Sunday, December 1, 2013

5 Home Birth Fears Busted

Most fears surrounding birth are about the big things. Your baby's health, for example. But smaller fears are just as gripping in the middle of the night while suffering from pregnancy insomnia. Here are 5 common homebirth fears and the reality checks to break through the worry:

Homebirth Fear 1: I can't have a homebirth in an apartment (or condo or other multi-family situation).

Reality check:  Of course you can! Home is where the heart is when it comes to birth. If you have concerns about neighbors, let them know you're laboring and that it isn't an emergency.

Ideas: Consider placing a sign on your door that says something such as, "Safely laboring at home. Mama and Baby are ok. Do not disturb." Be smart when it comes to telling or not telling others and what you say. Know your state laws and your rights regardless of what others "claim" you can or cannot do in your home.

Keeping it real: My first birth was in our tiny newlywed apartment. I then went on to birth in a condo as well. We've had neighbors on all sides of us for birth and a super restrictive HOA. Don't let the definition of a house turn you away from home birth.

Sitting in the hallway next to the bathroom because the
birth pool took up the entire dining room. Tarp and towels are
everywhere to protect the apartment carpet.

Homebirth Fear 2:  I can't have home prenatals and a home birth because my house is too small or too messy. I can't have a water birth because there's no room for a pool. I'm embarrassed to have the midwife/doula/assistants in my home. They'll be shocked or uncomfortable.

Reality check: First, experienced midwives and doulas have seen homes of all different sizes and conditions. Second, they are mothers themselves and understand that homes get messy or budgets are tight. Third, they want the mama to focus on her pregnancy and children, not on maintaining a magazine-perfect home.

Many birth servants have done missionary or charity work in extremely impoverished areas, welcoming babies into homes with dirt floors or lacking running water or electricity. They are skilled and know how to make do with limited resources.

A good birth servant knows how to come prepared to keep herself comfortable and ready for the birth. She is not there to judge you. She is not a guest who wants a clean bed and 3-course meal or entertainment. She is there to serve YOU in your space.

A birth servant is concerned about you and the baby's wellbeing. She would prefer a cluttered home with a happy, rested pregnant woman in it. If you have other children, she would prefer a cluttered home with happy, connected children in it. As long as there's a spot for her to sit, your home isn't an issue.

Ideas: If you want a birth pool, you can find all different sizes to fit into a small space. Consider asking friends and family to donate towards a maid service or look for a local teen who can tidy up for a small payment. Enlist friends and family to help when they ask what they can do for you. Ask your midwife or doula what services they offer; many of them provide prenatal and postpartum cleaning and cooking services. Consider joining The Mother Shower Community to connect with mamas in your area to swap services.

Keeping it real: My birth pools have filled up the entire "dining room" of our little apartment and condo. The pools still worked in a small room. My house got messy and cluttered. I rolled with it and enlisted DH's help after the kids went to sleep at night, when I felt best, to tidy things up. If my sisters offered to help, I asked them to sweep or clean the dishes. Let your birth team into your home. They want to support you, not judge you.

If you're feeling really stressed, choose a small space in your home
and guard it as your birth space. Paint it if you want, or otherwise decorate it.
Hang inspiring birth messages. Keep it clean if it's the only clean space at all.
Make it your birth nest.

Homebirth Fear 3: I can't have a homebirth because it's too messy. The walls and floors will be destroyed. I have no one to clean it. My husband would freak out at the blood and goo. I'll be too busy with a baby to clean. I'd rather be in the hospital where they take care of everything.

Reality check: This is probably the number one fear I hear about when it comes to home birth. Since most births have moved to hospitals, we're inundated with scenes in movies and on TV of birthing in a white hospital room, assistants in full garb, adorned with gloves and masks as if they are going on a mining expedition.

The hospital bed is lined, there's a bed pan, there's pads everywhere, there's a collection area at the bottom of the bed, there's a big blue sheet over the mama's legs. Anyone watching these exaggerated scenes receives a subtle implication: Birth is MESSY!

Then if you watch the actual shows complete with rare and adrenaline pumping scenarios, the blood SPLATTERS! The waters BURST! The baby FLIES out, distributing goo everywhere! And don't forget POOP!

It's easy to understand why one of the first concerns about homebirth is "the mess" but it happens to be one of the biggest myths. Although I'm sure some people have home birth stories to share with labels such as SPLATTER, EXPLOSION and GOO, for the most part, home birth remains a quiet, low-key experience that does not wreck your home in any way.

For the average birth, blood doesn't splatter, goo doesn't explode everywhere. Many women don't even have their waters "break" in a big splashy mess, just a drip drip. Some membranes don't break at all or only break while pushing. A birth pool, tub/shower and toilet are excellent at catching any drips. Cheap tarps on the ground, plastic liners on the bed and chux pads save all the other surfaces.

Ideas: Remember that you have birth servants. They know how to 1) prevent a mess and 2) clean up a mess. They don't run out of your home once the baby is born. They empty the pool, tidy up any drips, wash towels and sheets, rinse out the tub/shower and make sure any mess is cleaned up completely. They might even cook you a meal or brew up some healing tea. You won't be abandoned after your birth.

Pregnancy exercise: fear of abandonment might be at the bottom of this worry. Spend time meditating on this and thinking about your deeper fears. List your birth team, birth partner, birth supporters in real life and online and remind yourself that you are not alone, you are not abandoned, you are not forgotten.

Keeping it real: I birth unassisted, but I do have a dedicated birth team and plan in place. I put a tarp down on the floor and have plenty of "junk towels" and sheets staying warm in the dryer until they are needed. I also place a plastic liner on the bed just in case I want to labor there. Family members stop by after birth to empty the pool and wash laundry. When you hire your birth team, know that you are hiring someone who will care for you. You'll be in your bed, snuggling your new baby. Put this messy myth to rest!

