I’m over a year out from Corban’s home water birth and I’ve neglected this post far too long. After writing about my experience with midwifery in “Call MY Midwife” I promised I would share more specific tips and thoughts I had about home and water birth, so here goes. Thanks to those who have continued to be patient and asked for this. You were my motivation! I’m also providing never before seen candid shots of my home and the birth. Hope you enjoy.
1. Don’t stress. WAY easier said then done, but the reality is your baby will come when s/he is going to come and in so many ways you will have no control of the condition of your home, the status of your children etc. Midwives are used to the unpredictability of birth far more than we are.
2. Do what you can, and what will help you feel prepared. I did not have much time to prepare for a home birth as up until about a week before Corban came I thought I would have him in the local birth center. And in all actuality a week was plenty of time to prepare. It is not worth killing yourself over – whatever your “it” is.
3. I had a friend share some pages from a book that were hugely helpful. That book was, The Essential Homebirth Guide, and while I didn’t have time to read it, using some of the information and lists at the back gave me a great place to start. I particularly appreciated the “Preparing Your Home for the Birth” section. It talked about several key things I hadn’t though of, suggested packing a ‘transfer bag,’ gave more info about ‘birth kits’ and other things I might want to have on hand, and gave me a suggested cleaning list as a place to start/work from.
4. I used the list my midwives provided to create a birth kit. In my case I put it all in a bucket and it included things like towels that could be tossed, cotton receiving blankets, olive oil, a watch (which they later told me was not an imperative thing), a pre-written check for the birth assistant as that was basically the only out of pocket cost we needed to have ready for them, a couple of shower curtain liners (dollar store!), and a note pad and pen. I then prepped our bed with a shower curtain liner and a set of sheets I got off our local “Buy Nothing group” that could be tossed if necessary. Grab these from goodwill or from a friend who’s giving some away.
5. The house doesn’t need to be in perfect shape. Focus on the room you are giving birth in.
This is Cashel in our birth tub the next day. I never made it into the birth tub so the kids got to indulge and the photo reveals exactly how we all feel about home birth!
6. If you are really worried about the house and it helps, do a general cleaning. Depending on your birth experience doulas, midwives and family members will be throughout your home in the process. But remember they are there to aid you and if you were giving birth in a hospital they’d have little more then a uncomfortable chair at their disposal. Family can help you… they can do the dishes, sweep the floor, or help you out while they are there. The midwives will be focused on you and helping you, not their own comfort. It is truly what makes them so good at their jobs, they are a selfless, generous bunch and will make you feel that way.
A few things I did think about that I know the midwives appreciated.
- I was hugely pregnant by the time I knew we’d be birthing at home so it was key that I focused my cleaning energies on some specific things. I was glad I thought to really clean the floors as I knew I might be using the floor in my birthing process and/or they might be up and down from the floor – mainly in the birthing room/bathroom. I liked this advice I got from the book The Essential Homebirth Guide, simply because I wanted to help them feel comfortable and that was something I might not have thought of.
- I had a basket of snack foods for them available, and my Mom knew to pull them out when she got there. (Although in my situation there wasn’t enough time for snacks and in the end they may have grabbed something on their way out the door but really they didn’t need these.) It was a demonstration to them that I appreciated them and had thought about them.
- I cleaned the bathroom well, this was mostly for me. I had a birth tub set up and had not planned to be in our tub. However, due to the nature of our birth…. read that story here… I ended up in our own bathtub and I was so glad the bathroom was clean. I spent more time here then I might have imagined and have heard this to be true with other women in labor.
- I cleared our birthing room (master bedroom and bathroom) of anything I could to keep in feeling sparse and decluttered. I had an area ready for baby and me.
- I was so grateful I had thought about and made a plan for my kids and pets, and that I had the wherewithal, after my water broke, to put the dog far away. She isn’t good with strangers and would have barked throughout the arrival of people and simply due to the coming and going of people and unusual behaviors of the people in her home, not to mention she would have woken the napping siblings. I love the birth stories where the dog, and/or kids, are a part of the process however I knew my kids were too young and my dog too high strung to add anything but stress to my birthing experience. (I literally put her as far away as I could in the garage in her crate – for everyone’s sake). I also made arrangements with a family member to do this if I hadn’t been able to and even had asked them to take her out to go potty etc. if the birth took any longer length of time.
