Based on the questions I received on Instagram, you all are just as excited about this homebirth episode with Katelyn as I am! No matter where you are on the spectrum of homebirth—curious about it, preparing for your first or second homebirth, or a veteran homebirth mama—this episode addresses all of it.
We speak to the mom who is wondering if homebirth is possible for her, the mom preparing her body and mind for an upcoming birth, the mom trying to find the right care provider, the mom dealing with unsupportive family.
As a mother of seven, homebirth is near and dear to my heart, and Katelyn is a wealth of wisdom on this topic. Join us for this rich discussion!
In this episode, we cover:
- Why having your first baby at home is especially beneficial
- The important role your care provider plays in your birthing experience
- How preparing for birth is so much more than planning for pain management
- Do you need a large house to have a homebirth?
- The importance of resting in early labor to avoid maternal exhaustion
- Why focusing on your mindset is the most crucial preparation for birth
- Finding the relaxation strategy that is right for you
- Embracing the transformational process of birth
- Recognizing your unique needs during birth and finding the right midwife for you
- What questions should you ask when interviewing a midwife?
- Responding to family and friends who don’t understand your birth decisions
- The importance of doing your own research and making decisions that are right for your unique situation
Katelyn Fusco is a homebirth mother, a childbirth educator, and an experienced homebirth attendant. She has seen birth from many angles (literally), and knows the impact this transformative event can have on you, your baby and your entrance into motherhood for the first, second or fifteenth time. This knowledge is what spurred Katelyn to create Happy Homebirth: A brand dedicated to supporting, educating and encouraging homebirth mothers. Through birth stories and expert interviews on the podcast to intimate education and coaching inside of The Homebirth Collective, Katelyn’s goal is to provide mothers with the tools to empower themselves in their birthing experience.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. A few… I was going to say a few years ago or a few months ago. I don’t even know what it was. Sometime between a few months ago and a few years ago, I had on Katelyn Fusco from the Happy Homebirth Podcast. I was also on her podcast. She obviously, based on the name, talks about homebirth. On her podcast, she shares homebirth stories—which if you are pregnant and you are planning a natural birth, a homebirth, or you’re just interested in birth, pregnant or not—she shares stories and they’re all different. And so you get the full realm of what birth can look like in all of its different forms. And for me, it was a really good way to prepare for my homebirth with my seventh child whenever I found out about her podcast. So we’re going to talk all things homebirth. I put up a question box over on Instagram, and this is something we’ve been doing lately. So if you don’t yet follow me, I am @FarmhouseonBoone on Instagram. I think a lot of people that listen to this podcast probably know about the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast because of my brand Farmhouse on Boone on Instagram, on YouTube, on my blog. But I sometimes forget that there are people who just find this podcast within Spotify or the podcast Apple app, and I forget to tell you that you can’t really find me anywhere by the name Simple Farmhouse Life. I go by Farmhouse on Boone. So if you don’t know that, you can go follow me. There isn’t a Simple Farmhouse Life Instagram. There is a Farmhouse on Boone Instagram. That’s where we post updates on the podcast. I post about my blog posts and my recipes or anything else going on with our family. So if you want to follow along, go there. But that’s where you can give your input for the podcast. Lately, for every episode, before we record the episode, we will put up a question box and it’ll say, “I’m going to be chatting with so-and-so about such and such. What questions do you have?” And then that’s where I come up with a lot of the outline for this so I can address what it is that people actually want to hear about. So if you are interested in giving your feedback so that you can hear what it is that you want me to talk about, that’s a really direct way to do it. We basically pull all of the questions, put them in a document, and then I have some things to go off of whenever I’m chatting with my guest. So with that being said, we put up a question box about homebirth and I got a whole bunch of questions. And so that’s what Katelyn and I are going to address and talk about today.
Lisa Bass My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from-scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, I’m so excited to have you on, Katelyn, to talk about all things homebirth. Before we get started, let’s start with introductions for those who don’t know you or don’t know about your podcast and what else you offer to people who are considering a homebirth. You can go ahead and share a little bit about yourself, and then we have a whole bunch of questions from Instagram that I think we can dive in because that’ll basically cover everything. They had some good ones.
Katelyn Fusco Awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Lisa. I am so excited to be here. Always excited to talk with you. And for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Katelyn Fusco. I am the host of the Happy Homebirth Podcast, and the goal there is to provide support, encouragement, education in all things homebirth and motherhood. That podcast started back in January of 2019. I can’t believe it’s been that long. But yeah, that’s my big goal is just providing that education, providing the support. I do offer childbirth education for homebirth mothers in particular, and that is just my heart.
Lisa Bass Yeah, lots of good stuff there. Whenever I was like 35 plus weeks pregnant with Theo, I had the Happy Homebirth Podcast on constantly just because that’s always my cram time. Like, okay, got to get in the right mind space for homebirth. Hearing all the stories and normal birth and just preparing my mind with positive stories is my best preparation for homebirth, especially now at this point because I feel like already… After having seven kids and six of them being completely natural, I feel like at this point I kind of know how the whole thing flows, and obviously you can get thrown with certain details, but for the most part, I know what to expect. I just need to get my mind on natural normal birth, so very helpful for that.
Katelyn Fusco Get your game face on.
