Monday, January 31, 2011

Preparing for a Homebirth (Part 1 of 2)

One of the many beautiful things about homebirth is the ability to prepare for it yourself. However, this can seem a little overwhelming at first, too, especially if you’re used to the hospital scene. Being assigned birth classes, told what to do, and only having to gather baby stuff and a suitcase of clothes for you for the birth certainly is simple. But preparing for your own birth, instead of letting someone else do it for you, is very rewarding, and much more personal. From choosing how you’ll labor to where you’ll deliver to gathering all the supplies necessary for the birth, you’ll get to perform a labor of love as you wait for and anticipate the birth of your little one. It was so much fun to prepare mentally and physically for my birth, and made it seem like it really was coming up!

If you don’t anticipate doing a homebirth, many of these items are still things you can prepare for yourself- many women just don’t, assuming the medical community has things under control. However, it would be very wise to do your own research; learning about different methods of birth, your options for birthing positions, how to best prepare your body, etc. And, of course, nesting down applies to every woman in her 3rd trimester!


The first thing that comes to mind, when I think about preparing for birth, is learning and self education. In our society where we rely on the medical community for everything, so few women take the time to educate themselves. And why shouldn’t we? Childbirth is one of the biggest events we females will ever experience- what in the world makes us think we shouldn’t learn as much as we can about it?

My favorite book on the topic is The Joy of Natural Childbirth by Helen Wessel. It’s available from, or sometimes used on Amazon. You might be able to get a copy from your library or through inner library loan, as well. Personally, I don’t think any woman should head into childbirth without reading this book! She presents a beautiful picture, and spends a lot of time educating moms thoroughly on different labor helps, positions, options, etc., as well as how labor and birth actually works, and why it isn’t meant to be “painful”- though most births are still hard work. Another aspect I really like about The Joy of Natural Childbirth is that she comes from a strongly Christian perspective. I don’t mind wading through a lot of new age stuff to get at good information, but it’s not very often you see a Christian biblically promoting beautiful childbirth, which is a really neat thing.

There are many other books available as well- ask around, do internet searches, and ultimately, soak up as much information as you have time to do. I liked the balanced perspective of The Birth Book (by the Sears’) as well. Research natural birth, water birth, home birth, hospital birth, effects of various meds and standard procedures. Birth stories abound online- read them. (You can read Viviana’s birth store here, and my thoughts on childbirth here.) Most (though certainly not all) of the women who take the time to detail their birth story in writing have also taken the time to educate themselves, and therefore will have an educated perspective to share, offering a wealth of info throughout their story. If you know other natural mamas, ask them to share their experiences with you. Mom’s who’ve been there have the best teaching aid possible- experience!

Although I’d encourage you to talk to a wide range of moms, make note that many have only been educated by our mainstream medical world- they’ve been taught that labor and birth is bad; that it’s just a torturous experience to be endured and gotten over with. It’s rather discouraging to see the number of “experienced” moms scaring new moms to death over the prospect of what they have coming at them. These moms really have endured terrible births, due largely to being misinformed, or trusting a doctor who doesn’t know the first thing about a natural birth. I don’t blame them for their experiences- but it’s frustrating that they have to be certain that their route (of pain and misery) is the only one, and jam it down your throat that all your “high” ambitions will go down the toilet once you actually experience it. I can’t even begin to tell you how many moms gave me sympathetic looks, “a-hmms” and “you’ll sees” during my pregnancy, especially when hearing about my views- from moms of one to moms of ten. Moms sharing the difficulties and being honest is a good thing, too- rose-colored glasses aren’t going to get you through labor. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone that by the end of my 30 hour labor, I was exhausted- so much so that relaxing felt like a huge amount of work, and I started falling asleep at the beginning of every back-to-back contraction. But I wouldn’t stop there- my point isn’t to scare you, it’s to tell you that it is hard. It’s called work- but oh, it’s so rewarding. I can remember the birth crystal-clear, and it was so beautiful- especially the moment when her body slipped through and I caught her up in my arms. I can’t wait to experience it again!

So, try and find moms with a positive perspective, as well. Ask them what helped them, what makes their view point different from others, etc. Ask about the struggles and what helped the discomfort. While it’s positive to get a wide range of opinions, don’t be afraid to filter out all the scare-lectures. Fear is your worst enemy in childbirth; going into a birth afraid will guarantee a birth just like the one of the lecturer.

By the way- if you’re one of those who has experienced many horrible births, you have my sympathy. Anyone who doesn’t get to experience the joy of birth does. But please don’t assume that because you were uneducated or misguided, everyone else must follow in your shoes. There is a wealth of information readily available to anyone who wants to take her birth experience into her own hands, thus enabling her to enjoy a beautiful birth.


Another factor in the homebirth realm is deciding where to labor and deliver. There are lots of options; make sure you choose the one that fits you best! Some women like to labor in water (either a tub, birthing pool, or kiddie pool), and then deliver on land, some enjoy doing it all on land, or all in water, or any combination in between. Read about the variety of position options as well. There are many tools or simple positions which may help you feel more comfortable during labor and delivery. Positions which are more upright may help you feel more comfortable, and will definitely use gravity to your advantage. Most doctors encourage or insist that you lay flat on your back, which seems totally ridiculous to me. Why not enlist a little help from gravity? Not to mention the fact that it’s usually very uncomfortable and makes it difficult to deal with contractions well. The reason most medical professionals prefer this route is that it makes it easy for them. There’s no discomfort on their end as everything’s right there for them. Find a doctor/midwife who’s willing to work with you and what you want- and even suggest positions that might help you, even at their inconvenience. Consider exercise balls, stools, etc., as possible tools.

