choosing to home birth

so i realized i started talking about having a home birth without ever sharing why i made that decision. i'm honored to get to share that with you today.

(mila at one week old)
"nothing compares to the privilege of giving life and the responsibility of that. nothing."

scott and i watched "the business of being born" and i read "your best birth," the movie's companion guide, all before we even started trying to get pregnant. those definitely planted the seed of thinking about natural childbirth and having a home birth when the time came. even if you aren't considering a home birth, i think every woman should watch the film (available via netflix streaming) because it showcases our options during pregnancy care and labor, but also our rights as women.

"the way a culture treats women in birth is a good indicator of how well women 
and their contributions to society are valued and honored."

once pregnant, i just knew that home birthing was what i wanted. i don't know how else to explain it other than that i just knew it in my bones. i didn't picture myself giving birth in a traditional hospital setting for even a single day.

scott, however, was more apprehensive. he was fearful for my safety, which is a pretty common thought when people think about undergoing such a major episode outside of hospital walls. he continued researching all our options and he primarily focused on learning what the emergency protocols were in home births, as that is where his fears were concentrated. i let him fixate on things like medication administered for hemorrhages and our distance to the nearest hospital, all while believing he'd come around to my side soon. his logical route took him a little longer, but in the end we both came to the same conclusion:

the reason scott and i decided to birth our first baby at home basically boils down to the fact that i wanted to birth my baby naturally, without pain medication and without interventions unless those were an absolute medical necessity for the health of myself or the baby. to accomplish that goal, i felt my odds were better if i birthed at home with a certified nurse midwife than in a hospital with an obgyn and hospital staff.

it was about assembling the best team and picking the best location to (hopefully) result in our ideal birth experience. many women who had hospital births told me they tried to go without medication but couldn't handle it and ended up getting an epidural. while i felt very confident that i'd be able to have a medication-free birth at home, i'm first to admit it sounds nearly impossible to do in a hospital. i was never surprised when those women said they couldn't stick with their plan because i didn't think i'd be able to in the same setting either. for me, i felt like picking the hospital would mean picking an epidural, regardless of how my labor ended up progressing and it felt like i'd be nudging myself a heck of a lot closer to a c-section as well.

"hospitals are businesses. they want those beds filled and empty.
they don't want women hanging around in the labor room."

so really, it was about setting a goal and asking, how do i accomplish that? for me, it was utilizing all the advantages of a home birth including: the comfort and security of my own home versus a foreign, more sterile setting; a midwife who has devoted her life to natural birthing vs. a doctor who does equal amounts natural, medicated and c-section births; and the ability to eat and drink, move around during labor and birth in a variety of positions vs. hospital restrictions that require avoiding many of these things.

"basically what the medical profession has done is convince the 
vast majority of women that they don't know how to birth."

i'm also an admitted control freak. i sensed from the start that being in a hospital would make me feel like things were being done to me instead of by me. situations like that give me a lot of anxiety. i read a lot of books by ina may gaskin (a pioneer in the field of midwifery) and she repeatedly emphasizes how interwoven a mother's mental state is to her physical body in labor. a scared, stressed or distracted mind can stall or completely halt labor. i thought then - and still believe now - that any setting in which i wasn't the driver of the birthing process could be detrimental to the progress of my labor. i wanted to be integral to the birthing process instead of having a medical team handle it all and simply tell me what to do, when.  that need for control is something i know about myself. of course, other mothers may be the exact opposite. some may get a great sense of peace being in a hospital in the hands of a large team of nurses and doctors and for them, that would be the ideal environment for their birth. you have to create the space that works for you.

even as a first time mom, i felt somewhat territorial over my body. i knew that i didn't need a doctor to "deliver" my child. i was going to birth my baby. again, i felt a midwife would be more willing to step back and let me listen to my body whereas a hospital team would be more likely to step in and try to coach me.

(the first photo of us as a family of three, just two days after her birth)

i respect every mama's (and dad's) choice for what works for their family. pregnant women know there is a lot of judging and even shaming for the choices we make, which is just so unnecessary. but with that said, i'm really proud of the choice we've made and i'm fiercely proud of other home birthing families. we really had to swim upstream for this, fighting against judgements (and unwanted birth horror stories) from friends and family and conducting so much more research than would be needed if we had gone with a traditional practice. and now, a month after mila's arrival, i'm still fighting our insurance to get the financial reimbursement we were promised.

i hope by choosing home birth and talking about it as a regular option and not a risky practice done only by fringe groups, that other women may discover they aren't limited to a "traditional" birth and they can be empowered to explore all their options.

our home birth was an amazing experience. i would do it all over again and hope we're lucky enough to with our next child. i'm so excited to share our birth story with all of you soon.


  1. thanks for sharing your story - always interesting to hear new perspectives.

  2. thank you for sharing your story Jess. I'm not married yet to my partner of 8 years, but i know being a traditionalist, after we marry that we will have children together.

    Thanks for highlighting the other options for me and being so open and honest. xo

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I had all the same concerns as Scott, and was able to have a natural birth at the hospital. totally agree with you, the mother's state of mind is HUGE in the birthing process. I used hypnobirthing, curious if you have heard of it/did the same?

    1. congrats on your natural birth! that is awesome. i did know of hypnobirthing and while i didn't take a hynobirthing course, i read many books on it and practiced their breathing and visualization techniques. i found them to be great for my final weeks of pregnancy actually, to keep me relaxed and centered, but because my labor progressed so quickly, i wasn't able to use them during the birth itself.

  4. I'm so envious of your home birth! I'm considered high risk, though could safely birth my baby at home and many women like me have, but the one (one!) midwife in town won't take me on because she has 'healthier' patients. Times like this I wish I lived in a big city! Fortunately my OB is great and already said I could labor how I want, encourages women to go as natural as they can, and has a low c-section rate.

    As far as the movie you recommended, i loved it! Have you also seen the 4 part series they have, More Business of Being Born? Just as great.

    1. i'm sorry to hear that home birth isn't an option in your area, but it's awesome that so many OBs are supportive of women's birth plans. wishing you lots of health and luck in the remainder of your pregnancy and your labor.

      i did see "more business of being born" - also on netflix streaming. i loved hearing the celeb moms' birth stories, especially laila ali's as it made me be more open to accepting the fact that our plans may not come to fruition, which i think is important for people planning a home birth or natural birth.

  5. i'm so glad you wrote about this! home birth, or even a midwife-run birth center, wasn't an option for us for insurance/financial reasons, but i was so grateful to be at a great hospital with midwives who supported my desire to birth naturally. it was still a hospital environment and i found that made it difficult for me to truly relax and focus solely on laboring, but overall it was still a great experience. and once they're here, it hardly matters how they came, right? thanks for sharing :)