"Honey...I was thinking..."
That's how it all starts. Your wife, glowing in the aura of pregnancy, gently asks you the question you never expected to hear.
"...maybe we should have this baby at home."
If this happens then-no matter what kind of guy you are-I hope you wisely keep your mouth shut and hold on to a docile, sunny face that says, "Honey-I-love-you-more-now-than-ever-before."
If you have to say anything then repeat the following phrase: "Gee, honey, I don't know. Please tell me more about what you're thinking."
This will allow your mind to race...like mine did.
"Is she out of her mind? Who does she think we are...the Waltons? What if something goes wrong? It's so dangerous. Isn't this why we have hospitals? What about the mess? What about our kids? What about the noise? What will our neighbors think? Where does she get this stuff? No more Girls' Night Out. Is she serious?"
Yes, she was serious. Just a few months later, my wonderful wife gave birth to our daughter, Mirabel, at home with the help of our doula (pronounced DOO-lah, a childbearing mentor) and two midwives (one was finishing her training and the other was the veteran). It was beautiful and, as my oldest daughter put it, homebirth seemed more natural than a hospital birth.
But I had my doubts in the beginning. I've heard of home school, home improvement and home cooking. But home birth was something that grandma (or great grandma) did back in the olden days, you know, before cars and hospitals and doctors. The whole idea seemed backward, unsafe.
I love and cherish my spouse. I am awestruck by the whole pregnancy thing, and, frankly, that birth thing just has me totally dazzled even after three kids. But like most guys, I am very protective of my family. I like certainty and safety. I know about the discomfort of pregnancy, the pain of labor and the risks of birth. I don't want anything to hurt my wife or newborn. I want Mom and Baby to be safe and healthy...and home.
As far as I was concerned the birth of our child was not the time to try "something new"�it was the time for "tried and true."
So I asked a lot of questions and listened, and read, and listened some more.
At every level I could find no legitimate reason to go to a hospital or even use a doctor.
My concerns about safety and certainty were allied when the midwives assured me that if things took a bad turn then we would call 9-1-1 and go to the hospital, which was less than a few minutes away. As it turned out our daughter's heart rate was checked every few minutes, and more during transition, to make certain things were fine.
Within an hour of the birth no one would have known that a home delivery had taken place. A couple of bags of garbage and a load of laundry was all it took.
The kids loved it. They got to see, hug and kiss their newest sister less than two minutes after she was born. My oldest daughter, a veteran of her younger sister's hospital birth, thought the whole thing was "cool" and "more natural" than a hospital birth. Our two-year old rubbed her Mommy's back during labor and even put on a bathing suit to "help out" in the birthing pool.
The noise? Not a problem. Sure, it can get loud but no one freaked out, complained or anything of the sort.
But there are some differences that are inconvenient at worst. The newborn pre-screen test for genetic disorders, the hearing test and the birth certificate filing are usually done at the hospital. These are things you will have to do at your pediatrician's office in the case of the pre-screen, at a hospital in the case of the hearing test and with local county government in the case of the birth certificate.
It's not difficult, just a little inconvenient. For me, none of these inconveniences amounted to any significant reason to skip a home birth.
A few hours after our daughter was born I had time to reflect. That's when I realized just how sweet our home birth was. All my fears and uncertainty about birth risks, medical misadventures and household chaos were replaced with comfort and confidence. I was downright giddy and actually felt a little silly about my earlier misgivings.
Our daughter's birth could not have gone any better. My wife had faith in the people around her. She was comfortable, secure and relaxed. And, in the final stages of birth, she revealed a strength of body and mind that no doctor or hospital had ever stirred in her. It was a beautiful thing to see.
That night we all ate together...and we ate well, no hospital food for us. We all slept in our own beds. No hospital staff, nurses or doctors waking Mom up every couple of hours to see if she is okay. No uncomfortable hospital room chairs or couches for Dad to "sleep" in. No crazy driving back and forth to the hospital. No strangers walking around outside our room. No "hospital" smell, no I.V.s, wires or monitors. No prohibitive visiting hours. No parking hassles.
Familiar sights, smells and sounds surrounded us. We were safe and sound in our home, sweet home, made sweeter by the gentle coo of a newborn nestled in Mom's arms.
Bill McIntyre, a father's perspective