Home Birth Advocacy

How Home Birth Saved Me From (unnecessary) Medical Interventions

31 Comments 16 June 2010

If I had not given birth at home, I doubt I would have given birth naturally. Or vaginally.

A common concern about giving birth at home is the limited access to medical help. But what if getting away from modern medicine is exactly what we need to make birth safer?

In some ways, I’ve been reluctant to share this story. The story of what could have been. What could have been didn’t happen. But that doesn’t make it any less important.

Our national cesarean section rate is over 32%.

Broken down, this means 1 in every 3 babies are delivered via c-section. One in three.

This story is about how I could have joined this statistic. But by giving birth at home, I avoided it.

There are three or four times during my labor that had I been giving birth at the local hospital, I would have received some type of medical intervention.

By medical intervention I mean hooked up to some sort of monitor, intervenous drip, or I might have accepted pain medication, (during transition). There is also a strong possibility I would have had an “emergency” c-section.

All that I may have encountered would have been unnecessary.

I know this because I successfully gave birth at home naturally, without the assistance of machines, tools or an iv.

I gave birth at home without medical assistance. It’s a story about power, determination and my gratitude for an experienced midwife in my corner.

Giving birth at home saved me from a cesarean section. Twice.

I had been laboring since mid-Monday.

By Tuesday evening, my contractions had picked up enough in strength to call over our midwife, Linda and Jessica, our doula. They arrived at around 9:30 that night.

Linda asked if I had eaten anything recently. I hadn’t. Didn’t have much of an appetite that day. So she asked Eric to make me a protein shake, which I drank around midnight.

A couple of hours later, Linda noticed something.

Maybe it was the shape of my stomach that alarmed her. She felt my tummy. And then she told me, very calmly and seriously, that Ella was angled in such a way that she was not going to be able to come down the birth canal.

Cesarean Section #1. This fact would have been completely missed in the hospital. I can say this, I know this, because my stomach was never felt by any of the midwives during my prenatal care at the hospital. Ella’s position would have been overlooked. It would have been impossible for us to progress.

I was instructed to assume a position called Open-Knee Chest.

Think of downward dog on your knees. That was me. The pain of my contractions was agonizing in this position. For 45 minutes I stayed like this in our attempt to straighten Ella out.

It worked!

Ella’s body realigned. She would be able to transcend down. Thank goodness.

I got up from the bed and went to the bathtub where I remained until the morning light shone Wednesday morning.

At 6:30 am, I was checked for the second time since the night before.

I was only 5 cm dilated!

Having not slept in three days, I was very tired. I wondered how I was going to make it. I wanted “out” of the experience. I wanted it to be over.

In that moment, I thought about what it would be like to transfer to the hospital.

The scene played out in my mind…

Cesarean Section #2: Failed attempt at home birth, mother exhausted, not progressing…let’s prep the OR!

Oh, no. I wouldn’t let that happen. No way. I talked myself down, relaxed and decided that nothing was wrong, I was just tired. I accepted the process as normal and natural.

We moved into the birthing room and I laid down on the waterproof covered mattress. Eric fed me yogurt. I rested, closing my eyes as Jessica rubbed soothing oils on my belly.

Two hours later, I was ready to push.

I gave birth to my daughter there in the birth room, surrounded by my family, midwife, doula and Eric behind me.

I did it!

Could I have achieved a natural, vaginal birth in the hospital?

Sure. I won’t deny the possibility.

I could have said, “I should give birth in the hospital, especially considering this is my first.”

The thought of what could have been is still unsettling.

When I think of the probability of my own c-section, I realize how many women undergo this surgery unnecessarily. It’s got to stop.

For some, like me, home birth is the answer.


Did giving birth at home help you achieve a natural childbirth? Do you wonder about what might have happened had you been laboring in a hospital?

Please share your experience!

Your Comments

31 Comments so far

  1. alli says:

    what a great story! no doubt a c-section would have been performed. congrats on a beautiful, healthy home birth experience and baby!

  2. Cherylyn says:

    I don’t wonder anymore, I know. If I’d been in the hospital with my breech baby I would have had a c-section. I’m not anti-hospital. I had 4 successful vaginal births in the hospital prior to my breech baby. For him and me we needed to be at home with the skilled midwives, in the water, for his beautiful birth.

    The open-knees-chest position is uncomfortable. I did it at 40 weeks to try to get my baby into a favorable position, and it wasn’t fun. I can only imagine how it was to do it during labor, but it was so cool that your midwife knew exactly what to do and you did it no matter how hard it was. Good job!

