One of the biggest decisions that you can make as a mother is where you will give birth. It’s always a topic of conversation on forums and Facebook groups because many automatically err on the side of caution that a hospital is the only place that you should be going when your water breaks and labor begins. Despite what the media would like you to believe, the hospital is not the only place that you can have a safe and peaceful laboring and birthing experience.
As a pregnant woman, you are entitled to choose where you would like to deliver so long as it’s safe and for many women, that place is at home.
A homebirth is a great option for most low-risk women because you are in a place that is familiar, calm, surrounded by all of your things and it’s somewhere you can actually relax and focus on what’s happening. Just as you wouldn’t want to have sex in a public place, most women don’t want to give birth in a public place either.
In a hospital, while they have their uses and merits, you can’t really relax because you’re surrounded by strange things, noisy machines, nurses, bustling voices. It’s just not usually a place that you can associate with relaxation and peace, is it? Educating yourself on what to expect during labor and pregnancy, knowing what type of Graco car seat is the safest and learning where the best deals on cloth diapers are don’t compare to the research that you need to do for your home birth experience.
Knowing how labor starts is important, but every single labor experience is a unique one and if you’ve had children before, you shouldn’t expect this one to go the same way as your first or second. There are a great many things that you can do to prepare for your home birth experience, and some of those suggestions are below:
8 Tips For A Happy Home Birth
Find Support. There’s nothing worse than feeling abandoned by the medical professionals when you’re pregnant, and when you want a happy home birth you need to find an experienced midwife and where possible, a doula. Loving your midwife isn’t the only important thing to think about; you need to be able to trust her. Look for someone who has already experienced more than one happy home birth (like me – I’ve had 3!) and talk to them so you know what to expect and how to handle difficult situations as they crop up. Trust is the most important thing here, and you should speak to more than one midwife if necessary.
Get Supplies Sorted Early. You may be at home, but you can choose anywhere in your home to birth, whether it’s your bed or the living room floor. You will get given a home birth kit by your midwife for the actual birth, which includes medical supplies that have been sterilized, emergency items, etc. You still need to prepare for yourself, and part of that preparation will be packing a bag just in case of a hospital transfer later on. Some of the supplies that you need to think about will be shower curtains (cheap ones, to line the bed or the floor!), cheap towels that you can throw away after birth instead of washing them, a bowl for the placenta after it has been birthed, the usual postpartum essentials like giant undies, pads or Depends, a nursing nightgown, and my personal favorite, perineal spray. You need to keep your energy up through labor, so don’t forget those important snacks. Coconut water is a great thing to have on hand too!
Plan Who Will Be With You. Other than midwives and doulas, you may have to consider your birth partner and whether there will be any siblings in the house with you. You may be at home, but there’s no way that you will be able to manage older siblings while in the throes of labor. Having a partner – whether your spouse, parent or friend – there to help you and to keep the kids occupied is so important. You’ll be able to feel far more relaxed knowing that they are taken care of and you can then focus on your magical birth.
Pain Relief. Natural labor is something nearly all women aim for, but there is no shame in refusing to feel the pain and going down the painkiller route. At home, you won’t have the option of an epidural, but you might be able to have pethidine, acupressure massage, acupuncture, and reflexology as part of your pain relief. Do your research on the pain relief options for home birthing and make some decisions as early as possible. This way, you can let everyone around you be informed of your choices in advance. One of the best ways to relieve pain during labor and childbirth is water. You can rent or buy a birth tub, labor in your shower or bathtub, or have a water birth.
Atmosphere. You’re at home, which means that if you want to order a pizza while you’re in labor and you want to watch your favorite TV show while bouncing on the yoga ball, you can do exactly that. Your home, your birth, your choice of atmosphere. Pile up the pillows on the bed if you want to lay down. Blow up a birthing pool and get wallowing while you concentrate. Whatever atmosphere will relax you the most is the way to go and when you’re at home, you can do exactly what you want. The aim is to be able to be calm, peaceful and relaxed because that’s just what labor can be if you allow it.
Birth Plan. Everyone knows that a birth plan is not set in stone; it’s simply a list of things that you want to happen during labor. So, it’s important for you to go ahead and write down your wishes. Do you want a forceps delivery, or would you prefer a ventouse if you get transferred to hospital and need assistance? This is something that you should consider. You should also have a list of things that you need; such as quiet while you birth or preferences when it comes to placental delivery in case you want to keep your placenta. These things are important to sort before you go into labor, because you may not be particularly coherent in the moment. A part of your birth plan should be who comes to collect siblings when you get transferred in if you need your birth partner with you.
Batch Cook. In the weeks leading up to labor, you need to ensure that you have enough food in the house so that your postpartum journey isn’t interrupted with grocery shopping and cooking. Pack the freezer with precooked meals and make sure you bake a couple of cakes while you’re at it. Everyone loves a slice of cake to celebrate the birth of a new baby. Have family and friends bring meals when they visit, too, as a condition of visiting. (Joke – kind of!).
Pack A Bag. You need to pack a hospital bag, even if you’re not going to the hospital. If you don’t get transferred during or after labor, that’s a good thing, but you can still use the bag for easy-grab supplies. You should include the sleepsuit for the baby to wear once birth is completed, as well as change for vending machines and parking and all the usual hospital bag items. Make sure to pack some bits and pieces for your partner, too, as they may be in there with you for a while if you do have to go. Even a well-planned happy home birth may require a hospital transfer afterward for things like stitches or jaundice.
You may be very determined to home birth, and that’s wonderful. The thing is, you should still prepare for the possibility of a transfer to hospital just in case. You should be prepared that things may not go the way you’ve planned and make peace with those preparations early. No one wants to think of their dream birth flying out of the window, but the most important thing for you and your baby is your safety. If you are doing what you can to be safe, then you won’t feel anything less than prepared and ready for the birth of your child.
Read about my amazing home water birth of my third child for a positive look at what a happy home birth can look like!