28 September 2015

12 things they don't tell you about home births

As a nurse, there are few places I feel more comfortable than a good hospital. I get hospitals, I know what happens in them. When I was pregnant the idea of an emergency section actually made me feel quite safe. I knew how it would go down if my labour went a bit wrong. An emergency section felt like a good safety net rather than a terrifying unknown procedure. Hospitals are like a second home to me.

But home is my first home.

That's why I surprised many of my colleagues and decided to have a home birth. I have to say, predominantly doctors, but also many of the nurses I've mentioned my home birth to have been totally freaked out by the idea. For the medically minded, not being 40 seconds away from an operating theatre with a team of lovely people ready and willing to cut you open seems insane.

Those surprised and scared doctors and nurses have all read the research, they know that for a 2nd baby a home birth is proven to be as safe, if not safer than a hospital birth. But they still look at me sideways when I casually mention that I gave birth in a paddling pool in my living room.

That's how Baby 2 was born. No doctors, no resus trolley, no crash bell. But plenty of entonox!

Sweet, sweet, entonox

I find that people fall into 2 camps regarding home birth: 

a) Home births are wonderful, magical, spiritual experiences and you'll probably orgasm as you give birth to a soundtrack of whales and panpipes.

b) What the hell?! You might all die! And who will put your epidural in?!

So as both a person of medical profession AND a crazy home birth hippy, here's my slice of the middle ground...

12 Things no one tells you about home births

1. Birth pools don't just rock up in your house when the contractions start.

There are different brands, sizes, styles. My husband is insanely frugal so I was persuaded a second hand inflatable one off eBay would do. We bought it, he collected it, we inflated it. I got in it and decided it was too small. So we sold that one and bought a full size one. He collected it from someone's basement where it had been stored for 4 years. [Note: we didn't bother inflating it to see if it was big enough... More on that later]

2. Preparing your house for spillages of bodily fluid is neither spiritual nor magical.

We had cream carpets. When you have cream carpets and decide on a home birth, your husband might buy ALL the plastic dust sheets from the DIY shop. And 14 rolls of masking tape to stick them down. Then he might ignore you for an hour or 2 of early labour while he wraps up the entire house in plastic like a strange Christmas present.

3. Not all taps fit standard hose attachments

If you wish to concentrate on giving birth rather than lugging 1000 saucepans of water into your living room or bedroom, you do need to think about how to get water from the taps into the birth pool. My pool was going to be in the living room. Our downstairs taps didn't fit a hosepipe so we had to run a garden hose from our bath taps down the stairs, through the hallway, (past the Christmas tree) and into the living room. I've never once seen a garden hose inside during a homebirth video on YouTube! (and believe me, I've watched a LOT of them).

4. Someone comes to assess your home before you give birth in it.

When you tell your midwives you want a home birth, first their little faces will light up and then they will arrange a home visit. You will feel like you are being judged and try to impress them with your biscuit selection, but they make their assessment in the first 4 seconds. Either you live in a normal flat/house/apartment with running water that is accessible by car (you can have a home birth) or you live in somewhere that looks like it should be on Britain's Filthiest Homes, or in a tree in the middle of a pond or something (you can't have a home birth, and you're weird). End of assessment.

5. The midwives just come in their own clothes. (Obviously)

I hadn't thought about this before, but I do remember being slightly taken aback by 2 women who looked like they were a couple of my mates coming over for a movie night. They were wearing skinny jeans, converse (one had a lovely leopard print pair) and slouchy jumpers. They had also just been at home in bed and driven straight over and looked a bit disheveled. I don't know if I was expecting them to be dressed smarter, or to be older than me, or what, but they felt like a couple of work mates and personally, I liked that. 

6. Home births are brilliant for Dads

While you pace around being excited and wondering when the contractions will really kick in, your partner gets to busy himself with little jobs like putting plastic sheets down, lighting candles, putting your carefully selected music on. Then blowing all the candles out and finding the right episode of your current Netflix series because labour takes longer than you think. (Last episode of Season 3 of Homeland for me, the contractions got stronger at the end so I never did find out if Brody died or not and have been too busy having 2 small children to watch anything apart from Cbeebies since then) I think my husband preferred being at home because he had more to do, and lord knows he loves having a job to do!

7. Inflatable birth pools can get punctures

Remember that birth pool we bought on ebay that had been in someone's basement for 4 years? It had 12 punctures. (Actually 12, I'm not exaggerating for blog purposes). We didn't have a puncture repair kit so he had to go next door to get supplies and it took him over an hour to patch the bloody thing up. It was just soooo relaxing and magical.