  3. I had planned for and (I thought) prepared for a natural birth in the hospital with me oldest. After 36 hours of labor (most of it at home), I ended up with narcotics, and by 49 hours, had been put on Pit and an epidural, with my son having an internal fetal monitor screwed into his head without my knowledge or consent. My waters were broken, my uterus was flushed with saline, because my son was passing meconium, so it must have been an “emegency.” I don’t even remember his birth, because I was so drugged and disconnected. They justified it because he was so “big” at 9lbs.

    My next two babies were born at home, unassisted, with no intervention. My biggest baby was 9lb 4oz. None of the things they did to me were necessary. I’m SO glad I stayed home with my other babies.

  4. Emma Someone says:

    I haven’t put my birth story up publicly but could write a similar thing as my babe was brow presentation and I pushed for four hours. My midwife’s skills and patience saved me from surgery. I’ll put my story on my blog this week but would like to share here if it’s an ongoing series.

  5. bringbirthhome says:

    @Alli, thank you!

    @Cherylyn, your story is amazing. I’m so glad you were able to give birth to your son at home!

    @Morgan, you are such an advocate and an inspiration. I’m sorry you had to go through that at the hospital. But glad for you took charge and had great births afterwards!

    @Emma, I would love to read your story. You can absolutely share it here. Email me at KaitlinRose@BringBirthHome.com

  6. Melissa says:

    During pushing my son’s heart rate went down and stayed low. My midwives put oxygen on me and got in my face about getting him out RIGHT NOW and so we did. I ended up with an episiotomy to make room for helping hands, but my consent was obtained first. I’m sure I would have been rushed off for a general anesthesia c-section if I’d been in the hospital.

    Maybe somewhere deep down I knew that was going to happen because just the day before at my 40 week appt I had talked to my midwife about how I’d been reading some research about how most CP is not a birth injury and how healthy term babies have protective mechanisms in place to deal with the stresses of labor and birth.

    I’m so thankful I was at home where no one was more worried about being sued than about helping the baby be born safely.

  7. nadja says:

    my fifth child, and fifth homebirth would not have been vaginal had i been in hospital. my waters broke on sunday night, but no contractions. i’d heard a “pop” high up in my belly, and noticed fluid leaking. i excitedly called my midwife, who confidently expected contractions to begin in the next 4 hours. they didn’t. nor did they take off by monday night. they began at bedtime, faintly, but faded away again. on tuesday morning, i was angry and upset at this, and went for a long, long solo walk. it didn’t bring on any contractions, but i did have an inspiring interview by phone with an L.A. Times reporter on nursing beyond infancy when i got back. that afternoon i visited my midwife, who checked me, and said i was physically aligned; the baby’s head was in the right place. i’d been keeping tabs on my temperature, and also drinking extra water, as i’d felt slightly weaker. i also did not take tub baths. i thought perhaps the hole had sealed up. i knew from susan mccutcheon-rossegg’s book, “natural childbirth the bradley way,” that these were things to look for. i was actually reassuring my midwife, who was a wonderful, hands-off birthing advocate, with me with my 3rd and 4th births. she never gave vaginal exams, and i never asked for any. that evening she arranged for a pregnancy chiropractor to see me, and everything was in its correct place physically, but a lot of emotions needed releasing. this was my 5th child, but my man’s 1st. the daddy of my first 4 children had died one year after an unhappy separation only 2 years prior. he had been 10 years my senior, and present and participated in all their births, catching our 4th child, first son. my new man was 8 years younger my junior and although familiar with homebirth–his younger sister had been born at home–was very anxious by nature. i cried a lot, and made room for my grief. that night i took the birthing tub home. we had a few contractions start at bedtime, but they again petered out after midnight. on wednesday night, my man and oldest daughter (12 at that time) set up the tub. contractions again started, and this time they continued all night. by 4 a.m., i was ready to be on all fours, and my man started filling up the tub. he’d phoned the midwife, who spoke to me and asked me tolet her know when i was ready for her. by 5 a.m. we phoned again, and i got into the tub. she arrived by 5:25, and caught our baby at 5:52 a.m., on february 1, 2001.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It gives me faith. I really want to have all homebirths, including with my first baby, and I’ve been finding it hard to find birth stories of Mama’s having their first baby at home. It’s so good to know that there are some of you out there!!!

