I’ve had four home births and my daughter thinks I am a superwoman for having a natural birth.
“Yes, mama! You are a superwoman!” my teenage daughter insists. She reasons that I gave birth to four children without any medication, and she thinks that is extraordinary. She saw me go through labour pains when I gave birth to my three other children at home.
According to her, it takes an extra-strong woman to not take medications during childbirth. Meanwhile, I’m grateful to Allah, my Lord, for allowing me to have a safe home birth. In all instances, my home birth journey was free from any complications both for me and my children.
I was 22 years old pregnant with my first child when I planned to deliver my baby at home. I didn’t inform anyone of my intention. Not even my husband. I was sure my own family will not allow me to have a home birth. Due to that, I kept my plan to myself. I avoided telling anyone who will only shoot my decision down. After all, I’m the one who will go through the labour pains. Besides, I was positive and confident about doing it.
It was the morning of April 29, 2002, when I saw blood-tinged mucus, a sign of possibly giving birth. As soon as I saw the ‘sign’ I informed my midwife. The day passed by, without anyone noticing that I am getting ready to give birth. The birth progress was slow.
During my labour, my stepfather keeps on asking if why am I not going to the hospital. He asked if do we have money for hospitalization. It was a valid concern because giving birth to a Philippine hospital can be very expensive. Yes, we have money and I told him the midwife was assisting me in this birth.
My first home birth was a successful one. With only one midwife assisting me and another family friend in the room, we welcomed my healthy and beautiful baby girl at around 11 a.m. It was a memorable experience and a decision that I never regret.
Eleven years later, I am giving birth for the second time, and I choose to do a home birth again. This time I am in Canada, the hospitals are of high standard and money isn’t necessary when giving birth at a hospital in Ontario. But I still choose to give birth at home. Why? I’ll tell you.
I choose to home birth my children because:
1. I believe in natural birth. I believe that my body is made for this task, and therefore I am capable of bringing the baby out in this world naturally. I don’t need unnecessary medical intervention. I don’t have medical-know-how of how exactly my body works before the labour pains. But the University of Minnesota, posted the article “How Does My Body Work During Childbirth” confirms my experience that the women’s body prepares for the big day. Weeks before my due date I noticed the ‘dropping’ of the baby, and excretion of mucus (slimy liquid) as if passing lube through the vagina.
As much as I am mentally prepared and look forward to doing a natural birth, I also make sure that I am healthy. I do everything necessary during pregnancy to maintain good health. Any concerns related to my health or pregnancy is always being taken cared of, it is a priority. Alhamdulillah (thank God), I was blessed with good health and low-risk pregnancy with all of my four children.
2. Homebirth is normal for me. I was exposed to homebirth since childhood. I was ready for it before my body was even ready to grow a child. I grew up with my grandma who used to assist the community hilot, a local midwife back when I was in the Philippines. I used to go with my grandma to many homebirths, whenever she and the hilot were helping women give birth at home.
Homebirth was normalized for me. Almost all the women around me gave birth at home. The experience of witnessing women give birth at home ingrained in me the confidence that I can do it too! With that in mind, I have accepted that pain in giving birth is part of it and I was ready for it.
3. I’m scared to go to a hospital. In my entire life, before my children, I have never been admitted to a hospital. The thought of being admitted to a hospital scares me to death. I can’t stop the disturbing hospital thoughts I have in my head. Should I bring myself to a hospital to give birth, the thoughts will add discomfort to my labour pains if not make my circumstances worse. The thought of giving birth in a hospital is giving me an anxiety attack – and that is detrimental to my health.
4. My religious belief. This particular reason is a big factor why I prefer homebirth. As a practising Muslim woman who wears a hijab or headscarf, giving birth at home is the practical way to do it. During the labour pains or birthing process, I do not have to worry whether am I still in proper coverings or not. I don’t have to worry that I may be unconsciously exposing myself, which can easily happen when in labour pains and birthing. Understandably, the pain distracts us and makes us vulnerable. But with home birth, I am inside my home and protected from the public eye, I don’t need to keep my hijab on.
5. I can control my privacy. Among the hospital stories that I’ve heard is the loss of privacy of patients while giving birth at a hospital. I understand that this can happen in an emergency, especially when giving birth. However, this exposure can be controlled and limited in a home birth environment.
I choose the people I allow to be around me during my home birth. I can either walk around my whole house or just stay in the privacy of my room. I have control of my environment during a home birth.
