Welcome back! Thank you so much to everyone who submitted questions for this home birth series by way of Facebook and Instagram. Part two shares my response to those questions and includes a few tips to help make home birth a great experience. If you are joining us for the first time, you may find it helpful to start by reading Jude’s birth story and then part one of this home birth series.
Q: What do you need for a home (water) birth?
A: I was so impressed by how little we needed for a home birth. I didn’t have to buy anything! We had also decided on a water birth and were really fortunate to borrow a birthing tub from a friend. We did spend $50 to buy the liner required for the tub (our only expense). Most midwife clinics have tubs for rent so be sure to put your name on the list early if you’re considering one to better your chances of it being available for you near your due date.
Our midwives sent us home with a list of things to put together from around the house – towels, a large bowl, a strainer and sheets.
For the water birth portion, we added our borrowed birthing tub, a tarp, a hose, a thermometer and a sump pump for clean up.
The midwives will set up one area for the baby after birth so we had receiving blankets, a diaper and a hat to add to what they had.
Water Birth Q: How do you keep the water warm?
A: This was a tricky part of the process. Ensure that your hot water tank is turned up and be ready to boil water from the stove as needed. The water needs to be at body temperature when the baby arrives. Adam used a hose from a tap upstairs directly into the tub and used the provided lid for the top to keep the heat in when not in use. Towards the end of my labour, we needed to bring the water temperature back up so Adam was going back and forth from the sink with bowls of hot water. It did the job for the temperature of the water but made it difficult for me to get my bearings because the tub was too full and I was very buoyant. In hindsight, we should have taken some water out of the tub before adding in the final hot water.
Q: What’s involved in cleaning up after a home birth?
A: This was something that I hadn’t even considered until it was asked at our home birth information night – at which time I went “oh yeah! What does happen?”
The midwives are careful and incredibly proficient in cleaning up after a home birth. They pack up all of the equipment that they brought and use two garbage bags – one for things to be washed and one for things to be thrown out. They had our basement looking presentable within two hours of Jude being born.
For the birthing tub, Adam used a sump pump to pump the water outside.
The second midwife that came for the delivery left once the baby was stable. Our midwife stayed until we were all comfortable and all but tucked us into bed on her way out the door.
Q: How do you manage with older siblings?
A: We invited my Mom to be on “Clyde duty” no matter what time of day the baby arrived. If it was a daytime delivery, we were open to the idea of him being there but I had an overnight bag packed for him in case he was uncomfortable and wanted to go to Nana’s house. As it happened, Jude came after midnight so Adam was able to put Clyde to bed at his normal bedtime. He slept through everything and then woke up two hours after Jude was born. Adam brought him down to meet his brother and then went back up to bed until morning! Seeing Clyde come down the stairs with Adam was one of the most memorable moments of this experience for me. He knew right away who the baby was and was overjoyed to meet him – phew!
One of the midwives that hosted our home birth information night shared about having her small kids at home when she delivered her new baby. She pointed out that young kids have a very fluid concept of what is “normal” and are seeing all kinds of things for the first time every day. She also had a grandparent on site to help care for the kids but they enjoyed being near Mom and had fun mimicking her through labour.
I wasn’t sure that Clyde wouldn’t be upset to see that I was uncomfortable but it was a good reminder that it may be a non issue and to consider all options when planning for care of big siblings. Having him come down to meet Jude after he was born was a really special time.
Q: How many people attended your birth?
A: We felt very open about having people around during our birth so there was Adam, my Mom, my sister and our midwife. The minimum number of people is two – your midwife for the duration of your labour and a second midwife to arrive for the delivery of baby. I greatly enjoyed having the support of my Mom and sister throughout my labour. It was nice for me to have three people taking turns help me through contractions and it was nice for Adam to have people to talk to and give him a break.
It was also a really special moment to have my Mom and my sister there to hold Jude just hours after he was born.
Q: What happens if something goes wrong?
A: This is without a doubt the biggest deterrent for a home birth – the “what ifs.” While no one can guarantee that everything will go smoothly, there are a few things that helped to reassure us. Firstly, you are only approved for a home birth if you are deemed to have a low risk pregnancy with zero concerns. At that point, the risk of anything going wrong is as little as it can be. Secondly, the midwives come with all of the equipment that can be found at a level one hospital and are highly trained including the ability to intubate and they hold an advanced resuscitation certification. Thirdly, the most common reason for a transfer to hospital from a home birth is at the request of the Mom for pain management. At that point, you get in your car, your midwife gets in her car and you meet at the hospital.
One of the couples that spoke at our home birth night was preparing for their second home birth. They shared that during the delivery of their first baby at home, the baby got stuck and they had to call for an ambulance to transfer to the hospital. They said that they were amazed by the strength and confidence of the midwives and always felt like things were under control – so much so that they were planning to do it again.
We also made a trip to the hospital a few hours after Jude was born. I felt great after my delivery and had very little bleeding. Two hours after our midwives left, I lost a generous amount of blood really quickly so we called for an ambulance. They arrived in under 15 minutes and by then, my bleeding was under control. We decided to go to the hospital just to be sure so I went in the ambulance and Adam followed behind in the car with Jude. I was checked into observation and stayed only for a few hours to confirm that I was stable. From what they could tell, I was bleeding but it was clotting and released at once. It was scary and I was disappointed to have gone to the hospital in the end but we were grateful that there were no concerns.
Tips for success
- Feed the army! In the weeks leading up to our birth, I made one giant lasagne for the freezer. As soon as my labour started, I took it out to thaw and delegated the task of getting it in the oven to my Mom. From what we all remember, that happened sometime around midnight and was ready to eat shortly after Jude arrived at 1:19am. I remember feeling so hungry and very grateful to have a hot meal. I also remember feeling glad to provide food for our midwives and our family after a long evening of hard work! We continued to eat the lasagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the first two days.
- Organize post-baby support! Adam and I agreed to invite my Mom to our birth very early on in my pregnancy. Not knowing what time of day the baby would come, we knew that we would appreciate an extra set of hands to help set up, support me and look after Clyde. What we didn’t consider, was organizing for people to come help after the baby was born. Everyone that was part of his birth was exhausted and needed to rest. We had lots of friends and family come to meet Jude but it would have been a great help to have a new set of extra hands come and stay for a few days to help us settle in with our newest addition.
- Share your “why” and educate! Sharing about our plans for a home birth was often met with resistance from friends and family. Most commonly, people responded with “Wow! Why?” The more we talked to people about why it was important to us and the more we educated people about what was involved and the training and education required for midwives, we could see that our friends and family were more receptive to the idea. Once you are confident in your decision to have a home birth, share your “why” and educate your close friends and family as early in your pregnancy as possible to avoid any questions and concerns coming up towards the end.
In 2009, Adam built this home on family land with the help of family and friends.
In 2013, this home was the venue for our backyard wedding.
In 2016, we welcomed our second child in this home.