I feel that I am in quite a fortunate position to have had two great home birth experiences but have also now experienced hospital after care – so in some ways I have seen both sides of the coin whilst still achieving the best possible birth experiences for us as a family.
I have, however, heard countless times how ‘brave’ we were to have a homebirth, especially having a homebirth with our first child. Today our Health Visitor came to our house and met us for the first time. She asked if our home birth had been ‘planned’ and when I said that both home births were planned, she said how brave we were and that her third was a home birth but that she wouldn’t have been brave enough to have the first at home.
I find ‘Brave’ such a funny word to use.
The dictionary defines Brave as the following:
Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
I honestly do not feel there should be any ‘danger’ in giving birth – it’s a natural function of the female body, something we are all born to do. Yes, some births have complications and some do end in emergency caesarean sections but many are complication free and so do not have any immediate ‘danger’. On the other hand, being ready to face and endure pain is relevant for all pregnant women, not just ones choosing to birth at home. We should really then see all pregnant women as being brave as we all endure the same pain, although our pain thresholds must differ.
Home Births were commonplace up until the 1960’s – 35% of children born in the 60’s were born at home – That is about the same number that are born with a ‘natural birth nowadays – a birth without medical intervention. If you ask relatives where they were born or where their parents were born I’m sure that a fair few would be born at home – I know my Mum was born above a chip shop in Camden, My Husband’s Uncle was born at home. For some reason after the 1960’s birth was made a medical event rather than a natural one. Everyone went to hospital to have a baby, that was the ‘done’ thing. However, for years women had babies at home, there was no alternative and none of them were considered ‘Brave’ – they were merely doing what women do, having babies.
I was going to real off statistics of numbers of home births and their outcomes – but I think you’d all tune off at that point. It is safe to say though that most births at home end happily, with only 40% of first time mothers having to transfer to hospital and 10% of mothers expecting their second or subsequent children. The majority of transfers for first time mothers was down to wanting ore pain relief rather than an emergency with the mother or baby. Statistically, having a planned home birth also halved the incidence of assisted delivery or caesarean birth.
I know home births aren’t for everyone – many women have ‘high risk’ pregnancies and so need to go into hospital to deliver, other women like the security/safety of a hospital and the immediate extra care they can provide and others, especially recently, would rather opt for an elective caesarean. For most women, going to hospital is still the norm. For me, I can’t imagine anything worse than having to deliver a baby in a hospital. It just wasn’t something I wanted to do. For me, as natural an experience as possible was my aim and I am glad I achieved that. However, it doesn’t make me brave. Just a woman giving birth on her terms.