How I Prepared for my Home Birth: What Worked, What Didn't
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Two months ago I had a baby! He's an awesome little baby boy, born a giant 8 lbs 11 ounces, 2 weeks early. I'm a small person so I am super grateful he came early. I don't think a 10 pounder would have worked out well.
The birth of my first son was traumatic and awful. I will post separately on that experience compared to this experience in a later entry. I had wanted a home birth or at least a midwife led hospital birth but that was not an option in Halifax at the time. This time had to be different from last time. The idea of labour in a hospital fills me with fear and nightmares so the first thing I did to prep for my home birth was to find a Midwife who did home births.
1. Found a Midwife- This Worked
I knew I'd be living in Kelowna for the birth so before I got pregnant, I contacted a midwife out here. I read a few reviews and contacted someone with a centrally located office because I didn't know exactly where we were going to live.
I wanted to make sure if there was a wait list I'd get on it but there wasn't a wait list so I was in the clear. I had to time the pregnancy around when the provincial health coverage kicked so I'm glad I took this step.
It was reassuring to know there were midwives available and Laura seemed nice over email. I felt like I had decided on her before I even met her. I was happy with both Laura and Megan after I met them when I got to BC so I stuck with them. In retrospect, I am very happy with this decision. If I get pregnant again, I'm going to go to the same midwives.
2. Repeated a Hypno-Babies Course - This Didn't Work
I ordered a hypno-babies home course and worked through it for the last pregnancy. It didn't help at all but I chalked that up to the hospital staff and the nature of my labour. I worked through the course again this time. I wont bother next time.
The hypnobabies course is a lot of work. You have to listen to hypnosis tracks everyday and they are 30-40 minutes long. This was easy to do for my first born, it was very difficult this time because I already have a kid to take care of and thus, time is at a premium. 30 minutes to sit and meditate is a lot to ask when you have a child to look after.
I bought the course 6 years ago so it may be more up to date now but I found the readings to be overly focused on hospital births. It was hard to feel like a lot of it applied to me this time given that I was planning a home birth. Otherwise the readings were a good refresher.
The main issue I have with the course is that it is not honest. I wanted to be super positive, I put faith in the system that it would work and I'd have a nice pain free labour. I played the first track on my labour play list during labour and there immediately was a problem. The track was saying things like "pain free birth waves" but mine were not pain free. It was saying "you are looking forward to your next birth wave" but I absolutely was not. Contractions hurt and I could not drop into that hypnotic state when the messages on the CD did not match my reality. Even though I have been able to control minor pain using meditation in the past. Labour pain is too intense for me to control it this way.
I can't blame it on the hospital or my labour this time because I was calm and happy in the lead up to active labour and there were no hospital staff to mess with me. My midwife didn't say or do anything to discourage me from using hypnosis. We did discuss it later and she told me that hypno-babies typically doesn't help and sometimes causes problems because women try to "breath out" the baby or fight against pushing and pushing is typically needed to get a baby out. I certainly felt like I needed to push. My body was pushing whether I wanted to or not. She also mentioned that it takes you out of the head space you need to be in. I agree with that completely.
So the hypno-babies home course did not work for me and I tried it twice. Next time around I am just going to accept that there will be pain but I am a strong person and I can handle it.
3. Had the Freedom to Labour in Any Position I Wanted - Worked Really Well
In the hospital I was stuck labouring in one position which was the hands and knees position on the bed that split in half. They eventually tried to flip me to the dreaded lithotomy position (they failed, I ended up in some weird Exorcist position - that crab walk she does down the stairs in the movie) which made everything way worse then they had to flip me back.
I thought I would use the hands and knees position again this time because that is what was more comfortable of the two I tried last time but I did not. Being at home meant I could walk around and try things. I found that standing up and pressing down on the foot-board of my bed to be the most comfortable way to deal with contractions. I learned this early in labour when the contractions were not too bad. I used early labour to try a bunch of different positions and settled on standing. I tried the tiered hands and knees position I used last time (I built a bench specifically for this purpose) and it was awful. I wonder if my labour last time would have been better if I could have stood up for it.
4. Laboured in Water - This Worked Well But I Didn't Use it Much
My Midwives gave me a Passages Pools birth tub which is a blow up tub you fill with water to labour in. We put it in the bathroom and got a lead-free hose to fill it up. I got into the tub when labour started to get a bit too intense. It slowed my contractions down and definitely took the pain down substantially.
Unfortunately I couldn't stay in the tub. I really felt I needed to be standing and I could not find a comfortable position to be in while inside the tub. So despite the pain relief it provided, I got out after two contractions. I also didn't want to slow down my labour. It felt like my instincts were telling me to get out and just get this whole process over with as fast as possible.
