COVID has impacted many aspects of life, including women’s pregnancy and birthing experiences.
Due to new hospital restrictions, many have opted for home births, including several celebrities who have been open about their adventures in bringing their babies into the world. But even before the pandemic, many preferred to birth in the peace and privacy of their own homes. For some, baby chose home birth by arriving before mom could get to the hospital. For others, it was a thoughtful, carefully made decision. Whatever the reason, whatever the story, every birth is beautiful.
Here are some snapshots of celeb home birth stories:
Gigi Hadid stated that what she really wanted from her birth experience was “to feel like, Okay this is a natural thing that women are meant to do.” Due to COVID’s limits on who could be in the birthing room at her NYC hospital and a film (The Business of Being Born) that she and boyfriend Zayn Malik watched, the two chose to go the home birth route.
In an interview with Vogue, she described the 14 hours she spent in labor alongside Malik, her mother, Yolanda, her sister, Bella, a midwife, and her assistant. She labored in a blow-up pool while listening to the audio of The Indian in the Cupboard. A high school classmate of hers acted as her doula over Zoom. She coached her through the hardest parts of labor when women most often call for an epidural. Said Gigi, “I had to dig deep. I knew it was going to be the craziest pain in my life, but you have to surrender to it and be like, ‘This is what it is.’ I loved that.” Zayn caught their baby girl, Khai, who, according to Gigi, was “so bright right away.”
Supermodel Ashley Graham shared the details of her January 2020 home birth on the podcast Pretty Big Deal. “I felt everything,” she said, explaining that she labored for six hours “in a big ol’ pool.”
“I have to say, going through that experience… now to be able to stand tall and say, ‘Wow, I did it! I’m so proud of myself,’ and I want other women to feel that exact feeling of just being invincible.”
She admitted that, had she delivered in a hospital, “anxiety would have been through the roof,” but that in the comfort of her own home she felt at ease because the lights were dim, she could eat whatever she wanted, and she could switch from the bed to the pool as she pleased.
Her water broke while she was doing yoga and, shortly thereafter, the midwives and doula arrived. Five and a half hours later, she found herself in the pool feeling her son’s head between her legs. Her husband, Justin Ervin, told her she could see Isaac’s head and that gave her the strength to push. “I really needed that,” she said, tearing up.
That experience gave Graham immense strength. “There’s nothing I can’t do. There’s nothing that can come my way that I would say, ‘That’s too hard, I can’t handle that.’”
Graham shared on Instagram, “Nothing prepares you for just how magical and intense giving birth is; I’m so grateful that I was able to deliver naturally in my home with my husband by my side for all 6 hours of labor. Holding my baby for the first time is a moment I’ll never forget.”
Cindy Crawford opened up about her home birth in the midst of the pandemic with the hope that her experience would help expecting mothers.
Crawford gave birth to both her son Presley (21) and daughter Kaia (19) at home and spoke openly about it with Carson Meyer, a Malibu birth doula, on an Instagram live back in March 2020.
She had intended to give birth to Presley in a hospital with an epidural, but a prenatal yoga instructor changed her mind late in the pregnancy. Being close with her midwife helped her feel confident in the decision to birth at home. “I had a real relationship with [my midwife]. When I started seeing her at 30 weeks and would come to see her every week, yes it was checking vitals, but also getting to know me so she understood what might come up for me in the birth experience.” She called the whole experience magical, but stated that she would never try to talk a woman into giving birth at home. She just wants women to know that there are options and, ultimately, each mother has to do what is best for her and her baby.
Cindy also opens up about how her two home births were very different experiences for her — one peaceful and one raw and “unedited” — but how she appreciated both for different reasons.
Actress Erika Christensen had an unplanned home birth in 2018. She shared an intimate photo of her little family after her daughter Polly was born very quickly without a doctor or midwife present.
Erika wrote, “It happened! It happened this morning. And it will go down in family history because babygirl’s own, incredible Dad delivered her all by himself. My fault, as I didn’t know she would come so quickly and didn’t call the doc until far too late. He came straight over and arrived about one minute after she joined us in the world. Haha! My Mom too. You should’ve seen their faces when they walked in to hear her little wail. Mom immediately took this picture. So epic. 9:21a (we think) at 7lbs 8oz (we think). Doc didn’t have time to grab the baby scale in his rush. Meet Ms. Polly. She’s chubby-cheeked and rosy and so beautiful.”
Brazilian model and wife to Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen admitted in her book Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life that she ignored the advice of both her husband and doctor in her decision to give birth to her eldest at home. Because of her hip structure and Benjamin’s position, she was advised to schedule a C-section. In her conversation with a woman studying to become a midwife, though, she became convinced that a water birth was the most peaceful way for a baby to enter the world.
