Planning a Freebirth Experience

This article of mine originally appeared on the site Write About Birth. I recently noticed that Write About Birth no longer exists, so I want to republish that article here. This was written in March 2011, three months before Dylan was born. The path his birth took differed from my imaginings, and you can read the whole birth story as well, starting here.

Planning a Freebirth Experience

I’m pregnant with my first child, and sometime in May I’ll be having a freebirth – that is, I’ll be at home, surrounded by my partner and friends with no medical personnel in sight. Freebirth, also called unassisted childbirth, is a fringe choice. I live in the US where around 1% of birthing women give birth at home, usually with a midwife. The numbers for freebirthing women are even tinier. An interesting question that arises then is what leads a woman to choose this, and more to the point, why have I chosen it?

Some women think that birthing at home is safer. The research on this is hotly debated elsewhere online, and frankly, I’m conflicted. Medical emergencies happen sometimes whether you’re birthing or not, and it seems like if we lived in a hospital 24/7, that would probably be “safer”. If everyone ate all their meals in a hospital, probably no one would ever die from choking or allergic reactions, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we do that. I don’t eat my meals at home because it’s “safer”, and I’m not birthing at home because it’s “safer”, either.

Some women choose to freebirth because of religious or spiritual beliefs. They believe that god designed their bodies to give birth easily and they trust in god’s will to get them through birth however the grand plan is intended. I’m an atheist and have no such beliefs to drive me.

Some women seek out homebirthing or freebirthing because of past trauma with the medical birthing system. They may have had a C-section that they felt railroaded into or experienced physical violations at the hands of doctors. This doesn’t apply to me, either.

In fact, some women who choose to homebirth or freebirth shy away from modern medical care entirely. They are more interested in natural remedies of healing, such as herbs, homeopathy, and other alternative medicines. I’m the complete opposite. While some women use natural remedies to boost fertility, for example, I had a LOT of modern medical help getting and staying pregnant. The one time I tried a home remedy for something, I ended up over-dosing on parsley. I’m a skeptic when it comes to natural remedies.

So if I’m not doing it because it’s safer, I’m not invested in a spiritual practice, I don’t have a negative medical experience in my past, and I’m a pretty big fan of modern medicine in general, what the hell am I doing have a freebirth?

Olivia [the owner of Write About Birth] posted recently about the often mocked “birth experience”. People who are opposed to homebirthing or natural birthing talk down about women who are seeking a particular birth experience. I loved Olivia’s point that aren’t women who go to the hospital seeking a particular experience as well? But whatever it is that you’re after, whatever your goals are, whatever leads you to give birth in the hospital, at home with a midwife, or at home alone, you’re supposed to deny that you’re after an “experience”. You wouldn’t want to appear “selfish” or overly concerned with your “comfort”. You’re supposed to have reasons like safety, trusting god’s will, or something, anything that sounds like a “good” reason.

Well, I’m here to confess.

For me, it’s all about the experience. My experience. My comfort. Giving birth is very important to me, and it matters to me what kind of experience I have while doing it. It matters who is there with me and what gets said. It matters that I feel free to be myself and am not being watched by strangers. It matters that there’s no one there guiding me in a particular way and that I’m going with the flow with only myself as a guide. Even the really supposedly petty stuff that anti-homebirthers make fun of matter to me – how dim the lights are, what music is playing, what clothes I’m wearing, and that I can sit in my favorite chair.

I’m going to be at home, with my own bed, my own bathroom, my own stuff, my partner, my friends, my cats, and my own comfortable self. Me. I just want to be myself. Giving birth will be one of the most important things I do in my life, and I do not want to hand it over to someone else. Neither the experience itself nor the responsibility that comes with it can be given to someone else. If it all goes right, that will belong to me. If something goes wrong, that will belong to me, too. Being in a hospital is a fundamentally impersonal experience, and I’m just not signing up for that.

Going back to the safety question, if giving birth at home really is just as safe as giving birth in a hospital, then that’s perfect. I’ll have given birth just the way I like with no additional risk. If even the scariest proposed numbers are true, though, then the risk to the life of the baby goes up a couple of percent, at most. To my mind, this is still small. This is still worth it. I know some people would reel in horror at me saying that I accept some additional risk to the baby. They say all that should matter is a healthy baby. And of course I care about the baby! I’ve tried very hard to have this baby, and to suggest that I don’t care about the baby is silly. But I want to remind the critics that there are two of us here, and we BOTH matter.

In the end, it’s okay if people want to call me selfish. Too often it seems like the directive of “you shouldn’t be selfish” is code for “you don’t matter”. I matter. I matter to myself very much. So, fine. It’s selfish. I’m okay with that.

This birth is MINE. It belongs to me. It is of my body. And you can’t have it. You can’t dictate how it will go or where it will occur or who will be there or any of that. It’s mine, and I’m not giving it away.