I didn’t always want a home birth. I remember how crazy the idea sounded to me when a midwife during my first pregnancy back in 2008 asked me whether I’d consider giving birth at home. Little did I know that nearly 6 years later I would choose to give birth to my third child at home!
Before I get into it, I just want you to know that I didn’t write this post because I’m trying to convince you to have a home birth or because I think a home birth is for everyone. I didn’t write this post to tell you about the benefits of home birth either, which is why I won’t tell you WHY I ended up choosing one. I wrote this post because I want to share my journey and show you HOW it’s possible to go from not even thinking of home birth as an option to actually having one, and by choice.
With my first two children I didn’t even think about it for a second – I didn’t know anyone of our generation who had given birth at home, and it just wasn’t ‘the done thing’. By the time I became pregnant with my third son however, I had become part of the Natal Family and had learnt a huge amount about pregnancy and birth. By then, I also knew people who have successfully and safely had their babies at home and had fantastic experiences; but even then, home birth just felt like something ‘others’ would do, not us.
The first time I started to really think about home birth was when (pregnant with my 3rd baby) the midwife who did my booking visit came to my house and informed me that because I had had two straightforward pregnancies and midwife-led births I had been put under the care of the Home Birth team. She explained that I didn’t have to give birth at home if I didn’t want to, but as long as I stayed with this team, it meant that they’d come to see me for all antenatal appointments, and of course if I wanted to, when the time came, it meant that I could call a midwife (two, in fact) to assist me giving birth at home.
At first, I decided to stay with the team because of the convenience – they come to your house and they work on weekends, which meant I didn’t even have to take days off work for antenatal appointments. But as time passed, staying with the team meant that I owed it to these lovely ladies to at least appear to be making an effort and looking into it! And that’s how my journey started: pretty much by chance.
In the end I had an amazing home birth, which wouldn’t have happened without the support from my husband, my midwives, Steph from the Natal Family and the home birth advocates I met along the way. It wouldn’t have happened without the information and supporting stories that I found through my research and that helped to make a home birth a reality for us.
I could bore you for hours talking about how right it felt to be in my own house and how amazing it was to be at home and tucked up in my own bed minutes after the birth, with my two older boys and my parents meeting our new baby an hour or so after he was born, but for now, I’d just like to share my journey with you.
So, if like me, you have heard about home birth, have heard of people who have given birth at home and are curious about it, here are my own tips on how to go about working out if giving birth at home could be an option for you (or someone you know), purely based on what I personally did and found useful:
- Speak to people who have given birth at home. If you don’t know anyone, you can always find out from your local hospital if they have a Home Birth team and speak to their midwives. Meeting the actual team of midwives who would be likely to be at your birth could help you to feel more informed and reassured about the whole process; and of course it’s always nice to have a familiar face walking into your house when the time comes, if at all possible.
- Also, try and find out if a home birth support group runs in your area and meet other couples who are planning a home birth or have given birth at home.
- On top of that, you can also read some inspiring birth stories from http://www.homebirth.org.uk/, (an excellent website full of very useful pregnancy and birth related information, even if you’re not planning a home birth). I won’t list them here, but there are a lot of websites out there where you can read detailed, positive birth experiences written by the mums (and sometimes dads) themselves!
- Do your own research and find out the facts! Midwives and birth professionals will be very happy to answer your questions and give you all the stats and pro’s and con’s, but before you even do that, try and do your own research on what matters to you and read as much (or as little) as you can about what is relevant to your own personal and medical history and circumstances. I won’t lie to you – you’ll find a lot of relevant information but also bits and pieces that might throw you ‘off track’, confuse you a little or create concerns that you didn’t have before, so it’s important that you follow your instincts and go after what is important to you.
- And on that note, be honest with yourself and be realistic about any worries / concerns / fears that you or your partner / birth companion(s) may have, and try and address these to really understand if birthing at home is what you want. Ensure that if you do go ahead with it, you don’t have any big doubts or unanswered questions which could end up bugging you on the day. It really does help to go over the ‘what will happen if…?’ in advance.
- Involve your birth companion(s) and take them on the journey with you – talk about your plans, ideas, preferences etc. together and make sure you address any questions or fears you may have together. Midwives may be able to reassure you and your birth partner(s) during your antenatal appointments as well.
- Try and discuss your ideas with supportive and like-minded people. Remember that not everyone will be supportive of your thoughts or choices; not everyone will share your views if they’re not necessarily in the same place as you are, but that’s ok, as their experiences or reasons for not wanting to consider a home birth or even for being against the idea may be very different from yours and perfectly relevant to them, but not necessarily to you. Remember that what happened to the friend of a friend of a friend doesn’t have to happen to you!
- Have trust. In your midwives, in your birth partner(s), but more than anything, in yourself, in your amazing body, in your baby and in the ability for your body to birth your baby. If you’ve done it before and it was a positive experience, this is probably easier, because you know you can do it again. If it’s your first time giving birth or you don’t have fond memories of your past experiences, it’s even more important that you listen to or read positive birth stories and look into the physiology of birth – our bodies truly are amazing! We are made to do this, so we need to really BELIEVE that we CAN do this! And trust your instincts – you’ll know if home is or isn’t right for you, for whatever reasons that are private and individual to you and your own circumstances.
- If you think you want a home birth, prepare for it, not just practically or logistically, but mentally as well. It might be a good idea to look into relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques, and getting your hands on information around the physiology of birth and how hormones are meant to work in an undisturbed birth experience. Birth can be unpredictable, but preparing for what you would like your ‘ideal’ experience to be or how you personally would like things to go gives you a better chance to actually get it, all things being well with you and baby of course.
- And on this note, the opposite is also true… Try and be flexible and prepared for things to change or not go exactly to plan!
- Depending on your living arrangements, noise and mess are likely to be factors that worry you or your partner (my husband was certainly worried about these factors, and I know a few other dads that were), so don’t take my word for it, but if this is likely to be a cause of concern for you, ask your midwife or other people who have had a home birth. I bet everyone will tell you that there was very little mess and that it was cleaned up efficiently by the midwives. As for the noise, well it all depends on how close and nosy your neighbours are! 😉
- Finally (and this is the most personal piece of advice I could give you), choose a private place in your house! Again, be honest and really follow your instincts here. The place in your house that you think may be the perfect or most logical spot to give birth in may end up not being private enough for you, so keep that in mind! Because of that, I laboured in my bedroom but ended up giving birth in my tiny bathroom – totally unexpected to me of course, but something that home birth midwives see happening a lot. Your bathroom is probably one of the most private areas in your house!
And this is the end of my list. I couldn’t be happier of where this little journey of discovery has taken me. In a short amount of time I went from thinking that home birth was a crazy idea to actually having one. I’m proud of myself for having been open-minded about it, and I’m so grateful for what I’ve learnt. I now understand that a home birth is not just for people who have had babies before or are terrified of hospitals or want no pain relief… i.e. it’s not just for ‘other people’. A home birth is simply for anyone who has allowed themselves to look into it and has made an informed choice to give birth at home because that was the right solution for their family.
But these are just the steps that I took. I know there’s a lot more to add. So, if you’ve been or are on a similar journey, what would you advise your friends to do?
Sara is a mum of three and part of The Natal Family as a BabyNatal teacher for West London. Find out more about Sara’s classes here.