Planning for a Home Birth
by Emily Holdaway
For the birth of our second child, the decision to have a home birth was made before we decided to have another baby. We were driving back from the birth centre, three days after Ziggy was born and AJ said ‘Well, that was easy, if we do it again we’ll just do it at home’.
I am not sure if I agreed with him, or if I just looked at him thinking Easy? Easy? You try shitting a watermelon then tell me you want to do it all over again, but in your own toilet.
But there was already a tiny part of my brain thinking ’yeah, I could totally do that again’, and the idea of a home birth just made sense.
There was so much I liked about the idea. That our second child would be born in our home. That I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a bag ready, or brave that horrible car ride to the birth centre. I liked the fact I’d be in my bed, have access to my fridge, be able to spew in my toilet. I had a slight worry that my labour noises might wake the neighbours, but considering all the late night early morning parties they had subjected us to, I figured it was payback time.
It didn’t matter that, apart from birth stories and watching birth videos, neither AJ nor I had personal exposure to home births. We had trust in the process and there wasn’t really anything worried us. Plus we had a big consideration for this second birth that we didn’t for our first. Our toddler, Ziggy.
Ziggy is a big part of our lives, and by having a home birth we didn’t have to worry about what to ‘do’ with him. We don’t have family nearby, so even if we wanted to leave him at his grandparents for the night, that option was out. Ziggy was going to a part of this birth, whatever ‘being a part of’ may look like at the time.
And so the preparations began.
A lot of people ask me ‘what do you need for a home birth’ and I can say from experience – hardly anything. I mean, I could write you a list 100 items long, but you don’t really ‘need’ any of it. A lot of things are ‘nice to have’ like a personalised birth mat, or a birth pool, or delicious snacks, or heat packs or swiss balls. But long lists also make people thing ‘oh crap that’s way too much hard work’ and one of the beautiful things about a home birth is that it’s as much or as little preparation as you want to put into it.
You need a home.
You need a midwife that is supportive.
You need a partner that is supportive.
Almost everything else you need, you either have in your home or your midwife has in her bag of tricks.
For us one of the key things we needed was a support person for Ziggy. We were unsure how things would go and how he would react to seeing me in labour. We didn’t know how bedtime would work, or if he would get upset. And so, we asked a very good mate to come and be part of our birth experience. I also watched birth stories with him and talked to him about what was going to happen. When I was on the toilet I would pull funny faces and make straining noises until he laughed – trying to make ‘mum having a poo/giving birth face' something he would be familiar with.
As it turned out our Ziggy support person was in Auckland when I went into labour, and Ziggy slept through the birth part of the birth, so the preparations weren’t needed. But, it was good to have the plan in place for peace of mind during my pregnancy.
Another question people have is ‘where do you birth’. Do you need a special room? Do you need special preparations? It’s your home. You can do as little or as much as you like. I wanted a pool, as my first birth centre birth was a water birth and water allowed freedom of movement and a level of comfort I couldn’t find on a bed or a couch or the floor. I also laboured on the floor in front of the fire and I took some quiet ‘time out’ in our bedroom. Being in our home, our space gave freedom (well as much freedom as contractions allow) to go anywhere.
For our home birth experience, I wanted to create a special space within our home in which to birth. There is a fabulous video out there about how having a baby is like making love **, and if the conditions are right for making love, then they are perfect for having a baby. But, too many women have to give birth in an environment where making love would be impossible (think harsh lighting, interruptions, being told how to lie and when to thrust) and it makes getting in the mood a lot harder.
Our space was very important to me and beautiful hours were spent making it ‘just so’. A lot of this was a way to connect with my baby through our pregnancy. Apart from pregnancy yoga, I was finding it hard to make time for my belly baby. There were no long walks in solitude like I enjoyed while pregnant with my Ziggy, and so in a way it was more than just making the room special, it was a conversation with our unborn baby.
The funny thing about our decision to have a home birth was how worried some people were for me. And then how relieved they were once it was all over and done with. People said things that I imagine they thought was comforting, but was just hoha like ‘well at least the hospital is close by’, or ‘yes well I did take you for that type’ and afterwards ‘well you were very lucky weren’t you’. It’s so strange, the idea that a home birth is risky, or only for a certain ‘type’ of person. Which is rubbish.
A home birth is not dangerous, it is not risky. If anything a home birth has lower risk of intervention than birthing in a hospital, and often has a more favourable outcome*. The midwife, in her bag of tricks has pretty much everything you could possible need. Pain relief, adrenaline, IV fluids, needles, a doppler, a heartbeat taking things, she even has pads to put on the floor. And most importantly, she has training and experience to help you and support you as you birth. For the majority of home births, this is more than enough.
Neither is a home birth for any ‘type’ of person. Actually no, a home birth is 100% for a type of person. Pregnant persons. With a home. If it’s something you are considering, do your research, talk to your midwife, look at your options. It is your body and your baby and there is no one more invested in the safety of your unborn baby than you.
Our midwife was a home birth specialist. That was a big factor for us, as, being our first experience home birthing, we wanted to know that our midwife was with us all the way. Which she was. She would come to every appointment at our house, and over time I showed her where the important things were. Towels live here, extra toilet paper is here, cups live here, and tea and coffee can be found here. Ziggy got used to seeing her, and by the time my due month rolled around, we were as comfortable with her, and she with us as it was possibly to be.
The night I went into labour, was so much more relaxed than our first birth. AJ and Ziggy made pizza while I sat at the table, rubbing my belly and watching them. Pizza was followed by a movie. We were relaxed, excited, and enjoying these last moments before our new addition arrived. The only decision we had to make was when to fill the pool, apart from that, we kicked back ‘as much as one can kick back in early labour’ and let things unfold.
But that’s a whole different story.