I’m writing this from my hospital room 35 weeks into my fourth pregnancy. This is not what I planned for this pregnancy, I’d planned for another home birth, but that’s not going to happen this time around.
I’m a stay-at-home mom in rural Ontario, Canada. We live on and run a dairy farm in what many people would consider “the middle of nowhere” but it’s home to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Family has chipped in to help my husband with the kids while he runs the farm full-time and I’m in the hospital. With this birth I will have experienced nearly every type of birth you would reasonably consider, and I have to say that facing a c-section due to placenta-previa has me very nervous.
My husband is originally from the Netherlands and home birth isn’t uncommon there and it’s also relatively safe. He was actually born at home, but with my first baby I didn’t know what to expect so while we briefly considered home birth we tabled it in favor of a hospital birth with an OB. In Canada many women receive prenatal care from CNMs, especially in rural areas OBs are often reserved for high-risk pregnancies. With my first baby, however, the long drive to appointments weren’t an issue and we were told that first labors are long, so we weren’t worried about getting to the hospital in time either.
It seems like yesterday but my first baby boy was born six years ago. When I went into labor we piled into the car and drove more than an hour to our nearest hospital, fortunately (or unfortunately) we had plenty of time to get there. I wanted to have an unmedicated birth but I was in labor for 19 hours and by hour eight when the nurses offered me an epidural I gladly accepted. When he was born happy and healthy, I was exhausted but in love. I was glad we decided to have him in a hospital because at the end I needed an epidural in order to get me through.
After my first was born I was able to attend a home birth and I really liked how natural it seemed but when I was pregnant with my second we considered it, but I was worried it would be another long birth and I wouldn’t be able to do it naturally, so we decided to have him in the hospital with a CNM. With my second I was only in labor for four hours and was able to have a successful natural birth. It was hard, but I was so proud of myself and knew I could do it.
With our third we looked more seriously at home birth. As I mentioned we live in the middle of nowhere and our third son was due in the middle of winter, making us less confident in our ability to make it to the hospital in time when labor started, especially if the roads were bad. We knew that having a planned birth at home, attended by professionals would be better than unassisted at the side of the road in the middle of winter in Canada.
When I brought up the idea to my midwives they were open to it, but we had a frank discussion about the risks associated with home birth and what would need to happen if there was an emergency. They also told me that if either myself or the baby looked like we were in danger the whole thing was off. As weird as it sounds, this actually made me feel better about my decision to have a home birth because I felt confident that my midwives were putting the safety of me and my baby before anything else.
We also knew that if a storm was forecast around my due-date that we might need to head into the city anyways as the rural back roads would be impassible for my midwives or for emergency personnel if they were needed.
I know some women will disagree with this, but I didn’t feel like the decision to have a home birth was completely up to me, my husband needed to feel comfortable with the decision as well. It was a decision we had to make as a couple. After a lot of discussion we prepared for a home birth with our third, but also had things ready to go if we changed our minds when the time came.
Once I started labouring I felt at ease and comfortable and things progressed quickly. Storms hadn’t blocked the roads so we knew that our midwives could get in, as could emergency personnel if they were needed. Never during my labor did I regret my decision to have my baby at home (well except during transition, when I was begging for drugs). I felt comforted by my husband and informed throughout by my midwives. My third son was born safely at home. The best was the next morning waking up with no nurses, just my husband and my baby.
I always knew I wanted a large family, but my husband took a little time to be sold on it. When we decided to have baby number four, we tentatively planned for another home birth. All of that was put on hold when an early ultrasound showed that I had placenta previa. My midwives told me not to worry too much as it was still early and it could migrate on it’s own but that I would need to be monitored more closely and might be looking at a c-section.
Halfway through this pregnancy my placenta had moved slightly but not enough to make them confident enough to put a home birth back on the table. Then a few weeks ago I started spotting. My midwives scheduled me for an ultrasound and it appears the placenta is now partially covering my cervix, making the condition worse than it was before. In fact, because this was my fourth baby and because we lived so far away from the closest hospital I would likely need to be admitted at 34 weeks to make sure that if I went into labor early that my baby and I were safe.
Since then my bleeding hasn’t gotten better so my midwives admitted me to the hospital and my care has been transferred to the OB team here, although my midwives have been in to check on me. I’m scared and overwhelmed, it’s a lot of information to take in all at once. I’d love to be at home right now with my three boys and preparing for another home birth, but that’s not what’s safest for my baby and I.
What I’d like for people to learn from my experience is not that one birth is “better” than another. I want people to know that in order for both you and your baby to be safe you need to surround yourself with a supportive care team that you can trust. You need a care team that will tell you the things you don’t want to hear, because they value your safety more than comfort or philosophy.
Also, my husband and I are 110% done having kids. I’m not going through this again!