EDITED TO ADD: A reader kindly pointed out to me that I may have come across the wrong way, so I wanted to clarify some things. Despite the best preparation, a great midwife, etc., etc. things still can go wrong. We live in a fallen world, and no matter how much preparation you do, emergencies still happen. Just as you might go through a miscarriage in spite of perfect pregnancy nutrition. Or your marriage might fall apart even though you knew you were following God’s leading. Or any number of bad things that shouldn’t happen- but do. And when something goes wrong, I’m extremely grateful I have hospitals I can go to. There isn’t any amount of know-how that can prevent unforeseen things from happening.
If your birth happened to not go as planned, it doesn’t bother me for you to share your story. In fact, I’d like to hear the miracle of your birth, and how medical intervention potentially saved the life of your baby. I “know” (via the world wide web :-)) a woman who planned a homebirth, but had cord prolapse (the cord started coming out first). Thanks to her know-how, and a wonderful medical team who worked fast once they got to the hospital, she’s enjoying her 7 month old boy today. And she is so, so grateful! She often shares his birth story- what a miracle it was, how grateful she was that there were medical professionals to save his life when it was needed. She has zero regrets about his birth, because Apollo is alive, healthy, and thriving.
That said, what I don’t appreciate is those who have perfectly normal births (which could be “pain free” if they were taught and helped to understand the miracle of birth), with no complications, who view birth so negatively, and make it their life’s mission to make sure every other woman sees things the same way. I’ve encountered women with emergency situations who didn’t have the births they wanted, but they understand birth as a miracle, even if theirs wasn’t what they wanted. What I’ve also encountered is women who cry and moan and gripe about how miserable their labor/delivery was….perfectly normal, some even relatively short labors, and only a few pushes or a ½ hour’s worth. Women who target younger women and make sure they realize that birth is a curse. This is what I don’t like, because we’re just creating a vicious cycle, and passing down fear (and consequently, pain) to the next generation.
So- if you’ve experienced complications, you should definitely be able to talk about it with people. Share that births don’t always go as planned. But when someone experiences a normal birth made painful by lack of education, and does their best to indoctrinate everyone they can get their hands on, and resent or “poo-poo” you if you have other ambitions or a good birth, I don’t appreciate it.
Anyway….on to part two… :-) And I hoped that clarified without riling more feathers!
Next on the list is gathering supplies for your birth. It’s a lot of fun, but it can also seem a bit overwhelming. I personally really enjoyed doing my order from www.inhishands.com, but there’s lots of websites out there. Also, many of the supplies can be purchased from Walmart or another like store. For an easy start-out reference, I’ll list what all I purchased (and stored together so it was all right there) and why, but make sure to check with your midwife. Some require you to get more things than others- for example, mine always has a bulb syringe and sterile gloves with her, but yours might depend on you to have those things. She should have a complete list for you of what you’re required to provide.
1) Bed pads- I got about 30, which gave me tons of extra (especially since I did a water birth). If you did a land birth, you’d have these spread out to deliver on, they’re also useful afterwards to prevent leaking everywhere during your heavier bleeding phase. My midwife also put her instruments on one. I also “wore” it instead of underwear the first several hours (with an additional pad inside), as it seemed like I was bleeding to much to even begin to try to keep underwear clean.
2) 4x4 guaze pads- I purchased about 25 (again, plenty left over!), and used these primarily for cord care after the birth, but it served a few random purposes during the birth, as well.
3) Several (4-8, depending on where you’re delivering) flannel-backed table cloths. You can usually get seasonal ones really cheap after the holiday (summer ones in August, fall ones after Thanksgiving, etc.). In the case of a water birth, they were helpful to have under the pool, and a trail to the bathroom so I didn’t get the floor wet or have to worry about getting perfectly dry to use the bathroom. In the case of a land birth, they’re good under a sheet for making clean up easier and preventing any damaging leaks. Even though I delivered in the pool, I also put one under our sheets on the bed for the first few days, to prevent against any major blood or milk leaks (I had a major-huge milk supply!).
4) 10-12 old towels- These might serve a variety of purposes during a land or water birth. They were helpful to have on hand, and we ended up using most or all of them.
