WHY A HOME BIRTH?
When my husband I found out we were pregnant we simply basked in the wonder of growing humans in other humans. Miracles. I had had a baby 10 years previous in the hospital with a midwife so I wasn’t without some experience. It was funny, though, at about 10 weeks pregnant I said, “Babe, maybe we should get some prenatal care going…I should try to find someone.” And my husband said, “Do we really have to have the baby in a hospital? Can’t we just have our baby at home?” So it was with my husband’s initiative that lead us on the home birth path…and now we’re on a home birth high horse especially after having experienced both a hospital and a homebirth.
HOW TO FIND YOUR BIRTHING MIDWIVES
It is a matter of being your own advocate. Medical doctors generally don’t attend home births. Some midwives attend home births and some don’t.
USE THE INTERNET
Find the local midwifery services in your area. Googling “Homebirth midwives in [YOUR TOWN]” will likely lead to a local midwifery group. Set up appointments and interview a few midwifes until you find the one that fits best for you.
Most midwives will have you purchase a birth kit for the big day. These kits can be bought on-line. You midwife might have a specific place they like to order from so talk to them about what you should get. Here is a sample birth kit and some on-line places to order from.
A Sample Birth Kit Includes:
10-23×24 Underpads, Economy
5-23×24 Underpads, Economy
2-40×60 Plastic Backed Sheets
1-Stockinette Newborn Hat
6-2.7gram Packets Sterile Lubrication
2-Plastic Cord Clamps
1-Paper Tape Measure
12-Alcohol Prep Pads
1-Dozen Sanitary Pads
12-Sterile 4×4 Gauze Pads
1-Bulb Syringe 2.5 ounces
3-Pairs Sterile Gloves
6-Single Sterile Gloves
1-4 ounce Povidone Solution
1-”Welcome” Birth Certificate
A SAMPLE CHECK LIST OF THINGS NEEDED FOR A HOME BIRTH
- A bottle of isopropyl rubbing alcohol (70%)
- A pint of 91% alcohol (or 99% alcohol, grain alcohol, or 180 proof Golden Grain
- Cotton balls
- A plastic drop cloth or plastic sheet (an old shower curtain or large plastic table cloth works wonderfully)
- Plastic trash bags (AT LEAST 4 large) dark colored
- 2 fitted bed sheets to fit your bed
- 2 flat bed sheets to fit your bed (4 flat sheets is acceptable)
- 4 bath towels
- 4 wash cloths
- 8 receiving blankets
- Large mixing type bowl
- Small mixing type bowl (prefer bowls not be glass)
- Working flashlight and extra batteries
- Extra toilet paper (at least 2 6-roll packs)
- Several kinds of juice (at least one citrus and 1 non-citrus)
- One extra bag of ice
- Protein you like that is easy to fix (peanut butter, cheese, or eggs for example)
- Clothes for you for after the birth (gown and panties)
- Clothes for the baby (2 pair socks or booties, 2 onesies, 2 sleepers)
- Diapers for the baby
- Large cookie sheet
- Silver duct tape (preferably new roll)
- Thermometer (if digital, include probe covers)
We organized the kit and all the extra supplies she requested (towels, washcloths, etc) into 2 large Rubbermaid bins and stored them under a 4 foot table we set up in our room – also requested by midwife. Once labor started, we made up the bed with plastic and a new set of sheets. We purchased a roll of clear plastic, self-sticking carpet protector (like they use in model homes) and covered our carpeted bedroom floor with it.
Another mom was caught off guard with a 36 week labor and delivery:
We’d wanted a water birth at home but our little one arrived 4 weeks earlier than we thought so we were truly unprepared. In fact, the birth kit that we ordered arrived via UPS about 3 hours after our baby was born. Fortunately our midwives always have a birth kit on hand just for these types of situations.
DO YOU GO TO A REGULAR DOCTOR’S OFFICE FOR YOUR CHECK-UPS IF YOU ARE HAVING A HOME BIRTH?
Whether or not visits are in the midwives’ office or at your house likely depends on the midwife you choose.
- If you choose prenatal screening or to have an ultrasound this would occur in a clinic and you will need a referral from your midwife for the procedure.
PEOPLE YOU MIGHT WANT PRESENT AT YOUR HOME BIRTH
- A doula
- Back-up midwife (probably already arranged by your midwifery group)
If there are other children in your family, you might arrange to have a friend or family member be on-call to care for the child or children during the birth.
WHEN TO CALL THE MIDWIVES
You and your midwives will discuss at what point they would expect for you to call them in. If you have a doula, she can help you with this decision as well. Some laboring at home before the arrival of the midwife is normal.
When my water broke and I had started having semi-regular contractions, we called the midwife. She came over within an hour or so because she happened to be in the area.
WHO ASSISTED YOU WITH LABOR?
My husband and my midwives helped take me through all my rushes. We chose to call them rushes instead of labor since the word labor had some negative connotations for me. My daughter also helped with kind words, nice touches, and videotaping her brother’s birth, announcing the gender and the name!
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL SOMEONE CONSIDERING A HOME BIRTH?
