Pregnancy // Preparing for a Home Birth

August 11, 2019

Freya was born at home, and whenever I tell anybody this their instant reaction to ask if it was planned or not - you hear of more babies than you'd expect who are born super fast and unexpectantly at home {or in the car!}. But yes, it was planned - and I feel so, so grateful and lucky that it did all work out in that way, but I purposefully didn't tell many people that we were planning a homebirth - for so many reasons. I've had a tonne of messages of Instagram all about our homebirth, and so before I start writing my birth story, I thought I'd start from the beginning. Just note that I'm a little {probably a lot} sleep deprived right now, so this might not be the most coherent post but I'll just scribble it all down for those who are interested.
And as with all things pregnancy/birth/parenting related, every person's experience is completely different so please don't let this turn into a debate or start criticising others for their choices. It goes without saying that this is just my own personal experience and blog, I'm not an expert nor medically trained, just sharing because people have been interested. 

I'll do this as a Q&A as I think it might be easier to focus on right now...

// Q. Did you plan a homebirth from the beginning?
A. No, in fact a good friend had planned a homebirth for her baby the year before, and I remember hearing about it and thinking 'gosh, that's risky, I wouldn't do that for my first baby' because I didn't know anything about it - that was just my gut instinct from the media/negative stories I guess. So from the start, we'd planned to have Freya in our local hospital and felt happy with that. But then, I got to around 20 weeks I think and we started our hypnobirthing course with a friend of a friend who lived locally, who herself had had two successful homebirths and had shared the same midwife as us. As part of the course, it was a 1:1 course with The Mindful Birth Group, we discussed our options for where we could have our baby {a huge part of hypnobirthing is being informed about making decisions and what options you have} and we discussed the three different places, home, the midwife led unit in hospital or the doctor led unit in hospital, talking about the pros and cons of each. Ben and I had no idea about how a homebirth worked with the NHS, but Em explained how in our area the community midwife team really prioritise homebirths. We talked about how, if I had a straight forward pregnancy, there would be no reason why I couldn't try for one and how actually, it makes so much sense. Birth can only really progress if you feel relaxed and have oxytocin, you need to feel 100% safe. And for some people that might be in hospital, knowing theres a team and medical equipment etc around them. If a homebirth had any chance of 'working' {I'm concious that there are so many reasons why it might not work out whatever your mindset which you can't account for/control}, then I'd have to feel that it would be the 'safest' place for me. Otherwise adrenaline would kick in and slow things down. {your body won't feel like it's a good time to have a baby if you're in fight or flight mode or scared so birth can actually stop {evolution wise, this makes sense} until you feel comfortable.

With a homebirth, I hadn't realised that I'd get two midwifes for the whole thing, whereas in hospital it could be a luck of the draw as to the shift patterns and different people would be in and out. There would be privacy, we'd be in the comfort of our own home so could move around, I could be in my own bed if I wanted, I could go for a walk, and statistically I'd be less likely to have to have intervention as birth is meant to progress better when you're comfortable and relaxed.
And the best part was? I could plan for a homebirth but at anytime I could change my mind, even if I was halfway through labour, at any point I could say 'please take me in now'. I think that's really important as I had no idea how I'd feel during labour, and instinctively for some people they might have suddenly got to the birth and realised they'd rather be in hospital or you might need stronger pain relief so want to transfer in.

I've never been in hospital for anything, and wasn't particularly keen on having to be in one for something which should {but of course, isn't always}, the most natural thing - I'd recommend reading Ina May's childbirth book.

I had a lot of questions about the risks behind it. I'd always thought that hospital would feel safest for me, knowing that if something went wrong, I'd be in the right place for an emergency c-section or for the doctors to rush in and help or stop my bleeding etc. But from talking to Em {who was very non-biased and just told us the facts}, Ben and I realised that even if you are in hospital, it won't be completely instant - you need to wait for an operating room to become free, have a team ready to go. So if you were at home and something went wrong, the hospital would be ready and waiting for you, you'd get blue lighted in by ambulance and so it might not be much different time wise. We also live about 10/15 minutes from our nearest hospital, so this was a factor that made me feel that a homebirth would be 'safe' for us, if we lived a lot further away I might have felt differently.

