Frugality and Home Birthing. Moms Are People Too!

Anneliese, an hour after being born at home
I know, I know, this post is long, long, long overdue. Even before Anneliese was born at home, I said I'd include a frugality vis a vis homebirthing post in my homebirthing series, and its been three months since my baby was born and I still haven't written it up. Sorry for taking so long...

You may be wondering how someone like myself who advocates not spending money unnecessarily, who promotes living with as few luxuries as possible and with only the bare minimum, who runs a blog on extreme frugality, can justify having had a home birth, being as a hospital birth would have been covered entirely by insurance, while I had to pay cash out of pocket for my homebirth.

If you were wondering that, you definitely are not alone. In the weeks preceding my homebirth, whenever she'd stop by to visit, my mom would turn to me quizically and ask "Hello, what about "Penniless Parenting"? Did you forget about that?" She thought my "wasting money" on a homebirth was the antithesis of frugality.

And you know what? It was also a big dilemma I had. Was I being a hypocrite if I spent money on a homebirth? I really wanted one, but was it really necessary or just a wasteful luxury that would be "nice to have" but I could manage without? Its nice and all that I teach about frugal living, but if I don't practice what I preach and make large, wasteful expenditures, do I lose the right to write and run this blog?
I was so torn on this issue for so long, that despite having set aside money for a homebirth since before I even got pregnant with Anneliese, I was considering just setting my plans aside for a homebirth, and instead, using that money to pay off debt. Was my homebirthing just an expensive want that I should do without, in the name of frugality?

But I really, really wanted that homebirth.

And I was so incredibly torn.

I mean, I knew that for low risk pregnancies, homebirths are safer than hospital births, because of the cascade of interventions that usually happen in hospitals, among other things. But at the same time, I wasn't sure if these statistics applied to me- maybe the risk of interventions and complications in hospital births were because the types of women who went to the hospital were more open to interventions than the ladies who homebirthed, and being dead set against interventions unless absolutely necessary, made me not likely to be part of "those statistics", and my chance of having an intervention and complication free birth in the hospital were pretty good; after all, I had two "intervention free" births in the hospital with Lee and Ike...

To help make up my mind, I posted on a message board, asking about someone in my situation, whether it still is safer for me to have a home birth instead of a hospital birth, because I was trying to justify the expense, when I got an answer that didn't really answer my question about safety, but was very beneficial, as it not only convinced me to have a home birth, but also changed the way I look at life in general.

(Incidentally, if you want to know the answer to my original question, according to studies they've done, even "anti intervention women" are more likely to have interventions and complications in hospitals than in homebirths, so my previous "intervention free hospital births" and my adamant refusal to even consider interventions unless there was a life threatening situation still made it safer, statistically, for me to have a home birth.)

The lady who changed my mind, and my life, is a blogger on the topic of natural living, health, homeschooling, parenting, and frugality (among other things)-  and so, coming from her, this answer meant a lot more to me than if it was from someone who didn't value frugality or health, etc...

What this lady said was:
"Penny, the real question isn't about safety of homebirth vs. hospital births. It's about valuing yourself enough to spend money on you - just because it's something that is important to you. You don't have to rationalize every dollar spent; this is a challenge in being frugal, because it's so easy to forget that everything isn't about dollars and cents but about living life in the way that is most important to you. I had a similar concern, as do probably many people who budget their money carefully; the hospital birth was fully covered by insurance, the home birth came fully out of my pocket.
[...] I was the one who had to let go of the idea that I could just suffer through a hospital birth with the best possible attitude because my comfort wasn't worth that much in dollars and cents. [...] Basically what I'm saying is, you have to see investing in yourself as just as important as the ways you invest your money to save money."

Life changing. Affirming.

Now, lets look what I wrote earlier in this post. "Was my homebirthing just an expensive want that I should do without, in the name of frugality?"

"In the name of frugality."

Therein lies the big issue that I was having, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was one that other frugal people had as well.

What is frugality?
What does "in the name of frugality" mean anyhow? Does that mean that I'm putting "frugality" on a pedestal, that I was making "money saving" the end goal, instead of the means to an end?
Often, we're so involved in trying to cut costs that we forget the real reason for frugality, that (according to my definition anyhow) frugality means spending the money on things that are important to you and necessary, and not wasting it on things you'll end up regretting. That, and not spending more than you're making. If you just try to save and save and save and never spend, even on the things that matter a whole heck of a lot to you, then you're worshiping frugality and, in my opinion, have the wrong attitude.
The point isn't "save absolutely as much money as possible at every second of your life", but rather, make the money you spend count. Know where your money is going, and make sure that the way you're spending reflects what is important to you, and not that your money disappears on stupidity and then you aren't able to have money for the things that truly matter to you.

