If your preference is for home birth but you worry about possible dangers, rest assured that midwives will advise against it if they have any concerns regarding your risk factors. Risk factors include, but are not limited to, multiple pregnancy, in vitro fertilization, high blood pressure, bleeding, undesirable placenta position, gestational diabetes, induction and some pre-existing conditions. Not all midwives have the same criteria for what they are willing to work with in a home birth either. One friend of mine was planning for a home birth but, after having some issues with edema late in the pregnancy, was advised to have a hospital birth attended by her midwife. You will be monitored for risks through your pregnancy and right up until the baby emerges. Another friend of mine was transported to the hospital after reaching five centimeters at home because the midwife detected some warning signs at that stage. There was plenty of time to drive to the hospital and it was determined that a C-section was necessary in that case. Although it wasn’t the birth my friend envisioned for herself, she credits her midwife for making her feel secure and cared for throughout the transfer. Keep in mind that the most common reason for a home birth to move to a hospital is because the mother decides she wants pain relief, and not because emergency medical attention is needed. This is largely because midwives do their due diligence in assessing foreseeable risk.
I’m not going to say things can’t go wrong in birth, because they can. But, you have to remember, too, there’s a lot that midwives can deal with before an emergency responder needs to be called on. For example, both of my births contained minor complications that did not require medical attention beyond my midwife’s capabilities. In the case of my son’s birth, the baby’s heart rate was dropping. My midwife advised me to move from an all-fours position to my back, and that did the trick – his heart rate regulated immediately. When he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. I have heard people say, with such certainty, that their baby would have died if they had not been in the hospital because the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. However, my midwife later told me this is a very common occurrence. She used her thumb to gently loosen the cord as I finished pushing him out, and then unraveled it completely as soon as he was out. I have often wondered how events might have transpired differently had I been in the hospital, and if I might have left believing that my baby would have died had I not been there. As for the birth of my daughter, she didn’t take her first breath for three whole minutes after she was born. There was too much fluid left in her lungs because I didn’t spend a lot of time pushing, and one of the incredible functions of pushing in birth is to help clear the baby’s airway in preparation for breathing air for the first time. My midwives calmly and successfully resuscitated her with the equipment and expertise they had at their disposal, in our home. It was alarming and we were scared, but the response was such that I knew we were in good hands. My midwife later told me that about five percent of newborns require resuscitation or airway clearing, and only one percent of those won’t begin breathing. It’s an uncommon occurrence, but one that midwives are prepared for nonetheless. So, when you catch yourself thinking about what could go wrong, my advice to you is, just focus on birthing your baby. That’s your job. The midwives or doctors will respond as necessary if any concerns arise.
I really wish that home births or hospital births could guarantee positive experiences, but both home births and hospital births have the potential to yield a positive experience. It’s much more dependent on the mother’s ability and opportunity to give birth without fear. Often, when a mother enters into labour with the desire to seek drugs and anesthesia, it is a sign of avoidance, resistance and distrust in her body’s capabilities. That’s the real task of birth; realize there is no avoiding it, know that allowing it is the way through it, and trust that your body not only can do this but is designed to do this. If you choose to use medication, do so to support yourself in coping with what is a challenging but doable undertaking. And it is doable. It will be done. Take comfort that mothers everywhere have done it, are doing it now, would and will do it again. You are part of a larger web of miraculous, self-sacrificing, formidable creators from times past, present and future that we call birth mothers. There’s no reason for you to feel anything but conviction for your capability.