Place of birth

Editor's Corner

Not long after my partner Stephanie announced that she was pregnant, I ran into a friend who was also expecting. She was a strong advocate for home births—this would be her third. Being somewhat enamored of de-medicalizing the birth experience, I asked her to have a chat with Stephanie.


It may have been a case of too much too soon. This was Steph’s first child, and she was 40 years old, and none of this had even been on her radar. While she did not feel comfortable with the home birth option, she did think it made sense to try a drug-free labor at a birthing center.


Of course, while birthing centers encourage you to write up a “birthing plan,” there are no guarantees as to what happens during the actual event. That’s part of the appeal of a more “hospital-oriented” process—there is a fairly standard and systematic procedure in place. My mom had five kids in the 1960s this way. There was no option to forego drugs. There were no pre-birth prep classes for mom and dad, and certainly no need for breastfeeding class. The baby was shuttled off to a nursery immediately, and it was fed formula from the get go.


My partner Stephanie and I had our baby in November at the Birthing Pavillion at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt. It was a relaxed, comfortable, low-key environment. Our friend Kate was our doula. Everything went according to plan—until it didn’t. When it came down to it, Stephanie seemed unable to push the baby out. There were tense moments for dad, when monitors showed the baby’s heart rate going way down. I could see how exhausted my partner was. The doctor and midwife had gone into strictly business mode.


Finally, all hands on duty at the time were called into our room for one final chance to help deliver our baby boy before going to the Caesarean option. The operating room was on standby. A vacuum suction was employed several times, and the midwife climbed up onto the bed to help push the baby out. An episiotomy was performed. And our little guy finally started to emerge into the world. With his large, sloped head he looked like a purple baby gorilla to his stunned and exhausted dad.


It turned out that Mackinley Aden Roland, at 9 pounds 7 ounces, was about 2 pounds heavier than expected. There is no way to know how a home birth would have gone in this particular situation.


I still believe home birth can be the first choice for many parents, as long as mom is 100 percent behind it and has full confidence in all those involved. But as older, first-time parents, we felt more comfortable in a birthing center. In the end, the goal is the same: as safe and healthy a birth as possible for all.