CB: How many home births have each of you done, would you estimate?
HB: Probably 150 over two years. And this doesn't include the hundreds of births I've attended as a labor and delivery nurse in the hospital.
MW: I've been involved in about 350 births.
CB: Have you ever run into anything you felt you weren't equipped to handle?
HB: No, not once. We can start emergency measures and get the woman to a hospital by ambulance in about the same amount of time it would take to set everything up in the hospital.
MW: And you have to remember that one reason for that is that we don't try to deliver everybody at home. Any woman with a pre-existing illness or a disease of pregnancy is advised to plan for a hospital birth.
CB: What are the benefits of giving birth at home?
HB: I think that in many cases it's safer. The home birth attendants I've worked with watch the patient more closely. I've seen complications arise in the hospital because there are six or seven women in labor at once, people are busy, and there's a false sense of security because of all the technology. No machine can replace a birth attendant who's totally there with you, so that if any little thing starts to happen, we can catch it right away.
MW: You can create your own routine at home— you're not at the mercy of the hospital's routine. This is your first chance to meet this new little creature, and it's important not to have a lot of regulations getting in the way.
CB: It sounds as though a real polarity has developed between people doing home births and people doing hospital births.
HB: It has in some places, and it's a real shame. My experience working both in the hospital and at home has been invaluable for me. In the places where things have gotten polarized, everybody loses. The hospital birth attendants have a great deal to learn from the people doing home births, and vice versa, and some of the home birth people could use more technical knowledge. In places like Marin, where there is a lot of communication between people attending home births and people delivering babies in the hospital, it's been wonderful. Birthing doesn't need to be divided into two warring camps. We need one whole flowing continuum with an emphasis on alternatives and individual choice.