Homebirth: What If Something Goes Wrong? 3 Women Share Their Stories

There's a lot of concern - and even a little hostility - toward home birth. The prevailing thought in many women's heads is, "But what if something goes wrong?" Many women are, understandably, concerned that if something did go wrong, their life or their baby's life would be in danger if they were not in a hospital.

Usually we only hear stories from women who were pleased with their home birth experiences, in which everything seemed to go perfectly. It's why so many of these women hear, "You got lucky."

But do things go wrong at home? And if so, what types of things? And what happens to those women and babies? I set out to get answers to those questions.

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I asked a number of women to share their birth stories with me, specifically women whose home births did not go as planned. I know that this is only anecdotal evidence. But frankly, most of the women who tell me home birth is a bad idea are relying on anecdotal evidence, too. "Well, if I hadn't been the hospital when…" "I know this one woman who had a home birth, but…" So let's answer stories with stories.

(Please note that these stories have been shortened due to space. Only non-essential details have been removed. If you have questions, please leave them here, and I can send full stories and/or forward questions to the women.)

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"I started having contractions early Wednesday morning around 5:30. I was 5 days post-due date. Becca came by the house to check me around 5 or 6 that evening. I was dilated to 3 and 100% effaced. I had previously had cryosurgery of my cervix when I was 18, and a side effect is for your cervix not to dilate and cause labor to be very drawn out. [No change Wed, tried again on Thurs.] We decided to strip my membranes. I took homeopathics, used pressure points, and ate spicy food. By 4:30 my contractions were in full bloom, hard, and getting closer - less than 5 minutes apart. [Becca] checked me and I was at 7 cm. I got in the tub and labored there for two more hours. When Becca came into the bathroom, Aidalyn's whole forehead had emerged already. When Becca looked she saw that Aidalyn had her hand next to her face, which explained why it had taken 2 hours in the tub. Becca coached me to raise my leg to give room for her hand. In three pushes, Aidalyn was out at 9:10 PM on Thursday, December the 2nd. Aidalyn was in shock from such a quick labor, so we needed to get out of the tub to get her breathing and make her more responsive. Her APGAR scores were 5 and 6. We moved to the bed where Becca turned Aidalyn on her belly and got her to start crying after several attempts. It could have been a completely different story in the hospital. If her APGAR score had been that low, I'm sure they would have rushed her off, and I would have missed the experience of holding her for so long and nursing her. Thank goodness my midwife was able to react promptly and did just what was needed in that moment. I wouldn't do it any other way." -Angela

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"Our midwife and two attendants showed up in the wee hours of the morning after I'd been in labor for several hours. About halfway through the day, after many more hours of difficult laboring including lots of throwing up, my water that broke was found to have meconium in it, which my midwife assured me she would be able to handle when the baby came out. But as the hours wore on, the baby's heart rate kept going down, and my blood pressure continued to rise - both of which were helped by soaking in our warm bathtub. Even though our midwife and the attendants took their turns administering homeopathic tablets, giving me oxygen, and taking their measurements, they pretty much left my husband and me to labor together. And although the pain was more terrible than I ever could have imagined, the experience was more than I could have hoped for. After about two hours of pushing with my blood pressure continuing to rise and baby's heart rate continuing to fall, our midwife said we'd need to go to the hospital to have either an episiotomy or vacuum our baby out. I had to stop pushing the entire 15-minute drive across town - over and under bridges. The doctor finally had me push, just to see where the baby was at. And wouldn't you know it: She came right out - no interference necessary! Her poor fist was up against her cheek and the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck twice. Except for maybe my massive vagina mess - it was described as being "inside out," with small tears on the inside that they stitched up - there wasn't anything the hospital did that our midwife couldn't have handled just fine. They took my baby from me right away, which wasn't in my birth plan - nothing they did was! It was pretty traumatic, honestly. My husband and I were so overwhelmed by how positive the home part of it had gone that we are definitely planning to do any future births at home!" -Greta

These women faced labors that didn't progress, babies in difficult positions (posterior, hands up by face), hemorrhage, and so on … and there were ultimately no adverse outcomes. All mothers and babies are fine. All mothers are ultimately satisfied with their experiences. All midwives were well-trained and able to handle the complications, including knowing when a transfer was needed and doing so in a timely manner.

For 4 more home birth stories, visit Babble.


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