  9. Lorelei says:

    I really think my birth would have been an intervention catastrophe as well, had I been in hospital. For starters, I’m terrified of hospitals. I’ve never been in one for a good reason… and just walking through the doors brings up an overwhelming amount of emotion and horrible memories. That alone would be enough to slow or stall out labor. The fact that my son was nine pounds would likely have ended in at the very least an episiotomy, but he was safely, securely, and respectfully born at home in a birthing tub with only a one degree tear by a midwife who put a focus on keeping me relaxed!

  10. Stephanie Benelli says:

    I would’ve been induced since for some strange reason, my baby didn’t pop out when the calendar struck 40 weeks.

    In addition to “medical instance” (rolling my eyes) requiring intervention in a hospital, what I think is overlooked sometimes is how SUGGESTABLE women are in labor. To just about any question I was asked, the answer was YES because I just couldn’t think straight. Luckily I was at home, so the questions were things like, “would you like pressure on your back?” or “would you like a frozen cranberry ice cube”? or “would you like a massage?” Had I been in the hospital, my fear is that to the question “This really hurts you…are you ready for your epidural?” I might’ve said yes. We are at our most vunerable in labor, and the language of the support team matters. In a hospital, you can only hope someone reads your birth plan that states “please don’t offer drugs, epidural, mention of 1-10 pain scale”, and hope your birth partner is always watching the revolving door of staff. I think a natural childbirth in hospital is possible if you and your team advocate for it…but in my case, I am not sure it would’ve happened. If I had had a particularly strong contraction alone with an intervention loving nurse…who knows. Happily it was never an issue!

  11. Katie says:

    I ended up transfering to a hospital (planned homebirth) with a VBA2C but I garentee that had I started in the hospital I would have been sectioned again. (Nothing was wrong when I transfered, I just didnt have the right midwife for me and she lost hope in me and transfered me after a long labor) but I hadnt lost hope and fought for my VBA2C. Not the most plesent thing to do in labor but I birthed her the way babies are supposed to come out…vaginally! We are pregnant again and this time going for a UC. My first two cesareans were very unneeded so its not even funny how fast they will find a reason to “be done with you”.

    You go girl for staying home and educating yourself the first time around! I try and talk to all the first time moms I know. I only wish I would have had an educated friend talk to me!

  12. Anastasia says:

    I had my first baby at home, and healthy 8lb. girl. I actually walked out of the hospital when I was 6cm… Long story, hopefully I will get around to writing it down some day. In short, the OB had convinced me to go, as I had never told him I had also been seeing a midwife and planning a home birth. My husband and I knew it was a mistake as soon as we got there and made every excuse to leave, and thank God, my labor stalled for hours so they let me go home “to rest”. We called the midwife and had our little girl in less then 2 hours, with only 10 minutes of pushing… My husband passed away when I was 4 months pregnant with our second daughter, but I still had her at home. My mother and wonderful midwife got me through, even with some shoulder dystocia. She was 9lbs 9oz! I had no tears at all, not even a skidmark. Thank God for midwives and supportive family.

  13. Emma Hansen says:

    My second baby was one week and two days “overdue”. The current protocol in our district is to encourage mums to have an induction and 41 and 1. My midwife knew i was a keen homebirther, and we kept my birth normal by staying at home. My beautiful healthy girl was born after a smooth 6 hr labour, with a healthy placenta and no sign of being “over cooked”. I cringe to think that many mamas in my position would have opted for the syntocinon instead of letting bubba decide. If mamas are keen to read homebirth stories, including first time mummies, check out homebirth.org.nz. My first baby’s homebirth story is on there “Arthur’s birth.” Good luck to all!

  14. Cheryl says:

    Without a doubt both of my homebirths would have been cesareans. You see, my first 4 children were born c-section. My first VBAC was in the hospital. The next 3 were born in birthing centers. Our last two children, both weighing over 11 lbs each were born at home. I’ve blogged about this (and it has become my most popular post) here: http://treasuresfromashoebox.blogspot.com/2010/05/youve-had-how-many-cesareans.html

  15. Tia says:

    I had my first home birth after 3 hospital births. I know without a doubt I would have been wheeled down for a c-section if I hadn’t been at home. Liora tried to arrive in the world with both hands up by her head. At 10 pounds and after an hour of pushing I finally delivered her head. My midwife was able to get her arm out and could see the other hand. Because I was able to change positions multiple time, finally standing up was what changed my pelvic shape allowing my baby to literally be caught! I would never have been able to stand up in a hospital delivery room and instead would have had a doctor yanking at my child’s head and neck as had happened 2 other times! I am so thankful I was free to bring my baby into the world gently, without intervention and without a c-section!!!

