Is Homebirth an Option in Surrogacy?

 photo credit: eyeliam, Flickr Creative Commons

photo credit: eyeliam, Flickr Creative Commons

Homebirth – it’s a word that can be very polarizing. It seems there’s very little happy medium when it comes to the issue – either you’re a fan of it or you’re vehemently opposed to it.

The good thing is that unless a baby decides to come suddenly and unexpectedly, no one is forced into giving birth at home, where as the opposite isn’t necessarily true – many more women give birth in hospitals when they may have preferred to use a birthing center or a midwife-assisted homebirth. And really, for most people it works out – they’re able to give birth in a place that feels safe to them and meets their medical needs.

Although homebirth has its fervent supporters, it still accounts for less than 2% of all births in the United States (numbers are much higher across Europe – as much as 30% in some countries). And in surrogate births the number is much, much tinier. And yet, some surrogates, along with their intended parents, do elect to deliver their babies at home. Who would choose this option and why?

 In most cases, surrogates who have had successful homebirths with one or more of their own children offer that option to their intended parents, or their intended parents express interest in homebirth when they find out that their surrogate has delivered at home in the past. Whichever way the topic comes up, all parties must feel comfortable and confident in the option if they decide to pursue it.

In my own case, I had a midwife-assisted homebirth with my third child and I had a great experience. In both my first and second surrogacies, I carried twins so the question of where I would deliver never came up because a hospital delivery was a foregone conclusion. When it came to my third surrogacy, I was coming off of two c-sections in a row, so neither my intended parents nor I were terribly comfortable with the idea of delivering at home at that point.

I assumed this was the case as well with my fourth surrogacy, but about midway through my first trimester my intended parents shocked me by asking if I was interested in a homebirth. Initially I thought they must be joking (and if they were, it was a cruel joke because I really did want to have a homebirth!) but much to my surprise, they were serious. I was both surprised and delighted!

We stayed with traditional OB care until our 20 week ultrasound showed a healthy baby, and then we switched to the same homebirth midwife that I’d used with my own child. We discussed where I should give birth and ultimately decided on their house for several reasons

  • My IP’s house was bigger and they had more room for a birthing pool, since I wanted a water birth
  • We’d have more privacy in my IP’s house because my kids would be at my house, along with someone to care for my kids
  • My intended parents’ young daughter would feel more comfortable and part of the birth experience if we were at their house
  • My intended parents themselves could relax and better enjoy my labor, delivery, and the first few days with their new baby if they were in their own home
  • My intended parents’ home was considerably closer for our midwife to get to
  • The surrogacy legal procedures were easier for my intended parents if we gave birth where they lived (though we only lived about half an hour apart, we lived in different states and theirs was more surrogacy-friendly)

The rest of my pregnancy was healthy and comfortable and I went into labor on my due date. Once I felt active labor kicking in, my husband and I drove to my IP’s house where I labored for about six more hours. At that point I got into the birthing pool they’d set up for me and I delivered their baby about an hour later. My birth was calm, quiet (through quiet is a relative term – everyone else and the environment was quiet – I, however, was not quiet at all because well, you know, natural unmedicated birth and all…).

My IP’s daughter met her new sister minutes afterward, as did the baby’s grandma, and per my IP’s request, I nursed the baby on demand. I stayed for a few days at my IP’s house in their guest room where I rested and slept and nursed their baby to get her the most breastmilk possible in the first few days.  It was a beautiful and rewarding experience for all of us – very calm, family-centered and peaceful (which is pretty much the direct opposite of a hospital birth experience).

What made homebirth a good option for us was that I’d already had a successful homebirth before, so I knew I could do it and I was very comfortable with my midwife. And I’d had three unmedicated births by this point so I knew what I was in for in terms of pain. My intended mother was very comfortable with the idea of homebirth and had friends who had done it, and of course my pregnancy was very low risk, which made me an excellent candidate.

Homebirth most definitely isn’t for everyone, and maybe it’s not even for the majority of women giving birth. And this is understandable especially for women who’ve faced infertility and have had to trust an array of medical procedures in order to have a baby on the way – it’s natural that they might feel most comfortable and confident with a medically-managed hospital birth.  And the bottom line is that everyone should be where they’re most comfortable and confident because when all is said and done, a healthy baby and healthy surrogate mother is what matters most from the delivery.

But when the place that everyone is most comfortable and confident is at home, a midwife-assisted homebirth can be a wonderful option, one worth exploring if each of the parties in the surrogacy arrangement are open to it. There are risks and benefits to all forms of and places for childbirth, so it’s worth exploring all of the options if you’re considering something outside of the traditional hospital birth route.