Lisa Bass Exactly. Yes. Okay, so we can just start by talking about preparing for a homebirth and considering if it even is for you. I don’t really see… I have all these questions from Instagram. I don’t know if I see this one on here, but one of my first questions that I get asked a lot, so I would be surprised if it wasn’t on here somewhere, do you feel or what is your take on homebirth for first time moms? I know that you had one for your first baby, so I know what your opinion is. But encourage those who say, “Oh yeah, that’d be great after you’ve had three or four kids or when it’s not your first baby.” That’s something I’m sure you get a lot too, right?
Katelyn Fusco Oh, yeah. That is one of the biggest things that I hear mothers saying. “Oh, I love that idea. I’d love to have a homebirth, but I think we’ll do it with baby number two. We just prefer to be in the hospital, see how it goes with baby number one, and then we’ll try.” And what I like to encourage mothers to understand is, okay, now remember, when we are in the hospital setting, there are more than just the factors of going through the birthing process. We now have to contend with all of these hospital policies, being put on that conveyor belt, if you will. Really, everything is opposed to physiological birth, from the lighting, from the smells of the hospital, wearing clothes that aren’t yours. All of these things add additional blockades to our body being able to do the thing that it was created so divinely to do on its own, oftentimes with no intervention at all. So that’s the first thing that I like to remind mothers is you don’t have to experience that other type of birth before attempting a homebirth. The second thing that we need to recognize is when it comes to safety, a lot of times people think a homebirth is automatically just not as safe as the hospital. And frankly, when it comes to statistics even, that’s just not true. For mothers who are low risk, which is 90% of us and I think that it’s probably even more, but statistically, 90% of us, our rates of success at home versus the hospital are no different. So recognizing that oftentimes gives mothers and fathers the freedom to think, “Oh, okay, well, I guess we could try this for the first time.” And one thing that I’ve noticed is it’s very rare for a mother to have a homebirth experience and then say, “Okay, we’re going to the hospital next time.” Usually what happens is someone will have a hospital birth and say, “You know what? I think that next time we’re going to try the homebirth.” So maybe we can just go for it the first time.
Lisa Bass Yeah. One of the things that I feel like people sometimes they’re motivated to have a homebirth because once they… They almost need the hospital experience to open their eyes to things. But another thing that I’ve noticed is, with my first, I had the very stereotypical hospital experience where one thing led to another to another. And then with my second, I decided I was going to let that happen again and I was going to arm myself with information. I read Ina May, I read different childbirth methods, and I wasn’t allowed to happen again, but I didn’t switch providers. And even though I was really armed with information and I knew exactly what I wanted, I knew the reasons I wanted it, once we got to a certain stage and the baby didn’t pass the non stress test and had to go in for an induction, I realized that it wasn’t just the me knowing what I wanted. It was more like the provider because when your provider isn’t on the same page and basically you’re trusting them with the safety of yourself and your baby, and you’re at a certain point where it’s like, okay, you could say no to me, but you’re putting your baby at risk. You want a provider that is giving you the actual true facts on the risks. So that way whenever they say, “Okay, we need to do this thing,” it’s like, you’re sure that that’s actually true. Because I’m still not sure to this day… And I’m pretty sure, based on the fact that I’ve had five after her, we never did a non stress test. We never tested their weight to see if they had IUGR. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make sense that that child would have had that. But even though I knew what I wanted with that, I felt very scared. I didn’t feel that I could tell the doctor, “No, we’re not going to do that.” So of course, we went through with it. And so the very next birth, I sought out a midwife and had very different experiences. So I guess speak to that. Why not just have a natural birth in a hospital with a regular O.B.? Where can that go wrong?
Katelyn Fusco Man, Lisa, you just touched on some things that are just so important for us to understand whether we choose to give birth at home or in the hospital. And what you are saying is it took you learning, it took you taking on responsibility and saying, “You know what? Actually, I appreciate you, obstetrician, for all of the information that you have, but as the mother of this child, I’m going to do my own research and I’m going to do what I feel is best for this baby.” Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re not listening to the information that they provide us. But when we come into the birthing process with our own understanding of physiological birth, with our own understanding of what is important to us, with our own foundational preparedness, not just the idea of, “Oh, well, I know how to cope with birth.” That’s what I hear so much. And I feel like that’s what childbirth education in a lot of ways has turned into is this idea of surface level, “Well, I know how to avoid pain.” It is so much deeper than that. This is a transformation. Birth—whether we do it at home, in the hospital, on a bus, I don’t care—it’s a rite of passage. And so if we want to honor that, it takes preparation beforehand. It takes us deciding what’s important to us so that we can then go to our care provider with knowledge. We’re not expecting them to provide us the information. We already have the information. We already know what we want, and so then we can talk to them and say, “Hey, actually this is the kind of care that I’m looking for. Is this what you provide?” So that we’re not getting blindsided nine months in when the O.B. is like, “Oh, actually, I do have to give you a cervical check at 36 weeks,” and all of these interventions. We know beforehand what’s important to us. Does that answer that question?
Lisa Bass Yeah, it does. For me, something that I realized with her was that I had all the information, I had all the motivation, but I didn’t feel like I needed to seek out a midwife that aligned with it. I thought, oh, if I just know this myself, whenever I come up against something, I’m just going to say no. Turns out, you want somebody behind that giving you their blessing. At least, in my experience with my last five kids that were all born at home, I have had midwives who—whenever we come up against something like, well, maybe the baby’s growth isn’t what we would want it to be or something… that actually has not happened since that second child—but they would provide solutions throughout the pregnancy and maybe foresee that coming. And we’d talk about positioning and nutrition and not just suddenly I’m blindsided with the decision that I need to induce right now. I needed somebody behind me telling me, “It’s okay. We can give this a couple more days and see. This isn’t an urgent emergency right now.” But with knowing all of the things that I knew, but yet not having a provider to stand behind it, I really felt like as soon as something went wrong, I just had to be like, “Okay. We’re in it now.”