This midwife-in-training Mayra, her midwife Deborah, her husband Tom Brady, and her mother were by her side during her 16-hour labor in their Boston home back in December 2009. Candles were lit, and Krishna Das was playing in the background. Unfortunately, the tub was not very big (especially considering her 5’11” frame) and lacked a water heater.
Gisele said that she focused on her breathing, prayed to her guardian angels, and “went straight to God” during her labor. “When Benny arrived, I felt, but not for the first time in my life, that I was somehow outside my own body experiencing the moment from two different perspectives,” she said. “Maybe it’s because at the moment the veil between the earth world and the spirit world gets thinner. I don’t know — all I know is that it was magical!”
“When a baby is born, a mother takes a step backwards. A part of her dies. It was also the death of me-ness, of ego, of putting myself and my own needs first,” she added.
Three years later, she welcomed her daughter Vivian in a similar way (but that time the tub came with a water heater and was nearly seven feet in diameter). Giving birth to Benjamin and Vivian at home were the “two most extraordinary experiences” of the model’s life.
Australian fitness influencer Emily Skye had an unplanned home birth, giving birth to her son Izaac in June, who came two weeks early after a short labor. While giving birth on the living room wasn’t exactly what she had in mind, Skye did say that she had told her birthing coach a few days before her son’s arrival that the “ideal situation for [her] would be to labor all at home.” Wish granted!
Shortly after arriving at the hospital with her son, Skye snapped a photo of her postpartum body. In her caption, she described her love, awe, and appreciation for her body that has now birthed two babies.
Skye wrote, “I cried when I first saw my body in the mirror after I gave birth to Izaac (6 hours before I took this pic). It wasn’t because I didn’t like what I saw, it was because I was IN LOVE with my body & was in complete AWE of what it had just done. It had literally birthed my son on it’s own at home - I didn’t even have to push - it did it itself! HOW FREAKIN AMAZING ARE OUR BODIES?!!! I’ve never in my life loved my body more & instead of criticising it & picking out our every little so called “flaw” (which I’d done for many of my younger years) I cried with joy & gratitude & thanked it.” [sic]
She ended the post, saying, “It makes me sad that so many women including my old self dislike their bodies. I am so blessed to grow, birth & breastfeed my 2 precious babies. I honestly couldn’t care less about having extra fat, cellulite, saggy skin or stretch marks. SO GRATEFUL.”
Hilary Duff gave birth to her first child, Luca, in a hospital with an epidural. More than five years later, in 2018, she gave birth to her daughter, Banks, at home in an inflatable tub. Duff decided on a natural, drug-free home birth in part from watching the documentary The Business of Being Born and in part from her own thoughts on motherhood.
“I just started thinking that I wanted a different experience,” Duff said. “I’m older now — I love motherhood more than anything. I never thought it could be this way. I never thought I could be so happy and so fulfilled.”
“And I thought to myself that I want to get the full experience of what it is to bring a baby into the world and how incredible our bodies are,” she added. “My body gave me this incredible little boy, and now I get to have this little girl, and I want to experience it to the fullest.”
Duff thought her second birth would progress more quickly, but was frustrated by a long labor and by contractions that wouldn’t get closer together. At one point, she snapped at her boyfriend (now husband) Matthew Koma, after he encouraged her to try to relax, “You have to shut up. You’re going to die if you say that again!”
Eventually, her midwife told her it was time to get into the birthing tub, which Duff called “such a happy moment and also scary.”
Once it came time to push, delivery happened quickly. “It was, like, five pushes,” Duff said. “That part didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it was going to. I was scared it was going to be extreme pain in my vagina and it was not like that. It was very painful in my hips and then it was more scary [in] just the overall bigness of what was happening than, ‘Ow, this hurts too bad, I can’t do it again.’ ”
All the frustration and pain of labor and delivery was rewarded by a sweet moment with newborn Banks Violet.
Duff described the moment, “It was so absolutely lovely and rewarding (and shocking) that after giving birth to my baby girl we hugged ...for the first time, In my mind I like to believe that she was saying good job mom. Go team go. We did it. Together. Matt provided such a safe calm strength, my mommy and sissy were there to cheer me on, and of course my birth angels to make sure all was well and big brother (downstairs deep in legos).” [sic]
Despite the challenges of home birth, Duff said she “would totally do it again.” And, in fact, she did. On March 24, she gave birth to her third child, Mae James Bair, also at home. We’re still waiting on this birth story, but from the photo shared on Instagram, it looks absolutely beautiful.
