I don’t make my own kefir, wear socks with sandals, or co-sleep with my kids, and I am not a member of the Duggar family (thank God). I don’t fit any of the stereotypical (aka ignorant) images that come to mind when one thinks of home birth moms. We come from all walks of life and parenting styles.
Movies and TV usually depict planned home births as calm, quiet affairs with soft music, candles, loving moments and lip-gloss, but that was not my experience. Mine involved endless hours of guttural yelling, sweating, pushing and the worst hair day ever.
This was my last child, but first home birth, so here’s what I learned about giving birth at home:
1. Boiling Water Isn’t Just For Movies
When the midwives arrived around 3:30 a.m., my husband said they moved in like gypsies with bags, cases, pots, tubs and more. They moved furniture and went through our cabinets looking for homeopathic remedies, herbs and teas all while keeping vigil with me (the yelling maniac in the other room) minute after minute, hour after hour. They also started to boil water on all six of our cooktop burners. My husband said it was like a scene from M*A*S*H. Fact: The hot water is used for the birthing (or in my case laboring) tub and for hot compresses on your private parts if necessary, so you don’t tear when the baby is crowning. This is one thing the movies got right.
2. Drug Free Is Painful
Heck yes, I won’t lie. I was woefully unprepared thinking I could wing this one. The breathing went out the door early and was replaced by full-on yelling. I’m still embarrassed by what my neighbors heard coming out of our windows that morning. My next door neighbor went to church to pray and light a candle as it probably sounded like an exorcism. I howled from the depths of my soul and begged for mercy—saying that I was done and take me to the hospital, because I wanted out. They quietly shook their heads and assured me I could do it. I did it, but I broke blood vessels in most of my fingers because I was clutching the handles of the birth tub so tightly.
3. Get Ready to Sweat
You will sweat more than you thought humanly possible. Because the midwives didn’t want our baby to be chilled once the birth occurred, they refused to let us turn on the AC so I was in a tub full of very warm water in the middle of my dining room on a sweltering July day sweating half of my body weight. They did allow me one fan and kept cool cloths on my forehead. But when you are undertaking a physical feat of epic proportions, some cool air is appreciated. The moment they left, we bundled the baby and blasted the AC.
4. You Will Interact With Your Placenta
In the hospital, your placenta isn’t just “the afterbirth”—it’s an afterthought usually dumped ASAP into a medical waste bin. Hey, it’s a little gross, but this is a temporary organ that your body grew to nourish your child for nine straight months. Doesn’t it deserve a tiny bit of homage? My midwives carefully laid it out on plastic on my master bathroom floor to study and marvel at its wondrous accomplishment. Our older boys wanted to see it too and were surprisingly fascinated. The midwives suggested I keep it to bury someday, so it’s carefully sealed and heavily wrapped at the bottom of my basement freezer. Sometimes my husband will jokingly yell up from the basement, “Okay, we have the following choices for dinner: chicken, pizza or placenta.”
5. Kitchen Items May Be Involved
Because I had just birthed a 9 lb. 4 oz. watermelon of a kid who was born with his arm over his head, it may explain why I was unable to, um, “go” afterwards. Yes, I had to be catheterized. Because we were at home, and necessity is the mother of invention, my midwives chose to use my favorite white mixing bowl as a receptacle. I’ll say no more, but it served a purpose that day. And yes, it was still a perfectly good mixing bowl, so after thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting it on high heat in our dishwasher (twice), it was again used in the traditional way until it cracked.
6. Being at Home Rocks
I had my son at 10 a.m. and that night I was sitting on the couch eating snacks and watching TV with my husband just like every night, except we now had four kids in the house instead of three. Sure I was exhausted and had used muscles I never knew existed, but it was all worth it to be together as a family.
Giving birth at home isn’t for everyone, and I’m still not sure it was for me. If you do have one, be ready with the following responses once people find out about it: “Yes, I know how to get to the hospital.” “No, it wasn’t by accident.” “Yes, I gave birth at home on purpose.” And don’t expect to show your immediate postpartum photos to anyone as you will probably be totally naked and the surrounding scene will look like an episode of CSI.