Katelyn Fusco Yes. Yeah. And that advocacy piece can be so beneficial. I mean, that’s the thing about midwives is having this figure who has kind of been before us, who understands physiological childbirth, not just surgery and not just pathology of childbirth, but the actual process of what is normal. And so when we have selected a care provider that we feel confident in and we have good rapport with, we can decide what’s best for us without the fear tactics of, oh, well, if you don’t listen to me, then everybody’s going to die. It’s not that stark harshness. There is back and forth and a providing of education, a providing of information and seeing what is most appropriate for mother and baby, as opposed to just, “Well, this just makes the most sense for me.”
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, That’s what I found. I found that I was very blindsided by a problem and there wasn’t really any other solution. And so all the education I’d done at that point was kind of like, well, that’s great, but we need to get this baby out right now.
Katelyn Fusco I think that the provider that we choose… and research backs this up, when we’re looking at trauma that mothers experience in childbirth, the biggest determining factor was care provider. That’s really important to understand so that we know and this… I mean, a lot of times we get in this belief of, “Oh, well, if I hire a midwife, then I won’t experience any of these things.” And that’s not necessarily true either. We’re all humans, so we need to be sure that who we are hiring is vetted and someone that we are comfortable with. But the overall thing that we need to recognize is that our care provider does matter and there is a lot of weight to that.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and I will agree that I have definitely interacted with midwives who didn’t believe the same things about birth I thought they would just because they were a midwife. I’ve experienced that. I’ve seen it. And so yeah, I know that that’s not the only question to ask.
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Lisa Bass When it comes to homebirth, a lot of questions were about preparing for homebirth, such as how much space do you need realistically for a homebirth? I think some people think they can’t because of where they live.
Katelyn Fusco I have had several people on the podcast who gave birth in an RV.
Lisa Bass Oh.
Katelyn Fusco So space is really not a determining factor. Honestly, think about a hospital room. It’s not like a hospital room is that big. Your house is probably bigger, so that is not an issue. Now, do you want a birth pool set up or a full size birth pool? Whatever the case may be, maybe your space will be dependent on that if you really are working with a tight amount of space. But to give birth at home, it’s not like you’re taking up that much space.
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah, I agree. I was going to ask you earlier, whenever we were talking about somebody choosing a homebirth for their first time, first baby, what are some potential things to be aware of as far as the way the birth might unfold that is unique to a first-time mother that you’ve witnessed a lot?
Katelyn Fusco Yeah. Now the thing about birth is it’s wild and we never know how it’s going to go, right? But sometimes… And typically we can say usually a first time birth is probably going to be a little longer than your second birth. Our body has never done this before, so it’s figuring out how to… The baby is figuring out how to traverse your pelvis, how to open things up and move things around. So recognizing that this first time around, it could be a little bit longer. And so preparing for that because, honestly, the greatest need for transport for mothers giving birth at home—especially those first time mothers—is exhaustion, maternal exhaustion. And that comes from sometimes the longer labors. And so if we know, okay, this could go on for a while, then that automatic excitement that comes when those first contractions arrive… Sometimes we can get really excited and be like, “Oh, here it is.” And we’re standing up and moving around with those early contractions. Whereas, in reality, we probably could be lying down and trying to sleep, trying to rest as much as we possibly can until we absolutely cannot ignore what’s going on. Doing the things that we can do to provide ourselves with energy. So whereas in the hospital, obviously a lot of hospitals don’t allow you to eat or drink. It’s like ice chips or nothing. At home, we have the ability to eat if we want to, to drink calories, absolutely, by all means to snack throughout so that we are not totally depleted of energy and nutrients as we are doing the most intense and impressive work of our entire lives. So that’s something that’s really important for first time mothers to recognize about giving birth at home.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s good advice. I feel like with a future baby, is that something that you would recommend different? Like with my seventh child, for example, my strategy is during those early contractions to stay up as much as possible so I keep them coming. But maybe with a first timer, you could do that and then just wear yourself out. Are they just not as effective each contraction in dilating? Or what’s the reasoning behind more like a stalled out labor?
Katelyn Fusco Oh, I mean, there could be so many factors. But the main thing to understand is… And yes, obviously maybe for some people, being active is helpful, but we need to remember that rest piece as well. So let’s say that early labor comes on. This is really this preparatory… And separation. We call it the separation phase. This is where we’re kind of separating ourselves from everyday life. Let’s say these contractions come on in the morning. Okay, well, we can still go about our daily life as we’re experiencing these with an emphasis on rest. If we realize that, okay, I’m getting kind of tired here. But a lot of times, labor likes to come on at night, right? It’s dark. Melatonin has a lot to do with oxytocin. They really work synergistically. And so when the lights go low, sometimes our labor can start to get more active. And that is when, a lot of times, mothers will find themselves getting up and moving around and, “Oh, I’m in labor.” And that is when it’s like, this would be a really, really good time to go get some rest because we don’t know if this is going to be three hours or three days. So having that in mind can be so helpful.
