Have you ever run a marathon? How about a 10k run- fun runs, as they’re sometimes called, although I can’t imagine why?! I’ve run a few 10k runs (about 6 miles) in my lifetime, and have the medals somewhere to prove it.
For some I’ve trained, I’ve been healthy, I’ve been in the right frame of mind. For those the race was easy enough, and I’ve made good time. I’ve not really enjoyed it, but did enjoy the feeling of achievement afterwards.
For others, I’ve not trained at all. In fact, I joined my family in a race last year. I had been ill for a few weeks before, I hadn’t been eating the right kind of food, and I had done absolutely no training. I also had to borrow shoes from my mother. Needless to say, I didn’t run a step. I walked the whole way, and considered giving up at the half way mark which happened to pass by the stadium where the race ended.
While it was a great experience and I really enjoyed walking and chatting with my dad for over an hour, we only just made the cut off time, and we totally missed the finisher’s goody bags. I don’t think we even got medals. My dad is a seasoned long distance runner, so this must have been rather frustrating for him, but he was sweet about it. I had said from the outset that I would try to finish the race.
I view home births the same way. When someone tells me they have bought a birthpool and are going to try for a homebirth, my heart sinks a little and I strongly suspect (usually correctly) that they will end up transferring to hospital or have a less than desirable experience. Why? Because it’s like turning up at the starting line having bought your running outfit and calling that your ‘race preparation’.
Understand when I say that this isn’t a judgement on anyone who’s ever had a ‘failed’ homebirth. Sometimes you can do everything right, and it still doesn’t work out. Sometimes you can be well trained and perfectly ready, and you twist your ankle in a hole, or misstep, and end up with race marshals carrying you back to the medical tent.
Sometimes you can be perfectly prepared, doing your bit, reading research, watching birth videos, talking to other home birth parents, and complications develop that mean you can’t go through with a homebirth. It’s like waking up on race morning with the flu. Or being up the night before vomiting. Or developing a chronic illness the week before. It happens, and there’s nothing for it.
But no athlete prepares for a race saying she’s going to try to compete. She either is, or she isn’t – unforeseen circumstances aside. If you’ve had a child, if you’ve given birth, you know that it can be pretty much an endurance event that would rival anything in the Olympics.
When people ask me whether I’m going to try for a homebirth again this time, I say “No. I’m having one.”
That may sound arrogant and smug to some, and I appreciate that you can’t please everyone, but preparation is key. You can go as far as you can go, then you have to let nature take her course, but you can do your part. You must do your part.
You need to know what to expect in childbirth. You need to know what childbirth looks like and I don’t mean the version of it that Hollywood portrays. You need to know common problems that can occur in homebirths and what you can do about them at home. You need to know that your midwife’s views on childbirth correspond with your own. You need to have your coping mechanisms and pain management strategies on hand. You need to know what to do if manageable complications arise. You need to write a birth plan, even if only to see what you haven’t yet thought about.
I remember a midwife once telling me that the best births she had ever attended were the ones with prepared and well researched mothers. Imagine organising a race where no one had trained? What would the final stats look like? Not great, I assure you! Injuries, non-completions and finishing times alone would be disheartening for the organisers.
So yes. I’m having a homebirth again. And I’m doing my ‘training’ (hypnobirthing, relaxation techniques, breathing techniques), and I’ve bought my ‘outfit’ (birthpool) and I’ve gotten to know the support team (my midwife, a TENS machine, natural remedies for use during labour).
For me, there is no trying. There’s only doing, or not doing – with a full awareness that sometimes life changes your plans.
Want to read more?
- My post on Natural Parents Network with Tips on Preparing for a natural childbirth
- Dionna at Code Name Mama writes on what to do with young children at a birth as well as how to prepare young children for birth.
- Lauren at Hobo Mama writes about preparing for pushing, (kind of like a runner, preparing for a race!) as well as giving birth like mammals do.
- Lauren also has a really good example of why I believe birthplans are important: They give you the chance to really examine your options, well before the birth.
- Melissa from Vibrant Wanderings shares the resources and thoughts behind preparing herself for childbirth. She also shares her birthplan, which once again demonstrates the value of knowing your options before the birth!
- Mamapoekie has a fab list of birth affirmations. (I had repeated my affirmations so often during pregnancy, my husband whispered them in my ear through contractions! It was amazing!)
- She also has a great list of the physical things you may need during the birth.
* Image Credit: I have NO idea who to credit for this image, but sadly, no, it’s not a picture of me.