Giving birth is a huge unknown for those who've never experienced it before. But that doesn't have to make it a fearful subject. Educating yourself on birthing will give you perspective and peace of mind about what is to come. If you want to give birth at home, it is important to prepare by gathering the right medical professionals and supplies for the experience. And the reward is what many homebirthing moms describe as "amazing."
Finding a doctor or midwife? That's easy. Finding one that will deliver your baby in the comfort of your home? A little more challenging.
Choosing the right midwife to assist your birth is absolutely essential to having your perfect birth.
Naturopathic physician Amanda Levitt (wholehealthct.com) says that parents-to-be should ask potential midwifes about how long they have been attending births, whether they have a OB/GYN backup, what their philosophy is and what would cause them to advise a transfer to a hospital. "I think it is helpful to meet a few providers in person to find a personal match. Usually you choose a primary midwife, and then a second midwife also attends to help. Some people also choose to have a doula or birth coach. It can be helpful to talk to other women in the community and see who they have used and recommend. As a naturopathic doctor, I know CNM (certified nurse midwives) that do home births, as well as LM (licensed midwives) and lay midwives. Knowing my patients, I can usually recommend a provider that would best match their personality and needs. I recommend choosing someone closer to home for a second birth, as labor can progress quickly the second time around," says Levitt.
Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and DONA Certified Doula Ami Burns says that training is very important as well. Some states will recognize and license midwives while others do not. "Ask for references from former families the midwife has worked with. ... I think the most important factor is comfort level and whether or not the midwife is a good fit for the particular couple. I encourage families to ask potential providers whatever questions are important to them. One of the many great things about homebirth is that the midwife is on the parents' "turf" so make sure she's someone you want to have in your home, potentially for a day or more," says Burns.
Worried about what you may need? While the internet is awash with checklists for preparing to go to the hospital, finding what you may need for a homebirth is a little harder. A search of homebirth supplies brings up a lot of people selling kits -- but what do you really need to keep your home both safe for birth and prepped for easy clean up?
Levitt says that most midwives have a specific kit that parents can order. "It usually includes sterile gloves, nasal syringe, gauze pads, chucks (blue pads that go under to catch blood), OB pads, baby hat, ink pad for footprint....each midwife has particular lists of supplies that they require. Midwives do come prepared with everything needed for assisting home birth, clamps for umbilicus, rescuscitation equipment, etc," says Levitt.
Burns adds that depending on where you give birth, you may need a few other things as well. "Some families like to have a tarp or waterproof sheet if mom plans to give birth on the bed. For waterbirth -- which is what I planned and had for my second baby -- I highly recommend renting or purchasing a birth tub or baby pool well before labor day. Larger birth tubs can take a while to fill and warm. Of course, if mom/dad have a huge jacuzzi in the bathroom they don't need to worry," says Burns.
Are you ready for your home birth? Once you've selected the midwife and purchased the supplies, all that is left to do is set up anything that needs setting up. When it nears your due date, be sure that the space is cleaned and ready to go. If you are planning to birth on your bed, put the waterproof sheet on. You'll want to wait to fill the birth tub though -- who wants to birth in cold, old water? So save that step for when labor begins.
Be sure that you also have all the numbers for your midwife and her assistant at the ready so that there is no searching when labor is in high gear.
Other than that, just wait until the baby is ready to come.
So, is the experience of giving birth on your terms, in your comfort zone, really worthwhile? Moms like Bernadette Noll say absolutely. Noll, who is one of the creators of the Slow Family Movement (slowfamilyliving.com), said that her deliveries became progressively more natural until her last birth which was at home. "The birth at home was amazing. I found myself really trusting that it would all be okay and that the whole thing would unfold on its own terms. The laboring at home without worrying about getting somewhere was so freeing. I was able to be in my yard and in my home without thinking that I should be leaving and heading onto the next. The elimination of that worry just made the whole thing feel that much more peaceful," says Noll.
Mother of seven, Sarah Sorensen, who birthed all of her kids at home, says that birthing at home is a more personal approach to having babies and spares her from the interventions and medical approach to birth. " Having birthed seven babies at home I know that no two labors are alike. I have had births range from 12-52 hours each differing in intensity and level of discomfort. My midwives have supported me through uncomplicated straightforward pregnancies and births as well as more complicated births (frank breech, short cord shoulder dystocia). Pregnancy, labor and birth are unique there is not a one size fits all," says Sorensen.
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