5) 10-12 wash clothes- I didn’t end up using any, but these would be useful if you wanted a hot or cold compress. Or, if you’re doing a land birth, a washcloth soaked in an herbal tea (see below) would be helpful for supporting the perineum.
6) Several old receiving blankets. These are a little optional if you already have towels, since baby can be wrapped in those, but it was handy to have them available.
7) Specific to a water birth, a fish net (for catching light debris in the water), hose, hose sink adapter, and kiddie pool or large bathtub (in which case you don’t need the hose/adapter) are all necessary.
8) Paper towels- for any random use that might come up; they were nice to have right there in the box.
9) Ice cream buckets or other buckets/bowls for placenta, stomach that doesn’t work with you, etc.
10) Large garbage bags- at least two, one for storing dirty/wet laundry in, and one for garbage.
11) A pot for sterilizing the midwife’s equipment, and possibly a tray/cookie sheet for laying them on.
12) Labor/delivery clothes. For me (besides some old, comfy clothes for when I was out of the water), it was finding a swim top, since I wanted some type of coverage, and didn’t want to deal with a baggy shirt that would float up, get in the way, be clingy, and an overall pain. Of course, there’s the nude route, too, if you prefer that deal… J
13) Step stool, exercise ball, birthing stool, or anything else you might want to labor or deliver on.
14) Baby hat for right after the birth. This is when the list gets fun, right? Just thinking about putting the hat on freshly-immerged baby makes me smile!
15) Camera, paper, and pen. The camera either for capturing the birth or right afterwards, or both. The paper and pen was to have handy for recording stats. We also kept a fairly detailed account throughout the labor of different things we’d want to remember for help in writing the birth story. It was really nice to be able to write down the times at which things happened, or the small details we might forget, because I love birth stories, and recording my daughter’s was really important to me.
16) Olive oil in a squirt bottle. One of my mom’s midwives told her this trick, and it’s worked wonders for all her babies since, as well as babies of other mamas we know and have shared with. Just squirt it on their cute bum when you change them, and it’ll help the meconium slide off.
17) Clothes for baby, for after the birth. This, of course, depends on the time of year, but would probably include at least a diaper, hat (in case the other gets dirty or wet), a receiving blanket, and a onesie- a sleeper and so forth during cooler months. Also hydrogen peroxide and gauze for cord care.
18) Clothes for mama- whatever you’re most comfortable in.
19) A peri bottle. It’s available extremely cheaply from birthing supply companies; or someone recently told me you could also just use any old squirt bottle, such as a cleaned out mustard container. This is useful (necessary?) for cleaning up after using the bathroom the first several days (or, in my case, few weeks), when you’re especially tender. Besides just warm water, I also started putting a healing tea (see below) in it some of the time to, and spraying off with that. It was very soothing and healing.
20) Pads of all shapes and sizes! I started with poise pads and worked my way down from there, eventually to regular sizes, as the blood flow decreased. I also got some OB pads from the birthing supply company (though any pads would work) to soak in the healing herbs and freeze, which were wonderful. The ice was so soothing! The first several hours after Vivi’s birth, I wore one of those (changing frequently) in a bed pad folded around me, which worked really well. For the first weeks, ice, mostly in the form of these, was my life saver. It was nice and numbing! Next time, I plan to have a variety of homemade cloth pads on hand, to use after the initial few days.
21) Healing herbal mixture (sometimes called a sitz bath herbal mixture). Particularly, I got this one. I think these herbs helped my healing so extensively. Besides the peri bottle and frozen pads, I also used it to do a bath a couple times (just filled the water level enough to cover my vagina). I waited almost two weeks till I tried the bath, and wished afterward I’d done it much sooner- it made such a significant difference that I felt way less sore coming out of the tub than going in. You could also purchase a sitz bath from a birthing supply company or local drug store fairly inexpensively, and forgo the need to fill the whole tub. More information on how exactly I used this herb can be found here.