By the end of our session, Ben and I had both pretty much decided that a homebirth would be the ideal choice for us, should we be so lucky as to continue having a low risk pregnancy. We were buzzing after it, having not realised that it could be an option before and now suddenly really hoping and looking forward to our baby potentially being born in the very room we were sat in. But I was cautious not to set my heart on it too much, because I think around 50, or even 60% of first baby's have to transfer in during a planned homebirth, so I didn't want to stress or feel disheartened if it didn't work out. It would be an ideal scenario but it wasn't our only scenario.

We then spoke with our midwife at our next appointment who made us feel even better about the whole thing, and was really happy and excited we were considering it but said we'd have to wait until 37 weeks to know for sure if we could plan one - depending on how the pregnancy progressed, and also if your baby is born before 37 weeks then you'd have to be in hospital anyway as you'd be classed as pre-term.

Q. Did you have any concerns?
A. Yes, although I was mostly set on planning for a homebirth, there were a couple of niggles in my head that I wanted to get ironed out during pregnancy before I got too worried about them and then negated any benefit of being relaxed at home. This was the great thing about hypnobirthing, not just for a homebirth, but in general ironing out any worries you have about birth and being informed about that so it doesn't hold you back. This will be different for everyone but for some reason mine were -  'what if the cord is around the baby's neck?', 'what if the baby has shoulder dystopia', and 'what if I haemorrhage'. Our teacher then went away and looked up lots of information/statistics on these things and sent me some reading that really reassured me. And both her, and our midwife, told us that the midwives who attend homebirths have to be extra experienced and have experienced all scenarios so they would know what to do. They told me what would happen in each of these events, amd it definitely made me feel more at ease knowing the protocol. Of course, horrific cases can very sadly occur but these can happen in hospital too and have the same outcome.
Em, our teacher, sent us this really useful website over all about the 'what ifs' with a homebirth.

Birth is one of the most natural processes in the world, and some people say that it's too medicalised which can lead to higher intervention, but of course we also need that medical assistance in some cases. And so it made me feel better to know that if a midwife had any concerns, they wouldn't hesitate to whisk us into hospital, and a woman in labour would be top of the ambulance queue. In fact, we had to consent on this before we were signed off to have a homebirth, that we'd follow the advice of the midwives. And of course, we'd never want to put our baby, or myself, in any danger so would wholeheartedly go with their recommendations. I wasn't that set on a homebirth that I'd defy going into hospital had we needed to, that would be crazy.

I just asked Ben for his thoughts on this, and he said that he didn't have any concerns after our hypnobirthing session discussing this and also from Geraldine, our midwife's reaction. I think because Ben was so on board and up for it, it really made me relax and feel like it was the right choice to hopefully go for too.

Q. What made you choose a homebirth?
A. I've talked above about how we came to that decision, but in terms of the benefits for us we felt;
we'd have constant, completely personal one to one care from two midwives who would be with us throughout, and in fact more care than we'd have in hospital yet be left to our own devices hypnobirthing wise and be left alone as much as possible in our own little bubble if we wanted to be. That sounds like a contradiction but it was an important one for us. I wanted to create a special sanctuary where I felt comfortable, and that wouldn't have been the same in hospital.
The option of a waterbirth, I really wanted if I could - to give birth in the water, partly for the natural pain relief but partly for the fact it keeps the baby really calm as they almost don't know they've been born until they get lifted out of the water, also it can reduce the risk of tearing. Our local hospital did have pools to use on the birthing unit but I was worried that they'd be in use, there are only two.
More freedom, to move around, to sleep more comfortably. And just avoiding the hospital in general, having less risk of infection and being able to go to bed/wake up the next morning in our own bed with our own food and all on our terms kind of thing.

