It’s one of the best kept secrets in the medical profession these days: an increasing number of doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other medical professionals are choosing to birth at home.
For the most part these medical professionals keep quiet about it.
They don’t want to offend their colleagues.
They don’t want to lose their hospital privileges.
They don’t want to jeopardize their jobs.
But there are about four million babies born each year in the United States and some of the hundreds, if not thousands, of American doctors and nurses birthing at home are starting to speak out publicly about their choice to have their babies at home.
Why would an obstetrician choose a home birth?
✓ Because home birth is gentler than hospital birth. Just ask this M.D. who used to fight with his colleagues to allow women to have VBACs and vaginal breech births in the hospital but now attends home births in southern California, including twins and breech babies.
✓ Because they don’t want a C-section. This M.D., Anne Lyerly, had five.
✓ Because they want their baby to come into the world surrounded by love and kindness, not bright lights and anxiety.
One of the medical professionals who chose to have both her babies at home is Jessicca (yes, it is spelled with two C’s, she blames her father) Moore, a 34-year-old nurse practitioner and mother of two from Petaluma, California.
Jessicca (I know that looks wrong but I swear I’m spelling it right) was making a movie about the new trend towards home birth in the medical community when I first published this post.
The documentary film, called, “Why Not Home? The Surprising Birth Choices of Doctors and Nurses,” debuted in 2016.
When she was in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the film, I spoke to Jessicca on the phone.
She generously agreed to share a bit of her (awesome, inspiring, envy-producing) birth story on this blog.
I did not have a good first birth experience
As awesome as her experiences were, if you’re like me, Jessicca’s home birth story may be hard for you to hear about.
I had my first baby in the hospital.
I did not have a good birth.
I still have a lot of regrets and sadness over that choice.
Maybe you do too.
I wish I had been as smart and savvy as Jessicca was.
True, it was before the internet.
True, I knew very few people who were pregnant or having babies.
True, my husband and I were both in graduate school and we had no family support and no way of paying for a home birth.
True, I had no idea about how badly we were going to be treated in the hospital.
But I have no real excuse.
I should have been smart enough to know better. I was young and healthy and fit. I had only gained 20 pounds during my pregnancy. I planned to stay home as long as possible. What could possibly go wrong?
I loved my obstetrician.
She was smart and funny and just a few years older than me.
She had a toddler and a new baby of her own, a good sense of humor, and a wicked smile.
She looked tired all the time but she was always friendly and kind during our (very brief) prenatal appointments.
I didn’t see my OB, not once, during labor
I didn’t know I would not see her, not even once, during my birth.
No one told me she would never follow up with me afterwards to ask me how the labor had gone or inquire about the health of my baby.
Why should she? I was just one of her hundreds of patients.
“Caring” for my pregnancy was her job. Nothing more.
No matter how good a relationship you have with your doctor, she will probably NOT be available during your labor, unless something goes wrong.
The vast majority of obstetricians either feel or are told by hospital administrators that their time is too valuable to come in and say kind words to you, rub your back, or offer you a drink of water.
That, after all, is not their job.
So either the obstetrician comes in to do something to you when your hospital labor “stalls” or, if things are going smoothly, she shows up while you are pushing.
Only if you are being seen by a large practice with several doctors, like I was, you may end up with one of your doctor’s colleagues, the only male one, the one with the bald head who berates you for being “selfish,” the only one you’ve never met before.
If you’re lucky and have kind nurses, you may have a good hospital birth experience.
Labor and delivery nurses that are emotionally and physically abuse
But if you end up with the sort of nurses I did, ones who thrust their fingers roughly up your vagina after 15 hours of labor and retort, “Nothing! Not even a dimple” (about your lack of cervical dilation), before disgustedly peeling off their gloves, throwing them away, and rushing out of the room, you may be sorry that you decided to have your baby in the hospital.
I was verbally and physically abused during labor at a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
The two obstetricians and the labor and delivery nurse who treated me with so much disdain have no memory of me.
For them my experience was standard procedure.
That the nurses refused to turn down the epidural (the same epidural that I was bullied into accepting, did not want, and was then billed an enormous amount of money for) had no effect whatsoever on them.
That I ended up with six weeks of bleeding hemorrhoids, a numb leg, and a broken heart after my baby was born is immaterial.
They, too, were just doing their job.
A gentler way to give birth: At home, surrounded by love
Jessicca has a different story to tell.
She didn’t come to home birth after a bad hospital experience like I did.
She had the birth she wanted the first time around. A gentle, safe birth in a familiar location.
Of course more and more doctors and nurses are choosing home birth.
They want what I didn’t have. They want what Jessicca did.
Here’s a bit of her birth story and more about her film. I contributed $100 to her movie’s Kickstarter campaign.
I hope you will too.
Off Script by Jessicca Moore
I was always a “good girl.” The oldest in my family, I was a pleaser. I followed the rules, and never got in trouble. I made my parents and teachers proud. My younger brother was another story.
The first time I went off script was when I turned down a scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis at the last minute—during freshmen orientation weekend. Instead I chose to go to a smaller, private Christian University in Arkansas.
I went off script again when I got married while attending college. My parents recovered, but they were initially more than a little displeased at the timing. My dad’s biggest fear was that I would get pregnant and not finish school. I redeemed myself, at least somewhat, when I finished graduate school at UCLA, married and everything. Turns out, my dad didn’t need to worry about me getting pregnant. I would spend four years trying to get pregnant and suffer two losses before I had my two children, both conceived thanks to IVF.
I was a nurse who worked in neonatal and pediatric ICUs. My family and friends assumed I would have my children in the hospital, like nearly 99% of women in America.
With such a high-tech and “wanted” pregnancy, why would I take any chances?
I didn’t make the decision lightly. I looked critically at the data and weighed the risks in various settings. I explored my options thoroughly. And I decided I had the best chance of a safe and uncomplicated natural birth in my own home surrounded by people I knew and trusted.
My family and some of my colleagues disagreed.
But when the time came, the experience of birth was so much more than I imagined it would be.
It was absolutely the most beautiful and powerful experience of my life.
Since then, I have watched friends and family members have dramatically different birth experiences. Experiences that left them feeling powerless, scared, anxious, and defeated.
I have also met more colleagues and hospital birth providers who chose to give birth at home.
Often, they kept their decision quiet, hiding it from friends, family, and colleagues. But theirs is a story I want to tell. A story that has the potential to expand understanding of home birth beyond the fringe practice often portrayed in the media.
So here I am, going off script again. I’m making a documentary film. I’m a practicing clinician and mother of two young children. I never went to film school. It seems a little crazy, but that’s what’s happening.
I started work on this project when my daughter was three months old. I lugged my breast pump to interviews and reviewed transcripts while nursing her. It hasn’t been easy, and it’s still not done. But whenever it gets hard I watch some of the interviews we’ve done or the births we’ve filmed.
There is so much beauty and wisdom, knowledge and power in these birth stories.
I can’t wait to share them with the world.
Off script, it turns out, is the best place to be after all.
Jessicca Moore is a family nurse practitioner and filmmaker in Petaluma, CA where she lives with her husband, two children, and two sheep. She is the director of the feature-length documentary, “Why Not Home?” The film follows hospital birth providers who chose to give birth at home. You can watch a trailer and get more information here: www.whynothome.com.
First published: Sep 24, 2014
Updated: July 2, 2019