Despite apparently supportive national policies, including nation-wide legalization of home birth and coverage by the national health care system of the costs associated with that option, these births account for less than 1% of all births in the Republic of Ireland. Using data collected during participant observation, both in person and by following the conversations of over 800 advocates of home birth on social media, as well as through open-ended interviews with 11 women who had planned home birth in the past two years, I sought to answer the questions: Why do some women choose to give birth at home despite cultural norms for hospital birth? For those who make this choice, is the process experienced as straightforward and supported, or are there barriers and challenges that undermine autonomous decision-making with regard to birth place? Data analysis based in emergent grounded theory revealed three themes common to the experiences of the participants: negotiating safety, educating and trusting oneself, and finding community. Although not all participants related to all of these themes, the combination allowed women to create a counternarrative to the dominant understanding of home birth as "dangerous" and "risky."
Recommendations include education for general practitioners and obstetricians on the safety of home birth as well as in the processes and procedures to assist women in accessing that option, the provision of information on home birth to all newly pregnant women, and evidence-based insurance coverage to GPs and midwives that is relevant to their scope of practice.