A couple shares about the intimate journey of home birth while experts urge caution. Facing many decisions when expecting a child, couples are finding communication skills, empathy and emotional understanding key to working together and a lasting gift to their children.
“Having a baby at home was the most incredible experience of my life. My husband’s too,” says Jessica Ferrari.
By Todd McFliker
Discovering you or your beloved is pregnant will be one of the most memorable moments of your life. Through the hustle and bustle of school, work and our daily schedules, the anticipated arrival of a baby instantly takes center stage for parents, family and friends alike.
Science, medicine and technology have merged to help expecting parents give their baby the best chance of arriving safe and healthy to the embrace of loving hearts and eager hands. Along with those advances have come more options for expectant parents to connect with their unborn child, contribute to his or her healthy development during the stages of pregnancy, and choose from a variety of intimate options for the miracle of birth.
Couples are also increasingly recognizing that the period of pregnancy is a time to invest in their relationship with each other, knowing that their ability to model love and intimacy and create a secure, stable, healthy family will be the most enduring gift they bring to the life of their child. Much like planning a wedding, bringing a baby into this world offers couples the chance to connect, collaborate, and negotiate through an ambitious shared experience.
While plenty of hospitals are marketing more personal birthing options, many expectant parents are forgoing the sterile tradition of hi-tech hospital surgical suites for home births.
A New Chapter Begins
For both men and women, pregnancy begins a new chapter in their lives. Beyond lessons in nutrition, breathing and other relaxation techniques, the months of expectation are a time for couples to hone their skills in communication, understanding emotions, and working through differences.
“Before, during and after a healthy delivery, a couple’s relationship with each other becomes the foundation of a child’s life,” says Seth Eisenberg, who trains counselors, clergy and educators nationwide to lead PAIRS relationship and marriage education classes for couples and singles in all stages of relationship.
Eisenberg and other experts agree babies do best when parents use the months of pregnancy to strengthen their relationship and prepare for the significant changes that accompany the arrival of a newborn.
Planning a home birth offers couples a chance to work together as a team to create one of the most important moments of their lives. Success depends on good communication skills and healthy outlets for the stresses that are a normal part of the process. Thousands of couples enroll in relationship and marriage education programs like PAIRS Essentials each year to help them succeed.
Jessica and Marcus Ferrari
Marcus and Jessica Turnoff Ferrari of Boca Raton, Florida decided to have a home birth for their daughter, Sadie. A Psychotherapist and Cantor, Jessica says that joint decision “was the beginning of our parenting.”
“Despite going against the norm, delivering Sadie at home was right for our family,” she said.
Deciding on home birth was not an easy decision for Jessica and Marcus. While Jessica became intrigued with home birth early on, she said Marcus was horrified. “He thought it would be messy,” Jessica recalls.
“We learned more about how it would happen. It came to the point where we agreed after discussing it thoroughly. There will be plenty of new obstacles in parenting and our marriage that will come up in the future that will require good communication skills,” she added.
Asked about the process of choosing home birth, Jessica said, “When Marcus and I attended a class at the hospital for first time parents, we realized that home birth would be the best choice for us.”
A year later, Jessica says “home birth was a fabulous idea. It set a template for the way we will parent.”
“It is a huge misconception in our society that hospitals are the safest place to give birth,” Ferrari continued as her healthy 1-year-old girl giggled from daddy’s lap in the background. “Having a baby at home was the most incredible experience of my life. My husband’s too.”
“Studies confirm that increasing use of hospital confinement is not the reason for the overall drop in PMR (Perinatal Mortality Rates) since 1970. In fact, those years when the proportional increase in hospital births was greatest were the years when the PMR declined least and vice versa,” Henci Goer wrote in Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities, A Guide to the Medical Literature.
The Business of Being Born
Like Ferrari or Actress and former talk show host Ricki Lake will be the first to admit, home births are not for everyone. Lake worked as executive producer for 2008’s The Business of Being Born. The documentary explores the industry of bringing new babies into our corporate world. Pregnant at the time of filming, director Abby Epstein educates spectators with intimate birth stories with startling historical, political and medical insights. An online viewing of The Business of Being Born is available on the film’s website.
The film interlaces intimate birth stories with surprising historical, political and scientific insights and shocking statistics about the current maternity care system. When director Epstein discovered she was pregnant during production of the film, the journey becomes even more personal. The final cut included the births of Epstein’s and Lake’s own babies. Lake delivered at home aided by a midwife, and Epstein had planned to do the same.
“The film is not advocating anything but choice. I’m not at all telling people to have a home birth like me,” says Lake, who after reading a book called “Spiritual Midwifery” decided she wanted to give birth to her second child at home.
The former talk show host has been taken to task by the American Medical Association over her documentary, sparking controversy and prompting health organizations to endorse a resolution highlighting the risks of home delivery.
Backed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists‘ Resolution 205, the American Medical Association declared the safest place to deliver a baby to be a “hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital.” It also warns moms of potentially deadly complications during delivery, such as “maternal hemorrhage, shoulder dystocia, eclampsia or other obstetric emergencies.”
In 2002, the American Public Health Association released a policy statement, stating “Recognizing the evidence that births to healthy mothers, who are not considered at medical risk after comprehensive screening by trained professionals, can occur safely in various settings, including out-of-hospital birth centers and homes … Therefore, APHA supports efforts to increase access to out-of hospital maternity care services.”
Each year, approximately 1% of births occur in a home setting, although in many areas that number is rapidly increasing. The BBC reported last week that home births in Wales doubled over the past decade.
Building a Foundation for Life and Love
Regardless of the decisions couples make about where to welcome their child to the world, the conversations they have in the process, their ability to empathize with each other, incorporate healthy ways of relieving stress and anxiety, and staying a team that resolves differences with love and understanding will likely be the most lasting gift they give each other and their child.
A newlywed, Todd McFliker is an award-winning reporter, photographer, and the author of All You Need is Love to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. He earned his Masters in Communication from Lynn University.