6. There’s freedom to be in any birthing positions. During labour pains, no woman can filter her reactions to the pain. We do what we gotta do to alleviate the pain. Being at home, I have the freedom to find the best positions which my body is comfortable at. Those who have given birth know how positioning our body during labour helps alleviate the pains even for a short time.
During my first born’s birth, I walked up and down my parents’ stairs that’s how I relieved my labour pains. I then rush to my bedroom to kneel on the side of the bed holding tight whenever the pain was intense. I sat down when it was time to push harder and continues to bring the baby out. My second child, I was showering half the labour time because I felt like peeing the whole time but nothing was coming out. Sitting on the birthing stool, at that time, was such a big relief. I also stood on my knees leaning forward and my husband or one of the midwives was rubbing my back. Oh, that felt good! I was on the birthing stool when the baby started descending and then I moved onto my bed to push according to my comfort level.
My third child, oh boy, this little guy, I crawled on four along our hallway, and that was the best position for me. Minutes before my water bag broke, I was leaning forward on my knees by the bed while my husband pressed my hips together, putting pressure on both sides. What a relief that was! I was at that position when my water bag broke, the baby followed the water sliding out while I was standing on the side of the bed. The midwives were just in time to catch him from dropping. In the middle of the pain that particular scene was jovial. Baby No. 3 came quick.
Six hours of labour pains are what I endured with my fourth child. In this birth, I did almost all the birthing positions I had with the previous ones. I was figuring out which one will work this time. Other positions I tried during all my child labours were being upright, standing, sitting, and kneeling. Sitting on my ankles was comfy too, and the same thing with laying on the side with pillows underneath. Baby No. 4 came out with me on the traditional position of laying down on my back with my husband holding half my body up.
7. I love the supportive environment. Supportive people surround me on every single home births I’ve had. My husband was present in all my birthing journey. His presence adds a sense of security and bond in our relationship. He’s with me witnessing an important journey of our family life. All my midwives from Womancare Midwives (WM) are awesome. Having known my midwives since the beginning of my pregnancy, we have a comfortable and friendly relationship. All through the pregnancy, I know that the midwives are not just there to help me give birth. They are truly looking after me in all aspects of my being, my safety as well as my baby.
8. The midwives understand me. I’ve always want midwives to help me during my pregnancy and birth because as women, I know they will understand me. The midwives from WM are beyond amazing –I partnered with six of them, and 3 trainees — in my three home births. From the first day I stepped into WM clinic they welcomed me warmly. I love how the interaction with midwives are easy and chill. They truly understand me as a woman. Some of them are moms too and can relate to whatever I’m going through from pregnancy until birth. So during the birthing process, I didn’t feel vulnerable.
9. Homebirth is safe. It is safe to give birth at home in Canada. The midwives are professionals who know the intricacies of giving birth and are trained at what they do. In Ontario, it is a regulated profession.
I often describe the preparations of my midwives for my home birth as bringing hospital care to my home. During a home birth, they brought with them two oxygen tanks, resuscitation equipment and medications for post-partum bleeding. Everything is set and geared toward securing my safety and the baby. As I was writing this, I found this resource for a more informed decision on Choosing Home Birth in Ontario.
10. Immediate care and rest. After the intense and hard work of bringing the baby out in this world, the comfort of being at home and not having to rush to go anywhere is indescribable. This is a huge bonus in doing a home birth. Afterwards, I shower in my own washroom and climbed on my bed to rest.
I also get to eat the food that I want right away. The midwives stay until everything was taken cared of – from the mess created during birthing, to making sure that I and the baby were in stable and in a secure condition.
11. It costs $0. With all the comforts and benefits mentioned above, it doesn’t cost anything for permanent residents of Ontario to do home births. The services of the midwives are covered by the community health branch of the Ministry of Health. The only expense I incurred on my last home birth was maybe less than $10 for buying 2 shower curtains and 2 small cookie sheets from the dollar store. Some of the supplies the midwives may ask you to prepare are probably available at your home such as old towels, blankets, bedsheets, garbage bags, mixing bowls, bucket with cover (I prepared an empty ice cream container), change clothes for the mom and things the baby will need — I prepared a hospital bag.
Overall, my home birth stories are one that I will not get tired of sharing the joy and benefits. I advocate for it to every healthy and low-risk pregnant woman in Canada. So what’s your birth story? If you have a low-risk pregnancy, do you think you will deliver your baby at home with the help of midwives?
Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner, I am just a mama sharing my personal experience and opinion, on why I chose to deliver my babies at home.