Something a bit different from my usual ‘ooh, pretty things’ posts today. As some of you know, my daughter Kitty (above) was born at home in June. It really was the most amazing experience, that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone who has the opportunity. Lots of people have since asked for tips. Naturally, I trawled the web for help and advice and compiled an excessive home birth kit that sat in a storage box in the lounge for months. Now I’ve done the deed, I thought I’d share what I actually found essential.
I decided on a water birth as I found it the best pain relief (the TENS was good to start with, but ended up annoying me). Choosing a birth pool is a minefield – do you hire a solid heated pool or buy an inflatable version and try and keep it hot? We opted for the inflatable La Bassine pool as I thought it looked the comfiest. OH’s main concerns: how would we keep the temperature constant? Would we be running back and forth with kettles? We bought the promotional kitÂ for Â£99.95 which included a cover and it retained heat really well.Â You’ll need to buy aÂ bath thermometer, but you can hang onto it for baby. La Bassine poolsÂ have a really good resale value in new or used condition and if you have an older child, you’ll find it’s a big success as a playspace in the run-up to the big day.Â
So, what else do you need? I found the groundsheet that came with the pool a bit crunchy, so I spread an old Cath Kidston oilcloth underneath to protect the floor. My midwife also suggested a shower curtain as a good alternatiave. Then I put towels on top and a couple of old duvets and pillows with a Â beanbag in the corner as a comfy area for labouring. Top tip to protect pillows is to slip them into a black binbag, then put an old pillowcase on top.Â Possible TMI alert: there’s not as much blood as you’d think, especially if you give birth in the pool, but it’s a good idea to protect furniture, so invest in a lot of maternity mats (Boots often do a 3 for 2 on their own brand ones which are perfectly fine). I also had a bag packed with all those other unglamorous items you need after birth (enormous maternity sanitary towels, big pants (can’t beat an M&S multipack) and breast pads).
You’ll get two midwives coming out to you – one for the latter stages of labour and one for the actual birth. They need a few things – antibacterial liquid soap, bin bags for waste, towels to wrap baby in, an anglepoise lamp so they can check and, if necessary, stitch post-birth and a lot of tea and cake (K arrived quite quickly – your partner might need to organise toast or a sandwich if you have a longer labour). We chose to have a doula as wellÂ – Deborah attended Alfie’s birth, so I was totally comfortable with her presence and in addition to providing fantastic support and keeping the atmosphere calm and relaxed, she took on all the tea-making, cake-cutting, door-opening duties so we could concentrate on labour. Find a doula local to you at www.doula.org.uk. I also chose to have my placenta encapsulated (I know, sounds mentally hippie and Brighton-ish, but is definitely worth looking into – think increased iron levels, energy and milk supply and reduced blood loss) and she dealt with everything so the placenta was ready to be collected and I didn’t have to think about it!
Do make sure your fridge and cupboards are full of goodies, so you can just batten down the hatches and enjoy your new family without having to venture to the supermarket. It’s lovely to enjoy some real treat food after the birth – especially things forbidden in pregnancy. You need to keep your energy levels high in labour but you might not feel like eating, so boiled sweets and fruit juice ice lollies are good buys. I also got through a couple of still energy drinks – buy some bendy straws, so you can easily drink over the side of the birth pool. A home birth is also the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to thatÂ Diptyque scented candle you’ve always lusted after – it’s all about creating the ultimate relaxing atmosphere, after all. Lavender oil will also help you sleep if your labour isn’t progressing, or you could just plough through a DVD box set (Spaced in case you’re wondering) or bounce on a birth ball. Another spending opportunity, as you don’t have to consider facing the outside world is glam postnatal loungewear – I recommend Toast, Hush and COS for separates good enough to receive guests in.
A few final things… You need to arrange for a doctor to come out to your house to check the baby the day after the birth (yes, they actually have to do this). If you are rhesus negative blood type and the baby is positive, you’ll need to go to hospital for your anti-D injection. If you’re giving vitamin K orally, you’ll have to get the subsequent doses from the chemist and administer yourself. I found the iHypnobirthÂ hypnotherapy app helpful for focusing and breathing and Nicole Croft’sÂ The Good Birth Companion was a good preparatory read – has a great section for dads who might be unsure about the benefits of home birth. Good luck to all mamas-to-be, wherever you have your little ones. And stay tuned for the definitive guides to cots, cribs and prams and pushchairs.