Earlier this year, former Victoria’s Secret model Elsa Hosk shared a series of “essays on birth” on Instagram, detailing the how and why of her home birth. Alongside several stunning pregnancy photos, Hosk shared the details (yes, all of the nitty-gritty) of her labor and all of the emotions that came with it.
Her and boyfriend Tom Daly’s daughter, Tuulikki Joan, was born in the morning on February 11.
In the first part of her essay, Elsa explained why she chose a home birth: “A few months into being pregnant someone told me and Tom to watch a documentary called “the business of being born” We watched it and It opened my eyes to a different way of seeing birth. I had been going to my checkups at a hospital in nyc and didn’t feel that spiritual connection to birth that I was looking for, it felt in and out and very medical and I thought surely there’s a more human way to go through pregnancy and birth. So when we found our house in LA and decided to move across the country at 7 months pregnant I didn’t feel like going through the process of finding a new hospital, instead we found an amazing midwife, doula, and hypnobirthing coach and decided not leave our new house and because I had had an low-risk pregnancy and she was doing great in there - we made a new birth plan to have her naturally and drug-free at home, in water.” [sic]
Elsa continues to tell her whole birth story: “My labor started a few days before her due-date. I had contractions that felt manageable for 2 days before the active labor phase started, but they would wake me up every 10min during the night so i didn’t get much sleep for those 2 nights. We falsely called our doula in the middle of the night on the second night when the contractions were 3min apart but once she showed up they slowed down again. She stayed with us that whole night and day and took me through many exercises and positions to try to induce labor again, we walked around the garden, did yoga poses, tried pumping breast milk. I was exhausted, but we didn’t want to do another night of no sleep and no baby because I desperately needed the energy to be able to push the baby out. By the evening when the contractions still were 10mins apart and still no change in dilation of the cervix we called an acupuncturist who came over to try and increase the contractions and start active labor.”
“Right after she left I went to bed to try and sleep and I felt a pop in my belly and some water started to come out. I texted Tom who was working in the other part of the house “baby, I think the water broke” and in that instant I felt the strongest contraction I had felt so far. And they kept coming. I assumed this was active labor. The cervix was starting to dialate. The pain was strong and the only relief I could think of was getting in the warm shower. Tom is sitting outside the shower ready to assist me with what I need. Sometimes I come out when I don’t know what to do with myself and the pain and he squeezes my back with all the power he’s got. An hour or so later we call our doula , who probably had just gotten home to come back. Once she arrived I was already making a lot of noises and the thought of leaving the shower now and not having the comfort of the hot water is unthinkable. I lie down in the shower between the waves to rest and gather myself and once the contraction came I need to be up on my legs and hold onto something to get through it.” [sic]
“A few hours in and I am desperately asking when the midwife will be here. I surely can’t do this for much longer and I feel that if she has been called its the sign that its time and it will all be over, and also the time I will get to step into the birthing pool that is set up in our bedroom. I imagine the water would be the greatest comfort. It’s not time. A few more hours has to pass until she arrives, and when she does I barely notice through the pain of the waves, I just feel like I’m surviving at this point. I’m breathing and trying to stay calm like our hypno birthing coach has taught me and finally Im led to the birthing pool. I know from the plan that usually the birthing pool is the last stage and this is where I’ll push the baby out.”
“The contractions are now the strongest they have ever been but I imagine that with every one my baby is getting closer to me. The second I stepped into the birthing pool I don’t remember opening my eyes again for a long time. I remember Johanna, my midwifes assistant feeling how far dialated I Im and I’m thinking the baby’s head is already almost out but she says thers still 0.5 cm left , a bit of the cervix on one side that’s still preset, called the lip, this happens when the cervix gets caught between the pelvis and the baby's head. She tries to massage and manually push it away during contractions and I have to move onto the toilet to try and breathe and push harder. It’s the most painful moment so far but I remember feeling so grateful for these teqniques and open to try anything natural to get this baby out quicker.”
“I remember feeling so devastated that I still have to go through the pushing down the birth canal. It feels like she will never come out. I start doubting if I can do this, hang in there, get her out. Then I remind myself that I can’t just stop, there’s no way but through the pain. The baby can’t stay in there, she needs to come out. I pretend Every contraction is a wave, I have to take a deep breath and dive under it and not let the air out until it’s over.” [sic]
“The lip of the cervix is still not opening. My midwife Abby suggests one last pose she know is good for getting rid of it, a kind of a child’s pose. For this to work I have to get out of the water and onto the bed. It’s once again, where I feel the worst pain so far. Im beyond exhausted and my body goes into complete shut down and sleep in between the waves only to be awaken by Adrenalin to push once a new one is coming. In this child’s pose I’m able to find enough power to push away the lip, and this is where my water breaks fully, flowing out all over the bed. I don’t care. I imagine Every sensation of pain is her pushing a little further down the birth canal. When I doubt myself if I can do it and I miss breathing through a contraction I break into what feels like a million pieces.”
