During a February thunderstorm, with her toddler sleeping peacefully down the hall, Jennifer Lang gave birth to her second child. Nico was born just 90 minutes after the first contraction, in the bathtub of Lang’s home in Benedict Canyon.
“It’s a very convenient place to have a baby,” Lang points out, adding that the labor went so quickly that her midwives arrived only about a half an hour before the birth. “Empty the tub and it’s all cleaned up.”
Nico was born six years ago. In 2014, the most recent year for which we have statistics, over 59,000 Americans chose to have their babies outside the hospital. Of those, 38,094 births occurred at home, the highest number since 1989. Though still only a fraction of the nearly four million births that occur in America each year, out of hospital birth is on the rise.
When Americans think of women who choose home birth, we usually conjure up images of barefoot hippies with flowing skirts and unbrushed hair, not of Jennifer Lang, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and a graduate of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, whose typical attire is LA-chic: designer jeans, low-heel ankle booties, a strappy tank, and structured jacket. Lang spent four years attending births at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, which is affiliated with Columbia University, did three years of additional surgical training at UCLA as a gynecological cancer fellow, and then worked in private practice in Beverly Hills. Lang estimates she has attended over a thousand hospital births.