True stories about birth and giving birth

Day 1603. What could be safer than a hospital? (Martin’s home birth story)

When we found out that Maria and I were expecting a baby, I just assumed that the hospital was the place to have it. After all there were lots of people and machines to cover all eventualities. So when she said that she wanted to have the baby at home, it came as a shock to me. I pretended to be open to the idea, knowing full well that she’d come to her senses sooner or later, once all the facts and statistics were in. What could be safer than a hospital?

But as we did our research – partly based on an earlier, well-thumbed edition of a book – I couldn’t really come up with any good arguments to support the idea of going to hospital like everyone else. And everyone seemed to want to tell me a horror story about home birth, but couldn’t think of any. But there were so few women giving birth at home anyway, so even positive stories were hard to come by. So a home birth was it for us – not too difficult to obtain – but deep in my heart I was still longing for the “safety” of a hospital.

When labour started, I of course was the one who wanted to have the midwife there as soon as possible. Although I had settled for a home birth, the prospect of a birth at home without at least one midwife was very scary. But as the contractions were irregular, it was too early for her to come. When the contractions became more regular, I got my way and the midwife was called. She promptly arrived. We had met her a few times before, and were so happy that she was doing home births, that we failed to notice that she was hardly a home birth enthusiast. But here we were, it was all set to go, but the initial excitement gave way to a waiting game…

Labour lasted for many hours and Maria made little progress. I became very aware that we kept a stranger waiting, who surely had better things to do, and who was getting tired, and seemed bored with the books she had brought. It seemed quite clear that if our midwife had to go, there would be no ready replacement for her. So when after 20 hours of labour, the midwife said it was best to go to hospital to put Maria on a drip, we were disappointed, but we were all so exhausted that it seemed like the most sensible option.

The hospital was bright and busy and full of all the doctors, midwifes and nurses I could have wished for. I was now playing the role of the traditional father, a mediator between hospital staff and wife, with no responsibility but to keep by Maria’s side and step away when others needed access to her.

Our home birth midwife, exhausted, left, and another one we had never met before took her place. As Maria needed a drip to speed up dilation, our unborn baby was hooked up to a heartbeat monitor. Finally I thought, no more risks! We could even hear the baby’s heartbeat! Then it abruptly stopped, but no one seemed to pay any attention. Almost embarrassed, I asked why the heartbeat had stopped. The nurse made some adjustment, and the healthy, fast heartbeat of our son once again be heard, only to stop again after a short while. After the third or fourth time, I finally realised that he wasn’t about to die, and stopped paying attention.

Did we want an epidural? Maria was in quite a bit of pain by now, and anyway a natural birth was out of the window, so we agreed. An anaesthetist came, performed the epidural, which took ages to work and then only worked partly, only adding to her discomfort.

When still not much happened after a couple of hours, we got introduced to yet another midwife, who showed her disappointment at the slow progress. While slow progress at home had been difficult with one midwife waiting, slow progress at hospital seemed to attract even more disapproval, by the scores of very busy people. In the meantime, other, more ‘capable’ women around us seemed to be delivering babies much faster than we could manage. What was wrong with us? And in the meantime the room seemed to be getting brighter and busier, and I didn’t any longer feel in safe hands. I longed to be back home, longed for a second chance to do it all differently. For the first time I began to wonder if all these health professionals really knew what they were doing, and whether I as a husband had not failed bringing my wife into this hell of a hospital birth.

Then, just as this nightmare seemed to not want to end, a wonderful thing happened: midwife number four appeared, introduced herself kindly, closed the door, took one look at the room, and switched off the ceiling light. Suddenly the atmosphere changed – it was relaxing, quiet and the pressure seemed to be off. We were alone with her and our unborn baby. The best way to describe the room was that it was almost like being at home. From being exhausted and out of control, within a few minutes I became insanely happy: I was about to become a father. Maria also became more relaxed, she soon was fully dilated and, helped by an angel of a midwife, who seemed to say the right things at the right time, Maria seemingly effortlessly gave birth to our son Misha a few minutes before midnight, over 27 hours after labour started.

We went home as quickly as we were allowed, trying to make up for the lost home birth as quickly as possible. As Misha, our son, took a first look at his home, I finally underp stood that hospital was a place for sick people, not a place to give birth. And I knew what I wanted for the next birth: of course it had to be at home and, even more importantly, it had to be a midwife we would feel comfortable to keep waiting, and who would agree that the best place to give birth was home.

M. W.

Véletlenül kiválasztott mesék.

This post is also available in: Hungarian