I’ve been there. I know that place. You stand on the ledge, staring down into the tempting clear blue waters, knowing in your heart they are refreshing, pure, freeing…your heart pounds wildly as you try to sort out the risks and benefits of jumping from those of staying up on the ledge. Some try to urge you forward, many attempt to hold you back.
If you jump, you face the possibility of criticism, logistical challenges, and potential hostility if something should go wrong. If you remain on your perch, you may be caught up in a chain of events that could quickly spiral out of control.
It is the divide between home birth and hospital birth, and while the choice seems to be automatic for some, for others the leap is not that simple.
It’s highly likely that you already know the profound physical and emotional effects birth has on the mother/baby couple.
You probably also know how favorable the data is on home birth outcomes. The vast majority of mothers-to-be considering home birth do a mind boggling amount of research into the pros and cons – particularly regarding safety. Indecision is seldom due to lack of information, rather, it is the result of something deeper.
We all come to the home birth table with our own preconceived notions, baggage, fears, not to mention our own tribe – the baby’s father, grandparents, friends, relatives, all of those well meaning loved ones who may or may not understand, much less respect, our autonomy and inherent human right to choose our own birthing environment.
In spite of (some) appearances, we do not all come to the home birth table 110% ready to take the leap off that culturally accepted ledge into the wonderful, terrifying, freeing, comforting, liberating, incomprehensibly amazing world of birthing at home.
I was lucky, in a way. I knew I wanted several children, and if that hadn’t been the case I might never have gotten to experience the joy of coming around to home birth. After my first, born by cesarean due to my own typical first baby ignorance, I was not open to home birth right away. I had joined ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and had no shortage of support and information pouring over me in the form of the incredible women on the email group.
It’s not just about information. One can plug all the data in the world into the human brain and if that individual is not open to receive it at that time in their life, in their current space, the capacity to influence their choices will be minimal. As for me, I heard the information, I just wasn’t ready to let facts override fear quite yet. Over time my eyes did open and I had two beautiful HBACs.
As you stand on the ledge peering curiously into those unfamiliar waters, allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Fear is normal. Fear signals danger and allows survival of our species. Take some quiet time to identify the root of it. Is it fear of pain? Fear of something happening to you or the baby? Intimidation of family and friends who can’t understand why you’d even consider having the baby at home?
All of these things are normal; while home birthers are typically pretty confident and self-assured on the outside, the truth is we’ve all felt fear in one form or another on this exhilarating journey. We honor those feelings, we prepare, and sometimes we just do it afraid.
Nearly 30,000 women give birth at home each year in the United States (and that number is growing). Each one must deal with fears and obstacles in order to leap off the ledge and buck the institutional system of birth. You can too.
Misha Safranski is mother to five beautiful children, birth mother to a sixth, VBAC mom, unschooling parent, intactivist, lactivist, and freelance writer. In addition to working full time for a major online media company, Ms. Safranski publishes an advocacy blog on birth and intuitive parenting issues called Creating Dissonance. She resides in Michigan with her children and furbabies.