Lisa Bass And so that would be in the realm of normal, right? To have contractions carrying on for three plus days for a first time mom. I mean, I remember with first, it being like that. And one thing, too, if you’re a first time mom or haven’t had your baby yet and you’re wanting to have a natural birth with your first child, most of that is not intense, right? For most people. From my experience—and that could be, you know, obviously my experience could be different—but those contractions can go on for a really long time, but not the kind that are going to make you have to fully relax through and… Right? Do you know people who do labor like that for three days?
Katelyn Fusco I mean, the issue, especially with this first time around, is we don’t know what to expect. We have nothing to compare this to.
Lisa Bass Right.
Katelyn Fusco And so when we’re experiencing these contractions, it’s like, oh, boy, here it is. And we’re starting to sway and move and do all of the things. And that may be helpful, but then we may get a little bit later on and be like, oh, this is the thing.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I guess that’s true.
Katelyn Fusco You know? So, that’s hard. And with my first birthing experience, so I had my first contractions starting at like 10:00 on a Thursday night. And admittedly, they were pretty intense. They were pretty intense contractions for… So my early labor, it didn’t vary that much from active labor. There was a shift. There was a clear shift, but it was intense. It was more of the fact that my baby was still trying to get her head into my pelvis. And so all of those contractions were doing something different then once she was actually engaged. They were trying to help her maneuver herself into my pelvis. Once she got in my pelvis, she was out quick. So that’s the thing is sometimes these contractions are doing different things. Maybe they’re helping baby get into that correct position before these pushing down contractions begin.
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah. So with that and with knowing that labor can go on and on, it can start intense with a first timer or even somebody who just hasn’t had a homebirth, what are some of your tips—of course, this is probably the most common question you get—for pain management, positions to actually get through this? Because we’ve heard birth is chaotic, it’s crazy, it’s the most painful thing you could ever experience. How should someone approach getting through that if they could potentially be looking at days of labor?
Katelyn Fusco So I think that so much of this comes back to preparing beforehand, obviously. But this is a mindset situation. Our mindset, how we are viewing this experience is paramount. If we are feeling overwhelmed, if we’re feeling kind of taken over and washed away in this experience, it can feel really stressful. But if we step into this with a really positive mindset and we’ve been preparing in such a way that we feel ready for this birthing experience, there’s a sense of excitement even over what’s going to happen, and we can be present in every single moment, I think that that is what matters more than anything else. Being able to relax into our bodies and allow our self to experience the fullness of the birthing process. So, for example, I like to think about the idea of, let’s say, a contraction is coming on. When we feel stressed out and nervous and scared, what happens? We automatically brace, we tense up, we tighten, and yet our body is asking us to open and to expand. Our uterus is the thing that’s doing the work. If we can allow the rest of us to relax and allow our body to just do the thing that it was designed to do, we’re going to get so much further. And allowing that to happen, that is the mindset piece. Being willing to sit and experience the wave for what it is, that’s what we can be preparing for beforehand. So I definitely… You know, everyone always says relaxation. Relaxation is the answer. And it is. I agree. But also being able to be present in that moment is huge. And it changes the whole experience from “this is happening to me” to “this is happening for me” and I’m doing this and I am co-creating. I am bringing a life into the world. It changes the experience into something so, so powerful and courageous.
Lisa Bass Okay, so at what point do you try to slip into that mindset? Because I feel like my strategy has always been to ignore that it’s happening, and it’s been a very effective strategy. So I’m like, oh, that’s like the exact opposite. I try to… Until maybe the last couple hours where it’s just impossible to… You know, and then you go inward and there’s just nothing else you can do except for be there because you can’t go anywhere else.
Katelyn Fusco Mm hmm. You can’t escape.
Lisa Bass And before that… It’s like yeah, you can’t escape. I ignore it like 100%. Like I don’t tell anybody. I don’t even tell my husband. I’m just going about my day fully aware that it’s happening, but we’re not going to talk about it until we absolutely have to.
Katelyn Fusco And that’s totally cool. You can still be present with your body and allowing things to happen in those moments. I mean, if you’re going about your day and making your sourdough bread, are you tensing up while you’re doing it or are you still allowing your body to relax as this is happening? Really, this is more towards that active labor or liminality phase, which you’re talking about, where we kind of sometimes even go outside of ourselves or go deeply internal. That’s when we’re allowing our body to change and transform and make all of the shifts that it needs to make while we are just open and willing to relax and release.
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah, I can agree with that. For me, the early parts of labor, I’m better able to relax by ignoring it. And then there’s definitely the shift where that’s no longer the strategy and you can kind of tell when it’s happening. I mean, definitely it’s been easier the more kids I’ve had to recognize all of these phases. So what are your recommendations for educating yourself on the process so that no part of it surprises you even if you’re a first timer? You said you had labor for I forget how long. I remember listening to your first birth story. But it ended up being, I think, at some point, pretty exhausting because you maybe expected it to go a little bit different than it did. Or maybe—
Katelyn Fusco I did.
Lisa Bass Yeah, something like that.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah, my first labor, so it started on a Thursday night and then I had her Saturday morning at like 2:30 in the morning. So it was a good—
Lisa Bass So they started hot and heavy on Thursday night.
Katelyn Fusco They did. Yeah. They were pretty intense the whole way through. And you know what’s interesting is I did the birth classes. I did the childbirth education.
Lisa Bass Right. Right. Yeah. Maybe there’s just like… Is there just not a way to fully prepare yourself in a way? Like to an extent, you almost just have to experience it?
