I wasn’t “so brave” to choose home birth, despite the chorus of people who told me otherwise. I was just way too terrified to go to a hospital.  “It’s where they keep the knives.” was my response to the chorus of people who reminded me, as if I had forgotten, that the hospital is where the doctors and the drugs reside.

Maybe it’s because of the hospital births that I have witnessed.  Maybe my sample set is too small to conclude that this is an accurate view of birth in general, but all three of them were so infuriatingly invasive (yet different) that any one is enough to keep me out of the hospital.

The first one was the birth of a 5 lb preemie. I watched as the doctor mocked the mother (who had requested an epidural, but wasn’t granted one) for screaming, treated her like she was insignificant, and then sliced an episiotomy as casually as I slice sandwiches for my children.  I repeat, he performed an episiotomy for a 5 lb baby who was not in distress and was coming out just fine on his own.  Why?  Just because.  It’s what he did at births.  This experience inspired the mother to become a midwife because she wasn’t going to get magical hospital drugs that people insist are so necessary and maybe she could avoid being ripped a new one (literally) and the subsequent reconstructive surgeries.  Oh, yes, the reconstructive surgeries…because of the hospital’s unnecessary intervention, she had to have two reconstructive surgeries in the four years following.

I was eleven when I watched it.  I did not question the hospital practices then.  There were only two places to have babies: in hospitals with doctors or in elevators like in sitcoms.  So, the thought that I ought to choose home birth eventually had not crossed my mind.  Joining a convent, however, suddenly sounded like a great idea.

I was reasonable enough to assume that the terror that I was feeling was due mostly to my age and inexperience.  I should just trust that the doctors and the grownups were making wise decisions.  I discovered later that my terror was completely founded.

The second hospital birth (also by a mother who had chosen to go there willingly) was after I had had my first home birth.  All of the machines were there: the epidural button, the pitocin apparatus, the monitor that predicts seismic activity (okay, I jest), and assortment of screens showing all kinds of data.   The mom was instructed to stay on her back.  She obeyed.  Then, sixteen hours after she arrived for the scheduled induction, I lost all faith in the education of OBGYNs.  At about 10pm, the doctor walked in and announced that because she had only progressed to 9 ½ cm, they were going to have to give her a c-section.  I was confused.  Was the doctor bad at biology and didn’t know that she only needed to reach 10 or was he bad at math and was not familiar with how small half a centimeter is?  I didn’t understand why he had said something so ludicrous until The Business of Being Born reported that most c-sections are done at 4pm or 10pm because that’s when shifts end.  It had nothing to do with biology, math, or even the mother’s wellbeing.  It was for the doctor’s convenience.

While my friend was being prepped for a c-section, her mother whispered lovingly to her, “Honey, it will all be over soon.”  I had a stupid moment.  My home birth lasted twice as long and with no drugs.  Why would I do such a silly thing if I had the opportunity to go to the hospital and make it “all over soon” with a doctor?  My question was answered in her recovery room.  Days after the baby was born, she was suffering in her hospital bed whereas I was chided not to jump up and answer my front door for visitors when I was a few hours postpartum.  Again, two months later, she was clamoring to hold on to tables and countertops because her core muscles had been lacerated.  I was running through the campus to proctor a final exam when I was equivalently postpartum.  It WASN’T all over very soon.  It was made to last way too long.  Comparatively, MINE was all over soon.

The third birth that I saw in the hospital was with a mother who was determined to have a natural birth despite the raw deal that medical professionals had given her, mandating a hospital birth.  Without an epidural, she was given a pit drip.  I walked out of the room to make a call and returned to the buzzing of nurses.  I asked my friend’s mother what had happened and she said, “They increased her pit…a lot.  Then, they ran in her to reduce it because it was about to rupture her uterus.”  Awesome.  Recall, no epidural.  I think my friend has a steel pair…of ovaries, I guess.

The well-trained, well-meaning nurses ask her repeatedly to get an epidural.  She, while in labor and the magic drugs readily available, refused.  Steel.  Then, the nurses pulled me aside and insisted that I talk her into it.  Haha.  I had had two births without interventions.  The nurses cited her inexperience and told me that it was “mean” for her to have to endure unnecessary suffering when the epidural could remove it.  I started my rebuttal by listing risks that the epidural introduces.  Next, I listed that her mother and I had plenty of experience to make up for her lack.  Furhermore, I truly understand the compassion that makes the nursing staff believe that birth without epidural is “mean,” but my friend is a well-informed, smart woman and she thinks that the incessant opposition is “annoying.”  After being threatened with a c-section and enduring a failed attempt to hook up an internal monitor, she birthed as well as she was allowed to (on her back, with a crowd staring, with an OB who slept sitting up between contractions, where she wasn’t allowed to film her own birth).  Her second birth was at home.

So, my observation of hospital birth has been statistically better than average.  I’ve only seen a 33 1/3% c-section rate where hospitals in my area were 45% in 2009 (the last time it was relevant to me).  Nurses were compassionate and they all meant well.  Despite the fact that the births that I’ve seen are as close to textbook perfect as hospital births go, I still cannot fathom why one would submit herself to this if she didn’t have to.