Midwives are flexible and gracious. They have seen it all and they will be caring for you. I loved knowing ahead of time that I had thought of them. Ask them what their favorite things are in one of your prenatal appointments. What is helpful to them? Most will probably have little to say simply because they think of YOU, but have something ready for them. Next time I’ll have a thank you note and maybe even a gift prepared for them. They truly are some of my favorite people and I want them to feel cared for too.
I was also glad I had arranged the following things, as if this birth was the same as my others.
1. Care for my older children. In the event it wasn’t at night while they were sleeping and in the situation where it might take a while I had people in attendance that could help care for them in our home or take them overnight if necessary, and people that they were comfortable with.
2. I talked to my husband and other loved ones who would be in the birth room about what would help him/them feel more comfortable. Your partner is a key player and needs to be as comfortable as they can be. My husband has said with all my births both hospital and home, that there is little that makes him feel comfortable as it is such an unpredictable situation but there are some things I have been able to do to help him feel more at ease.
3. A “coming home” outfit for baby that carried on our family tradition. I have had special hats and socks for each baby that I later put in a shadow box display. Even though baby wouldn’t have an official “coming home” like the others (simply because he was born at home) I was so glad to have thought about this and had something special for him to meet people in that carried on our special tradition.
Cashel in blue, Camper in white, Corban in red – each had a special Kansas Jayhawk hat that was a perfect newborn hat and matching booties to keep in warmth and help me know in an instant which newborn I am looking at. (SMILE!)
4. A birth photographer, the hospital does newborn photos for you, so I was glad I had arranged this. And someone to take candid photos and video.
5. Ben knew to order food/drinks or to ask someone to pick it up on their way to our house. I loved that during and just after his birth, family was having pizza and beer in my living room. I also had some easy food prepped for me high in protein and that were favorites of mine. I also asked my Mom, who’s a fabulous cook, to bring things with her or help me stock my fridge. I ate quiche and a bran muffin within an hour of having Corban and food never tasted so good. A meal train also helped us in amazing ways!
6. Prepare your loved ones as best you can. Help them to know what to expect too. You are the ones who know and feel comfortable with your midwives. Consider taking your partner to meet you midwives. Also anyone who may be in the room while you are laboring or giving birth.
I have this crazy drive to watch an inordinate number of birth videos in the days leading up to birth. I have done this with all of my birth and it’s almost like a sure fire sign I am in pre labor. I do this in order to prepare myself and to get in a certain mindset. Birth videos on youtube were huge help to me and in the end to my support system who had no idea what to expect from a home or water birth. This was especially true since I ended up delivering Corban in the water myself, read more here.
My Mom and Dad and husband watching home births – more specifically water births – helped them understand that this can be a calm process, that baby is born underwater and that s/he can breathe since they are attached to you by the umbilical cord. It made it feel a little less foreign to them since they had never experienced a home birth before. They have all since stated they are SO glad that they watched them. I think this is especially important for those who you plan to have in the room. You can also watch my birth here, thanks to my incredible Dad for capturing and creating this despite the unexpected nature of our delivery. I will warn you this is the REAL DEAL, nothing spared. 🙂
And finally a few “next time” tips… I’ll have more thoughts around visitors, who I’ll have in the room and when. I’d let family know that we still plan to do an hour or so of skin to skin time, about how we plan to have our children meet their new sibling, and that we will communicate with them when it is time to join us in our birthing room. Midwives are happy to protect your boundaries or help you enforce them. I will also have my midwives head to my house sooner, given the nature of my deliveries. (Insert a smile and knowing nod here.) I may also post a note or list for family/friends of things they can do to be helpful, they all want to help and there are things they can do.
That list would include…
1. Sweep the floors.
2. Let the dog out, walk her, and return her to crate.
3. Put dishes away or in.
4. Fold a load of laundry and get it to it’s respective room.
5. Wipe counters.
6. Help entertain kiddos.
I hope this helps! And if it leaves you with more questions then answers feel free to comment with your questions or reach out to me personally. I’d love to share my story or help in any way I can.