Friday, March 25, 2016

Home birth and hospital birth: my (hopefully non-controversial) experiences with both

Back when I was pregnant with Esther, I did lots of reading on birth and birth styles.  The conclusion I came to was that the best choice for her and for me would be to have an unmedicated home birth.  However, our insurance situation at the time was such that only a hospital birth was covered, which for financial reasons was the route we decided to go.  Fortunately we had a good midwife, and though our hospital stay wasn't the best (though not terrible) it was short and manageable, and we were able to give birth unmedicated.

Fast forward to Hudson.  Same story with insurance, and a move led us to a new midwife and new hospital.  I really liked our new midwife and this new hospital was certified baby friendly, which made for a much better experience.  In fact, I would even say I enjoyed our hospital stay.

This time when I got pregnant, two things changed: we were now with Samaritan Ministries, which "shares" home birth at 100% (it's not considered insurance, so you can't say "covers" but pretty much the same idea), and my midwife was in the process of moving to a new city.  So this time around the hospital would cost more, and our midwife would not be able to attend.  Though I like my OB, I would prefer a midwife and I don't think there are any other hospital based midwives in our town (and the other upside to my previous midwife is that she was in the same office as my OB).

Long story short, after talking to a lot of people and weighing our options, we settled on a home birth.  It wasn't an easy decision like it would have been with a previous birth, this time I felt that there were some legitimate upsides to the hospital, but in the end I wanted to at least try a home birth so that I could know what it is like.

Right away, I was happy about our decision.  The two biggest reasons were that I really liked the midwife we chose and because having prenatal appointments at home made life so much easier.  I didn't have to find a sitter or even carve out that much time from my day.  The visits lasted about 45 minutes and I didn't have to drive anywhere or wait in a waiting room.  My midwife would even include the kids in on the exam as helpers which they enjoyed and provided them with a learning opportunity.  Another upside is that the whole appointment was face time with my midwife, which allowed for plenty of time for questions and conversation about life and pregnancy.  I would probably say that the prenatal visits were the biggest upside of the home birth experience for me.

When it came to the birth, the biggest upside was not having to make the transition to the hospital.  We now live 15 minutes from our hospital, which isn't the terrible one-hour drive we had with Esther but certainly not the very easy less than 5 minute drive we had with Hudson.  Even a five minute drive isn't fun because there is the decision of when exactly to leave, which for me is as close as possible to the birth without being too late.  In all honesty, the way things went this time I might have had the baby in the car.

Since it was a home birth, my midwife came when contractions were still relatively easy (which ended up being about 2 hours before the actual birth), as she knows my history of fast births.  This is different than hospital midwives who want to come after you are ready to push.  The problem with that for me is that by time I am ready to push, the baby is minutes from being born.  I was worried about feeling like a watched pot with her there, but she mostly laid low in a different room while I labored, only coming to check the baby's heart tones every half hour or so, meanwhile getting everything set up for the birth.  And in the end, Zion came fast enough that even her assistant didn't make it in time, so we all agreed that it was good that she came early when things were still easy.

I also really appreciated that right after the birth, I could crawl into bed, my bed.  And that first night, I didn't have to sleep across the room from my husband, knowing that he was getting a terrible night's sleep.  Instead we were all snuggled up in bed together.  I loved it.

There are some things that are more convenient in the hospital: a closer bathroom, a bed that sits up at the push of a button and the nice rolling table that sits your food, book or computer right in front of you while you lay in bed.  I also didn't love having to take mine and my baby's vitals by myself (my midwife did a check right after birth, at 24 hours and at 3 days, but in between those checks it was up to us).  They weren't necessarily difficult but its just more reassuring when someone else is doing them.

So what will we do in the future?  All things considered, home birth seems like the better option for us.  In a number of ways, it is easier, especially as our family grows, and especially given my history of relatively fast deliveries.  However, if there is ever a compelling reason to have a hospital birth, that will be a fine option for us as well.

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