Stop Saying That: Home Birth as an Easy Fix Edition
Among other things, I think that statements like these mischaracterize the risks of home birth, ignore their potential benefits, and, most of all, undermine the radical uniqueness of the reasons that each woman appeals to when she chooses her birth setting.
Yet just as much as I dislike statements such as these, I also bristle a bit when, after a woman expresses second thoughts about her care provider, or misgivings about her hospital’s labor and delivery policies, or dismay about her previous birth experience, or whatever, someone replies:
“Just have a home birth!”
“Just have a home birth.” As if it’s “just that easy.”
As if it’s like putting a bandaid on whatever complex issues a woman might be having regarding her pregnancy and birth choices.
Now look: there is a part of me that understands the sentiment behind statements like these. Especially when it comes to women who have had truly wonderful home birth experiences. I mean, after my home birth with Eric, I was so high on oxytocin that I was ready to start jumping (perhaps delicately) around the room, shouting Oprah’s-favorite-things-style, ”and YOU should push a baby out of your vagina in a tub in your living room, and YOU should push a baby out of your vagina in a tub in your living room, and YOU…”
You get the point.
But this bliss shouldn’t translate into anyone casting home birth as an easy fix for problems or negative feelings or misgivings that a woman might have about her upcoming birth.
One of the most obvious reasons for this is that home birth is not an appropriate choice for every woman. Some women and families cannot afford home births (and few insurance companies cover home births in the United States). Some women might feel uncomfortable with the home birth care providers in their particular community. Some women face health circumstances that do place them squarely in the “hospital birth is actually safer for my baby and me” camp.
And some women just don’t want a home birth. And you just need to respect their feelings. Period.
In addition, the “just have a home birth” comment can make it seem as if home birth is the only way that a woman can achieve a respected or empowered or low-intervention birth. And though achieving these sorts of births can be an uphill battle–trust me, I know–planning a home birth is not a singular path to “the birth that a woman wants.” In fact, planning a home birth isn’t even a guarantee that a woman will have a respected, empowered, or low-intervention birth either!
What’s more, planning a hospital birth is not in itself a surefire ticket to a disempowering, high-intervention birth either. With the right care provider in the right setting–a combination that it can take some work to piece together–hospital births can be fabulous. I’m even living proof: I had a marvelous OB-attended hospital birth when my second son was born!
So the next time that you see a woman at a crossroads in her decisions about her upcoming birth, please try not to tell her to “just have a home birth” to fix everything that might be frustrating or scary or daunting about her situation. It might not be a good fix for her, and it might leave her feeling even more frustrated by her situation if home birth is something that is not an option for her, for whatever reason.
So try saying the following instead:
1 Do you have any questions about your options as far as your care provider goes?
2 Do you have any questions about the local birth settings that are available to you?
3 Do you have any questions about any [legal, evidence-based, personal story, community, etc.] resources that I can point to you?
I’m happy to listen to what your specific needs are and then brainstorm with you a solution that might best fit your particular needs, preferences, values, and circumstances.
Because when it comes to birth, one size (and one place) does not fit all.