I am planning my second home birth. When I planned and prepared last time I thought I had it down to a science. Well, I was only 21! Three years and a whole lot of humbling life later and I have kind of come down off the birthing high horse. A lot of this has to do with the birth experience that I had with my daughter (which you can read about here). While I was very open minded to just letting the process unfold on it's own I was completely unprepared for its entirely in every way but having the supplies ready. I had a very long active phase, unusually long pushing phase and finished it off with an ambulance ride to retrieve my stupid stuck placenta (anyone else heard of a chorion accreta?). While my birth was beautiful in it's own way, we really didn't plan for the 'what ifs' or even stick to what few things were on my birth plan. Really. No music, no massage or other comfort measures, no walks. Partly this was just how I was feeling. After laboring all day (early labor), once I entered real active labor late in the afternoon I just withdrew into myself and didn't really know how to communicate or let anyone try to help me. I was hard to read and because of this I ended up laboring much longer than necessary. It wasn't awful, but looking back it was kind of a hot mess! Yet at the same time it was birth in it's most simple form (minus the placenta thing). I will go over both how I physically prepare and how I am preparing my birth team to best support me through this labor.
The first thing you need (besides an awesome midwife) is a place to birth in. A home birth seems pretty self explanatory but take some time to find where you gravitate to when you are stressed in need of comfort. For me it's my bedroom, for others it may be their living room or even somewhere outside like a porch. While it is good to have this place in your mind's eye, be open to this location changing while in labor (you wouldn't believe how many babies are born on toilets!). After you have decided on your birthing room there are some things you will want to do to make it ready:
-Clean. While you will want to do a good deep clean (or have a friend/ family member do it for you) around 37 weeks of your whole house, there are some special considerations for your birth room I have found promote a more peaceful environment. The first thing I started to do is organize and clear out any clutter or storage that is not essential. In my case I have a basement at my new house in which to store all that I am clearing out, but others can either just brutally purge, make use of storage in a room you don't use much or at the least clean out a closet and use that. Clutter has been proven to induce stress and even sleeping disorders and it also just makes your room harder to keep clean. After you organize, do an extra good cleaning and maintain it with touch ups until birth. For me this has been moving furniture to get dust bunnies of gross proportions, washing my window, vacuuming extra extra well, and wiping down my walls for cobwebs and smudges. The second room I highly recommend making an extra effort in is the bathroom(s). Not only will you be in it a lot but your birth team will be needing potty breaks too! Really get your tub and shower clean in case you labor in them and remember to wash the floor and toilet good because most mamas end up throwing up at some point.
-Gather your supplies. Your midwife will give you a list of supplies or instructions to order a pre-made birth kit from a supplies company that will contain all of the 'medical' items. You will likely also be given a list of 'household' items to collect. Here is what mine is:
2 sets of old sheets
cheap plastic shower curtain
3-4 baby hats
newborn outfit and diaper
8 receiving blankets
new roll of paper towels
roll of toilet paper
3 trash bags
small bottle of olive oil (unopened)
flashlight with fresh batteries
large cookie sheet or tray
2 large stainless steel bowls
package of maxi pads
baby carseat (installed in your car)
instruction sheet for Montana Man and in case of emergency*
nursing tank and pads*
camera with fresh batteries and extras*
(* items that are my own additions)
All of this and my midwives' medical kit are packed neatly into a tote. If you are packing in a tote it's a good idea to put things you will need first on top like your sheets and plastic shower curtain because you will need to make up your bed as soon as you go into labor. After that you can either slowly layout things if your labor is still mild or leave it to an attendant. It's a good idea to scope out a good flat surface in your birthing room for everything to be laid out, mine is a large bedside table and the cookie sheet that can follow me around. The midwives also bring a few bags of their own things and an oxygen tank.
A nice and appreciated touch in case you have a long labor is little thank you kits for your attendants. I am hoping to have things gathered like Larabars, single wrapped facial cleansing towelettes, lip balm, something to freshen breath, etc. As someone who has attended a long birth that ended the next morning, I know how much you need a freshening and pick me up after hours of serving the mama. Might not be a bad idea to also keep your towels clean in case your midwives want a shower before rushing off to another birth or going home to crash.
Make a simple plan and put it on the fridge. Trust me, if you write out even an elaborate birth plan and don't put it somewhere obvious, in the throws of labor you and your partner will completely forget. We did last time! Even if you want to keep it super organic and just go with the flow, think about practical things that your brain won't while in labor land. Like, if you go into labor in the middle of the night... unlock the front door so your birth team can just come right in. Other things to consider might be checking animals are fed and watered, the clothes washer is empty, you have toilet paper, you have snacks. These are things you think you will just remember but trust me, you won't. Let your list speak for you! Attendants will appreciate a "go to" when you are busy with contractions.
Have a meal plan! Please, please, please, think about this ahead of time. Whatever you would feel like eating after, say, the stomach flu is most likely what you will want to eat after birth. And, trust me, no meal will ever taste so good after you pushed your child into the world! I personally like breakfast food and will be preparing waffles that can be heated up in the toaster. After you think of what you want to eat, think of an easy meal to put in the crock pot or in the oven when labor starts or shortly after for everyone else. Check with your midwives ahead of time for allergies or preferences and go with a simple something. Keep ingredients either in the fridge or all made in the freezer so someone else can take care of it with written instructions. Having simple snacks like fruit, canned soup, crackers and cheese and nuts are also nice for quick fuel ups either for mama or birth team.
Ok, you might be reading this and be a little annoyed about how focused I am on preparing for the birth team... I mean they can just fend for themselves right? Yes and not so fast. Unlike at a hospital your midwife has no idea when she will be attending a birth and sometimes she will be going straight from one birth to another with no time to restock her own care kit. Sure, you are paying her for a service but I would hope you would see her as a friend coming into your home. With a little thought and preparation ahead of time you can create an awesome birthing environment not just for you but everyone there to serve you.
And, last but not least, enjoy this preparation and adopt a positive attitude! Generations of women have prepared for their births and newborns with glad hearts and anticipation. As a few of us bring back 'the old ways' lets also bring back the old attitude that children are both a blessing and worth celebrating and show others that is how we feel. Show appreciation for those supporting you and their heart will be that much more giving in return. One of the things that always stayed with me from reading Spiritual Midwifery was how Ina May talked about the mother's attitude during labor and how it effected everyone else. It's hard to want to be kind and supportive to a negative and whiny person despite whether they are a laboring mom or not. Be open about your fears in the weeks before and during birth. If the pain is overwhelming you, just say so! But, honestly, I found I was so much stronger in my long labor by not allowing myself to say anything negative even in my head. Because of that I never felt like it was beyond my capacity. It was pain yes, but it had a rhythm which I learned well. Embracing your birth story as it happens is something no one else can do but you.