I never anticipated how many people would ask where my baby was “delivered” (a term I hate. Babies are born, not delivered. Even if a wonderful doctor hands you your baby, you still did all the hard work, your baby was not delivered via Fedex!) and when I say at home, the response is almost always…
Unless it’s another home-birth mum, in which case they burst with excitement and you immediately become best friends.
But yes, I did give birth at home on purpose! You can read my birth story here, it was the most incredible, intense and vivid day of my life so far and I would do it again in a heartbeat should I be lucky enough to get pregnant again (one day! Not yet. One is more than enough to keep me on my toes.) For lots of easy going women homebirth is a no brainer and something they just do with minimal planning or prep. You could quite easily do nothing but put a few towels on the bed if you liked.
But I am not quite so easy going.
In fact I’m a bit of an obsessive planner. With most things I like to plan for every possible outcome so that I can then let go in the moment and enjoy myself knowing that should something go wrong, I already know what to do.
What ever birth you hope for, I thoroughly recommend making a birth plan. It’s fashionable not to, lots of people will say “oh it will never go to plan so don’t bother!” which I always felt was such a negative approach. If you were planning a wedding you wouldn’t rock up to a wedding barn on the day and say gimme whatever’s available. You make plans and hope it works out, if it doesn’t you deal with it on the day. Having a plan will give you something to focus on, something to visualise and manifest. Having plan A, B, C, D through Z in the back of your mind will mean you don’t need to melt down should things go awry!
I had everything in place for our dreamy home birth, but I also had a hospital bag packed beside the door just incase. As my midwife put it “only people who don’t pack a hospital bag need to transfer to hospital, so do it!”
You don’t need to write down a plan for a homebirth, just discuss it with your birthing partner & midwife.
What I do recommend having on paper is a backup plan. If you transfer to hospital it’s worth having a very easy to read, visual list of what you want. Obvious things like skin to skin, delayed cord clamping are worth including, but also things you may not have thought of like “ECG dots on mum’s back” in the case of surgery, so you can still have the baby on your chest afterwards. “IV line in left hand” if you’re right handed. “Delay measuring and weighing.” “Dimly lit first hour.” “No chatting.” “Do not wash baby.” and even “Skin to skin with dad if not possible with mum.” for worst case scenarios. There’s a really great PDF of these online here, so you can put yours together. Print it out, pop into your hospital bag and forget all about it. Chances are you won’t need it, but it’s there if you do. Also remember that everything you include is “if possible” if it’s not possible, let it go. There is simply no way you can “fail” at birth. If things don’t go to plan, it’s no-ones fault, the important thing is the health of mum and baby. Aim for what you want, if it doesn’t turn out that way, it wasn’t meant to, just let it go.
So, now that’s out of the way, here’s how I prepped for our home birth.
I took hypnobirthing classes. (More on that here.)
I did pregnancy yoga. Initially this really helped me connect with the baby, later it helped with aches and pains and then limbering up for birth. It was also great when everything got to be too much and put me in a better head space. On the days where I really didn’t want to go, I knew I had to go! Most yoga spots have a pregnancy class on offer, try and find your closest option or you’ll never go!
I saw a chiropractor regularly which helped get everything in line for the birth, gave the baby more space and made me much more comfortable. I would never have thought of this but now recommend it to everyone I know who gets pregnant! It’s genuinely incredible. Look for someone who does “The Webster Method” or specialises in pregnancy. Dr Amy at Putney Chiro Centre is amazing.
I used a brilliant pelvic floor trainer (UK/US). It comes with a brilliant game you play on your phone (using your kegals!), you’ll die laughing initially & expect the man in your life to have serious fomo!
I found a wonderful midwife (who I talked about in my birth story) but the NHS are now super keen on home births and also have great options if going private isn’t for you.
I rented a pool (it comes with a brand new liner, you never touch the actual pool, so not in any way as gross as that sounds!) The rental period is 5 weeks and they don’t charge you if you go over, so I chose to get mine a few weeks early, which was lucky as Lily was in a rush to get here.
We put a plastic lined linen painter’s sheet on the kitchen floor where the pool was going, so that if any water sloshed out we wouldn’t slip all over the place. This was great, as I was in and out of the pool a fair few times.
I bought a whole load of dark navy bath towels. Largely inspired by movies when women go into labour and everyone shouts about needing towels. I didn’t want to use my white ones as I assumed there would be lots of blood, in the end there wasn’t but I still like the navy ones so I maintain that this was a good decision.
A big navy bath robe. Similar reasoning. It was so nice to snuggle into during labour and cosy afterwards.
I dotted lots of beeswax candles all over the place. I wanted them to be natural and free of paraffin as I didn’t know how long we’d be and I didn’t want to breathe in nasties for hours on end with all the windows shut. They smelled wonderful and really made the most beautifully calm atmosphere.
I bought an essential oil diffuser. Filled it with lavender oil. (I did warn you that I’m an over planner!)
I bought tiny spritz bottles which I filled with water and a few drops of different essential oils, labeled them and wrote a cheat sheet list of what they were all good for, so my husband could spritz them and feel useful and hands on incase things got intense. This sounds really over the top but was actually so lovely, cooling and calming at the time. We certainly laughed a lot when he was offering up different options and was pretending to umm over the choice between Neroli and Frankincense. (This is a really great list of oils and how they can help in labour.)
We have a Sonos speaker in the kitchen and one in the bedroom so I had meditation music playing for most of the day, followed by wave sounds which were great for helping with the hypnobirthing.
If you’re hypnobirthing (which I thoroughly recommend for whatever birth you’re planning) you should download the Freya app for contraction timing.
When the time came, we put our phones on airplane mode (we made a decision in advance that we wouldn’t tell anyone when I was in labour, incase it was long or something went wrong and people would worry) kept all of the lights off (to help with oxytocin production), lit the candles, filled the pool and well, you know the rest!
The days after birth are when I realised how lucky we were to be able to have a home birth. Climbing into my own bed, snuggling with baby, learning to breastfeed, all in peace and quiet was such a gift. I’m so grateful that we had that time alone, I am in utter awe of women who can get through this period in a brightly lit ward surrounded by people. I know I would have struggled so much.
There are a few things you should have on hand for these first days.
Some people swear by adult nappies, I disagree. Natracare maternity pads are the bees knees. Organic, no nasty chemicals, they’re quite stiff (my midwives called them surfboards) so give you support you never imagined you’d need! You can wear them with regular knickers and feel a bit more like yourself.
Spritz for Bitz is brilliant! And not just because of its marvellous name.
Nipple balm. Get an organic one so it doesn’t matter if baby ingests a bit. Some people are allergic to lanolin, so make sure you’re not in advance!
And obviously all of the newborn basics I assume you’ll have been hoarding already. My Newborn Checklist is here.
I think that’s about it! Like I said, I really went overboard and you absolutely do not need to do anything more than relax and trust in your body.
You’ve got this, mama. With or without the essential oils!