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Home birth, without a midwife: Unassisted childbirth

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Born at home with mom and dad

Meet Amy, mom of four. Her last baby was born at home, which isn't unusual, until you learn that she had no medical attendant present — at all. Read on to learn why she and her husband chose that route and what their plans are for their next baby.

Amy in laborSK: What changes did you make before your second was born? Did you go into that birth thinking that you would do things differently?

Amy: The one thing I really wanted to do differently was let my body and my baby work together to decide this baby’s birthday. I started to realize how important that is for me and for the process. I also drilled my husband about the fact that since epidural anesthesia was offered at this hospital I would probably at some point ask for it at the very end and his job was to talk me out of it. His job was to be strong when I didn’t have the strength to push on, or didn’t think I did — I believe my exact words were, “Don’t let me get drugs or I will kick you in the face!”

SK: Same question for your third.

Amy: During this pregnancy I became enveloped in the birth world. I needed to know things, I needed to learn things, I wanted to eat, sleep and breathe pregnancy and birth. I read many, many books, I spent time on the computer. I prayed a lot about this birth and this baby. My husband and I joked often about just “accidentally” having the baby ourselves but never could wrap our minds about it enough to follow through with it. I daydreamed about it. I daydreamed about having this baby in a tent by the lake even.

Home birth in Nebraska

SK: Is home birth in Nebraska legal?

Amy: Yes, home birth is legal in Nebraska, contrary to popular belief. Assistance by a certified nurse midwife during a home birth is Illegal. Certified professional midwives aren’t recognized in Nebraska. And physicians are barred from attending home births by the hospitals who hire them and set their limitations. But yes, home birth in and of itself is perfectly legal.

SK: When did you begin to consider the idea of an unassisted home birth?

Amy: We honestly considered it with our third child but just never could make up our minds to actually do it. After her birth I delved into finding people, especially people in my own little state that I could hound with every sort of question that ever crossed my mind. I wanted to hear stories of people who had done it. I read books. I met people in other states who had planned and carried out home births, specifically unassisted.

SK: Who did you tell about your plans?

Amy: Honestly very few people. We kept it on a need-to-know basis. I did tell my doctor that I planned to stay home as long as possible and if that meant the whole thing then so be it. I think he didn’t take me seriously. I think he rather thought I meant, “Well I’m going to stay home until I’m really, really dilated, not through pushing... with sort of a pipe dream and no preparations for actually staying home.”

Preparations and plans

SK: What preparations did you make in the months preceding his birth?

Amy: I did self prenatal care (weighing, measuring my fundus, listening to the heartbeat) and then saw a doctor after 30 weeks of pregnancy when I knew exactly what we were doing. We had an ultrasound at that point. I ended up nabbing a newborn scale, and a stethoscope (both a quarter each) at a garage sale when we were in the beginning stages of planning for our home birth. I also got a birth kit. It included things like umbilical cord clamps, chux pads, measuring tape, some tinctures for hemorrhaging and such, just all sorts of things.

I did lots of research. I did a lot of looking into what do you do if this happens? What do you do if that happens? What constitutes a real emergency? What is normal, physiological birth so that I can tell if mine is deviating from the norm? I also borrowed a birthing pool from a friend who had a birth a couple months prior.

SK: Did you have a back-up plan in case of an emergency?

Amy: The ultimate back-up plan was “go in” — we lived four blocks from the hospital, with the idea of taking a bite out of my own placenta, cord, or membranes should bleeding arise. I also had the tinctures on hand. But like I said, the ultimate plan was always go in, that’s what hospitals are for — emergencies. I am in no way anti-hospital.

My perspective is that if the situation warrants it, I want a doctor who is available — not helping someone who doesn’t need help, or overtired because he spent all night with a mom who didn’t need his help. So I sought to be that person, to show him the same respect of not coming in and wasting his time unless it was necessary. I love them and they are good at what they do — I just don’t feel they need to do their thing until it’s necessary.

SK: How did you prepare yourself for recognizing an emergency?

Amy: I think it is instinctual as well as physiological. I think if you take time to listen to your body it will let you know if something is wrong. I feel like it’s important to know what normal is, or variations of normal so that you know what “not normal” is. I prayed a lot, I thought a lot, I daydreamed a lot. I also listened to Baby’s heartbeat with the stethoscope during labor. I also just have this huge deep-down belief that when you don’t mess with the process, it is less likely to go awry. We are intricately and wonderfully made and I believe that includes this process, the giving of life.

My main concern was hemorrhage. So I did a lot of reading about that. Most helpful were Dr. Michel Odent’s thoughts on the whole idea and just birth itself. That reassured me a lot. I didn’t want to just leave it with, “What do I do if it happens” — but even further how can I prevent it from happening?

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