  16. Bri says:

    My homebirth with my 2nd baby (VBAC) saved me from the cascade of interventions and/or cesarean as well! Especially since this baby decided to show up 11 days past my due date. It is highly unlikely that any OB or hospital midwife would have “let” me go that late. I’m ever so thankful that I had a wonderful midwife who didn’t let me give up on myself!

  17. Shaina Peysin says:

    I also had a very long first birth- at home thank G-d! After laboring through Friday night, I still had not made much progress, and my midwife also told me to labor on my hands and knees, resting my head on a pillow, in an attempt to get the baby in proper position. VERY painful!! But incomparable to a possible c-section! I continued to labor throughout Saturday, and thank G-d, my baby was born Sunday morning at around 7:30. I doubt that over 30 hours of labor would have been “accepted” in the hospital, especially with no “progress.” Additionally, what I believe helped my baby descend was the amount of movement I did during labor, bouncing up and down, birth ball, pacing the hallways etc. It was also the best pain relief for me!

  18. Tatiana says:

    You didn’t even mention the 12 hour deadline. You would’ve missed it. For SURE there would have been unnecessary interventions!! Congrats!!

  19. Leah S says:

    I must have missed this post, since it was posted a week after I had my baby at home. It definitely would have been a c-section if I had been in the hospital. They would have declared Caleb “stuck” and not work with my tight hips.

    As it is, my sister-in-law had a baby 12 days before I did and her induced (it was 41 weeks!) labor was over 24 hours long before they took her baby out by c-section. He was also “stuck”, and since the epidural prevented SIL from moving around, he was really stuck! She also picked up an infection, likely from the many vaginal exams. That could have so easily been my own labor.

    Instead, I had an relatively easy 12 hours of labor from the first contraction until he was out of me. And two vaginal exams during the entire labor – once when the midwife arrived (I wasn’t sure if I was in labor) and once when I was complete with a lip.

    If you’re low risk, home birth is definitely the way to go! :)

  20. Justine says:

    There is NO WAY that an OB/Hospital would have let me be 10cms for 8 hours without pushing out a baby! (Failure to progress!) There is NO WAY that they would have let me guide my own baby’s head out with my hands (Unsanitary!) –which prevented me from tearing even the slightest bit— while I birthed my 11 lb baby boy at home with zero complications (CPD! Shoulder Dystocia! Cerebral Palsy!). I have my birth story and photo slideshow at http://www.stateoftheheart.net/?page_id=421

  21. Sara says:

    I had a c/sec, a MW assisted non-medicated hosp VBAC and a HBAC in my bathtub. With my HB I was in active labor, regular frequent almost intense contractions, ALL day Fri. Called MW late Fri nite–I knew I was in labor. She told me to eat & try to rest & call her when couldn’t sleep through my contractions anymore. Like K, I was worried that after being up all day, then laboring through the nite I might run out of “juice” to deliver the baby. As it turns out, my body knew what to do…I ate then laid down on the couch. Contractions actually stopped. Completely. I slept very well for almost 6 hours. Then, as the sun was just rising they started back up…right where they left off. My son was born about 6 hours later, after a peaceful labor & about 10 min of pushing.

    If I’d have called an OB instead of a MW, I would have been instructed to go to the hosp. I would have been admitted in labor and when my contractions stopped (so I could rest & re energize for the really hard work of labor) they would have diagnosed it as stalled labor & likely given pit to get me going again. This would have likely been the beginning of a cascade of other inventions. Possibly including a c/sec since I am a VBAC…as it was though I’ll never have to know b/c I choose a HB (partly to avoid that very thing…)

  22. Liz says:

    The c-section rate in my town is very high, my OB told me the percentage of induced labors was around 80%…so no wonder!!!
    I wanted a scheduled c-section until I got pregnant, then my research taught me how bad that is for the baby. To do what I felt was best for my daughter I contacted a midwife, confronted my fear of pain, and delivered my first baby at home.
    It was the best experience of my life, and one that would not have been repeated in the hospital. I was in pain and feeling overwhelmed, during transition I know I would have asked for (and received) pain medication. Instead I squeezed my doula’s hand and asked for help and she gave me the support I needed to make it through those minutes until I was ready to push.
    Labor is hard – but I survived (and I am a wimp!). Women need to give themselves credit and experience it, it will give you an appreciation for your life, your strength, your child, and everything else, like you never imagined! (and you don’t have to be all hippy dippy, either!)

