My mother-in-law had given birth naturally at home to her four sons, and my own mother had a C-section with her first child (me!) and then a VBAC with her second. One of my best friends, a mother of 8, had had epidurals, inductions, natural births at home and in the hospital. So I had access to a variety of experiences right within my own family, and I wanted to keep my options open - not committing myself to any specific course of action.
Most of the people I knew who had given birth recently had done so under the care of midwives, and I had heard nothing but good things about them. We went to meet with our local midwife group, and we really liked certain principles of midwifery like continuity of care, informed decision-making, and having them come to our house for the baby's check-ups in the first week. With our midwife group you could choose to have your baby at home or in the local hospital, and had access to all the same interventions at the hospital as you would under the care of an OBGYN.
Reading and ListeningAt some point in my early pregnancy I was perusing a used-book store and came upon a book called "Adventures in Natural Childbirth". Sounded interesting - and though I wasn't planning to read it anytime soon, I thought I'd buy it anyway. It sat on my bookshelf unread for the next few months.
During our third trimester, we began taking pre-natal classes from a local, private organization with an emphasis on making informed choices throughout childbirth, and which presented options for both natural birth and medicated birth. We decided to take this course as opposed to the public health classes, as we were told that they were more about just letting you know what would happen when you came to birth at the hospital, less about giving you information and letting you make the choices. This course was extremely beneficial to us in giving us confidence regarding the birthing process, and an understanding of why and how one would desire to have a natural childbirth.
At some point I did start reading "Adventures in Natural Childbirth", albeit with a sort of squinty, apprehensive look - worried I was going to stumble across a story that made me fear the whole thing altogether. That didn't happen. Instead I saw for the first time the amazing breadth of variety there is within natural birth stories. The book was divided into three sections - with a doctor, with a midwife, and unassisted births. Throughout I saw that birthing a baby naturally wasn't something that only hippie-like people did, or only women with some amazing pain threshold. This was just regular women, birthing naturally for thousands of different reasons, in different places, with different mentalities, and under different circumstances - but they all did it.
But Could I Do It?I consider myself to have a very low pain-tolerance. Once after getting a black eye from a baseball I tried to catch, my best friend told me I looked tough, in an effort to comfort me. Through my tears I whined back "I don't want to be tough - I wan't to be feminine and fragile!". Was I up to the task of birthing a baby without anything to numb the pain?
Eventually the questions of where we planned to have this baby came up. I knew that if I chose to birth at home, I ruled out any pain medication - and that was a huge barrier for me. We went to a home birth information night, and I felt we could safely deliver our baby at home - I just didn't know if I was ready to let go of the pain-medication safety net!
I don't know exactly what happened that made me decide to go for it, but at some point I did decide I would plan to have a natural birth at home. All of the above factored in, but the birth stories I read made a huge impact on me in terms of believing I could do it. I came to believe that it would be the best thing for our baby as well. Andrew was on board with a home birth from the beginning, but never pushed me and wanted me to feel comfortable with the decision we made. I was so thankful to have a husband who supported me in this, and believed in me also!
Getting Ready for the Big Day!My best friend's mom (mother to 10) recommended the book Husband-Coached Childbirth - on the Bradley Method. We found this very useful in actually preparing for the natural birth we now hoped to have. He focuses on relaxation techniques and trusting the woman's own instincts to mark the various stages of labour, along with much support from the husband (as the title suggests).
I made myself a bunch of inspirational bible verse cards, in nice big lettering so I wouldn't have to squint to read them! I would look through them coming up to the birth, and wanted them in my heart, as well as there on paper as a reminder that God would strengthen me for the task ahead, and that He was in control of every situation.
Our midwifery group gave us a list of supplies we'd need for our homebirth, and we also purchased an inflatable fishy-pool online to have the option of labouring or birthing in the water. We lived in a small apartment with a small bathroom and tub, and preferred the idea of having a larger water space in the living room. This does make preparations a bit more complicated than if you have a nice big tub, as you need a plan for filling it and keeping the water at a good temperature.
On our due date, we had our pool all inflated and were ready for our baby to make his arrival. However, in birth (as in life) things don't always go according to our plans...
Later this week we'll share with you what DID happen - in the birth story of our first child.
A summary of the resources which helped us plan for a natural, home birth:
- Midwives who were supportive of our desires and willing to take lots of time to answer all our questions.
- A private (that is non-governmental) pre-natal class with a focus on preparing for a natural birth and enabling you to make informed choices about your birth
- Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, M.D. - this book was recommended by a mom-friend of mine who has birthed ten babies and she said she used it for every one! It was a HUGE help
- Reading positive accounts of natural births. I bought the book Adventures in Natural Childbirth, Edited by Janet Schwegel at a used book store, and though I couldn't bring myself to read it until the second trimester, once I did, it was really helpful to see all the different ways women had natural births, and encouraging to read that they did it! There are many books like this, and even online you can find many wonderful stories.