What does a home birth look like?

I get asked this question frequently by first time moms or moms who have only ever had hospital births before, but this question doesn’t have a quick answer.  How do you describe the most incredible experience a mother will ever have?  How do you put into words the sense of astonishment and pride she will feel in herself when she reaches down to pull that sweet baby onto her chest for the first time?  Or the joy of a father at being able to catch his own baby? Or the emotional, physical and spiritual connection that develops between those persons present to witness another of God’s miracles?  I’ll never be able to fully put into words what a home birth looks like, but for those who’ve never experienced one, I’ll try…..


Most of the moms who hire me are interested in having a water birth, or at least using the water to labor in.  The benefits of water during labor and birth are numerous for mom and baby (but that’s another blog topic ;-) ).  The tub is large enough to allow mom a full range of motion and room to change positions easily, while also allowing space for dad to be in there with her if he desires.  In the water, her muscles relax and endorphins kick in even stronger to help her stay calm and focused. 


Many moms will have candles lit and their favorite music playing during labor.  It sets whatever tone she would like for her birth and gets everyone on the same page.  (I’ve heard everything from “Enya” to “Metallica” played at a birth!)  Sometimes she will even begin swaying and singing to the music as her body creates this beautiful rhythm of labor.  It helps with the discomfort of the contractions by distracting the mind and body, and sometimes dad will get involved slow dancing with mom and it just makes for such a sweet image. 


At a home birth, anyone you want can be in attendance, without the restrictions of age or number of “visitors”.  I have seen births where there was no one else present, and a birth where there were 25 people present.  Each of these births felt perfect and complete for the mother herself and in keeping with her wishes.  Older siblings can be present to be a part of the experience, and can be as involved as they’d like.  Whether it’s rubbing their mom’s back, giving her kisses, or whispering sweet encouragements into her ear, that older child feels that they too are an important part of this birth and it helps them to bond with the baby as their own.


When the time comes for the baby to be born, the mother can be however and wherever she’d like.  There is no standard position that she must move into, or a certain place where she must be in order to give birth.  She can follow her instincts and feel for what her body needs her to do.  Some moms want to catch their own babies, and other times I have dads who are jumping at the bit to be the first person with their hands on that new baby.  As their midwife, my role sometimes is just to sit back and watch the parents’ instincts kick in and let them take the reins, rather than giving into my own desires to wrap my arms around that sweet newborn ;-).


There really is nothing that a mom has to do or not do when she’s having a home birth with a midwife.  She gets to call all the shots and is completely supported by those around her.  She feels safe in her own little cave in the world, and is uninterrupted in her peace.  There are no strangers, no loud noises, no people trying to hurry her labor process, and no unfamiliar machines wrapping themselves all around her.  She is seen and treasured for the unique person she is, and the brave journey she is undertaking in bringing her child Earth-side.


I’ve experienced hundreds of births and each one is unique and special in its own way, and each of them has left lasting impressions on my heart and mind.  There have been births where I have been so touched by either my connection with the family or seeing the parents’ love for each other that I’ve been unable to stop myself from joining in the joyous crying that inevitably comes from such a miraculous moment in life.  And that’s what I love about being a midwife: I get to bond with families over the months of pregnancy, until we are like family and I’m just as excited as they are when labor begins.  And when that time comes and a new life is born into this world, I am so lucky as to be chosen to have a front row seat to the most incredible show on Earth. 


So when I get to the end of trying to explain all of this to the person asking, how do I answer their question of what a home birth looks like?  It looks like Heaven on Earth.