Hi Jennifer! Thank you for sharing your experiences as a home birth mom.
Where do you live?
I’m from Baltimore originally but I’ve been out here in California for the last 20 years.
How do you like California?
There’s a lot I like particularly around home birth and alternative medicine, however I was shocked at the fear some people have out here around my having a homebirth.
If people in Maryland were scared I was having a home birth I expected it, but I was shocked at how uncomfortable some people were here, and I’m in Berkeley, California. So that was strange, but there is still a community of people over here who are comfortable with home birth as well as unassisted births!
When were your kids born?
My youngest is 7 so I had my kids in 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010 and they were all homebirths.
Was there any difference between your first and last home birth experiences? Has home birth become more or less accepted?
Well my parents still live back East and my mother was actually equally terrified by the fourth home birth as the first, calling every day before I was due, freaking out, and I always said that she couldn’t know when I was in labor because I didn’t want her negative energy affecting me. She was so concerned and I had already done this successfully three times already but it really scared her that I was doing this.
As far as my midwives, the only shift in them that I saw was they were getting more conservative. They were more relaxed the first time as they were newer to it.
It’s interesting because my confidence in home birth kept increasing and as they practiced more and more they were realizing their entire liability. I don’t think anything happened on their end, I just think their awareness increased.
I personally was scared with my first home birth because I was still holding onto the western model which is so fear-based.
I had miscarried my first baby, who I named Marlee, at 13 weeks, and I credit that experience for empowering me to have my babies at home. I speak about it in my book Understanding Your Child as a Spiritual Gift.
So it was because of your miscarriage that you decided to have a home birth?
It was a combination of several factors.
When I had my miscarriage I saw what birth was and I just knew I could do this at home.
I also live in Berkeley, CA where there is a lot of alternative care available, so I had a community around me of women having home births.
I also suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum with Marlee (and my subsequent births) which landed me in the hospital where I was on IVs and they gave me a medicine called Compazine which caused me to lose muscle control of my face and neck and they catheterized me and did all of these horrible things.
So after that experience I knew I would not be going back to the hospital for subsequent births.
Because of my experiences with hyperemesis, I wrote a book for anyone who suffers severe morning sickness called “Understanding Morning Sickness as a Gift” which is about my story with hyperemesis gravidarum and how I overcame it.
One of the gifts hyperemesis gave me is the courage to give birth at home.
Tell me about your home birth experiences:
My four births were all the same 18 hours long.
3 started at night between 10 and midnight. The first time the midwives came early and I was scared and anxious, so they stayed up with me that whole night.
With my second and third births they came in the morning and so one would come first and stay with me and help with labor support and then the second midwife would join closer to the birth.
I had back labor with all of them which was really intense. I used acupuncture during pregnancy and with my last three births my acupuncturist came to my birth. She actually asked to come!
She came and treated me while I was laboring and it really helped relieve the back pain. It was so amazing.
That birth with my third was really difficult and once her head was out I was like: “I am so done. I’m not doing this anymore,” but I didn’t know that at the time she was purple so they were really concerned and they wanted her out quickly.
Meanwhile I was like: “I’m not doing this anymore.”
Of course at this point I was totally exhausted and didn’t really mean it.
My midwives got in my face, almost like our noses were touching, and first they said sternly: “you are not done and you are going to do this.” and then they did some guided imagery to help relax me and encourage me to push.
That really really helped me and by the next push she was out.
The reason it was so hard was because her hands were across her chest and she was over 10lbs.
My fourth baby incredibly was over 11 lbs!
I’m actually only 5’6” and 120lbs so I am not a big woman!
What would you tell someone who’s thinking of having a home birth? What would you want them to know?
The home birth experience itself is so empowering but in addition, the prenatal care and the postpartum care is just amazing.
Prenatal care is done at home including drawing all your blood work!
It is so amazing to have that kind of care and I want everyone to know that.
For postpartum, standard of care on the west coast is my midwife came to see me every other day for 2 weeks after my baby was born. Then they came once a week for the next four weeks. So having them here every other day with all my newborn questions was so helpful. They were right here. I have an appendix in my book called the The Magic of Midwives that talks about midwives and the care they provide.
In addition I credit my midwives with getting me to trust my intuition.
When I would say “My stomach really hurts me here,” they would respond: “Well what do you think it is?”
And I was thinking: “What do you mean what do I think it is? What did I hire these people for?”
And they would say: “Well, it could be this, this, this, or this. Some are potentially serious and some are nothing to worry about. So do you want to get another ultrasound?”
I realized in the series of similar conversations that they were trying to empower me to take control of my care, which is pretty incredible.
I know women who have gone into the hospital and have tried to speak up when they knew something was wrong and were ignored.
The medical model is so fear-based and doctor dependant, and I talk in my recent book about how the midwives gave me my power back.
Thank you Jennifer!
You can read more about Jennifer Griffin on her website Spiritual Gift Institute.