Tell us a bit about yourself!
This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced amazing/interesting/challenging things. This is the story of Brandy, her family, and her decision to give birth at home.
Brandy and her son
I’m a strange balance of extreme maturity and childishness. I think that’s why people like me. I could spend hours milling around a bookstore or a library. In fact, most days that’s exactly what I do. I was born and adopted in Pennsylvania. I grew up in Virginia and North Carolina. And I lived in the DC metro area for a few years. Besides the traffic, it’s my favorite.
Why did you decide that you wanted to give birth at home rather than at a hospital?
My kids are 10 years apart. I had my daughter in a hospital when I was 20. It wasn’t traumatizing, but I basically just did as I was told. With my son, I wanted to play a much more active role. My friend had a homebirth a few years ago and I’m embarrassed to say that in a conversation about it, I told her I could never do it, for fear of what might happen. Watching the documentary, The Business of Being Born, really opened my eyes and inspired me to do more research. It’s not for everyone. But it really was for us.
How does one go about organizing a home birth?
There are two main options in choosing a midwife: a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). I chose a CNM. I liked the fact that she could write prescriptions and administer IVs if needed, but some people prefer CPMs.
After you choose your midwife, she’ll set up appointments for you in her office or at your home. It’s not like going the doctor’s. You really get to know each other. My midwife often stepped in as a therapist. She also gave me a lot of homework: researching vaccines, tests, etc. The vast majority of them are optional, and come with their own risks and benefits. It is absolutely your job to know what is being injected into your body and your baby.
Tell us about the actual process of giving birth at home.
You can choose a birthing pool, or your tub, if it’s big enough. Or even the dreaded stool, which looks like some sort of perverted torture device. If you labor in the pool, you’ll need plastic sheeting to save your carpet and a garden hose that hooks up to something in your laundry room. Since much of the pre- and post-birth happens in your bed, a plastic cover for your mattress is essential.
She brings everything else, right down to the emergency Pitocin, should you need it. My actual birth was, let’s say . . . intense—14 hours of back labor. Four of those hours were in transition, which is after the baby has crowned. It usually lasts about 45 minutes but I couldn’t bring myself to push because his face was on my pelvic bone and it hurt like, well . . . a mother.
At 4:05am on September 9th, 2011 in a blow-up pool in my living room with my husband behind me, rubbing my back and sobbing, I gave birth to an eight pound baby boy. Our daughter sprang into action, calling loved ones to wake them up with the good news. Afterwards, my midwife stitched me up in my own bed and laid my newborn on my breast to nurse. I was depleted, so she spoon-fed me yogurt and then she and her assistant cleaned up the mess we had made. Even the dirty dishes in my sink!
How did your friends and family react to your decision?
Most of them were pretty supportive. I got a couple of emails from well-intentioned friends trying to scare me back to the hospital. The thing many people don’t understand is that a lot of the terrifying “interventions” that happen in hospitals were inadvertently created by the way hospitals do birth. Emergencies happen, of course, but women are built to give birth.
Do you think there were any drawbacks to giving birth at home? What were the benefits?
It was costly for us. A homebirth actually costs thousands of dollars less than a hospital birth, but our insurance wouldn’t cover all of it. Interestingly, had we birthed in a hospital, they would have.
In the weeks leading up the birth I was scared. The pain and the worst-case scenarios. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to handle it all. Honestly, the pain sucked. But now I know I am much stronger than I imagined. And she came back to the house for all of the follow up visits from birth to six weeks. Not having to deal with clothes or car seats for several weeks was definitely one of my favorite parts.
Vodka was also a perk. Things were progressing slowly, my water broke the day before, but I was dilating at snail speed, so my midwife asked if I wanted to take a shot of vodka and get some rest before round two. Friends, the answer is always vodka.
If you had another child, would you give birth at home again?
I think so. Every birth is different. If there were new risks, or if I was carrying more than one baby, I would most likely opt for the hospital.
What advice/resources would you share with couples who are interested in giving birth at home?
Review the laws in your state or country. If homebirth is not your tea cup, there may be a birthing center in your area. Or, you may be interested in hiring a doula and birthing naturally in a hospital. The Business Of Being Born is a great introduction on the subject.
Ultimately, go with your gut. After you’ve done all the research, decide what’s best for your family and your baby and be lovingly unapologetic. Trust your instincts. People are going to give you flack either way.Thanks so much for sharing, Brandy! Have any of you given birth at home? Any questions for Brandy?