Katelyn Fusco Well, I think that birth is wild. I think that understanding that birth is wild and we don’t know what it’s going to be like until it’s here is absolutely the reality. However, I also think that there’s so much more that we can be doing in terms of preparation, but it’s not just learning a hypnotic release. That can be really helpful, but more so, like I said, this is more of a recognition of what this experience is. What is birth? Okay, it is a transformation, especially when we’re talking about this first time, but it’s the same for every other birth. It is a transformation from maiden to motherhood. This is huge. This is a life altering change. And so if we can take the months of pregnancy to, number one, connect more with our intuition, to connect with our baby. We have this beautiful new life growing inside of us for these ten months. We don’t have to wait until they’re on the outside and we can visually see them to begin connecting with them. Our nervous systems are synched up, and so being able to connect with this precious new life… I just love Jesus so much, and spending that time in pregnancy connecting with my God and Savior is so important to me. Connecting to my spouse. So there’s all of these external factors of connection and preparation. Also, as I mentioned, the nervous system. If we can focus on healing and regulating our nervous system… So many of us are in constant states of fight or flight. And if we’re going into labor naturally in fight or flight, it’s just an added barrier. So there are all of these other aspects of preparation that aren’t just learn this hypnosis technique and this will get you through labor. There’s all of this preparation we can do that, yes, supports the birthing process, but also supports that transformation into motherhood, whether it’s your first or your 15th.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
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Lisa Bass Okay, we had a few questions about midwives and choosing a midwife. So I’ll address a few of those. So one is how… I’m just going to ask these all at once because I feel like they kind of go together. How hands-off should a midwife be? What questions do you ask? And then the last question was, is it normal for a midwife to sleep during an overnight labor, which I feel like kind of goes in with the how hands-off should they be?
Katelyn Fusco Oh, man. Okay. So the question how hands-off should a midwife be is… Really the question is, well, how hands-off do you want your midwife to be?
Lisa Bass Mm hmm. Right. There’s differences there.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah. I mean, that’s why…. And this goes directly into the second question of what question should I be asking to find out if this is the right midwife for me? Well, first, you need to decide what’s important to you. Do you want your midwife to not touch you at all? That’s who I am. Like, I want a midwife who is going to just sit and watch me and be like, “You go, girl,” in her head. I don’t even want any noise. You know, just emotionally there. And there should a situation arise when I need her. But I don’t need anybody touching me. I don’t want anybody touching me. In fact, I think that is for… I mean, that’s opposite to the physiological experience of labor. Our bodies typically can just, they can do it. They know how to do it if we just let them. But other mothers, they may not feel the same way as me, and that’s okay. If you want a midwife who is going to be giving you all the tests and doing all of these things for you and in your face talking to you and supporting you and who maybe is really, really strict on like, “Well, we do this ultrasound at this time and we do this test at that time.” If that’s what you want, then you need to determine in your mind what is right for you first. That will inform you of the questions that you need to ask this care provider. Then you can decide, okay, is this midwife right for me? Versus is this midwife right for my best friend? It may be the same midwife and we may want something totally different. And so that’s really important. And then in terms of your midwife sleeping through labor or through the night with your labor, there’s so much to unpack there because is it early labor? Is your midwife there and you’re in early labor? Well, we want our midwives to be rested. A lot of times people think, “Well, I’m going to hire a midwife, and so then I don’t need anything else. I don’t need a doula, I don’t need any other support. I’ve just got my midwife. She’s going to be my person.” Your midwife is really your protection of your body and your baby. She’s there to watch your body and your baby. So do we want a sleep deprived person making those kinds of decisions? Or do we want somebody there who is fully alert, ready, and capable? So depending on what’s going on, if you’re in active labor and you’re pushing and your midwife is asleep, that could be a problem.
Lisa Bass That wouldn’t be good.
Katelyn Fusco But if you’re in early labor and you’re expecting her to give you counter pressure every contraction, but she needs to rest so that she’s available when we’re actually giving birth, that’s when maybe a doula would be a great option for you or having your spouse prepared in a way where he can provide that kind of support. So I hope that answers that question. That’s a pretty loaded question. I hope that answers that.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it was. I just gave them all at once. Give me all the midwife answers. You’re right, though. I think that the question checklist that somebody asked about, that would really depend on what you’re hoping for. And there are midwives who can do both people. There are midwives who can be really right there if you need them to be or not at all. And so sometimes, that can vary by the personality. But I would want to ask, just based on a lot of different birth stories I’ve heard, what happens if I go to this stage of pregnancy? What happens if I have this complication? What course of action will you take? Will you be testing for maybe like iron levels throughout the pregnancy or are you going to help me with any nutrition stuff if I start to show signs of whatever? I like to see a lot of addressing things before they actually happen. That’s really important with the midwife. And I want to know that if we go to this abnormal situation, which a lot of times it’s not even abnormal, how are you going to handle it? Is it okay with you? That kind of stuff.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah, and so a lot of the things that come up, it’s kind of hard because they’re at the end of pregnancy, right? So if I go to 42 weeks, what are you going to do? Like, what’s your… is it going to be—
Lisa Bass That’s what I’m saying. Yes. What’s your protocol there?
Katelyn Fusco Yeah. Breech baby?
