hope that maybe it's possible.

    • Ashley, I also had a pretty quick labor, though not as fast as yours, and found the tub to be the only thing that helped with the pain. I am curious, how you were able to have time for an epidural with such a fast delivery?

      • Mostly, I think, through a series of lucky events. I was actually a day overdue, so we had the bags packed and ready. So when my water broke, we were literally out the door in under 5 minutes. We also live within minutes of a hospital, lucky for us (we could walk it if need be). In the car, it was less than 5 minutes. We also lucked out in that the doctor who gave me the epidural was already on the floor and close by. My ob/gyn was on call and was well-aware of my family history with rapid labor, so he, I suppose, kind of recognized that rapid labor might be happening and pressed the immediacy of the issue. He's my friend in life, as well, so he was great with emphasizing the priority of the situation.

        After the birth, one of my friends who is a doula explained to me why moms with rapid labors often can't go unmedicated. It's because in rapid labor, contractions can sometimes come on acutely (that's what happened with me – they went from a 1-3 on the pain scale to a 10 without any increase in between). In those cases, Mom doesn't time to cope or adapt as well as moms who see a steady increase over time. I think I also was dealing with some level of shock – my water broke and the first contraction after it took me to the ground. But I think that is because I did not expect it. Maybe next time, I will be better prepared.

        • Oh my gosh. this is me! My first contraction was soon after my water broke and I thought I was being split in two–it also literally took me to the floor. The contractions were 30 seconds apart lasting 1 min from the get go. We went straight to the hospital where I went from 3cm to 10 in about 1 hour. I just couldn't get on top of it. I begged for the epidural but didn't make it. I'm pregnant again and asked if they go place the epidural at 36 weeks so they could just hook it up right away! 🙂 I wish!

    • I was in active labor for 5 hours and loved having a water birth. I didn't find that it helped with pain, exactly, but what DID help manage pain was moving during contractions, and it was a lot easier to move around during the tub, especially moving my legs. I didn't have to spend as much energy just holding myself up.

  7. I just recently had my second child. Both deliveries were very quick (so quick both times the nurses joked that they were surprised I didn't have them in the car). Both deliveries had no pain medicine because of how quickly I delivered. And both had no complications and I felt great afterwards. The toughest part was being stuck in the hospital for 3 days! So this leads me to want home births for any others, or maybe even a birthing center and come home the say day, because of my past experiences. However, it's been drilled into me that you're "supposed" to have babies in hospitals and have been assaulted with "what if something goes wrong" enough that I doubt my ability and slightly fear a home birth, even tho I believe deep down its what what I want to do. Any suggestions on overcoming this?

    • Ask about hospital policies before delivery, and see if there's any way your OB or pediatrician can allow them to release you? That's what we did. After my delivery I just wanted to go home, so our family doctor had us leave a day early. All hospitals have different policies though.

    • I asked my midwife the "what if something goes wrong" questions at our first meeting. I asked her to tell me about a time a patient decided to transfer to a hospital, and what would be some reasons she'd recommend transferring during or after labor, and what her experience has been getting good care for her patients in a hospital. Her answers were comprehensive, realistic, and immensely reassuring.

    • We're planning a homebirth for our first in the next few days. (Come on baby!) "If something goes wrong" it usually will go wrong earlier in labor and your midwife should be pretty conservative and recommend a transfer if it is beyond her expertise. A birth center isn't really more equipped than your home, in fact, unless the birth center is nearer to a hospital than your house is to one. For us, the nearest hospital is less than 2 miles away on neighborhood streets, while the nearest birth center is 45 minutes away through a large city, and then the hospital nearest it is 15 minutes of downtown driving. Unless you use a risk-taking, unprofessional midwife, you will get great care for you birth. And from what I've read, most of the homebirth transfers happen because labor is slow-going and mama WANTS to transfer to the hospital for pain-medication.

  8. We had planned a birth center birth, but ended up with an unplanned c-section in the hospital. If we have another child, I haven't yet decided whether we'll try for the birth center again or go to the hospital since VBACs are higher risk. My hospital experience was mixed. On one hand, I obviously did not want to be there getting a c-section and on the other hand, the nurses and doctors were extremely nice, respectful and helpful the whole time (it was the hospital lactation consultant that finally got my son to latch correctly.) I think the thing that would push me toward a birth center for my next birth would be the after the birth stuff. Nurses were literally coming in the room every two or three hours through the night. Why do they have to do a heel stick on the baby at 3am when we were all sleeping? I don't know, but it was annoying. Thankfully, even with the c-section, I only had to stay two days and they released me early because my recovery was going so well.

  9. My partner said they exact same thing: if a hospital birth was uncomplicated, we'll talk home birth for the next one. I chose a CNmidwife delivery at a low-intervention hospital 45 minutes away rather than my local hospital, after researching c-section rates for each hospital etc….
    I avoided hospital induction with acupuncture but ended up having a semi-complicated birth with vacuum assist. If it were a home birth, I would have been transferred. I still want to talk home birth with my partner next time but ill probably do a low intervention birth center.

