Homebirth and Midwives from a Catholic Dad's Perspective

We recently had our second homebirth with a midwife and had a tremendous experience of joy and closeness to God. I would highly recommend couples consider the option. Obviously, it's not for everyone, including us our first-time out, thwarted by an ornery placenta. There may be health considerations or other complications, but for a lot of folks, it's a viable path that should be weighed seriously. Here's why:

(1.) It's your environment and you control it. Want to give birth below a large crucifix or Divine Mercy image, or next to a statue of the Blessed Mother? Want to bless your wife with Lourdes water during birth? Let your wife eat a snack, drink some juice? You can. You don't have to worry about fussy nurses and hospital protocols, or about your neighbor in the next bay pushing out her baby. It's your house/bedroom/kitchen, and you're in charge. Play your music, use your scented oils, choose your position. It's all in your hands.

Think about it also this way: wouldn't it be cool if the mechanic came to YOUR house, used some of your tools but had most of his own, talked about the problems over a beer with honesty, repaired your vehicle, cleaned everything up, and was gone, all on your schedule and at your direction? That's what a homebirth and midwife are like.

(2) The care is personalized and dignifying. An appointment with a midwife is usually at her home/office or yours and is about the woman, not about getting her in and out and filling out paperwork. You can bring or have your other kids and don't have to sit in a claustrophobic waiting room with a bunch of strangers. The appointments run long and are relaxed. You're not being shuffled around quickly like cattle. The appointment is as much about talking about how the woman is doing spiritually and emotionally as physically. You build a relationship with the midwife and she cares for the woman as person, not as a system reproducing. The end result is an increase in dignity and a truly human experience, based on a relationship. The woman is not just an insurance card and medical history, but a friend bringing life into the world.

The care is also individualized. It is based on that woman and that pregnancy, which the midwife has gotten to know well because of long conversations and direct observations. The care is not based on women and all the potential problems other women have had or might have. It is no way designed to prevent lawsuits, which, to be honest, is half the care you get in a hospital these days. If you know your kids have low blood sugar after birth, you can deal with it your own way, rather than having a nurse prick their feet every two hours to test and record it.

(3) It's the ultimate do-it-yourself project. We dads like these, right? You get to set up the tub, you get to be the things she holds on to or steadies herself with, you get to do the set-up. It's comforting to have a role. We need something to do. With a homebirth, you have plenty. The dad is very involved.

Don't forget, Jesus was a homebirth too (sort of). St. Joseph had to do a lot of these things himself, and it was his first and only time. Of course nothing was going to go wrong for him, and Mary probably had it relatively easy physically because of her sinless nature. Still, what dad doesn't want to be like St. Joseph? With a homebirth, you can.

And let's not forget that with a midwife, you have an expert present (usually two because they often work in pairs or have students), someone who does only childbirth all the time and has gotten good at it. Most midwives are certified nurses at the minimum and normally have much more medical training. It's like a gunsmith: all he does is work with guns all the time, so he probably knows what he's doing with a firearm when cleaning and using it.

Money shouldn't be a huge consideration, but homebirths are way cheaper, about half the price or less of a hospital birth. If you're like me, you're always trying to do it yourself to save money.

(4) It's a great way to put your trust in God. Bringing a baby into this world is a huge, nerve-wracking occasion, and we all know there are no guarantees in life. As much as we want to be in control and try to determine the outcome, at the end of the day, we're not and cannot. It's up to God. Nothing reinforces this more than a homebirth. You have to really trust Jesus and put in His hands. And ask for help from his friends such as St. Gerard Majella, St. Gianna Molla, St. Raymond Nonnatus. God the Father created the woman's body for this, and she can do it, even without an epidural. A homebirth does allow you to let it go, to put God in control.

I don't mean to knock hospital births, doctors, and nurses. I've experienced them too, including two C-sections, and am thankful for the care we received. And I want to reiterate that homebirth and midwives aren't for everyone. This can be a sensitive topic. Hopefully this post has sparked some thought simply for your consideration. There are Catholic midwives who'd be happy to talk to you about it.

Doug Paul