Which, for the record, is why I changed my slogan on my banner (at the top of my page) to "A Rich Life on a Minimum Wage" because my point isn't "save money at all times, no matter what", its about trying to have as good of a life as possible on as little money as possible. And that's why going gluten free and cutting back on our sugar and other cheap and unhealthy processed foods is something that I don't think is "unfrugal", because health is something that is important to me; I just try to achieve health and cut back on the sugar and gluten as frugally as I can.

So back to what that woman told me- taking care of myself is important, and I can't forget my needs and play martyr; I'm important enough to spend money on.
So true, and so easy to forget.
I think as frugal moms and wives, its very "easy" to save and save, and when we do spend, we spend it on our kids or spouse; we don't want to be "selfish" and spend it on ourselves, so we be the martyr and neglect our own needs and emotional needs too often.

Don't do that! Moms are people too! You deserve nice things as well. Don't neglect yourself while worshiping the "false idol" of frugality.

Now I just have to say that this doesn't mean that you should go out and spend money unnecessarily on anything you feel like having, because "you're worth something". No, that's wrong, and that's probably why people get into big trouble financially in the first place.

The first aspect of frugality can't be ignored either. Live within your means. Spend less than you're making. That's first. If you ain't doing that, you ain't being frugal. While you're trying to get your spending down so that you're living within (or beneath) your means, you may need to "neglect yourself" and not spend money on things that are "emotional needs", because that is a very slippery slope- so many things can be written off as "emotional needs" when they're just things you feel like getting...

Once your spending is under control, and you have a little extra money, then you can decide what to do with that money. Do you want to make a college fund for your kids? Do you want to save up money to be able to afford a vacation, some nice jewelry, nice electronic gadgets, nice birthday presents for your kids, a homebirth? Whatever it is that you decided you want, whatever you feel is important to you, budget it in. Start saving money for it.

That's what we did.

A homebirth was very, very important to me, and that's why we saved up for one for nearly 2 years.

On top of that, I was trying to be frugal, even with my homebirth, so I did something that others might not have done- I used an unlicensed, lay midwife.
I didn't use an "official midwife".
And I have no qualms about that, don't think I did anything dangerous by doing that.
There are such huge issues with midwives today. Doctors and hospitals feel very threatened by the amount of women who are interested in homebirthing- the number of homebirthers are going up every year. Because of this, legislation in so many countries is cracking down on all sorts of homebirthing issues, like making the guidelines of legal homebirths stricter and stricter, and revoking licenses if a midwife dares attend a homebirth that doesn't meet those criteria. (For example, in my country they were trying to pass legislation that, among other things, would forbid homebirthing if your waters break and more than 6 hours passed before contractions started- even in absence of any signs of infection. Good thing that law didn't pass- I would have "out-risked" from homebirthing with Anneliese because it was 18 hours from when my waters broke until contractions started!)
Homebirth midwives are losing their rights to practice, and my midwife is hated by some higher ups because of her anti hospital stance, so even though she has attempted to get legally certified, and has taken all the necessary courses, they refuse to give her a midwifery license.
She's not unqualified at all.
She's just unlicensed.
A friend of mine, a licensed midwife in the US who doesn't practice now in our current country, is on a midwifery message board that my midwife is on as well, and from discussions there, this friend realized just how knowledgable and capable this midwife was, and chose her to attend her 2 homebirths, because she felt she'd get the best possible care with that midwife.
I was my midwife's 408th birth she attended; she has been delivering babies for 30 years already.
But, because she was unlicensed, my midwife only charged 525 dollars for the birth as opposed to the $1300 the licensed midwives here charged.
So I saved money on the midwifery expenses by using the midwife I did, saving money, but not getting lower quality care.

So, was my homebirth frugal? 
Well, I saved up for it, and I went with a lower cost midwife, but on top of that, there are some other reasons why I felt homebirthing was the right decision, why it was worth spending money on, and in my opinion, it paid off.

I knew that based on statistics, I was much more likely to end up with interventions if I'd have a hospital birth. Interventions meaning episiotomy, cesarean, etc... Recovering from those aforementioned interventions can be a long, painful process, and during that time, you may find it necessary to spend money on convenience items, such as disposables, convenience foods. Even if you don't resort to convenience items, you most likely won't be up to doing some of the more physically taxing and/or time consuming frugal measures like foraging, line drying laundry, making foods from scratch, etc... until you recover.
In order to resume my "frugal lifestyle" as fast as possible, I wanted to make sure that the likelihood of my having interventions be as minimal as possible, and knew homebirthing would help lessen the likelihood of getting interventions.
I managed to get no interventions whatsoever and heal pretty quickly; I was back to most of my frugal living things pretty early on; I was foraging at 4 weeks postpartum, for example (and even was teaching foraging classes at 6 weeks postpartum).

Emotionally, I also was stressing out quite a bit about the transition from 2-3 kids, and was really worried that I'd be a candidate for postpartum depression based on certain factors. I know that a bad birth experience often triggers post partum depression, and I couldn't afford that and wanted to avoid it. My birth with Lee was pretty affirming, but my birth with Ike was nothing to write home about and in fact, frustrated me greatly, and left me very drained, both emotionally and physically.