“Birthing is really confronting yourself, your fears and doubts and coming through the other side. Its the worst pain, fear, and darkness I’ve ever experienced in those moments. I feel like an animal. I have given up every sense what I’m suppose to look like, what anyone thinks of me, what is normal many, many hours ago. I have left my ego, my pride. I’m just getting through, getting closer to my baby.” [sic]
“It takes a few hours of pushing to get her head out. Tom is holding one of my legs and the midwife another, my doula Carson is cheering on me, like she has for the last 12 hours. the most progress I’m making Is when I’m holding onto my own legs pushing the knees up my armpits. I keep repeating in my head every push is getting her closer to me and now my birth team urges me to feel her head coming down the canal but I’m too exhausted and scared , I just want her to come. Later, when a patch of her head is visible they bring a mirror so I’m forced to look, the team of course knows this will motivate me and to my great surprise it gives me such strength and power and it comes from somewhere hidden and deep, never in life has that power gear in me been accessed before and I push deeper, harder, to get that head out.”
“My belly hadn’t looked that big pregnant but once the head is coming we all realize she is a big baby. She also has her little hands next to her face. My team can feel them under my skin. They are working so hard so I won’t rip, making quick decisions about her hands and head and how to maneuver her while Im pushing. They are talking to me, telling me to go slow or push. We are working to get the head out for 2hrs. Then finally with the biggest, most extended push, and a sound and sensation that I’ve never felt or made in life - the whole head comes out. I’m so relieved, I’ve never felt more relieved. I feel like it’s over.”
“Then her body with another big push. And she is put on my chest. All bloody and fluids are everywhere and she is pooping all over me, and she is looking for my nipple. And the most pain I’ve ever felt is forgotten, I am overwhelmed with love, proudness, happiness. She is here. I talk to her. I tell her I’m so proud of her. Her mom has been through war and yet she is so chill, her heart rate so stable. she had arrived with the sun at 7am, and the room shifted from what felt like a horror movie darkness into a light sun filled dream. On the morning she is born, all the planets are in her sign, my super Aquarius baby.”
“After she is born I hold her. I don’t want to let go. The midwife does exams on her and then quickly gives her back to me. Tells us some things we should know, I’m too exhausted to hear, hoping Tom can remember. The placenta comes out with a few contractions and a push while she is on top of me. Tom cuts the cord after the blood has all gone back to her. We are in our bed. The room is being cleaned for us. My doula asks what we want to eat and orders the tastiest egg and avocado salad I’ve ever had. Then Everyone leaves.”
“It’s just us, me Tom and Tuuli. We all fall asleep together on the bed where she was born. A few days have passed since and sometimes I look at her and I cry when I think about what we went through together. I feel such gratitude for the women around me, I look at the mothers around me with such deep respect and admiration and I feel such gratitude for the beautiful profession of the midwifes and doulas and I realize birth can be easy or hard, beautiful or dark, but every woman’s story is so sacred and so important.” [sic]
Bachelor alum Bekah Martinez gave birth to her and boyfriend Grayston Leonard’s second child back in June 2020. Their son, Franklin James, was born “blissfully” in a water birth in their living room. She shared her birth story on her podcast, Chatty Broads, and called the experience “euphoric/joyful/beautiful/everything I wanted it to be” on Instagram.
She also shared a video of the birth on Instagram, writing that she was “literally laughing and joking between contractions and smiling through pushing.” She continued, “It was a dream come true.”
Bekah also expressed her gratitude for her amazing doula — her mother — and for the autonomy that her midwife and the home birth experience gave her.
Bekah shared her thoughts on her birth video, writing, “Strangely though, the footage felt so raw and primal that I was actually uncomfortable watching it back. I sat with this feeling for a while, and I came to a couple conclusions. One, that I truly was scared of the mean things people might say about something so sacred to me. But also, more importantly, I realized that I felt uncomfortable watching myself in that much POWER. I realized I still had so many negative, subconscious, deeply-embedded thoughts telling me that I wasn’t feminine enough; that I looked and sounded weird. I projected so many insecurities onto an experience that was truly one of the most powerful, magical moments of my life. This is a moment worth sharing.” [sic]
Women truly do have an incredible gift for bringing new life into the world. Though it’s a taxing and painful experience, it’s also one of the most beautiful and rewarding things a woman can do. It’s inspiring to see so many women go through it naturally, embracing their feminine power and strength. Hopefully, our culture will start celebrating birth in all of its wonder and joy more.
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