During the pushing phase for Viviana, my midwife encouraged me to change positions occasionally, and gave a variety of different positions. I had 2 ½ hours, so I think I tried pretty much all of them. This was always really helpful, as was her coaching- I don’t think I would’ve had the initiative at that point to try something different without her suggesting it. I even ended up trying some different positions that I was pretty certain I wouldn’t like at all, and found them to be comfortable. When it got down to actual delivery and the final pushes, I got to deliver her in the position I had hoped to- squatting- so I was able to scoop her up out of the water right away.


Another aspect to self-education is preparing your body. Consult your midwife on what she recommends. There are some different herbal mixtures that are supposed to help prepare your body. Evening primrose oil (taken internally, as well as piercing a capsule and applying to the cervix) is helpful in getting the cervix softened and ready. I spent several weeks stretching daily, preparing the vagina for the work ahead. Kegels are also recommended, to strengthen those muscles and prepare them for the hard work ahead. (Kegels are also helpful in re-strengthening your muscles after the birth.) I did some practice squatting, since I hoped to use that position some during labor and birth. Some people recommend practicing relaxing, so that by the time of the birth, it comes very naturally to be able to relax and lay limp, letting your body to the work through labor contractions. And, of course, lots of walking is always great for your body and preparing for the task ahead! There’s lots of options, so be sure to talk to your midwife and other moms who have experience in the area, to find out what helped them the most.

In the realm of taking care of your body, preparing ahead for your healing is also extremely important. I have an article detailing what I did, personally, here. Again, ask other moms- lots of opinions are always a positive thing.

*Stay tuned for my complete list of everything (I) needed for a homebirth, as well as a section on nesting!*


  1. I appreciate much of what you have shared here. As a very well educated woman who firmly believes in natural birth as God created it, and wanted nothing more for myself to have the wonderful experience of home birth, but both times had it not end up that way inspite of knowledeable and experienced MW's . . . It would possibly present a more balanced view if you would acknowledge that a person *can sometimes* be surrounded by love and support and knowledge AT HOME and still end up with a less than wonderful birth experience. I have been present at wonderful home births, including my own sister's--but sadly that was not the case for me.

  2. You have such wonderful advice for mothers to be. I've thought about printing some of your posts off for my friend Megan who is expecting their 1st child in just a few weeks.

  3. Hope Anne- yes, good points! And in conversation, I typically always acknowledge that. Perhaps I was a little to reactive in the article- because I've heard way too many horror stories or complaints all having to do with perfectly normal births. I also have multiple friends who've ended up with emergency c-sections and various other transports. Some have a rather bitter attitude, but many are very thankful for the medical intervention that was available when needed, and still consider birth to be a beautiful gift, rather than a curse. Anyway....all that to say, I appreciate the viewpoint you're able to shed on the topic, and will probably be adding an "edited to add" section to part two. :-)

    Samantha- thanks! I'm always really encouraged by your comments....I'm glad you pick up useful tidbits! :-)

  4. Thank you, Brianna. For someone who feels the sting deeply (even years later) it's hard to have it implied that if we'd just been smarter, wanted a good birth harder, or any other various things that we'd have ended up with a great birth, when we know in our heart of hearts it's not true. My MW's (two different ones) have both said they rarely ever had a woman who handled labor as beautifully as I did, with as much determination and calmness. BOTH times I ended up with a C/S after several days of labor at home. Both times it was for mal-positioned babies who didn't move NO MATTER WHAT I or the MW's did. Even with phone calls to other MW's for advice etc. etc. The last C/S was a big emergency with a bad heart-rate, and low Apgars and had we waited any longer to transport, I don't like to think what the out-come might have been. I suffered a lot of damage to my body during the C/S, and have been advised to not ever get pregnant again--advice that is sound, we believe. But it was a sad way for my child-bearing to end. I'm thankful for adoption. ;-)

  5. Hope Anne- I'm sorry I came across that way! Because I totally disagree with that perspective (try harder, be smarter, want it more...)- I've read some materials from that perspective, and it just seems a little too off the wall for me! Like that you should just tell your baby to move into the right position, and if you believe hard enough they will, because they're your child and supposed to obey you. Uh, yeah, faith doesn't extend that far. :-D I thought God was a loving Father who knows what's best, not a fairy godmother!
    Your second birth sounds really scary- I'm sure you feel blessed to have midwives who knew when enough was enough and you needed medical help. I'm sorry your birth wasn't all that you hoped it would've been...I can imagine that would be hard to deal with in spite of gratefulness for the medical community and your two babies.
    I was gathering a little about your adoption process from your blog- I'll keep your family in my prayers. It's great that you're able to take circumstances that I'm sure are really difficult to wade through, and use them to bless the life of another child. I'm sure Katya will be eternally blessed!
    How old are your two children?
    May your family be blessed!

  6. I wish the medical community was more supportive of the homebirth option. I've had two wonderful hospital/birthcenter experiences with midwives, but I'm also interested in homebirth as a possible in the future. Unfortunately we don't have any licensed CNMs in our state right now (the last practice just closed), so our insurance won't cover a homebirth, and paying an extra $3000 to birth at home, when I have several good "secondary" option nearby just doesn't seem like a good option at this time. Maybe sometime in the future :-).

  7. Such an amazing article and I truly appreciate your honesty. I felt so overwhelmed being that my first child will be here in 9 weeks. I was tired of the medical community treating pregnancy like a sickness and found a wonderful midwife who I love. Thank you for such an encouraging article.

  8. Such an amazing article and I truly appreciate your honesty. I felt so overwhelmed being that my first child will be here in 9 weeks. I was tired of the medical community treating pregnancy like a sickness and found a wonderful midwife who I love. Thank you for such an encouraging article.