I grew up hearing the story of the doctor and the surgical procedure that saved my life and my mother's (I was breech, delivered by cesarean section). I never considered that I might give birth outside of a hospital--until I got pregnant.
Less than 1% of women in the U.S. give birth at home each year. More than 25% of those births are unplanned home births.
At that time I had been a nurse for five years and a nurse practitioner for three. I had worked in pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, and had done my training in obstetrics with a hospital-based midwifery group. Home birth wasn't part of my culture and wasn't something my training had directly addressed. I had seen birth and death and knew there were no guarantees. Prompted by a colleague's experience, I started researching, asking questions, and considering my options.
I looked at my risks in and out of the hospital and decided I felt that I had the best chance of a safe and uncomplicated natural birth in my own home surrounded by people I knew and trusted. My family and some of my colleagues disagreed.
One in three women who deliver in a U.S. hospital will deliver by cesarean section.
When the time came, the experience of birth was so much more than I imagined it would be. Since then, I have watched peers, friends, and family members have dramatically different birth experiences. Experiences that left them feeling powerless, scared, anxious, and defeated. I have also met more colleagues and hospital birth providers who chose to give birth at home. Often, they kept their decision quiet, hiding it from friends, family, and colleagues. Theirs was a story I wanted to tell. A story that has the potential to expand understanding beyond the fringe practice of hippie moms and celebrities as portrayed in the media.
These are not the women most Americans picture when they imagine a woman who chooses to give birth at home. These are women who know birth. They have personal experiences with the risks inherent in birth. Like all women, they wanted a safe birth. What led them to make a decision outside of their professional world? What kind of judgement did they face?
This film does not pretend that birth is always easy or that every outcome is positive. Rather, through the stories of hospital birth providers and experts in the field, we engage viewers in a real discussion about safety, risk, and the experience of childbirth in America.
Too often polarization occurs on the topic of home birth. By focusing on hospital birth providers who chose home birth, I hope to bring a voice of moderation to the discussion. Together, we can move toward real improvements to maternity care in hospitals AND at home for women, families, and society.
What would change for a woman if she had the freedom to choose where to give birth? What if she could make this choice not based on cost or coverage limitations, fear or misinformation, but based on the best evidence for her unique set of risks and her intuition about what is best for her and her child. It's worth at least asking, "Why not home?"