22) A salve that my midwife makes, as well as Miracle Salve from Beeyoutiful. I put one of these on every time I went to the bathroom, unless I was spraying off with the healing herbs. I also occasionally used tucks (from local drug store) to soothe the burning. These salves have such great healing properties! On a side note, they’re also my diaper rash ointments, as opposed to traditionals, like desitin. No harmful chemicals, and lots of soothing, healing herbs.
I guess that makes for quite a list! Don’t get overwhelmed by the details; much of it you’ll find in your home! I just like to have a thorough list to check off so I know for sure I have everything.
Moving right along, the last item that came to mind was nesting and preparing for the rest time after the birth. I think it’s so cool how God designed us pregnant women- that in spite of the awkwardness of a large belly in the third trimester, there’s something in us that absolutely must get everything done. There’s a need to dust baseboards and clean out old, forgotten storage areas. There’s a need to vacuum furniture, clean light fixtures, wash windows….you name it, we’ve probably thought of it. Then, of course, there’s simply staying caught up on the more weekly or daily stuff- laundry, cleaning bathrooms, keeping kitchen clean, wiping surfaces, mopping, vacuuming, etc. I think this has two-fold benefits, which is why it’s really neat that God naturally drives us to do it. One is that these things will all be done before the munchkin arrives, and therefore you can let the deep cleaning slide for a good while, as you enjoy your precious new life- you’ll also initially be caught up on the daily/weekly stuff. The other is that you’re welcoming baby into a clean place, free from dust (which nobody wants in their new baby’s lungs), and various other dirt particles. This seems all the more important to me if you plan to deliver at home, although it should be noted that many studies have shown that homebirths are far cleaner and more “sterile” than hospital births, so this isn’t a factor to worry about.
I loved the feeling of a clean home to welcome our daughter into, with all the little nooks and crannies attended to, and the regular work caught up on. It made it easier to relax and let things slide, it made our home feel like a good place to welcome our little one into….all around, it was just good. How awesome that when we might not have the personal motivation due to size and energy level to conquer this ourselves, God made a way- natural instinct!
Another form of this, for me, was cleaning out my freezers and stocking up on meals. Whether you have a fast delivery and heal quickly, and are therefore ready to roll on day one, or have a longer recovery period, you’ll be grateful for the meals on hand. The idea of having lots of time just to enjoy your new baby (and any other littles you have, as well), is beautiful. I think the time after the birth should be a time of much relaxing and just enjoying life together as a new family, before reality needs to hit. There have been seasons during which my mom received meals when I was still at home, and technically capable of getting them done- but each meal was so appreciated, because it left us with an unscheduled day in which we just spent lots of time together. The littles got extra of Mom and I, and we all fought over holding the baby for extended periods of time. Bliss…. After Viviana, it was a while before I was bouncing around anyway, so the meals from other people, and in my freezer, were a huge blessing. But even if I had had a short delivery, it was so much fun to just drink in our daughter’s beauty, that I know I wouldn’t have wanted to trade it in for productivity.
One friend of mine does 30 full days of meals- breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. That’s rather ambitious, and would certainly be a huge blessing afterwards! But whether you do 30 full days, 30 dinners, or just a week’s worth, you’ll be blessed by the effort put in ahead of time. Something else that was helpful (since you only have so much freezer space) is just having partially-done meals. Like having meatballs made/cooked for sandwiches or spaghetti. Having ground beef cooked and spiced. Having chicken cut the way I wanted it, in different marinades, or just cooked, chopped, and ready for casseroles. That’s actually something I always like to have done, to make life a little easier, especially when something throws a wrench in plans. You won’t regret that one, either….especially when it’s 4:30, everyone’s hungry, and it’s just been “one of those days”. If you had nothing, you might be tempted to fall for ordering pizza- again, for the third night in the past couple weeks. But if your freezer’s full of starters, you’re sure to find something that would take less time than picking up pizza would. (Not that ordering pizza as a last-minute resort is a bad thing, because family is first, and sometimes there are just those days….it just doesn’t work on a constantly regular basis. J)
Childbirth is a beautiful thing, and I hope you’re blessed as you prepare for your birth! God designed it to be a beautiful process- and He’s given us all the tools we need for it to be so. May your journey be full of the best!