Q. Why didn't you tell many people you wanted one?
A. Because I knew what my inner thoughts had been when I heard about my friend's planned homebirth, and although I would never have said anything most people wouldn't have been so reserved. We didn't want any negativity or opinions on it. Especially given that it might not even work out or happen. We told close friends and family, partly because I was kind of bursting with excitement at the prospect of it being an option, but to anybody else who asked 'where are you having her', I'd just lie and say 'the local hospital' to protect myself from anybody else's views that didn't matter or that may be ill informed. Everybody has an opinion, or story to tell, about pregnancy/birth/raising children, but at the only ones that should be relevant are your own. There are enough horror stories shared about birth without asking, and I didn't want to hear any of these when I was pregnant. In fact, since she's been born and we've told people that she was born at home, almost everybody says 'gosh, you're brave' which I just smile at and say 'yep' as there's no point in trying to convince somebody otherwise.

Q. Did you pack your hospital bag?
A. Yes, I was very set on the fact that I wanted everything completely ready to go into hospital. I packed as if I'd have to stay in hospital for five days toiletry/clothes wise. Because we didn't know what would happen and I wanted to feel prepared.

Q. What did you need to prepare for a homebirth?
A. The midwife brought around a document beforehand which outlined everything we'd need to buy/have ready.

In the end, our kit lit looked like this;
  • Birth Pool {we were going to hire one from Birth Pool in a Box but as we were about to pay, I had a quick search on gumtree and facebook marketplace on the off chance we could find one cheaper. As luck would had it, a lady nearby had listed one the day before - brand new - for £50 including a pump, she'd wanted to use it but all three of her babies had gone too far overdue so she'd been induced everytime. We went over the next evening to pick it up.}
  • A large handheld mirror, for the midwives to use in the pool to keep an eye on things/see the baby
  • A torch, to keep things calm - we cut the cord by torchlight.
  • A thermometer {we bought this one which was perfect and we now use for Freya's bath {after sterilising it obvs}}
  • A couple of plug in heaters - because it was summer and we wouldn't have the heating on in the house, we had to make sure the room would be warm for when Freya was born - it's really important to keep babies warm especially after a water birth. So we just had a couple of plug in blow heaters set up {or make sure your room is heated to around 25c}.
  • A tap connector to fill your pool from a tap, we used our utility sink tap, bought from Screwfix.
  • New hose to fill the pool {it has to be new to make sure it's clean} - ours came with the pool
  • Pump to inflate the pool and a water pump to get rid of the water afterwards
  • Birth pool liner - in the end we didn't use one as we had brought our own pool 
  • Towels {around 8 I'd say, you need a couple for you if you get in/out the pool, a couple for the baby to be rubbed down and wrapped in and a couple spare}
  • Incontinence bed sheets to lay on
  • Dressing gown on hand {once you're out the pool}
  • A bikini top {optional, but I didn't want my boobs on show for any photos}
  • Plastic sheeting {we went to screwfix to buy these} to cover any furniture/floors/carpets
  • A stair carpet protector {we didn't use this in the end but I didn't know if I'd have wanted to go upstairs during labour}
  • Adult nappies. the best! These saved me after my waters went the night before.
  • Your hospital bag, just in case! And everything/anything else you'd need in labour and for afterwards. I've written about packing my hospital bag here, you don't really know exactly what you want until you go through labour but for me coconut water was really helpful. I didn't even eat many snacks in the end but they were so useful for the early days of breastfeeding.
  • Clothes ready in case you do have to transfer in in a hurry. Including a little tool kit of things you might want to keep calm, oils on a flannel, an eye mask, headphones perhaps?
  • Anything else you want/think will help during labour, candles, a speaker for a playlist, diffuser for oils.
  • A good light, in case you need to be stitched up afterwards, we used a tall lamp already in our lounge
Our midwife also came round with a bag of things to leave at ours before the homebirth too which I think had things like absorbent/waterproof sheets in and on the day they'll bring everything they need to deliver the baby plus gas & air if you want it. 

It's kind of weird as you prepare for a homebirth but don't know if you'll 100% get to have one. So we purposefully didn't buy the pool until I got to 37 weeks, and even then felt a bit superstitious about inflating it. Technically you could go into labour anytime from 37 weeks so you want to feel ready but not have it all tooo soon just in case you don't need it? 