I wanted to make sure that this birth would go beautifully, that it would leave me on a birth high, that would allow me to be emotionally happy and fulfilled, so that I would have the mental energy this lifestyle entails, and fortunately, it all went well, I had an amazing birth, a good recovery, and didn't need to be "unfrugal" for too long after giving birth, and don't need to spend money out of pocket for a therapist to help recover from birth trauma or to deal with postpartum depression.

3 months later, and I'd say my home birth was definitely worth the money.
Every cent of it.

But was my homebirth frugal? You decide. I frankly don't care either way, as I don't always have to be frugal; I'm glad I was convinced that its worthwhile to spend money on my own emotional needs.

What do you think? Would you be able to call my homebirth frugal? Why or why not?
Do you spend money on yourself, or do you have a hard time spending money on things for yourself? What things that are "extra" do you feel are important enough to spend the money on?
Would you ever use an unlicensed midwife? Why or why not?
If you had a homebirth, how much did it cost you? How does that compare to a hospital birth? How did you justify the expense?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Home birth is a very frugal choice if you have to buy your own insurance. The price of full maternity coverage can be tens of thousands of dollars above that of complications only insurance. But if you do have full maternity benefits, the most frugal thing you can do is get on the phone with your insurance company. Some insurance companies do cover births attended by certified nurse midwives.

  2. Yay! So glad you made the absolute best choice and it all went great!!!
    If someone chooses to be “more frugal” they will regret having missed the experience.
    But, if you get to have that wonderful experience, who cares about the money, it won’t be missed nearly as much!
    We’re going to be facing this decision soon, after having just spent most of our savings immigrating! Plus, some family members getting worried etc...
    God will make a way!

  3. I would call it frugal! Your child is only born once- you want it to go well for you both (even if baby is fine, an unhappy mommy is a pretty big risk factor!). I usually don't mind spending money on myself but I make sure it's best deal for most things (clothes off clearance racks, making sure I get lowest price on favorite foods by comparison shopping, seeing if I can use coupons or such before getting something...). IDK if it something I need I'm fine- things like hair cuts or out of pocket chiro visits are a bit iffy-er. I agree spending money on health items is more important. I try to buy organic/pasture raised stuff even if it's a little more.
    I would consider a unlicensed MW esp if circumstances "risked" me out for a questionable reason. Luckily I've been (and specifically choose to) live in states where homebirth midwifery is legal. When my husband got offer a transfer, I even picked a smaller town I'd never even been near over a well known big city that otherwise would have seemed preferable merely bc the small town was in a state with LMs. I like the idea of not having to play games though when getting care- no "shadow care" with an OB and lying that "the baby came SO fast we couldn't make it to the hospital" or "oh this is my cousin- she's not a MW..." as well as being able to transfer if necessary without it being even more stressful trying to keep our story straight:/ The possibility of moving to a non-licensed but legal state which allows both LMs and lay MWs to practice has come up and very excited!
    For my first, HB costed only 1800. The global fee was 4000 but you got a paid in advanced discount of 2000 for paying by 36wks AND digging around my MW's webpage it mentioned slightest little line that if you allow the apprentice to be the primary you get additional 10% off. The MW never mentioned it and I only got it bc I read her site so thoroughly and asked. For this next one, many MWs here want like 4000 with some dropping around 3000-something for various discounts. Ironically the MW I got best vibe about even before asking anyone about price is the lowest charging one in town at 2800 for paying in full by 36wks. I dislike paying out of pocket esp as we pay a lot for insurance premiums through my husband's work (they decrease sharply the longer he works there though YAY!) esp as we rarely use the plan (but with a kid really want backup of insurance)BUT he had a boss who had a kid around same time we did and on same plan she paid almost triple what we did in copays alone for an unwanted repeat c-section. Her doctor actually told her after the fact that they could have VBAC'd (she had even VBAC'd due to a fast labor many yrs ago with her last kid but her dr told her that her age was a concern ugh!). That made me feel much better about how much we paid! I've just seen and heard of too much crap in the hospital to go without big reason to. We justified frankly bc again your child only is born once and well also, I kind of only have one vagina- I'd like it treated as gently as possible! It took me way too long and too much work to figure out how to enjoy it. I'm not letting some impatient, snip happy doctor mess it up for me and my husband! (The advice to just get sectioned is incorrect too- the scar tissue and discomfort from MAJOR abdominal surgery often causes way more problems that can interfere with one's love life than a non-invasive natural birth!) I also was predisposed to PPD so knew I needed to reduce things that could tip the scales against me. It wasn't perfect but I think it helped me a lot more than a typical hospital birth. Despite being a first time mom with an 8lb11oz baby I didn't tear so no stitches YAY! Much less issues bonding- breastfeeding was a breeze so avoid lots of pitfalls there too staying out of the hospital!

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