“You want to have your baby where?!”: Talking with loved ones about your home birth decision

“Wait, What?!? You’re going to have your baby WHERE? WHY?”

This was the response after talking to my family. I was NOT going to have a traditional hospital birth – I was going to have a home birth with a midwife. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom who just a few month earlier had a(n) “un”necessary c-section. When I explained my reasons for home birth, most of my family pretty much thought I had lost it. First, it was the breastfeeding thing and now this! How could I put myself and the life of my unborn child at “such great risk”! In all honesty, there was a time I would have had the same reaction. But that was before my research! The conversation with friends and family about your choice to give birth at a birth center or at home is a hard one. You really do have a choice though – you could defiantly say, “Well, this is my baby, my body and I can do whatever I please”. It is totally understandable to take that approach. But, for the most part, the ones that you’re speaking to ARE your loved ones, and you would mostly likely want to keep them around in general. And, it is important to remember, these people love you and genuinely do not completely understand where you’re coming from. So, here are my suggestions for having loving and productive conversations with your friends and family about birth centers and home birth.

Consider to whom you’re talking to.

Understand that people will already feel judged because their choices were different from yours. Don’t add to that. For example, if your sister had all of her babies by scheduled c-section, don’t say something like “babies born by c-section don’t bond with their mothers like babies born vaginally.” Conversation over. Instead, when you know you’re going to have this discussion with someone it might be good to just name the elephant in the room. She might appreciate that. Maybe starting by saying something like, “I’m not sure how to have this conversation with you. I love you and I’m really excited about this and I want to share this with you, but I worry about how this is going to make you feel.”

Prepare yourself for horror stories!

Well, my sister-in-law “almost died in childbirth, I am so glad she was at the hospital!” and so you acknowledge the worry and how traumatic that must have been and then kindly state there are studies that show that often times, c-sections are shown to be a consequence of the interventions at the hospital and that midwives do not use those same interventions but are highly trained in normal birth and if a problem arises they know when transfer is necessary. Be very careful to acknowledge that everyone’s birth story is different and that everyone should be able to decide what is the best birth location for their family.

Know your reasons for choosing a home birth/birth center.

People will ask you why, and it’s good to be clear and confident. If you are not able to clearly communicate your reasons, it may appear to others that you are not fully convinced yourself.

Offer information.

You don’t have to shovel the information in as quickly as possible. Often, just a spoonful at a time will do the trick. It’s not your job to educate the whole world about home birth/birth centers. I would say often times, nobody cares. If they did, they’d see it is amazing and they would be lining up outside birth centers and midwives offices. Many people are content with keeping things just the way they are. Be ready with answers. Talk about how great your midwife or birth center is and how much you’re enjoying your visits. You might mention that in other first world countries, midwifery care is the norm. After that, leave it alone. On occasion people will be interested and ask more question. This is a good thing, often people are totally amazed at how low the c-section rates are with midwives, but most people, unfortunately, care more about when you’re going to do a gender reveal.

Here’s some useful information to start positive conversation:

  • It may be helpful for your family to know that you will be receiving regular prenatal care, including labs and ultrasounds, from a licensed health care professional.
  • Let them know your midwife will be monitoring you and your baby during pregnancy and labor. This ensures you are low-risk and an appropriate candidate for a home birth. They have also sorted out the details ahead of time in case a transfer to the hospital is necessary.
  • Words like “prenatal care”, “labs”, “ultrasounds”, “licensed health care professional”, “low-risk”, and “monitoring”, are all words of comfort for family members to hear.
  • In states such as Florida, Licensed Midwives/Certifed Professional Midwives (LM, CPM) receive extensive schooling and training, and there are many laws related to midwifery care (just like with your obstetrician) designed to protect the health and rights of mother and baby.

If you sense any type of frustration, you may need to back off and reevaluate.

Frustration will cause people to be more adamant. No matter what they say, you’re not going to change your plans. And no matter what you say, they’re not changing their opinion. Sounds like a draw. This conversation is no longer productive. It will only cause hurt feelings and bitterness. At this point it may be time to say something like, “We obviously both feel very strongly about this. We should come back to this conversation another time.” Do not discuss it any further unless you feel that person is ready to have a rational conversation. If it becomes frustrating again, simply end it and do not discuss it any further. Remember: Some people may never come around. You may find that some of them will remain completely opposed to your decision. Most likely, this is going to bother you a great deal. You have to remember that at the end of the day, this is your decision and no one else’s. Besides, after your home birth, it will be hard to dispute that your choice was a great one. The loved ones that give you the most trouble are often the ones that love you the most. They simply want to see a healthy and happy mom and baby. Happy Birthing! Lucie Bryant is the owner of In Due Season Pregnancy Wellness & Birth Center in Zephyrhills, FL.