Preparing for your having your baby at home
When I was about 18 years old, I thought if I were to have a baby, I would for sure want to give birth at home. I found myself faced with that very decision 13 years later, but I was single and pregnant and suddenly it didn’t seem so simple. My vision of a home birth was squarely based on having a loving partner there supporting me.
So, I toured the local hospital. It didn’t feel right to me, but I talked myself along out of practicality. I wavered on even signing up for a birth class—imagining it filled with affectionate couples. I was so attached to my vision of what my motherhood was supposed to look like, that I just didn’t know how to move forward in the way I really wanted to.
At nearly the last minute, I changed course and found a home birth midwife. I was 36 weeks pregnant and had only enough time for two prenatal appointments before my water broke at 39 weeks exactly. I’m glad I resolved to do what was right for me regardless of the fact that my life and the birth of my baby looked different than I thought it would. More than three years later, I remember every moment of my beautiful home birth.
Here are my best tips for preparing for your home birth as a Solo Mom:
Select the right midwife. Ask her about her experience with and ideas about supporting single moms through pregnancy and birth. If she blows off this question entirely, then move on to the next midwife on your list. The truth is, birth and postpartum can look very different for Solo Moms versus moms with more constant, built-in support.
Gather your supplies. Your midwife will give you a complete list of items you will need to have on hand for the birth. Pick a designated spot in your home, and have everything checked off the list by the time you are 35 weeks along. Some extra items I found helpful that were missing from my list were a breast pump, special snacks and drinks for labor, hair ties, lip balm, breath mints, a robe, and a fan.
Find a birth doula. A midwife works tirelessly to keep you safe during labor and birth. A birth doula works tirelessly to keep you comfortable, supported, and motivated. You may have a friend or family member in mind who can support you at the birth, but keep in mind doulas are highly trained to keep you going through the tough moments and have endless ideas for comfort measures. Check out ESME’s advice on finding a birth doula, and take this quiz by ESME’s Nicole C. Kear to be sure you are inviting the right friends and/or family to your birth.
Take a home birth–centered birth class. You will be more confident, more prepared, and more armed with ideas of what your birth may look like. And, while you are at it, take a tour at the hospital so you feel familiar in case you do need to transfer there during your birth. Look for tips on how to choose a birth class—and advice on feeling confident walking in.
Line up your postpartum support. Giving birth at home means there are no round-the-clock nurses as there are in the hospital, so have a few friends, family members, or postpartum doulas on call after your baby is born. Share their contact information with your midwife and birth doula so they can reach out to you in the days following the birth. Day three postpartum is a notorious doozy due to hormonal changes, your breast milk coming in, and that accumulated lack of sleep. Make sure you have support early and often.
Stock your freezer and fridge. If you make a double batch of good, freezable dinner recipes twice per week in the last half of your pregnancy—you will have about 40 meals waiting for you in your freezer. And check out my list of easy, nutritious foods to grab for your first weeks as a parent. Also, using a website such as Meal Train is a great way to schedule loving visitors with hot meals in hand.
Get in the spirit. Are feelings of ambivalence, worry, or fear coming up for you? It’s best to deal with them now because these feelings are known to stall labor. Surround yourself with the feeling that your growing family is welcome in the world. Have a baby shower or blessing ceremony. Join a single mom support group—in person or online (such as ESME’s). Shed any machoism, and practice asking for help. Asking for a hug is a good place to start. Treat yourself to some prenatal yoga classes. Make popcorn and screen birth videos online with a close friend. Read a couple of books about birth (some favorites are Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth [Bantam Books, 2003] and The Essential Homebirth Guide by Jane Drichta and Jodilyn Owen [Gallery Books, 2013]).
When labor starts. Call your midwife and birth doula. Alert your support circle that a baby will be joining you in the coming days, and then go to sleep. Any amount of rest you can get before the strongest moments of labor will be incredibly valuable.
Congratulations from one Solo Mom to another! May you have a beautiful and empowering home birth!
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her five-year-old future comedian in California. She has lived through plenty of her own trials and tribulations—and you can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
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