Home Sweet Home Birth


While the term “home birth' may bring to mind Call The Midwife references, the somewhat unconventional method—at least by modern medicine's standards—of actually having a child isn't wholly untouched-upon around these parts (just today, Josie Maran mentioned giving birth to her daughter under a tree on her Pennsylvania farm). To investigate matters further, we spoke with singer and pianist Sarah Silverman, a few days before the birth of her second child at home (congrats Sarah!). As follows is a little bit about the practice, from her personal experience:

'My mom’s a midwife, so I grew up with home birth as my normal. As the oldest of four, I have very vivid memories of my youngest brother being born. When I got pregnant, it wasn’t even a question of if I was going to have a home birth; it wasn’t something that I had to discover on my own. I was just assuming like 'Of course, we’re having a home birth'—I couldn’t even imagine being in a hospital.

I have a Certified Nurse Midwife. Like finding an OB/GYN, you meet a lot of them, and you have questions that you ask to decide if they would be a good fit or not. We met with three and initially decided on one who has a practice in Harlem. But once I started having my appointments, I left every one feeling like I couldn’t ask questions and crying. So that fit wasn’t right. Then we met our current midwife and as soon as we did we thought, 'OK, we’re in good hands.'

Having my child at home is beyond description. It’s not just simply 'It was empowering' or 'it was traumatizing,' 'It was painful,' or 'it was amazing.' It’s all those things wrapped into one. Regardless of the fact that I thought I knew what I was getting into, when your body starts to take over and knows what it’s doing, and the contractions—it’s very awe-inspiring and humbling. It was very, very intense. I sort of equate it to a marathon—It’s not something I would want to do every single day. [Laughs]

After my daughter was born, we were skin to skin, letting her figure out how to nurse. Then my midwife came in—she cleaned her, weighed her, did a full neonatal exam. Our families all came. We ordered food. It was really cool to be here at home. In the entire birth experience with her I never once had a flash of fear, never once questioned what am I doing here. It was the opposite, I was so grateful. I was so grateful I didn’t have to worry about getting somewhere.

Now that I’m pregnant with my second, I'm not really excited to experience contractions again. But I sort of approach it from the perspective that you’re giving birth to a human being—it’s not supposed to be easy, and it’s not supposed to be painless. But there are things you can do to make it more comfortable—we’re getting a birthing tub. Having the freedom to move and alleviate pain is really helpful. When you get out on the other side, there’s this unbelievable feeling of 'Wow, I’m never going to be afraid of anything again.' It’s a transformative experience and the idea of numbing that isn’t something I would ever want to do.

With my daughter, I remember times when it would have been really helpful to have some kind of meditation, or mental focus, or idea of how to breathe to get through contractions because that was the most intense part for me. I started looking into HypnoBirthing, which I was skeptical of when I was first pregnant. I ordered their meditation CDs that have really lovely music and visualizations and get you into a really deep relaxation state. So that is the biggest thing I’ve done differently this time around. The idea behind the hypnobirth stuff—and I’m just on the surface of it—is that they don’t use the word 'pain.' So changing your association with that feeling mentally might make it into something you want to feel that helps the baby come out. I like that as a concept but I don’t know if it will actually work out that way.

Beauty-wise, I don’t dye my hair and right now I’m more sensitive to smells, so I can’t have any perfume around me. I use essential oils from Young Living that smell really great. I do strength training twice a week. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I did Bikram yoga and I loved it at the time, but the minute she was born I never stepped into a Bikram class again. I do Vinyasa now. There’s this phenomenal website called YogaGlo, that has pre- and post-natal yoga, which has been amazing. When my daughter falls asleep, I spread my mat out for 30 to 45 minutes. I also started taking Capoeira in my pregnancy, which is really fun.

At the end of the day, I don’t think home birth is for everybody because you have to feel really safe. If you don’t feel safe, then you’re not going to have a positive experience. Every woman and every birth is so different, so I’m also very aware that I have no idea what’s going to happen with this birth. You’re never really ready. It’s kind of a great foreshadowing of what parenting is going to be like, too. Notoriously, second babies are faster so I’m focusing on that. I keep having dreams of this baby just flying out. [Laughs]'

—as told to ITG

Sarah Silverman photographed by Alexis Cheung.