11 Things I Wish I'd Known Before My Homebirth
With our son's first birthday this week, I've found myself reminiscing with disbelief that it's been an entire year already since birthing him into the world. I continue to feel immensely grateful for more than just his presence in our lives... but how he came into it. If you've yet to read his homebirth story, you can do so here. For anyone considering a homebirth or simply curious about this experience, here are 11 things I wish I'd known before my homebirth, from the practical to the spiritual!
1) Birthing Positions
Getting a little human out of your body is a dance. This highly intuitive dance for some can occur quickly with a mother laboring and entering into her desired birthing position within a short time. Unfortunately for me, this dance was a long-lasting one with a few more encores than ideal. But what was ideal was the ease in which I was supported and encouraged to change positions. We were up, we were down, we were on the yoga ball. We journeyed through the Miles Circuit. We were in the birthing tub and out, in the shower, on the toilet, and with one leg on a stool. Guided by my midwife Dawn and assistant Emily, I moved through more positions than I could have ever imagined laboring in... and then a few more in order to dance this big baby down and out. Because this was my home, I felt comfortable (I mean, as comfortable as a woman in hard labor could be) moving around as we saw fit in my favorite comfy robe.
2) Freedom to Listen to Your Body
Compared to my previous hospital experience where I was forbidden from eating when in early labor due to the potential of requiring surgery, I was able to keep my body energized. Imagine sending an athlete into their most strenuous competition of their lives without providing their body with the required sustenance to fuel them well. No coach or mentor would think of allowing it! I had my choice of energizing food and drink, even when they didn't sound appetizing.
It was a freeing to be able to feel full autonomy of my body, rather than being told what was happening from an external perspective that may not align with my personal experience. Instead of feeling the doctor, nurses, or surgeon were setting the expectations and providing their input, I was able to tune completely into my own instinctively guided choices and allow my body (and babe's) to lead the way.
3) Energy is Everything
As a highly sensitive empath, I already knew that my environment has a massive impact on how I feel. But what I didn't realize was how much this is heightened during labor. Just as animals create a comforting space that feels protected in order to birth safely, we must feel comforted by our surroundings in order for labor to progress naturally. If we are unable to relax or feel unsafe in an unfamiliar environment, our labor progression will reflect that. Being surrounded by my happy houseplants and playing the soothing "Moving Art" videos with instrumental music and nature sounds heavily impacted my experience. This energetic impact is not limited to the environment itself, but also includes the energy of those in your birthing space. My husband being able to step out and check on our daughter when things got overwhelming was helpful to me as well, as I didn't want to feel or absorb his concern.
4) Mindset and Mantras Matter
The way we talk to ourselves matter, regardless of whether we're preparing to birth a child or pursuing any other worthy goal we must steer our mindset with intention. In the months, weeks, and days leading up to birth, I was meditating regularly. During these meditation sessions I would envision bringing him into this world and connecting with his spirit as I did so. I repeated affirmations that I'd written upon colored paper and hung where they'd be visible. "I trust my body. I trust my baby. I trust my birth." and "Open and surrender" as well as visualizing myself opening like a flower were all helpful for preparing my mind as thoroughly as my body. I knew I had past trauma to rise beyond, and this focus was more crucial than I'd even imagined it would be.
5) Supportive and Knowledgeable Assistance Makes All the Difference
Though I'd considered the idea of a freebirth (labor and delivery at home with no professional assistance), my support team helped to make it all possible. The prenatal care I experienced with my homebirth midwife Brenda was beautiful and reassuring. Unfortunately, she ended up falling ill shortly before I went into labor but she enlisted support from another experienced and talented midwife within her network that I felt comfortable with. I also had the continuity of care provided by our midwife-in-training who was with us from the beginning.
From their calming support, to Emily bringing over the water birth tub, to Dawn's midwife supply bag full of herbal remedies and an oxygen tank, to their wisdom of birthing positions to progress labor and inclusion of my husband and our daughter, their help made all the difference. It was known that their knowledge would be helpful, but what I appreciated most was their ability to flow in and out of my awareness. They knew when to be fully present with their encouragement and assistance, and when to recede into the background and allow my natural instincts to take the lead. They knew how to respond when something was or wasn't helpful and were great with our attention hog of a doggy doula. Instead of being disrupted, deregulated, and interrupted during this essential flow, Dawn and Emily empowered me naturally after Brenda's support in setting me up for success.