    • Maybe it would have been the case, but some level of intervention in the hospital does not mean you would have been transfered if you were home. I had my first daughter in the hospital. Because thing weren't fast enough for them, I was put on oxytocin, then let them talk me into having an epidural. If I hadn't been soo stubborn about it, I would have had either a c-section or vacuum assisted birth, but I really didn't want to, I thought it was enough with the interventions already (and baby's heart was fine.) So I pushed for over twice the time they normally allow for a first birth in this hospital, 4 and a half hours… I had my second at home, with midwives and no intervention, except membranes ruptures to try to speed up thing and avoid transfer. It seems I have slow labors and births, and had I been in the hospital, this second birth would have likely been really similar to the previous one, with some level of interventions. (Again, I pushed a much longer time than what is expected for a second child)
      Retrospectively, and after discussing it with my midwifes, had I not been in the hospital, maybe I would have had my first baby without interventions…
      (sorry for my poor english)

      • The problem with my labor was it was super fast for a first birth! 8 hours flat, but would have been faster if my sumo baby wasn't posterior and stuck. After my water broke, I was pushing within 6 hours. His heart rate plummeted though with pushing, hence vacuum assist. My midwife told me it would have been a c-section if I'd accepted the epidural. Labor and delivery is an extraordinary experience.

        Congrats on a successful home birth – maybe it is in my cards!

  10. I have so many traumatized friends who said their docs just showed up and started doing stuff without asking or talking to them about it. It's so ridiculous that the doc just showed up and expected to break your water without even discussing it or explaining what was going on. Where's the bedside manner? "Excuse me I'm going to just shove this inside you without even saying anything." I would have raged so hard. Good job keeping your cool and exploring options for the next time around.

    • There wasn't time for bedside manner, lol! My dad worked in hospitals for a good portion of my life, and I'm a healthcare student myself so I knew from artificially-broken waters–but I also knew it'd put me right into transition and on the road to one of those strong, fast labors like the above comment. Most annoying part: it only took me about a half-hour to get to 10cm after that, then I had to wait to push so the doctor could come back!

      But, as I stated, I don't have beef with any of the doctors or nurses or staff about this or anything else; I just think there should be more prominent options for individualized care.

  11. Our hospital has a midwifery program, so I was able to have a midwife assisted birth, which went almost totally according to plan. My labor was 6 hours total, from first contractions to birth, and only 2 minutes from water breaking to him being born. I still think I'd do it the same 2nd time around…because MAN it was nice to order off a full menu for each meal post-delivery…because I was STARVING. Also, we convinced them to let me go home early, because I was getting bored in the hospital.

    • I think this is a great compromise! The food thing is a big issue for me as well. Several out-of-town friends of mine reported that their hospitals would not let them have any kind of food during labor beyond ice chips, popsicles, or juice & soda. One woman I spoke with ended up getting so hungry that she got an epidural to rest.

      • My birth coach told me you burn 1000 calories per hour in active labor! That's sure to make me hungry!!!
        I can't find a resource for this fact, though.

  12. I spent the majority of my pregnancy convincing my husband that home birth was the route I wanted to go. Lucky for us, not having insurance and the painfully slow Medicaid application process resulted in us paying out of pocket, so homebirth won by a landslide. He was still nervous. My story in on the site here.

    We even have a ton of friends who are nurses. I'm the only person I know out of my peers who has done a homebirth, or unmedicated, for that matter. We'll definitely be doing it at home next time.

  13. Just wanted to say congratulations on your baby!
    I had a homebirth a month ago and it was my first child. We are grateful no complications occurred and our baby is healthy. We educated ourselves and we were concerned something might go wrong but ultimately nothing but homebirth felt right for us; no hospitals in the area nor the birth center.
    All I could ever want for a family is to experience the happiest birth possible, no matter where it occurs.

  14. If people want to birth at home, they should be able to attempt it. With that said, I think a lot of the experience depends on the hospital. I went to a non-profit one in my city and had a great experience. I was more afraid of something going wrong (I'm a bit too aware of what historic maternal and infant mortality rates looked like) than I was of being taken advantage of. My perspective was influenced by being the cousin of a NICU nurse, the granddaughter of a maternity ward nurse, and the niece-in-law of a nurse who is in charge of labor and maternity in my husband's hometown hospital… my exposure to labor in hospitals was really positive because I know how passionate my relative are about their work and the people who come through their doors.

    My exceptionally low risk pregnancy turned into a complicated birth. Unbeknownst to us, Daughter's umbilical cord was wrapped very tightly all over her body (criss-crossing her body and wrapped around her neck) and courtesy of the monitoring, I knew what positions I could be in which wouldn't make her heart rate nose-dive. The interventions that they did let me have a healthy vaginal birth and I recovered very quickly and my daughter is also very healthy. The staff went out of their way to explain everything and I found them respectful of my wishes. We are far from family and having the nurses there to pepper with questions was also fantastic.

    I don't think I'll ever do a home birth after that experience. We didn't have any reason to think there would be any issues with birth because pregnancy was relatively easy. Hospital was so positive, and a home birth would have gone wrong but we wouldn't have known it until my daughter came out blue.

    For some folks, like me, I don't think you'd be able to convince to do a home birth.

  15. I married into a family of home birthers. I feel judged because I want my first to be a hospital birth. It's funny how it goes both ways. I'm viewing my first birth as testing the waters. After I see how it goes, I might home birth myself, but I feel more comfortable with doing a home birth for my first go. Wish I didn't get flack for it. I think home birth is beautiful, someday I'll try it. I just don't feel ready yet.

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