Deciding to have a homebirth was not a momentous decision in my life.
I almost had a homebirth with the first baby, but we lost our insurance and could not afford to pay the over $5K it would cost to go through with the rest of the homebirth at home. So I went to the hospital instead.
When I was pregnant with my second child I found an OB that seemed so aligned with my values I thought, “Surely this will be different than the first ... she will listen to me ...” and she did. Until the ultrasound showed my baby as almost eleven pounds. Then she was not listening anymore and my second hospital induction ensued.
At this point I just don’t have the energy to fight with doctors about ultrasound results or nurses about whether or not I want to be flat on my back while I’m in labor. This pregnancy has been riddled with illness, earaches, and digestive problems galore—I only have enough energy to give birth and snuggle my baby.
Finding a Midwife
I knew the first thing I would have to do if I was having a homebirth was find a midwife. I had heard about unassisted childbirth but that felt a little extreme, so my search began.
My area is not really midwife-friendly. I’m not sure why. There are some legal risks to being a midwife in my state, but it is not totally illegal to be a midwife. After weeks of searching I was able to find one. One midwife that served my area.
She seemed great, and during our first appointment (she came to my house, as I thought was common for midwives...little did I know she would soon get an office an hour away from my house) she was kind and attentive.
My Midwife Experience So Far
It wasn’t until I handed over the first payment she wanted to talk about my weight and how being fat might make me unable to have a homebirth. Trust me, as a healthy fat woman I get this a lot from medical people who insist on running the numbers before believing that I’m healthy. While I thought having a midwife would make this different—it did not.
I think the way she handled this, as well as my reaction (which was to quote statistics, family history, and act just a wee bit, okay a lot, defensive) may have been one of the ways in which I created a rift between my midwife and myself.
A rift that has not healed over the months. After she got her office an hour away I did not complain, because what option did I have? So I drove an hour for each appointment. She told me at one of our visits that based on her new location she may not even be able to get to my house for the birth but that she would come as soon as possible and try to be there. Her reasoning was, “You have fast labors (based on my birth history as well as family birth history) and I have to get a sitter.”
She said this very matter of factly, and I did not complain, because what would that change? She did not address my potential fears—or even ask if I had any—regarding unassisted childbirth. She did not give me any resources or suggest books to read in order to become more well versed in the medical aspects of the birth process. She just let me know what was what and that was that.
For the last few months, my husband and I have been reading medical articles, blogs, and watching extensive homebirthing YouTube videos in order to try and understand exactly what to do when the time comes, since we may be doing it on our own.
When it came to her “that was that” tone, I assumed this was the midwife’s way of doing things—until I met another woman that she had done a homebirth with and watched their easy rapport and laughter and wondered why she wasn’t treating me the way she treated this other woman. What was wrong with me?
Finding Additional Help
I started to look for other methods of help for both before birth and after. I ran across a page for doulas in my area and wondered why I might need one. At first I thought having someone around just for emotional support would be silly, but now that I did not have any emotional support it started to sound much more necessary.
The owner of the company called after I sent an email ... after an hour on the phone with her I understood not only what a midwife/patient relationship could be, but also what I’d been missing out on. The owner assured me she understood my situation and she would be able to find someone willing to help me that would understand me and not think that because I have so many facts about pregnancy and experience that I don’t need support or have fears.
In order to calm my anger that my midwife was not meeting all my needs, I told myself, “She is like a waitress at the restaurant. It is not her job to cook the food, it is not her job to help me eat the food, it is not her job to help me understand what I ordered. Her job is to deliver the food without dropping it or ruining it on the way.”
Of course you could not have a restaurant without cooks and bussers and hostesses. So why would my homebirth only need one person?
Why a Doula?
Not only will the doula come and visit before the birth and make sure I’m okay (and maybe even listen to me freaking out about the latest TLC show on birth I watched); Doulas also help with everything from breastfeeding help to errands to taking care of the siblings of the new baby. I mean, it’s like everything but the kitchen sink!
Sure you have to pay them, but money is a small price to pay for emotional support. Small luxuries like showers are something I’m not used to having often with a newborn in the house. Naps are another thing that used to be nothing more than a pipe dream.
Also, for moms on a budget (and what mom isn’t on a budget with new baby expenses on the way?) Doulas in training are a great alternative. They are getting those all-important hours in the field to get a certification. Usually they cost half what a senior Doula does.
With a doula, these things are possible.
Is It for You?
A Doula may not be for everyone. If you have an extensive family you adore and can’t wait to have wait on you hand and foot—you may not need one. My only local family is very elderly and cannot take care of my children or drive to take care of errands. My husband is only one person and he will have to work more when the new baby comes, because I will not be able to work as much.
If you don’t have a support system that is going to be focused on you and your needs, a Doula may be the perfect choice.