Lisa Bass And you think it won’t happen to you. But yeah, breech was another one that was kind of popping into my mind there.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah, you’re right. You think it won’t happen. Well, but birth is wild, so I want to be prepared. And I want to know that this midwife that I’m choosing is going to support me in the way that I’m seeking support. And unfortunately, the reality is that some of us have a lot of options of midwives; some of us don’t. And so being able to find someone that you can work with is critical. You’re right, Lisa. There may be a midwife who is generally pretty hands-on, but if you tell her, “Look, I don’t want that,” she’s going to respect that. That’s fantastic. I don’t need to agree with you on every little thing. I just need you to respect me.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah. And I have found pretty much success with that. It’s basically up to you, a lot of the things, as far as how hands-on they are. And I’m the same as you. I want my midwife there for 10 minutes, and I’ve actually managed to achieve that a lot. Well, an hour or less. I want them there at the very end, just to be sure that nothing goes wrong when the baby’s coming out, and that’s basically it. A lot of times we’ve addressed all the position things, a lot of things that could come up throughout the birth or throughout the pregnancy. Obviously things can happen at the very end, and so that’s why I hire a midwife. But for the most part, I want it to be like, “If nothing goes wrong, you can just go ahead and pack up and head out of here,” you know? And then obviously some of the after.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah, drink some tea.
Lisa Bass Right. Definitely. Okay. So the next questions have to do with the spouse and the family members. So what I run into a lot is someone does a lot of research on birth. They decide that it makes a lot of sense in their situation to do a homebirth and then they’re met with people who’ve done zero research. Right? And they have all these opinions, even though they really don’t know anything about it, which is very, very fun. So what are your recommendations for that? For a husband or negative opinions from family members who… I mean, it’s very, very rare—right?—that you find somebody who’s well-informed and then they… They’re not. They’re usually not. Usually they’re just throwing out their opinions based on things they’ve heard. So what are your suggestions for that?
Katelyn Fusco I say pick your battles. So if my spouse is the one that is not feeling comfortable about this, well, that’s worth working on. Obviously.
Lisa Bass Yes, that’s like the only one in this situation that really matters.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah. And so what am I going to do? And so many people have so many thoughts on how to approach this. But my desire is to always bring somebody in instead of getting angry and like, “Well, this is why we have to.”
Lisa Bass “You’re wrong.”
Katelyn Fusco Yeah, I just feel like it just doesn’t go as well that way. So usually I feel like many people are very receptive when they’re approached in a really positive way. “Hey, I understand why this feels weird to you. You are the protector of our family. That’s your role. And so I know that this is important to you. And it seems like maybe this scares you. And so let me provide you with the information that I have that shows you it’s actually not scary.” And a lot of times the best way to go about this is have them go with you to meet a midwife. Have them listen—
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s worked for my youngest sister. She took him with the midwife, and that was like he got a lot more comfort from that.
Katelyn Fusco That’s honestly, usually, it’s almost always all somebody needs because you meet with this person, you realize, “Oh, you’re not some mountain woman that’s like riding down the mountain on a horse with no shoes on. You’re a care provider. You know what you’re talking about.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, you’re a professional.
Katelyn Fusco And they can ask all of the questions. Your midwife is used to hard questions, I promise you. So have your spouse go in. Have him ask all of the questions in his mind, and then he’ll be able to receive the answers that are going to provide support. So that’s how I recommend working with that. Now, when we’re talking about everybody else, I mean, the reality is that this is your medical information, if you want to look at it that way. It’s really none of their business. It’s really not their thing. This is your thing, so you can go about it two ways. Are these people that I think will understand and support me if I provide them with the education? So if I send them some links to some articles, if I send them episode 17 and episode 59 of the Happy Homebirth podcast, are they going to be receptive and actually listen? Then great, I’ll do that. If I know for a fact that it doesn’t matter what I say, they are just going to be opposed. Well, guess what? I don’t want that in my space. I don’t need that. I don’t need their approval to have my baby the way that I see fit. So a lot of this comes down to boundaries, which is another aspect that I think is so critical for us to be focusing on in pregnancy, not just for the birthing process, but for motherhood. Because guess what? People are going to step on your boundaries as a mother. So we’re going to figure out, okay, well, this is my boundary. I’m just not going to talk about this with you if you have only negative things to say.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yep. I completely agree. With my youngest sister, I was telling Katelyn earlier, she is doing a homebirth or she’s planning a homebirth for her first baby. And her husband was initially, just based on his, “I’ve done zero research on this. I can only go off of… Like I mean, I have no siblings who have had kids. I’m just going off of my, you know, whatever culture has told me at this point. I know nothing.” So he was initially skeptical and when they met with a midwife, he realized that she was a medical professional because that’s the thing, I think, I have noticed that when I talk to people about it, they think that this just means that I’m just going to stay home and a midwife is like having over your friend. They just see it as you’re doing it completely alone. You just are hoping for the best. Not prepared to address anything. If anything goes wrong, you’re done. That is what, I think—
Katelyn Fusco Too bad.
Lisa Bass Before you meet with a midwife. Yeah, that’s obviously not true. But I think that’s what people think before… Like, they think that’s what a midwife is. And I do feel that our culture is moving more and more in the direction of it not being weird. Homebirth is becoming a lot more common. Whenever I had my first homebirth, I think people thought I was more crazy than they do now because it’s just very… It’s a lot more normal. I don’t know what the stats are, but it appears to be a lot more normal.
Katelyn Fusco It’s definitely on the rise, especially after the pandemic. During the pandemic, whew, there was a big increase in homebirths. And it was more of those people, I feel like, that were on the fence anyway. And then with all of the restrictions in the hospital, it was like, “All right, we’re just going to do it at home.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, I think so. That’s when, I think, people got a little bit more skeptical, too, of a lot of things that before they just took for granted. I think people have had their eyes opened in the last couple of years.
