When it comes to giving birth, some say there's no place like home
Workers finished remodeling Leslie Stone’s master bath less than 24 hours before she went into labor with her third child. It was a good thing they’d completed the job and cleared out, because she nearly gave birth in the bathtub.
Stone had filled the 4-foot-long soaker tub with warm water and eased into it to soothe the pain when her contractions started. But the baby arrived so quickly she barely had time to get out of the tub and into her bed, where she delivered daughter Paloma as planned: with a view of the trees in her backyard and two midwives in attendance. Stone’s other two children were still asleep when their baby sister entered the world at 7 that November morning in 2010.
Stone lives in a 1950s rambler in the town of Somerset in Chevy Chase, not on a farm far from the nearest hospital. Now 38, she’s one of a small but increasingly vocal group of Maryland women who’ve decided that the safest and most comfortable place to give birth is at home, despite skepticism from the largest professional organization of obstetricians and gynecologists.
“There are normal, everyday women who are having deliveries at home,” says 35-year-old Dana Evans, a California native who in March 2011 delivered her first child, daughter Ever, in the bedroom of her 700-square-foot Bethesda condo. “It’s not just your super-crunchy Berkeley people.”
In 2011, about 500 Maryland women reported intentionally delivering their babies at home. Though home births still represent only a tiny fraction of U.S. births—fewer than 30,000, or less than 1 percent of all births in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available—they’re on the upswing. According to government data, home births increased by 29 percent from 2004 to 2009, though a small portion of those mothers simply didn’t make it to the hospital in time.
“Women may prefer a home birth over a hospital birth for a variety of reasons, including a desire for a low-intervention birth in a familiar environment surrounded by family and friends,” says a recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That was the case for Evans, who runs Daisy Baby & Kids, a Bethesda shop that sells furniture and accessories for nurseries and children’s rooms. “We wanted to birth at home because we wanted less intervention,” says Evans, whose husband, Frank Jones, works for FedEx. “The C-section rate in this area worries me.”
What really cemented the couple’s desire for a home birth, though, was watching The Business of Being Born, a 2008 documentary produced by actress and former talk-show host Ricki Lake that criticizes the overuse of technology in hospital births.
That’s why, Evans says, her husband, mother, mother-in-law, sister and best friend all were in her bedroom at 3:57 on a Monday morning when Ever “popped out.”
A few years ago, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (formerly the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) distributed bumper stickers that said: “Home delivery is for pizza.”