[Review] Home Births: Stories to inspire and inform

This is my review of Home Births: Stories to inspire and inform.

I should come clean right now and confess I love reading birth stories whether home, hospital, water, twins, triplets, VBAC, HBA3C – you get the picture – so I was perhaps pre-disposed to like this book before I had read it. You have been warned, though I will try to be objective.

Home Births: Stories to inspire and inform

Home Births: Stories to inspire and inform, is a collection of birth stories with the common thread that all the births were planned to take place at home. (I say planned because, perhaps to reflect real-life, a small number of the births do end up taking place in hospital). What is different about this book is that the stories are told in the mothers’ (and also some of the fathers’) own words.
The idea for the book came when the editor, Abigail Cairns, a midwife and mother with an interest in natural active birth, was planning the birth of her own baby. She looked for books which included personal home-birth stories but couldn’t find any so decided to compile her own. Her appeal for stories drew a surprisingly strong response from within the UK and beyond and so Home Births was born (sorry, couldn’t resist).

I think the book is fairly unique in this respect, being a collection of personal stories, though there are many blogs which feature birth stories in the mother’s own words – I know because I follow most of them. The subtitle “stories to inspire and inform” hints at the underlying aim of this book, which is quite openly to encourage more people to consider birthing at home, though the book is very positive about birth in all its forms and locations.

The blurb on the back calls it “A moving collection of real life stories celebrating the joy and wonder of birth at home. This collection of first-hand recollections by mothers and their partners gives an insight into the modern experience of home birth, from the first decision to the final push.” I think this storytelling from the birthing woman’s perspective is both the book’s strength and weakness. The nature of a collection of stories written by different authors, whatever their subject, is that the style and quality of the writing will vary. My personal favourites are the more blunt and bare accounts which drop in moments of detail, like Rachel’s stories. The inclusion of some of the Dad’s perspectives on the births gives an extra dimension which I enjoyed. There is also a strange trail weaving through the book; I realised about 2/3 of the way through that I was reading the birth story of a mother who was one of the babies in a previous story! I then went back through to look for more links, and I think I found some. I also liked that many of the accounts included the births of all of their children, not just those born at home. There are also some lovely pictures but this is not a book for those of you who love birth photography as they are all rather small and black-and-white. Home Births also includes a useful links and further reading section at the back which is a great resource for anyone planning a home-birth.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone planning or thinking about having a home-birth and it would also be a good one to have on the shelf ready to loan out for anyone who works with women in their mother-phase, such as doulas or midwives. It was nice to have the dad’s stories too as this is something which is very hard to find (even with the aid of Google) though getting easier in recent years.

This book does not glorify home-birth but offers a real-life perspective on how normal, miraculous and family-friendly birthing at home can be: “Two hours after the birth we were left alone at home: the three of us, a bottle of bubbly and the cat.” Lovely!