Katelyn Fusco A little bit more open, yeah. But back to that spouse question, what’s so funny is it seems like those husbands who initially may be the most uncomfortable or uncertain about it, then they go on to have the homebirth and they’re the ones screaming from the mountaintops to all of their friends. “You guys, you got to know about homebirth. Are you guys having a homebirth? You should look into homebirth.” I see it time and time again.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting. Okay, so the last set of questions that we got from Instagram, I’m really looking through them here and thinking, okay, which ones of these should I bring up? Because they’re all on very specific conditions, issues, and concerns. And I don’t know to what extent you talk about any of this kind of stuff on your podcast, but it definitely… I don’t know, I’ve learned… Okay, so I’ll just give you some examples like GBS, Rhogam, Vitamin K, I’ve learned like, oh, stay away from this stuff. I’ve tried over the years to talk about it a little bit—
Katelyn Fusco Let’s step on everybody’s toes.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s definitely made me a little bit nervous.
Katelyn Fusco Well, then let’s just say this… I feel like when it comes to GBS, when it comes to Rhogam, when it comes to vitamin K, we need to once again go back to the basics. Have you done your research? Have you looked into it? Because what I choose to do could be totally different than what you choose to do. My preferences could be different from yours. My desire for mothers is to take radical responsibility. Radical responsibility. That doesn’t mean you can’t get antibiotics for GBS if that’s what you want to do. It means have you looked into it and have you decided this is what’s best for our family? This is the decision that we’re making and I am so confident in this. That’s what we’re looking for.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I actually really like that response because two people can read all the same books, articles, talk with the same midwife, ask the same questions, listen to the same podcast, and come away with a different answer. But what is the same is that they both knew what they were doing. Whereas when I went into my first birth, I did not. When I came out of that birth, that’s what gave me the desire to read everything was because I didn’t know what I was getting into. Whenever they started doing things, I just was like, “Wait, we do this? We do this?” And I had no clue. Nobody told me that… I had my first in 2008. And so there was no podcast, there was no Instagram. I didn’t have any of that stuff. And so believe it or not, I didn’t even know what Pitocin was. I did not realize that I went in in labor, they were going to do all these things to me, and then give me the episiotomy, and then later on, finding out none of that was… In that particular situation, looking back, none of it was necessary because I’ve replayed the birth a million times and nothing went wrong. There was no reason to do any of that. But anyways, not knowing, not even feeling like I had a say in any of those choices, or that I even knew what they were doing. I was just like, “Oh, pitocin? Sure.” Then later on finding out what it was. I think that’s just it. Just being informed and knowing what decision you’re making with confidence. And sometimes maybe it’s not even with confidence, but at least knowing the ramifications either way for the decision you make.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah. And it does come back to… We talk about informed consent a lot, and I feel like that phrase is thrown around a lot at this point. But we have to realize informed consent is not necessarily just going to come from your care provider, it’s not going to come from the OB. You’ve got to go out and look at things on your own. You’ve got to find the resources. And I know that can feel overwhelming. You’ve got so many choices to make. But you know, this is the start of motherhood. We have to take care of these babies. We were given these children to disciple, to shepherd. And it requires us making choices, however fun or not fun that may be. And so if we can just step into that role with the most confidence that we can, look at the information and make a decision, it’s going to be so much better than put our head in the sand and not looked around. And then later, like you’re mentioning, Lisa, looking back and being like, “Oh, dang. I didn’t even know that that was a thing. I had no idea.” And feeling like they kind of pulled the wool over me. We want to know what’s going on.
Katelyn Fusco Yeah. And also a reminder to people that I think whenever you do exactly what the OB tells you and you don’t do any of your research, sometimes people think that’s the risk-free choice. If you just go that route, you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff. You don’t need to do any research. I’m just going to put all my faith in this entire thing. And there are risks to those choices, too. And I know that sometimes it feels like that’s the risk-free choice. If you do exactly what the doctor tells you to do, that’s the risk-free choice. That’s the one that you don’t really have to wrestle with the pros and the cons. And really, you’re opting out. But it doesn’t mean that you didn’t make a choice because you still did. And we were actually having this discussion because my younger sisters are both pregnant and just throughout the pregnancies, there’s been various things that have already come up and they’re like, oh, you know, they just cannot wait till they have the baby. I’m like, “Oh, that’s not what the decisions end.” You’re going to have this situation where your child falls and hits their head. Do you go to the E.R. or not? When you get there, do you do whatever the thing is they do on their brain? Do you do that? Or are you going to watch them? Or are you going to hope… It’s non stop with kids. They get a certain thing and it could be viral, but it might not be. And so the doctor prescribes antibiotics and you have to decide, am I going to do this? Am I going to make the choice to damage their gut for the next however many years? Does the risk outweigh the benefits here? Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t end. And just doing exactly the prescribed thing, doesn’t mean you’re not making a choice in the other direction, too.
Katelyn Fusco Yep. Yep. I think, societally… And I think we’re coming out of this to some extent, but a lot of the mainstream perspective is if I just… “Well, this doctor, they went to school for this. They know the things.”
Lisa Bass They know everything. No gaps.
