Q: Currently my husband and I are expecting our first baby, and are arguing about whether or not to use a midwife. He says that he has heard that the first birth should be in a hospital because the first birth is the most prone to complications. I absolutely disagree with this and think that birth has been overmedicalized, but would love to hear what the midwife has to say specifically about first births.
It’s true that first-time mothers who hope to have a home birth have a higher chance of ending up in the hospital than with subsequent births, but there are many first-time mothers who successfully give birth at home and/or with a midwife. [Editor’s note: check out our collection of Getting It Out birth stories, including several home births!] Starting with a positive, confident attitude, choosing a practitioner midwife and comfortable setting that confirms your strength are important foundational ingredients to a successful birth experience.
But there’s no guarantee it will all go smoothly. Giving birth is a great mystery. So it is also important to temper your optimism with a realistic attitude about how much around birth happens without you having any control over it. Ya just never know!!
So yes, it is a reasonable choice to work with a midwife during your first pregnancy. And yes, there is a higher chance of more complications with your first birth. The most common complication for first-time mothers is a long, exhausting labor. In such a case, you might decide to transfer to a hospital and physician care. Ideally your midwife has a good relationship with a back-up doctor and hospital so the transfer would be smooth. This is even more important for first-time moms because it is more likely you will need it. But there’s at least a 50/50 chance that you won’t need any kind of medical intervention so its worth a try.
Either way, whether you successfully give birth at home with a midwife or have unexpected problems that result in a transfer to a doctor and/or hospital — you’ll experience the initiation ritual into motherhood. It’s an awesome, potent rite of passage that will transform you into a wiser, deeper woman.
The ability to “go with the flow” and learn from this transformative, amazing (if challenging) experience called pregnancy and birth is how you will grow your womb-an wisdom. Complications might happen at any point in the child-bearing year that challenge your optimism and self confidence. In such cases, the best thing we can do is cultivate trust, stay engaged and learn from whatever presents itself to learn. That’s how we grow into maturity and wisdom.
I honor your “knowing” that birth in this culture has been over-medicalized and I honor your desire to give birth with a midwife, trusting in your body and that birth is a natural process. It’s a beautiful way to start the journey toward empowered motherhood. May your journey be full of blessings—both expected and unexpected. Let us know how it all unfolds.