6) Family Personalities and Care
I never knew birthing could be a such an inclusive family experience, especially during Covid regulations at local medical centers and hospitals! One of my favorite moments of labor was our four year old gently pouring warm water on my back when I was in the birthing tub, as well as some of her humorous comments.
When I'd first brought up my intentions to birth at home, it was met with a lot of fear and resistance from my husband. Understandably so, as he witnessed what occurred last go 'round and was already not a fan of bodily fluids. Despite this, his ability to be present in the way that felt good to both of us was powerful. I'll never forget watching him pump up the birthing tub or the feel of being able to squeeze his strong hand. Having my mother's support and lack of judgement beforehand and delicious comfort food, and care post-partum was healing as well. Enlist support and care that aligns with your loved ones natural abilities and love languages.
7) "The Zone"
I'd read about this state of a woman goes into when deep into the labor and birth process. It sounded beautiful... this meditative space where you go within and have what can be described as a simultaneously out-of-body and yet connected experience of the Self. Though I'd had a child before, I didn't know this mythological sounding place of transition to be reality as I was never given the opportunity to get there uninterrupted.
It is no myth.
Time bent to and fro with minutes seeming to be hours and hours disappearing from my recollection altogether. I was within my body, and also with whales in the ocean and stars in the sky. I felt our spirit team's presence as well as every emotion possible.
8) Expect the Unexpected, and Prepare Towels (aaaand More Towels)
No matter how much you plan and prepare, you can be certain something will occur that was not within your plans. I was sure he'd emerge while I was swaying in the birthing tub in our picturesque sunroom, not on the floor of our bedroom, one hand clenching the base of our bedframe so tightly I'm amazed the metal is not warped. I was sure he'd come quicker, as I felt the urge to push many hours before his birth. I certainly didn't expect for the pain of shoulder dystocia, nor for him to emerge limp and not breathing (you can read about this in part two of his birth story here).
While you may feel you need an entire box of supplies, and of course some of these items may come in handy, you don't actually NEED them in order to birth your baby. How you prepare within is far more important than stocking up on a giant list of any possible recommended item.
But have towels handy. So many towels. Go to the dollar store and have 'em ready.
9) How Empowered I'd Feel
You know how you can often feel the lead up of an impactful, life-changing event? This combination of a grounded sense of knowing and the buzz of anticipation give you a hint that your existence is about to change forever. I knew this experience would be meaningful but I had no idea to what extent. I had no idea that I'd be digging deep within to access a level of strength and perseverance I'd not believed myself to hold. That finding it would enable me to believe more fully in myself and our ability to shape our lives.
Which leads to our next topic...
10) Birth Can Be Healing
One wouldn't expect an experience that rips your tissues apart to be healing... but even a year later I am in awe of the healing that occurred through this homebirth experience. More was learned about my body, mind, and spirit than I thought possible. Past sexual and birth traumas were released and risen above. Self-limiting programming was erased and replaced with beliefs more true to my soul.
It wasn't just little Leo being born that night, I was reborn anew as well.
11) Lasting Comfort and Peace
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all was how incredibly comforting it was to cozy into our own bed with our newborn. I was left in peace to bond and enjoy the "golden hour" of skin to skin contact with only essential, gentle checks on how we were doing. My support team brought me a comforting meal from my own kitchen and exactly what I felt like drinking to stay hydrated. Baby Leo was welcomed into a peaceful environment in which he'd grow, my husband was able to bounce between his laboring wife and our daughter, and she was able to meet him right away in the most natural of ways. She even delighted in helping to weigh him and we watched his cord turn white as he absorbed all the nutrients and blood from the placenta before delayed clamping.
What I didn't realize was how much this set the tone for our first year together. I found myself wishing I'd understood these needs when our daughter was born due to the dramatic contrast of the two experiences AFTER birth as well. After my traumatic emergency c-section I experienced post-partum depression and anxiety, exhaustingly poor sleep habits, and a challenging healing journey. In the year following my homebirth where I felt actions aligned with my intuitive guidance, I had no post-partum depression or anixety. I felt more at peace with my sense of self, overwhelmed with gratitude, more confident in my choices as a mother, and connected to the Divine that works in all of us.
While I'd entitled this article, "Things I Wished I'd Known", I truly believe all is revealed within a timeline beyond our understanding. I'm grateful to have learned them at all and to have the opportunity to pass them along. If you or someone you know is considering a homebirth, please reach out! I love discussing, answering questions, and encouraging you to follow the guidance of your heart and soul.