Have you ever wondered what it might be like to give birth? Sure, what woman hasn’t, right? But have you ever entertained the idea of birthing at home, without a doctor, perhaps even without a midwife? There are different types of home birth—from unassisted to assisted, and land to water. Most require similar supplies and the same general level of knowledge to carry them out. Are you fully prepared to have a home birth?

What Is A Home Birth?

Home birth might be the traditional, midwife-assisted birth in the comfort of a woman’s home. She may birth her baby right in the very bed he or she was conceived in. Or, home birth might be a water birth in the middle of one’s living room. It could also be a mixture of the two. It may even involve completely removing the midwife from the equation and being totally unassisted—when a woman, and sometimes her partner, welcome their child into the world without medical help. The common thread here is a home birth involves no hospital and no epidural.

Are You Prepared To Manage Labor Pains Without Drugs?

Let’s just put it all out there. For most of us, natural childbirth will be the most painful experience of our lives. It will bring us to the brink—to that place where we think we can’t do it anymore. If you’re wondering whether that place really does mean your baby is almost here, in my experience, yes, it does. However, how long you stay in that place is debatable. Who knows how long it really is—maybe moments, but it feels quite lengthy.

You’ll want to have studied the various ways to manage those labor pains, such as:

  • Counter-pressure
  • The hip shake
  • Rebozo
  • Sterile water injections
  • Low humming
  • Shower pressure on your lower back for back labor
  • An electric massager
  • Heating pad
  • Ice packs
  • Tennis balls

What Supplies Will You Need For Home Birth?

Home birth can be neat and tidy or elaborate and well drawn-out. It will typically depend on your own personal style and budget which way you go. I’m the over-the-top type. I had so many snacks prepared and goodies packed away for the big day. Salamis and cheeses, roasted peppers, olives, and other antipasti, granola bars, cookies, fruits, various juices, the list goes on. And wouldn’t you know I ate nothing. I was far too focused on my birth to think about eating. I had some of the meatballs I had tossed into the CrockPot for my birth team later on after baby was here.

My labor bin was stuffed full of options of nursing bras, not just one. I had many options when it came to what flavor laboraid I would make, and which nursing gown I would wear. There were copies of my birth plan in case we needed to give one to every person we passed during an emergency transfer.

So, here’s what you really need:

  • Plastic drop cloths
  • An excessive number of towels
  • Washcloths
  • A flashlight
  • A handheld mirror
  • Trash bags
  • Olive oil
  • A birthing pool (if you want one)
  • A hose (if you’re going the water birth route)

But if you want to take the over-the-top approach as I did, you may want even more supplies on hand, such as:

  • Pineapple juice (can reduce swelling post-birth) (Source)
  • An edible arrangement (Hello fresh fruit anytime of year)
  • Trace minerals for laboraid
  • Arnica 200 for inflammation post-birth
  • A journal to take notes about your labor during the process
  • Extra hair ties
  • Comfy socks or slippers
  • A robe
  • Jerky (readily available and high protein for energy)

Tips For Home Birth That Many Don’t Think About

Planning for a home birth really kicks things up a notch. Preparation for the birth itself is intensive, but when you’re preparing to have that birth in your own home, a lot more work goes into it. No one is going to roll a hospital bed in for you or change the soiled linens. You won’t be changing rooms, and you won’t be catered to by nurses all day and night. So it’s important to prepare ahead of time to decrease the postpartum workload for yourself.

Water Birth Works Wonders

If you’re planning for a water birth, put some serious thought into which birthing pool you’ll opt for. Only one—The AquaDoula—has the ability to regulate the water temperature and keep it around 97 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the safest for baby. (Source) So if your labor ends up being lengthy, and you have no way of knowing whether that will happen or not, then you may not want to have four pots of water constantly going on the stove to heat things up.

You’d also have to keep emptying water out of the pool before adding more hot water. A birth team often keeps up with this process pretty well, but if you’re going unassisted then you may feel the temperature-regulating pool is a better bet than relying on your partner alone to keep the water comfortable for you. Nothing is worse than being uncomfortable during childbirth.

Beware Of The Birth

Many women don’t think about the possibility of interruptions during birth. In the hospital, someone else handles all of that. No one would dare knock on the door or walk in while you’re in labor if they have no business doing such in an emergent manner.

But when you’re at home, the mail delivery person, a well-meaning neighbor, or even your mother-in-law can just drop in without warning. The dog barking at the doorbell is probably the last thing you want to be worried about when you’re trying to make it through the transition. Having a sign printed out that relays the importance of not bothering the laboring mother today is a critical component to a successful home birth.

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You might feel over the moon that labor has finally started. Whether you were weeks late or not even at your guess date yet, that last month of pregnancy can be brutal. To be honest, I think it’s intentional. If we weren’t at least a little uncomfortable, no woman would ever want to jump into all of the pain that comes with childbirth.

That being said, all of the excitement inside of you is enough to make it feel like your waters are going to burst. It’s so hard not to share it with those you love the most. Just choose who those people are wisely, and perhaps even plan in advance who you feel will be least bothersome and most trustworthy when that time comes.

The likelihood of your hubby’s great aunt stopping by to be birthside may not be likely, but if it’s all a possibility, you might not want to announce the “we’re in labor” news and instead wait for the “baby is here” news. Keep the announcements to your nearest and dearest more private so they’re still in the loop. Meanwhile, this keeps those who might want to be a part of the big day a little too much at bay.

What Happens After The Baby Is Born?

While a doula is a great support to have on your side during labor, childbirth isn’t all they’re limited to. Did you know you can also hire a doula to help you out after the baby is born?

