Speaking from experience, planning a homebirth as a first time mum can be daunting and difficult to navigate. Here are 5 things that I learned from my experience, which I want to share with other mums to help you on your homebirth journey.
When I first found out that I was pregnant, I did what I imagine many women do, and started Googling everything that there was to know about birth, I was petrified and clueless.
Being a control freak who’s scared of hospitals I wanted to find a way that I could take control of this situation in the most pain-free way possible. I started to look into ‘going private’ thinking that I could request a general anaesthetic and an elective caesarean, be asleep for the whole thing and be woken up when it was all over. (How naive I was!)
One evening, down another Google hole, I came across something I hadn’t heard of before; hypnobirthing, I bought a few books, enrolled on a course with a local teacher and found myself doing a complete 180, going from wanting all the drugs and an elective caesarean to planning a natural birth at home.
Hypnobirthing for me was the answer to my prayers, it taught me everything I needed to know about birth and how to ‘do it’, it prepared me, and made me feel in complete control so that I could approach my birth with confidence instead of fear. I’d gone from being petrified about giving birth to feeling really excited about it, (With a few nerves thrown in there too!) Hypnobirthing helped me transform from scared, into prepared. It empowered me to make the fully informed choice to have by baby at home.
Unfortunately however, not everyone shared my excitement and optimism. I faced a few barriers and experienced quite a bit of negativity from family, friends, strangers and even medical professionals. I found this very difficult to deal with at times and was often made to doubt myself and my decision. I want to share some of the ways in which I navigated these experiences, to hopefully help and reassure other first time mums who may be in the same position as I was.
First of all I think It’s important to note that we are in the minority, according to the Office for National Statistics, only 2.1% of births took place at home in 2019. It’s not clear how many of these were first time mums, but I’d hazard a guess that the majority of them were second or subsequent births. (In 2017, the home birth rate for first time mums was 0.8%).
So it’s safe to say that we’re going against the grain, and our decision to birth at home as a first time mum is certainly not a common one. Therefore it’s understandable that others may be surprised and confused about your decision.
For years we have been conditioned to believe that hospitals are always the safest place to give birth, so when you as a first time mum announce that you would like to give birth in your living room it’s no wonder that your news may be met with alarm and confusion from others.
So when faced with any negativity, try to remember that you have done your research and have made an informed decision, you are informed and educated.
Here are my top 5 tips to help you as a first time mum, navigate some of the barriers that you may face when planning your home birth:
1. Recognise that concerns from family/friends are likely to be coming from a place of love.
You may face opposition from well meaning family members, they may disagree with your decision. This is something that I experienced and I found it very tough. As a first time parent, you often feel vulnerable and anxious about birth, and it’s a time when you need support from those closest to you, not negativity. So this can be quite tough to deal with. My advice here would be to remember that they are only voicing their concerns because they care about you. You could point them to some of the research or resources that you have used and invite them to understand more about the benefits of homebirth. I think it’s also important to remind them that of course if there is a medical reason for you to go to hospital then of course you will go, it’s not like you’re saying you will only give birth at home!
2. Revisit your research- If you have a wobble.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I found myself experiencing ‘wobbles.’ Moments when I would doubt my decision. However, as soon as I had calmed down, re-read some of my favourite birth books, or revisited some of the learnings from my hypnobirthing course, I immediately felt at peace and confident about my birth plan. Sometimes you just need those little confidence boosters to keep you on your path. (You may find my previous blog post, Top 10 website recommendations handy for some research suggestions)
3. Try not to take-on negativity from others.
Some women love to regale their negative birth stories or will casually drop comments such as “Gosh you want to do it at home, you’re brave!” The saying, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is a load of rubbish. Words do hurt, and they can linger around in your head for years and have a massive impact on you! As I mentioned before, as a first time mum you are at your most vulnerable so a passing negative comment can have a really big impact on you. If someone is trying to tell you their negative birth story you can politely and casually say something along the lines of ‘ oh can we wait until my little one is here before we share birth stories please’
4. Remember that you know what is best for you and your baby.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing your place of birth. It is very much a personal decision.
I believe that you need to give birth in the place where you feel the safest, some women feel safest at home and some women feel safest in a more medical setting. So base your decision on the place where you feel the most safe and comfortable. Every woman is different and there is no right or wrong place to give birth. It’s important to remember that it’s ok to make a decision which may be different from that of your friend, cousin or workmate. You know your mind and body better than anyone else so you need to follow your instinct not Katy from Yoga class.
5. Read/ watch /listen to other first time mums’ experiences of homebirth.
I found myself devouring positive first time home birth stories, via Youtube, podcasts, books. I couldn’t get enough of them. Reading, listening and watching other women who had done what I wanted to do, gave me a lot of confidence and reassurance, especially during those ‘wobbles.’
Finally, my last piece of advice would be to look into how hypnobirthing can help to prepare for a positive homebirth. My hypnobirthing course is designed to equip you with the knowledge, tools and confidence to enable you to prepare for a positive birth experience in any location. You can get in touch via the contact form on my website for further details about my courses and course dates.