  23. Cindy says:

    I love reading all the comments. You can add me to the list of first time homebirther who would have potentially had a c-section had I been in the hospital. My water broke with a gush at 37.5 weeks gestation, but I went about my day with anticipation of labor starting any minute. It didn’t kick in until 14 hours later. I know my situation would have led to pitocin and possible c-section. I also think about the medically
    unnecessary tests and procedures they would have done to my precious baby. We were able to decline antibiotics in the eyes, vitamin K shot and vaccines without worrying that thet might be done without our knowledge. I also love the fact that we had delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin contact immediately and for as long as I wanted and the option to keep my placenta. Not to mention falling asleep in my own bed with my baby hours after her birth, none of which is possible in a hospital. I tell my little girl everyday how special
    she is because she was born at home :)

  24. meggiemoo says:

    My 2 children would certainly have “required” some interventions in a hospital setting. Because I had both naturally (one in a birth center and one at home), using hypnobirthing, my labors were very fast (6 hours and 4 hours).

    I have a very visceral response to hospitals due to a traumatic experience when I was 18 (my mother was killed in a car accident, and I was the first to the hospital to find out). I’ve had panic attacks just visiting others in the hospital, so there’s just no way I could have a fast, relaxed labor like I did with my 2. I would have stalled, they would have called failure to progress, etc., etc.

    What has worked really well for me when it comes to birthing naturally or exclusive breastfeeding is not giving myself the “out”. There was no possibility of an epidural for me, so I didn’t have to worry about it or consider it. It never entered my mind.

    I think the other blessing with having midwives attend you is their absolute confidence that you can do it. I haven’t felt that same attitude with OBs. Their attitude has been more, “Well, maybe you can do it, but if not, don’t worry, because I’ll do it for you.”

  25. KateN says:

    Great story and your analysis of it is correct! Thanks for sharing it through this lens. My daughter Sarah’s first labor was similar–she labored for over 48 hours while the baby needed to adjust his lie. We all supported her to stay home with her midwife and all of us supporting. As the mom of the laboring mother, it was great to have the midwife there to reassure us that Sarah and the baby were both juts fine, no distress. As long as Sarah had the energy to continue, she would be able to bring her baby into the world in the way she wanted. And she did. While her second labor was only half as long, we all know the first would have been a c-section in the hospital, and so the second would likely have been as well.

  26. briannacorinne says:

    I to believe I could have ended up with a c-section for being a ‘putterer’. Pretty much the same thing seemed to happen for me as had happened to my mom, the main differences being that I was at home and I had educated myself. After light contractions for 2 days hanging out with my husband, buying some last minute things, going for walks, watching movies, and still getting some sleep at night, my midwife came over to see how I was doing on Sunday evening. She watched a contraction and didn’t think I was that far along, so she was going to send me to bed to try to get some sleep and go home herself, but she decided to check me and I was 7 cm! We were all shocked! My hubby and I kissed in bed and then went for a walk. Then heavy labor really kicked in, but it lasted another 13 hours before baby was born! I was exhausted but I was able to sleep between some contractions in my own bed, etc. My husband apparently even had me laughing sometimes. (I don’t remember). Beautiful baby boy born at 8:20 the next morning. Now, my mom’s story. She had her first contractions on Christmas Eve. She had to take a ferry to get to the hospital (or else drive a few extra hours to go the long way around). Even though she was still in very early labor she took the last ferry to the hospital because no ferries would be running on Christmas Day. She labored all night, all day, and all night in a hospital bed hooked up to machines with nothing to eat and not walking around. She had next to no support from my dad and didn’t know anything about natural childbirth (though that is what she had wanted). Finally she was 9 cm and her blood pressure started to go up. It was then that I was ‘saved’ via emergency c-section. Our stories are so similar and yet so different. My mother attended my birth and she believes that maybe things could have been different for her had she known… I’m thankful that her experience led me to research more and have a birth that was healing to both of us.

  27. Lou says:

    I have no idea if there would have been intervention in a hospital, but it was my first birth, my baby was more than 10 pounds and I was more than 41 weeks with not even a braxton hicks to show for it. That could have sparked an induction..and in labour I don’t think I would have had intervention..but who knows? Just travelling to and being in hospital may have slowed my labour right down and caused ‘problems’ or even having internals, or not being able to eat, or the couple of decels in my baby’s heartrate that were revorded..who knows..

    As it was, I was comfortable and safe in my own home, my labour went ‘like a textbook’, as my midwife put it, 15 hours of easy early labour, an hour of pushing – in water, surrounded by close family and a big fat baby at the end of it :)


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