The pool worked great though. I will still have it blown up and ready next time I'm in labour if I can swing it.
5. Breathing Through Contractions - This Worked
Breathing slowly through contractions really helped, especially with the early and mid-level contractions. I didn't feel the need to do counts during the breaths or anything like that but I bet that would be useful to people who are less experienced with meditation.
I read The Calm Birth Method the week leading up to my birth and it really helped to put me in the right mindset. Though it talks about hypno-birthing the book is more about meditation and breath control I find. Breathing the right way helped me feel more in control and more calm. This book didn't make a bunch of promises it couldn't back up like the hypno-birthing course did.
6. Being in the Right Mindset - This Helped a Lot
I put a lot of energy into mentally preparing myself for labour. Since I had a previous bad experience, this was a challenge for me. There was a lot of fear going into this but I knew many other women have had better experiences and thus I knew it was possible for me too. The reason I knew it could be better was because I read books and watched documentaries. I am surprised now that I was able to go into labour calm, relaxed and fearless but I did. I was even a bit excited which seems crazy as I type it, but this time I totally was.
I started with writing a long letter to the doctor I had for my first labour. I will never send her this letter, it is a nasty letter with lots of cursing, but I had to get my feelings out somewhere so I could move on. I would recommend this practice to anyone who may have suffered in labour due to someone else's negligence or lack of professionalism.
I then spent some time reading stories about other women who had traumatic births. This seems counter-intuitive but it helped make my feelings on the matter feel justified. I also felt less alone as I knew others had experienced similar problems. This may not be the best idea for some but I felt it was helpful.
Then onto the positive, I re-read some of Ina May Gaskin's books; Spiritual Midwifery and. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth I watched her Tedtalk and documentary. I can't get enough Ina May. She is the most comforting author on the subject of birth and quite an expert. I find her books are great at dissolving fear, especially the story about the medical professionals who sought her out for the birth of their child.
7. I Had Everything I Could Possibly Need - This Helped Me Feel Prepared.
Part of why I think I felt more calm in labour this time around is that I had so much prepared and organized ahead of time. Though I did not use a lot of what I had accumulated.
Things I used
Disposable underpads: I used some, I did not need 2 packages of 20, I think I used about 10-15 so one package would have been enough. I kept some in the car just in case my water broke while out. I used some during labour as well.
2 Rolls of paper towel
3 Cheap shower curtains, 3 Fitted sheets, Large safety pins -this was to water proof the mattress. You place a shower curtain over the mattress and pin it in place. Then a fitted sheet, then another shower curtain which you then pin to the fitted sheet. You repeat the layering until you have used everything up. Then you have a spot for labour, stitches, etc. You can peel off layers as needed.
2-3 Large garbage bags
Large ziplock bags
2 Hand towels
4-6 Large towels
8 Wash cloths - I think we used 2
8 Receiving blankets - I think we used 4 for delivery but I used them all, many times, over the days following.
Newborn diapers and wipes
Baby sleeping bags
Diffuser and diffuser oils - I choose Lavender to help stay calm. I didn't really notice it much in labour but the other people in the room did.
Advil - especially if you've had a baby before. The after pains are worse with successive births. I used the whole bottle and had to get another one.
Bikini - for the birth pool
Lead free hose - to fill the birth pool
Water thermometer- to check the temperature of the pool
Comfortable night gown for after
Some bins for garbage
Coconut water- 8 cans
Peri-bottle- for aftercare
Overnight sanitary pads (about 2 large packages)
Things I didn't use
Some of these are still good to have on hand, even if they were not used.
Hibitane or other anti-septic
Hot water bottle
Flashlight and batteries
2 gel cold packs
2 flat sheets
Vitamin packs like Emergen-C
In the kitchen, I hid coconut water, snacks and some easy meals. These things need to be hidden or they will get used up. I was really glad we had snacks on hand, I was starving after despite having a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.
8. Prepared the Space - This Helped.
I arranged everything on my change table neatly. I didn't pack a to-go bag until labour had started but when I did, I just packed my health card, some baby clothes and a change of clothes for myself. I really was not intending to got to the hospital so it was for just in case we really needed to transfer.
I set up my space for labour ahead of time. I had a double sized mattress on the floor (I didn't want to ruin my bed sheets) which had layers of fitted mattress covers with shower curtains in between. I had a long, cushioned bench behind the mattress for more labour position options. There was space on my dresser for the midwifes things if she needed a surface.
My on-suite bathroom had the birth pool set up. I made the space nice with twinkle lights and hung a curtain to close out some of the light.
So that is everything I did more or less. I hope this is a helpful list and that everyone who reads this has awesome births.
Have a beautiful day!