With even Kate MIddleton reportedly planning a home birth, there’s been a surge in mums thinking about dodging hospitals when their time comes. Zoe Craig knows all about it…
From a mum who’s been there, and has shared tips with many others, here are some surprising things only mums who’ve given birth at home know. (If you’re reading this, Kate: you’re welcome. Although I’m yet to meet anyone who calls Kensington Palace ‘home’, so I guess your experience might still differ from mine…)
1. You’ve been explaining how everything will be OK throughout your pregnancy
If you plan a home birth, you’re in the minority: in 2015, only 2.3% of mums had their babies at home. So when the subject comes up, you quickly get used to quizzical looks from your fellow mums-to-be, in-laws, co-workers and friends.
“Is that allowed?” “Will you be OK?” “Why…?” “What if you need…”
But somehow, deep down, if everything’s going smoothly, you just know it’s going to be the best decision for you. So after a while, trying to convince others that it’ll be OK becomes irrelevant: your baby, your body, your choice.
2. Nothing distracts you from whatever hypnobirthing technique you’ve latched onto
Counting your breaths; indulging in the long (long?) lulls between contractions; picturing waves washing over a beach; imagining walking over cool grass in a shady garden… whatever your strategy for getting through those contractions, when you’re at home, nothing’s going to break that spell.
A fellow home birthing mum actually complained when the birds started singing as the sun came up when she was in labour: it’s certainly different to the myriad distractions mums face on a busy maternity ward.
For my part, I remember very little of the transitional stage of labour: I walked into the living room, switched off all the lights, and climbed into my birthing pool. At one point I told my husband off for eating chocolate(!), but other than that, as far as I was concerned, I was on a warm, sunny beach, counting the waves…
3. You’re surprised what props come in handy
If you’ve only really seen people give birth in romcoms and on One Born Every Minute, you might be surprised by the list of seemingly random objects recommended for giving birth at home: bowl, bucket, blankets, old towels, a tarpaulin… are you having a baby or going camping?
In reality, the waterproof sheeting (shower curtain, plastic table cloth, tarpaulin) is just there to protect your carpets, bed or sofa.
I cut up the huge plastic bag my wedding dress came in to use as a floor cover; I didn’t need it in the end. As my husband likes to remind everyone, all my mess ended up in the pool. Which he heroically cleaned, after the event. Eight hours of labour; one hour cleaning an oversized paddling pool, before polishing off those chocolates: I guess we both worked hard that day.
4. Midwives drink a lot of tea
But hearing the kettle clicking on again becomes a soothing sound. If they’re relaxed enough for hot beverages, surely everything’s going smoothly, right?
5. Eating that first slice of pizza / marmite on toast / chocolate cake in your own bed afterwards tastes AY-MAY-ZING
And so much better than being told, ‘Sorry, you’ve missed dinner time’ while you’re on a hospital ward.
Or maybe you went the whole hog and toasted your new arrival with perfectly chilled champagne straight out of the fridge. Your fridge. While snuggled up with your newborn in bed. Your bed.
6. Your birth story feels a bit, well, short…
Compared to your friends who are able to regale you with details driving through snow / torrential rain / heavy traffic to the hospital, being sent home again, going to a different ward, gas and air, pethidine and epidurals, midwives starting or finishing shifts, the stories of other new mums around you, relating your relatively drama-free home birth story sometimes feels a bit… flat.
7. The amazing feeling of ‘it happened just there’ never goes away
Some mums love the shock on their visitors faces when they explain that it was while sitting on the same sofa currently supporting their guest’s nether regions that their child came into the world. Or motioning upwards with their eyebrows. “Yes, it was just upstairs actually.”
And there’ll always be that moment when you’re cleaning the bath, or changing the bed linen when you pause and think, ‘This is where…”
For me, I love it when my four year old asks, “Where was I born, Mummy?”
“Just there,” I say, pointing to the dining room. “In a kind of big paddling pool.” The preschooler is generally nonplussed. Four years on, and the warm glow I feel hasn’t gone away yet.
I doubt it ever will.