8. Plastic sheeting is slippery

When you're in your own home you have lots of options of places to lean, pace, sit, squat or roll about to get through the contractions. This is brilliant and I felt way more inclined to have an active labour at home than in hospital. I had a bean bag, a birth ball, my sofa my bed and my bath to moo like a cow in. One thing I hadn't envisaged however was the fact that in order to protect the carpets, we had inadvertently created a pseudo-ice-rink.

You know that scene of Bambi slipping on the frozen pond? Imagine if you will that in that scene, Bambi is 10 months pregnant, trying to lean on a giant bouncy ball and mooing like a cow. That's my overriding memory of the entire home birth experience. 

9. Bodily fluids don't follow a script

When I had given up on Homeland, was bored of watching my husband repair punctures and too tired to do anything else, I popped upstairs to have a little lie down. In our bedroom was the ONLY bit of carpet in the house without plastic sheeting. So obviously, my waters broke the second I waddled in. This did not impress mr plastic sheeting, but I laughed so hard I wasn't sure if I was still spilling amniotic fluid or just plain wetting myself.

10. A 2-seater sofa is a BIT too small for internal examination

Lying on the sofa, with your bum on the arm rest and a woman wearing converse measuring your cervix is an aspect of home birth that the YouTube videos often edit out.

11. Home births aren't just for spiritual, hypnobirthing types. And you don't have to be stark bollock naked. 

Even though you're at home with the curtains shut and the door locks and everyone in the room has had their hands up your birth canal, it's totally fine feel a bit shy and keep your t-shirt on! You can also scream and shout and swear to your heart's delight. It doesn't have to be all plinky plonky YouTube worthy serenity. Turns out, when the shit hits the paddling pool, (and it did) that I'm more of a mooer than a screamer, but I figure if you're the type to be breaking your husband's fingers and shrieking like a banshee, it's better to be doing that in the privacy of your own home than out in a public building isn't it?

12. Wet babies are slippery

I thought I wanted to catch the baby as it came out but when I came to it, it turned out I was concentrating too hard on pushing to listen what the midwives were asking me so they caught him and gave him straight to me. He was the slipperiest thing I've ever touched! Like trying to cuddle an eel with a tiny hat on. I almost definitely dunked him back under water at least once trying to get a grip on the little fella. Maybe we should've made a video of our home birth. It might have been worth £250 on You've Been Framed?

Oh alriiight... so maybe it was a BIT magical. 

[Read the NICE guidelines about home births are here if you're interested!]


  1. I can relate to so much of this! I had a home birth with my second too (no pool though, couldn't be arsed with the faff!). I also had a husband who was overly concerned about our 'new' (3 year old) carpets, and we were watching a documentary about Star Wars while I was in labour - no candles or whale music here. My midwives were wearing uniform though, even though it was the middle of the night. Home birth isn't just for hippies :)

    1. Yes! Starwars in labour, that's the dream! (?) Love it :)

  2. It sounds like you had a great experience but this did make me chuckle! Mr plastic sheeting....hahaha

  3. This is a brilliant post.

    I would seriously consider a home birth if/when I have another baby. I had a really quick labour with my daughter but there was no room for me at the hospital (just what you want to hear). By the time they'd got a room sorted, I was travelling to the hospital fully dilated and trying NOT to push. Worst car journey ever.

    Jenna at Tinyfootsteps x

    1. Thanks Jenna, I had a quick first labour too, part of the reason I chose to stay at home second time!!

  4. I loved this post and kept getting Hubby to pause TV to read bits out loud to him. Number 2 just cracked me up. It's so true!! We had new £1500 sofas delivered the week before T arrived in a planned homebirth....! x

  5. love this post, i had a home birth but consider myself far from a tofu eating hippy, i also work in a hospital. my decision was based on the need for my husband to be at home as we were lambing, the children not being disrupted from their routine and my wish for my dog (who calms me) to be about. lucky we don't have carpets downstairs so no need for plastic sheeting, and our sofa is leather so very wipe downable, we are however rural and on a spring fed water system so a bit of a gamble as to pool full or not in time for the arrival, i equate this to the gamble of turning up at our local hospital and its solitary birth pool and finding it occupied!

  6. I love your post, it's so funny yet educating! :) I'm expecting my first and tomorrow is my due date, although I'm giving it another week at least :) I am too set up for a home water birth (In the hippie style though-relaxing music, hypnobirth, candles etc-we shall see how that goes) and me and my husband are really excited and looking forward to this new experience.

  7. I love your post, it's so funny yet educating! :) I'm expecting my first and tomorrow is my due date, although I'm giving it another week at least :) I am too set up for a home water birth (In the hippie style though-relaxing music, hypnobirth, candles etc-we shall see how that goes) and me and my husband are really excited and looking forward to this new experience.