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As a first-time mom, a lot of careful choices are made crafting your birth plan. But mothers in your circle, or even your care providers, will caution you not to invest too heavily in that plan. It’s more like a list of preferences.
Late into my third trimester, my preferences would have included not learning my insurance wasn’t accepted at the hospital where I was planning to give birth, nor by my current care provider. However, this revelation, made possible by bureaucracy and the incompetence of many parties involved, resulted in one of the most meaningful and intimate experiences of my entire life: I was able to give birth at home, surrounded by professionals and family, including my two beloved cats.
While New York may be continuing to flatten the curve, many women who are preparing to give birth are exploring their options outside the hospital. This can cause a bit of confusion and a lot of fear. I was drawn to the concept of home birth early in my pregnancy, but didn’t feel confident I could do it for my first child. It wasn’t until the hospital was essentially taken away from me that I was able to step into my full power as a woman.
Below, I compiled a list of tips and helpful information for anyone considering changing their plan to home birth. Note: I understand birthing outside the hospital is not the right choice for every mother. The following is intended to provide information to mothers who are experiencing a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. Always check with your personal doctor before making any changes to your plan.
Affirmations and Hypnobirthing
I had mentally prepped for a natural birth ahead of time, because a C-section or an epidural seemed a lot scarier than the process itself. Women’s bodies are made to handle birth and have been doing so for the whole of human history. I used that as the baseline for my affirmations. We are strong and capable beings.
I seeded my brain with positive birth stories, like the ones in the first half of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. During labor, I repeated to myself “I can do anything for one minute.” Contractions last roughly 60 seconds, and no more than 90. You can breathe through that minute, and take it one “surge” at a time. And you get rest in between! Some mothers actually fall asleep for a few minutes.
I also read Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie Mongan, who recommends replacing some of the vocabulary around birthing. “Contractions” changed to “surges,” and “pain” changed to “sensation.” Reframing the experience actually does help. She also notes humans are the only mammals who fear birth. It’s a time to tap into your primal nature and breathe.
When you are experiencing sensations, know that they are totally normal. We are trained in the Western world to see pain as a signal that something is wrong. But during birth, it’s the sensation of everything going right.
Assemble your Birth Team
After making the decision to home birth, I asked my doula team for references for home birth midwives they’ve worked alongside before. Julie Martin and Cary Curran enthusiastically complied and cheered me on in my decision.
I found one who had compassion for my circumstances and was willing to take me in my late stage. Midwifery practices are often small and may take on limited numbers of clients, but Yuen Kwan Chan of TLC Midwifery Services happened to have a slot available. Her bedside manner is equal parts gregarious and professorial, and I knew we were a perfect fit.
My early labor started at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, January 25th with irregular contractions. That day, my husband and I snacked on my favorite foods, watched television, and rested—waiting for the right time to summon our doula, Cary Curran. When she came on Sunday, I was deep in active labor and she got to work massaging my hips and lower back. She even walked me around the block a couple times. She made sure I was relaxed and supported the entire time. My baby was born Monday, January 27th at 11:33 a.m. Cary was a champion throughout.
Birth is so intimate that folks who have good experiences are more than willing to make a recommendation. Start in your social circles to find doulas and midwives and expand from there. Like any other care provider, you’re going to want to meet them for a consultation to make sure it’s a good fit.
Get to Know Your Insurance
This next part is key: Know what your insurance covers. Home birth is not covered on all insurance plans, and some companies require a pre-approval in order to cover any or all of it. Because we were going around our insurance, we had to pay out of pocket, but it still worked out to be less expensive than a hospital birth would have been, with or without insurance. A doula was another out-of-pocket expense I helped offset by creating a “Doula Fund” for my baby shower.
The affirmations were the most important tool I used, but second to that was a birth pool. Warm water eases the low back pain, and aids in softening tissue in preparation for pushing. My contractions started to slow a bit once I got in, but the water was such a relief.
We rented our pool from our midwife, and they are easy to rent or purchase online. I was intimidated by figuring out how to fill and drain it, but there are tools that make it easy to do so using your shower. You’ll need to designate a support person to handle the cleanup, since you’ll be occupied with your sweet babe.
If you don’t use pain medication, the body provides a tidal wave of oxytocin after birth. I was in a surreal and pain-free daze once my baby was in my arms.
I had my heart set on having as little medical intervention as possible in my birth, and staying home allowed me exactly that. My labor was long, with contractions that never hit a stride. My water never broke, so the baby stayed in the amniotic sac until late in the pushing process. Because of that, I was having the urge to push for most of the day on Sunday, which usually doesn’t happen until the end. Any of these things could have meant an unwanted medical intervention in the hospital setting. But my team and I allowed for my body to do what it was made to do.
The Bottom Line
After my daughter was born, I napped with her and my husband in our own bed. I woke up to the new grandparents celebrating in the kitchen. I felt well enough to join them, eating homemade apple turnovers and reflecting on the momentous weekend. I wish that all expectant mothers are able to create sweet memories like the ones I have.