This makes perfect sense! Just as we need that support and reassurance during labor that we can get through it, we also need that same kind of reassurance in the early weeks of motherhood that:

  • We aren’t failing
  • We can be successful at breastfeeding
  • Our baby is getting enough milk
  • We will be okay, even in light of postpartum mood disorders
  • We are not alone

After the baby is born, not only can a postpartum doula check in on you during scheduled hours (even overnight ones), but your midwife will be back to check on things, too. She may stop in within 24-48 hours after birth, as well as around 72 hours out, and then sometimes again a week out from birth. The final check-up is usually around six weeks after the birth. Be prepared; it’s bittersweet and kind of like saying so long to a friend you’ve been hanging out with regularly that you now aren’t going to be seeing.

You may also want to have a few safeguards in place to help baby stay comfortable, too. If being the mother of four kiddos have taught me anything, it’s that I can never be too well-prepared. Some of the trendiest baby products you might never think to buy but are lifesavers to have when you need them are:

  • Nipple shields (kind of for both of you)
  • The Windi
  • Scratch-prevention mittens
  • Chamomile tea (mom drinks it to help a nursing baby’s digestion)

Mindset Matters

While we are often very busy tending to checklists of items to have in our birthing bins and choosing from the ever-growing list of birthing pool options when planning a home birth, we can easily lose sight of the mental prep we should also be working on.

When you’re going into a home birth, it is equally as important to be prepared for the mental and emotional changes you may experience as it is the birth itself.

Certainly, natural childbirth is tough; it will make you prove to yourself what you are made of. But birth is truly a mental game. It’s not so much a question of whether your body is capable of enduring birth without drugs. We know it is; all females were created with this purpose in mind. It is the mental fortitude that many women miss out on being adequately prepared for. You can do this, but know that birth is a mental game.

Lend some thought to what practices you can start engaging in long before birth that can prepare you for the big day. Are you using a course like Hypnobabies to prepare yourself? The meditation practices used during it can help you throughout pregnancy and even after birth—not just during it.

During labor, there are additional methods of relaxation you can employ. A massage is a great tool that your partner can use to help you alleviate tension, which is common during labor. Essential oils are another fabulous option. Lavender is specifically beneficial in promoting rest and relaxation. (Source)

Some Extras You May Have Forgotten To Remember

Realistically, you may want to tend to these things long before the last minute, but a lot of women forget about them and find themselves hard-pressed to manifest critical details of their dream birth in the weeks leading up to it. In my time spent running support groups for these women, I’ve found the same few things often come up after a home birth that mom didn’t think of beforehand.

The Birth Photographer

One money-saving tip for birth photography is to find a newbie photographer that needs you as much as you need them. If they’re trying to build their portfolio to attract new birth clients, they may even forego the entire fee for their work just for the experience and ability to add your photos to their website.

You can also inquire with local doulas. Many of them offer multiple different services, from placenta encapsulation to birth photography to postpartum doula services that make sure your household doesn’t fall apart around you while you’re recovering from birth.

That Glorious Placenta

If you’re planning on breastfeeding or feel you may be predisposed to mental health issues after birth, consuming your placenta may be something wise for you to consider.

The placenta can be prepared in several ways, including:

  • Steamed with herbs, dehydrated and packed into pill capsules
  • Frozen raw and cut into small pieces placed into pill capsules
  • Frozen raw and cut into chunks that are blended into smoothies or other food items
  • Steamed and dried before adding to food dishes
  • Cooked—yes, just like any other organ meat—and eaten

Alright, I don’t actually know anyone that’s done that last one but it is possible.

To be honest, my absolute favorite experience for placenta consumption has been having it steamed, dehydrated and mixed into chocolates before molding. Godiva has got nothing on placenta chocolates, ladies.

Don’t Forget About Your Birth Team

While this may be one of the last times you see them—at least until the next time those two pink lines appear for you—you should consider how you want to send them off. Sure, they’ll be back for those postpartum check-ups. Do you want to give them a little something to remember you by? You know, something more than the bodily fluids you left on their shirt sleeves as they reached into the water to pick up your bundle of joy? Just saying…

I gave my midwife and both of her students some high-quality chocolates, organic bath bombs and necklaces that were each a polished crystal with the tree of life wrapped around them in wire. By the time you’ve gone through months of appointments with them, you’ll come to know them just as well as they know you. It’s like picking out presents for friends.

Lying In Should Be Mandatory—But I’m Glad It Isn’t

There’s a whole lot of focus around home birth—and natural birth in general—on just how soon after pushing the baby out a momma is able to get up and start moving around. Many will remark how amazing and full of energy they felt right away. But just because you have a home birth doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be letting your body recover like you would have in a hospital.

Full disclosure: I nearly drove myself mad trying to follow the strict schedule of lying in. I am in a serious relationship with birth. It’s my business, after all. But I am also so in love with women’s health, pregnancy and birth, and with working in this field, that I am a total workaholic.

It turns out, when you try to force your workaholic self to stay in bed for weeks and isolate herself from everyone but a newborn that doesn’t speak, you can quite literally cause the same sadness and anxiety you’re trying to avoid.

So I don’t blindly insist upon lying in anymore; instead, I recommend that women listen to themselves and their bodies. Which, had I stopped to think about the entire premise of my profession and what I normally preach before getting all tangled up in the history of lying in, I would’ve realized makes far more sense.

Birth is a trial and error experience for many women. Often, we don’t find out what we love and what we hate until we go through it. Here I am four births later and there are still things I look back on and wonder why they happened the way they did and how I can safeguard against them in the future. Some aren’t even inherently bad things, but I may just be looking for a different experience next time around.

You will grow through your birth. It will shape you into someone different from who you were before you brought your baby into this world. Give yourself time to get to know the new you.

Don’t forget to pin this article for your reference later. That pregnancy brain sure is keen on making us lose track of all the things we need to remember.

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