Q. How much space did you need?
A. I really wanted to give birth in the water so we bought a pool {basically a giant ribbed paddling pool with a seat in}, and needed enough room for this and for the midwives to be able to walk around it. We also needed to clear an area for a resuscitation table {a scary thought} the midwife on her home visit checked where would be good for that - we used the console table in our lounge. Ideally if there's somewhere that the midwives can sit and write their notes its good too, ours set up in the kitchen during labour and then moved everything into the lounge when I was doing skin to skin/feeding after etc. And leave our your kettle/snacks, although our lovely midwives didn't even ask for anything or make themselves a drink during the whole thing?! We chose our lounge as it was a room i've always loved and felt special to me, had easily cleanable floors, sofas to lay on after, enough space and easy access with a tap through a window into our utility and an outdoor door. With the blinds down and candles lit, it felt like the perfect space but you could choose anywhere.

Q. Was it messy?
A. Not as messy as you'd think! This is often the first thing that people ask - especially when they see our cream sofas, ha. But no, we used the plastic sheeting over the sofas, I wore an adult nappy for all of labour apart from when I got into the pool and our floors in the lounge are wooden so we weren't precious about those. So really, as long as you cover your sofas and have some old towels and plastic sheets, you'll be fine. I guess the fact that she was born in the pool helped too, and er, I won't talk about that clean up operation the next day {Ben and my Mum were such stars at emptying it and mopping the floor after}. Ben joked that it was like a clean up scene from Dexter. Luckily we had a door right next to where we kept the pool so it was easy access to get the water out. Amazingly all the towels washed up like new, i think the water helped massively.

Q.Was this allowed by the NHS?
A. Yes. I think there's some document floating about somewhere about how it is your right to have a homebirth, but obviously I don't think it's recommended unless your midwife is recommending it. We were lucky in our area that there is a specific homebirth/community team who are very encouraging of homebirths. We told our midwife we were considering it at one of our appointments, and she then said she'd book us in for a home visit at 36 weeks should everything still be low risk. At 36 weeks Geraldine came to our house to talk us through everything, check the access to our house {should we need an ambulance/stretcher}, check where a pool could be set up if we wanted one, check we didn't have animals {pets can often get hyper sensitive during birth} and get us to sign a document saying that we understood everything about the reasons why we might need to transfer into hospital. I'm not sure if other hospital trusts work in the same way? But it would be worth looking into what the homebirth policy is for your local area/hospital if you were considering it.

Q. Did we get lucky?
A. This is something that I've thought so much about {and have talked to midwives about} since she was born after everyone keeps saying it to us/or saying that classic 'you were brave'. To a large extent, yes there are things that could have been way beyond my, or anyones control, which would have meant that no amount of preparation could have meant we could have had a successful homebirth. Complications during pregnancy, if the baby had been breech or things in labour like a really big baby getting stuck - you get the picture. So yes, it was so lucky that these things didn't happen, but also I feel like we did do SO much preparation for birth. Hypnobirthing was the greatest thing we did - which I might talk about in another blog post? and I'm not sure if my labour would have been the same without it and the toolkit of things that I learnt, I was also determined {and my midwife even said this after, she knew from the start that I would be likely to have our baby at home}, and I also kept myself really fit throughout pregnancy which I think helped with the physical side of things and endurance? So yes, partly luck, but you also make part of your own luck.
this can be a really controversial topic as I know lots of people did hypnobirthing/prepared in everty way they could and not had the labour they wanted. I'm not saying that these people didn't prepare, at all. I hope you know what I mean and that I really don't want to upset anyone, I just want to share my positive experience and say that preparation - whatever happens - is such a great thing to do and can't harm.

Q. Would you do it again next time?
A. Should we be lucky enough to have a straightforward, low risk pregnancy again next time then I'd LOVE to.

Will try and get my birth story finished and published soon!

R <3 xx

You Might Also Like


@rvk_loves on Instagram