A chux pad on the couch, an old sheet and a beach towel
kept us covered and warm and soaked up any "mess"
after my last home birth. 

Homebirth Fear 4: I can't have a homebirth because this is my first time. I'm not sure what I'm doing. I'm not experienced enough. It takes something "special" to have a homebirth...some education, some level of being crunchy, some level of experience and sauve.

Reality check: No pregnant woman is completely experienced or sauve for birth. Sorry. Since every pregnancy, every birth and every child is totally unique and different, you're always on your toes. What you learn with your first birth might be completely useless with your subsequent births. How you feel and what you want and need can change with each pregnancy. So if you are interested in a home birth with your first child, listen to your instinct and desires.

This might be your first birth, but it won't be the first birth your midwife and doulas have attended. It won't be the first birth on this planet. Your mom birthed. Your mom's mom birthed. Your mom's mom's mom birthed and so on. You are here because an entire line of women in your family successfully birthed, and most of them at home, without a stack of degrees, medical schooling or any modern equipment.

Ideas: Dive in and start learning! Read books. Watch youtube videos of births. Talk to moms who have birthed. Talk to midwives and doulas. Attend home birth groups/meetings. Ask local home birth moms if you can attend their births, or part of their births, or assist them in any way (perhaps in exchange for cleaning services or photography services?)

Pregnancy exercise: This is your first birth. Remind yourself that you've never had a hospital birth, either, so why default to that one? Meditate on the deeper fears behind this worry. List affirmations related to it. You are enough. You are strong enough. You are educated enough. You body is capable enough. You have the resources and support to learn what you need.

Keeping it real: My first birth was a home birth. I attended some of my mom's births previously. I spent time interviewing homebirth moms. I watched home birth videos. I read about home birth. I talked to home birth moms online and read through discussion questions about home birth. (Thank goodness we get 9ish months to prepare, no matter where we want to birth!)

Birthing at home is not only what I wanted, but what my baby ended up needing for a respected and gentle experience. I'm so glad I didn't discount myself.

All four of my births have been unique with different challenges. I've learned different things during them, things I didn't know before regardless of multiple births. My needs and frame of mind have been different each time. Yours will be different, too, so focus on your dreams and go for them!This is your first birth, but this is also your only birth with this child. You only get one birth per child, so don't ignore the birth that is right for you and this baby.

Welcome to parenting! You're new to everything, including
pregnancy and birth. You might not have an instruction manual,
but you can find a supportive group and read and watch about
other births to prepare for the birth that is right for you and your baby.
Homebirth Fear 5: I can't birth at home because I'm not perfect. I'm a little (or a lot) overweight. I eat junk food. I don't exercise every day. I'm not in perfect health. I have minor or chronic illnesses. I'm too short. I'm too tall. My feet are too small. My hips are too narrow. My OB said my pelvis is too small. My joints hurt. I swell. I'm a complainer. I have a low pain threshold. I'm not liberal. I'm not crunchy. I'm not an activist. 

Reality check: No one is perfect. Birth is normal, and no birth is perfect. It's a body process. It generally works, even with some bumps in the road. Moderation is the goal, not meeting strict or extreme labels. All differents kinds of people birth at home for all different kinds of reasons.

There is no specific religion, political party or philosophical movement required for home birth. For most of history and most of the world, home birth was the only option regardless of the wide spectrum of lifestyles and beliefs. You don't have to be a crunchy, liberal activist. You can eat oreos and skip the fitspiration bandwagon.

Ideas: Although some conditions truly make a hospital/medical birth the right choice for some mamas and babies, minor or chronic conditions do not automatically restrict your choices. Talk to local midwives about your situation. Connect with others who have the same conditions or issues and ask them about their births. Read up on your condition and how it impacts pregnancy and birth before restricting your birth location.

Pregnancy Exercise: Spend time each day reminding yourself that perfection is not the goal, nor is it attainable or a healthy frame of mind. Use affirmations of acceptance and unconditional trust and love of yourself and your baby. Your body is good enough. Your baby is good enough. Your birth will be good enough. Your body and baby are doing what's right for you. Your body knows what to do and just needs the basics.

Keeping it real: I'm all kinds of oddness as an example. I have signs of EDS (Ehler Danlos Syndrome), I'm double homozygous for MTHFR polymorphisms, I have previous vaccine injuries, joint and ligament injuries from gymnastics and congenital defects such as a partial bicornuate and tilted uterus. I've had doctors look me straight in the eye and tell me I can't possibly conceive or give birth. I've had doctors tell me I should never get pregnant ever again.

I'm short and petite, but grow 10 and 11 pound babies. (See Our Bodies). I'm a sexual abuse and rape survivor and needed to work through a lot of triggers to "release" my body for birth. I don't do any formal exercise, actually I hate exercise. I try to eat healthy but I'm not on a special diet and I've certainly been spotted at Taco Bell before.

I've torn, I've hemorrhaged, my placenta has acted weird. I'm quite a complainer during birth (you don't want to see me early in the morning or while sick either lol) and hate pain or committing to big things (I'll never run a real marathon haha).

Look, my point of sharing my little defects and imperfections is to remind you that none of us are perfect. And that's good enough for birth. Life isn't perfect and birth won't be perfect either. Birth is part of us, it comes from within us. We aren't bigger than ourselves. Your birth might have imperfections or be rough around the edges. It will be YOUR birth, YOUR experience, in YOUR home. Go with it and enjoy your life.

Meeting my fourth child after his home birth. This was my first birth
where the placenta released correctly and I didn't hemorrhage. (And
I only tore a bit!) If I had stopped believing in myself after any of
the previous births, I never would have experienced this, and might
not even have my fourth child here today. Trust in yourself!