What It's like to Deliver a Baby at Home

Katherine Martinko.Both of my babies were born outside the hospital - one in the back of a midwifery clinic in Toronto, the other in our living room. The decision to do so was made consciously. After hearing many horror stories about hospital births, unwanted interventions, nasty doctors, withheld information, and pressure tactics, I preferred to go a more natural route.

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According to Mary Newburn, Head of Policy Research at the National Childbirth Trust, in a 1999 article in The Independent, there are two basic models of childbirth:

The "midwifery model" is based on the belief that childbirth is a normal physiological process, for which women's bodies are well designed. Midwives and doctors educated within this framework believe it is important for women to feel confident about their body and their ability to give birth. They believe the environment and the things done to women can help labour go smoothly or interrupt the flow.

The "medical model" is based on the belief that evolution has done childbearing women no favours - the human brain is now big and our pelvises are narrow - and birth is only normal in retrospect. Doctors and midwives who have been educated in this frame of reference tend to relate to pregnant women as cases with the potential for complications which must be managed to avoid disaster.

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Midwives in Ontario are highly trained, regulated healthcare practitioners, who must complete a 4-year Bachelor of Health Sciences degree and attend 60 births before graduating. (By contrast, a GP attends only 3 births before completing medical school.) Midwives provide prenatal care and six weeks of postnatal care, paid for by the Ontario government.

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Going the home birth route was the best decision I could have made. Labouring for my second son began on a snowy night last November. As contractions intensified, I was relieved not to have to go anywhere; instead, my caregivers would come to me. I tucked my toddler into bed, my mom put a pot of rice pudding on the stove to simmer, and my husband massaged me while we waited.

The three midwives (there must always be at least two) arrived, lugging the equivalent of a Level 1 hospital, minus the ability to give epidurals. My house looked like a mini hospital when they finished setting up: a resuscitation station with oxygen tanks, an IV drip, warmed blankets, trays of needles and syringes. The midwives monitored us closely and kept detailed accounts, all the while drinking tea and discussing the books on my shelves, travel, fertility artwork, languages, and food. When contractions hit, I fell silent and the comforting conversation continued to wash over me - no harsh lights, no beeping machines, no IVs or bedpans, no strangers.

My baby arrived within four hours - perfect, beautiful, and calm. The midwives stayed for three hours (legal requirement), then I slept in my own bed. There are people who call it irresponsible. Others think it's dangerous. I know it's not for everyone, but based on the research I did, I felt fully comfortable giving birth at home. I wouldn't do it any other way.

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