I knew of women having their babies in places other than hospitals, but I honestly thought they were super hippies willing to have their babies in the woods, gnawing off the umbilical cord and eating the placenta on the spot. I had no idea that, for instance, where our home is situated has one of the highest rates of homebirths in the city.
It is SO much safer than hospital birthing. You can have your baby right at home and then you’re right there in your nest where you need to be. A home birth is intense and powerful. You don’t need to have a fancy house or apartment. You don’t need to have a clean house. There will be blood, there will be fluids, but the midwives know what they’re doing and they’ll clean up! Women need to know they can do it! People planning a home birth need to know that birth in a hospital is an odd new trend…birthing at home is the normal way to bring babies into the world. Women have been birthing babies in their “nests” since the beginning of time. In my opinion, hospitals have it all backwards and actually make birth harder. Home birth is simple. It un-complicates a very natural process.
ADVICE AND TIPS FOR THE HOME BIRTH
- I would have planned a little earlier so I could have had a water birth.
- I think I would have done a little more mental hypno-birthing preparation before my home birth.
- I would also have liked to watch some home births on video.
- We made the HUGE mistake of not hiring a doula!
- Tour your local hospital in the event you need to transfer.
- I also ate a high protein diet in an attempt to avoid pre-eclampsia and thus a birth too early for staying at home.
- I did pre-natal yoga and visited the chiropractor, though both not as often as I should have all during pregnancy and definitely not enough during those last few crucial weeks.
WATER BIRTHS AT HOME
Besides being a great comfort measure, a water birth can offer the following and more:
- diminish stress hormones (called catecholamines) which increase pain and slow labor
- reduce pain by increasing the body’s production of natural pain relievers (endorphins)
- ease involuntary muscular tension, and enhance relaxation during and between contractions
- lower blood pressure within minutes and decrease edema (swelling),
- promote better circulation and increase the efficiency of uterine contractions
- increase mobility so that it is easier to change positions to aid the progress of labor, especially when a woman is becoming tired
If you want to have a water birth at home you will need to rent a BIRTHING TUB. Check with your birthing center or midwife to see where you can rent a birthing tub locally. Some birthing centers and midwife organizations will rent tubs, too.
In the Twin Cities these organizations will bring the tubs to your home, give you the instructions as to how to set it up, and will take the tub down for you after the birth. They also supply a list of things you will need for tub rental.
It is common for women giving birth at home to rent a birthing stool. They are made in all shapes and sizes. The above stool is a handcrafted wood stool.
“A birthing stool is a stool which has been specifically designed for use during childbirth. It allows a woman to sit or squat while giving birth with support to help her if she begins to feel fatigued. Many advocates of natural birth support the use of a birthing stool, which may also be called a birth support stool or a birth stool. Such stools are available from companies which provide equipment to midwives, and they can also be handmade; some people have chosen to make their own to personalize the labor and delivery process.”
The concept of sitting or squatting during labor is ancient, and widely practiced in many cultures, and the use of the birthing stool is also quite old. A birthing stool is designed to bear up to a substantial amount of weight and pressure, and it is usually low to the ground so that a laboring mother can plant her feet firmly. Most importantly, a birthing stool has a hole in the middle, allowing a midwife to monitor the progress of the labor and providing a space for the baby to slide through.”
Your midwives might be able to advise you on were to go locally or on-line for this as well.
Video on the Birthing Stool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrXR7dK4Y2k
HOME VERSUS HOSPITAL: HANDLING POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS
This labor and birth was way harder than my first due to what turned out to be a crooked (asynclitic) baby. I know one thing for SURE—I would not have been as comfortable in a hospital as I was at home to birth in so many different positions, to walk around, to be naked, get in and out of tub, to vocalize, etc. I think we would have had a very different outcome for this birth if we had NOT been at home.
I actually had some bleeding 3 days before I gave birth and because I was only 36 weeks, my midwives instructed me to meet them at the hospital because early bleeding could mean placenta previa…and if it was placenta previa I would need an emergency c-section. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta grows in the lower part of the womb and covers the cervix. This is very bad as you cannot push the life-giving placenta out first since both baby and mother would likely die. I hadn’t had any ultrasounds during my pregnancy, but I had to have one to ensure the placement of the placenta was at a safe location. It was. And even while I spent 10 hours in the hospital in contractions at only 36 weeks…I opted to return to my home though the MD there strongly advised me to remain at the hospital to have my baby. But I chose to voluntarily discharge. I felt like royalty walking out of the OB floor waving at the labor and delivery nurses as they stood with jaws dropped at a woman walking OUT of the hospital while in labor.
FOR THE SIBLINGS
LOCAL MINNESOTA BIRTH CENTERS AND MIDWIVES
- Roots Midwifery (birth tub rental, doula, midwife)
- Anne Ferguson, Doula & home birth advocate
- Holly Fix, doula and home birthing advocate
- Sarah Biermeier & Amber LaBancz, Genea Birth Services http://www.geneabirth.com
- Trillium Midwifery’shttp://trilliummidwives.com/content/resources
Many thanks to Barbara Morgan and Claire DeBerg for their assistance with this article and for sharing their home birthing experiences and knowledge!