If you've already decided on a homebirth for your baby then the chances are that you've done quite a lot of research into giving birth and what it may entail. Educating yourself about what you can expect during labour is an important first step towards preparing yourself for your home delivery, but the preparation doesn't stop there. Here are some suggestions for ways in which you can set a calm, positive and happy scene for when the big day - or night - finally arrives.
1. Find an experienced midwife - You'll want to like and trust your midwife of course, but getting along well is no substitute for experience. Look for a midwife with plenty of homebirths under her belt, with experience of handling difficult situations and who is very supportive of your home birth choice. Don't be afraid to ask the midwife about her experience, especially if you have a particular concern. If your health authority doesn't give you a chance to actively choose and get to know a midwife then you might want to consider paying someone privately, or employing a doula with whom you can develop a relationship of trust.
2. Have supplies ready well in advance - You won't want your other half, or yourself, to be dashing around the place looking for necessary items when you're in the throes of childbirth, so making sure you have everything ready, waiting and easy to get at is important. You might also want to write a list of what's needed and where it is in case you're in no mood or position to field questions about where the towels are.
Waterproofings You might plan to give birth in your bed or a birthing pool, but when it comes to it you really can't be sure exactly where you'll give birth in the house - you may find yourself on all fours on the floor. If you get ready a few waterproof sheets, tarpaulins or several old sheets as well as a stack of old towels, then you can give yourself plenty of flexibility without having to worry about spoiling carpets and the like. If you're using a birthing pool then you'll also need a waterproof layer underneath and around the pool as some spillage is inevitable.
Cloths to soak up fluids Old towels or terry nappies are useful to soak up the mess when your waters break
Towels Both you and your baby will need a good supply of soft, clean towels after the birth. Think ahead of time about your partner is going to warm towels and blankets to wrap up your newborn - such as throwing them in the drier during the pushing stage, warming them on a radiator or keeping them ready in the airing cupboard if you have one.
A bowl or bucket for the placenta Well, you don't want anyone slipping on it, do you!
Props Ice chips, high energy snacks (fon't forget your birthing partner and midwife will need to eat too!), pillows, birthing ball, herbal teas
Heavy-duty pads For post-partum bleeding
New baby essentials Vests, babygros, scratch mitts, nappies, receiving blanket, bedding etc. Read this article for the full low-down on what your new baby will need.
A poise-angle lamp in case you require stitching down below afterwards
3. Prepare your bed - Even you're planning to give birth somewhere other than your bed, for example in a home birthing pool, it's a good idea to get your bed ready so that you can keep that option open. You can make things a little easier if you make up your bottom sheet as usual and then cover it with a waterproof sheet and put an old sheet over the top. After the birth you can just peel away the two sheets and you've got a clean bed to rest in.
4. Plan for siblings - Even though you're planning to be home you'd still do with an extra hand with older children if you'd like them at home with you, or even have them with you for part of labour. Your birth partner will be too busy being there for you through the birth and assisting the midwife to give any attention to other children. An extra pair of hands will also come in very handy right after the birth when you'll both probably need a good rest.
Have a think about what you'd like your help to do with the children (going out, watching films, meal details etc.), whether your children will be allowed into to see you at any point, and when, and what you want them to be told if they do hear any birthing pains. Make sure that you communicate your wishes clearly - write a list for them if you think it will help.
5. Prepare pain relief - You may not have the full range of medicinal pain relief to hand that you would in a hospital, but there are still plenty of pain relief options for home birth such as: exercises, massage, gas and air, pethidine, TENS machines, aromatherapy, acupuncture and reflexology and hypnobirthing review). You'll need to read up and think ahead about what you want and check that your midwife is experienced in any of the pain relief that you want her to provide, and practice any that you will be responsible for (such as birthing balls, TENS, aromatherapy).
6. Think about the atmosphere for birthing - Many women find that in addition to all the essentials, a few birthing props can come in useful for creating a more relaxed environment in which to give birth. Get ready in advance any aromatherapy scents / candles, music, massage oils etc. that you would like to use during the birth. If you want to use music during the birth then it's a good idea to pick out a selection of music ahead of time.
7. Write a reference sheet Even you think you have established a good relationship with a midwife and feel that she knows what you want, it's a good idea to write a home birth plan that both your midwife and partner can refer to on the day. Include any instructions on where key items are to be found, when you would like other siblings to be allowed in, what your pain relief preferences are and how you'd like the moments after the birth to be handled (including delivery of the placenta). Discuss all your preferences with your midwife ahead of time if possible.
8. Pool practice - If you're hoping to use a home birthing pool then it's really important that you practice filling it before the day arrives when you need to. Yes, it's a faff, and the instructions look easy to follow, but it might not be as easy as you thought and you don't want to be trying to read instruction leaflets and discovering nozzles that don't fit your taps between contractions. You will in any case need to clean your pool before you use it, even if it is new. If you're not using a birthing pool but you do have a nice big bath then you might want to use that at various points in labour to help with the pain.
9. Stock up on family food - Remember that you'll need to rest for a couple of days after the birth and need to eat well. If your other half is nifty in the kitchen then you won't need to worry too much beyond making sure that you have a well-stocked pantry and a couple of frozen meals ready. However if your family is threatened with a run of beans on toast or cooked lettuce mistaken for cabbage (yes, this did really happen), then you might need a more military approach with plenty of frozen dishes and written instructions.
10. Pack an emergency hospital bag - No, we're not encouraging to give in before you start, but you have to face the fact that, however determined you are to give birth at home, there is a chance that it may be necessary to transfer to hospital at some point if there are complications. According to 'Midwifery Today', transfer to hospital may be considered necessary in as many as 10% of of home births. If you're prepared for this eventuality, mentally and physically, then it will help you feel more in control of things if things don't go to plan. Having your partner scrabble round for essentials at the last minute will only add to your sense of panic and disarray. Here are some of the things you'll want to think about including in a hospital overnight bag.