Katelyn Fusco But they were taught very specific things. They’re practicing from what they were taught. Do I align with everything that they were taught? I daresay I don’t. So I want to make sure that the decisions that I am making align with me, align with my husband, with our family. And you’re right, it starts in birth, because I feel like birth is like a microcosm of the macrocosm. Birth is a very intense experience and it’s so the exact same with what we’re going to be experiencing throughout motherhood. I mean, really, that’s why it is a rite of passage. It’s like, hey, look, this is what motherhood is in a day. Go ahead and experience this intensity, okay, now the rest of your life, that’s it. That’s what this is. So being able to really take ownership, take responsibility for our decisions— prayerfully is how I do that. But to be able to take that ownership and then walk forth, go forth in confidence, making the best decisions that we can for our family without having our head in the sand. That’s the best we can do.
Lisa Bass Yeah, exactly. The key is, like you said, not having our head in the sand. I mean, it’s a really nice, comforting thing to believe that if I just don’t make any decisions, I just let them tell me what to do, it’s nice because it’s like, “Take all the responsibility off of me.” But there is a give and take with both. That’s something I’ve learned over the last 14, 15 years of being a mom. And what is really frustrating is that with this conversation—100% guaranteed fact—there will be people who are hearing me say, “I hate everything that has to do with conventional medicine.” And what I’m actually saying is, “It’s really important for you to be informed on when you’re going to use it, when you’re not. Don’t just blindly do everything.” Because obviously, we have used it. There have been times where my decision has been this is necessary and I still stand by that. I knew what I was doing going in. I knew the risks, I knew the benefits, and we decided to do X, Y, Z. And I’m so incredibly thankful for modern medicine. And truthfully, it would be horrible to live in a world where it did not exist, where antibiotics didn’t exist, where hospitals didn’t exist.
Katelyn Fusco Where C-sections didn’t exist.
Lisa Bass C-sections didn’t exist. Seriously. I think of going through pregnancy, knowing that if my placenta would cover the cervix or the cord come out first or the baby be in like a transverse position, I would be terrified to be pregnant. I truly would. But knowing all of that and then weighing with normal pregnancy and not intervening whenever everything’s normal, I am so thankful. I tell you, and I know you know this from your own podcast, that I can give this whole spiel and that’ll still be the comments, which is so frustrating because I mean it with all of my heart. And I’m not just saying that as my disclaimer, you know, like, but I like modern medicine. I truly mean that. Like I truly do. But man, if it’s not removing yourself from the decision, as if that’s not a decision, because it is. Hopefully that makes sense.
Katelyn Fusco Oh, it is. Yep. Oh, it totally makes sense. It’s our decision to forgo our… It’s our decision to give up the responsibility. The responsibility, it’s really still yours, guys. The thing is, this obstetrician or whoever, this care provider, this is their work day. When they are done, they are done. You will live with this experience forever.
Lisa Bass Yeah, you can’t blame them for that.
Katelyn Fusco This is your experience. And so who has more on the line? We do. So when we are making decisions and we’re thinking, “Well, I’m just going to give it all to this OB. They’ll do whatever is best.” They will do whatever is best for them because there’s a lot of liability in all of this. And also they have a very specific way that they do things. It makes sense for them to get a mom started on Pitocin and then have an epidural and then, oh, you know, if that doesn’t go exactly how they planned, okay, well, let’s just do the C-section. It’s no skin off my back. I know how to do a C-section. But for you, that may be a birth trauma. So just recognizing that not choosing to do something, just saying like, “Oh, well, I’m just going to go with whatever they say.” You’re right, Lisa, it is still a choice. But then back to what you said about modern medicine. Listen, there are things that, if they happen to me, I am going to the hospital. I’m pregnant right now. With this baby, if certain things arise—
Lisa Bass Oh, are you?
Katelyn Fusco Yeah.
Lisa Bass When are you due?
Katelyn Fusco End of May. I’m thinking it’s going to be June 1st.
Lisa Bass Okay. Aw, exciting.
Katelyn Fusco That’s just my… I just feel.
Lisa Bass Okay, very cool.
Katelyn Fusco I’ve never gone past dates before, but I think it may be that I’m more of like, I could use an extra week for preparation.
Lisa Bass Yeah. You’re just hoping for it.
Katelyn Fusco Right.
Lisa Bass But yes, sorry.
Katelyn Fusco But you know what I’m saying? Like, if A happens, then my response is I would like to go to the hospital, please. That’s my preference. We’re not living in a world where it’s like this thing good, this thing bad. No, let’s just see how to use them effectively for ourselves and be the choice maker.
Lisa Bass Yeah. I mean, I seriously believe we’re living in the best time. Like people who don’t… that’s a whole philosophy discussion. But I feel like people are always thinking like it’s worse and worse. I’m like, “You realize we can get any food we want at any time of the year. We can go to the hospital and get life saving care if we need, but then we can also be incredibly informed to avoid it when necessary? This is awesome.”
Katelyn Fusco Yeah. Agreed.
Lisa Bass Well, thank you so very much. I feel like this has been a very good discussion. And again, everybody needs to go over and find Katelyn’s podcast, Happy Homebirth podcast. I mean, you’ll be sharing a birth story here again very soon. Your third, correct?
Katelyn Fusco Yep. This is number three.
Lisa Bass Okay. Oh, good. All right. Well, again, thank you so much for joining us.
Katelyn Fusco Thanks, Lisa. It was such a blast to talk to you again. I am always so excited to talk all things homebirth, so feel free to reach out, anybody. I love answering questions.
Lisa Bass As always, thank you so much for listening. I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.