A big CONGRATULATIONS to Melissa! Now a mom of three, she just gave birth to her littlest little LAST WEEK–a beautiful and happy home birth! Melissa’s birth stories teach us the effect fear can have on our birthing choices; when we’re scared, we tend to give others more and more control over our labor and birth. But when a woman is educated and supported, she becomes confident in her abilities to birth her baby on her own terms and in her own way. Talk about empowering! Melissa is a BIRTHFIT Regional Director and a certified Eating Psychology Coach.
By Melissa H.
One week ago, we welcomed our third baby, Henry, into the world. He was our second natural birth and our first home birth. As I think back to the version of myself expecting our first baby, I never would have imagined a homebirth in our future. Our first baby was a surprise. In fact, the timing could not have been worse. My now-husband and I were young, college athletes and I happened to be in the middle of track season. I was terrified of the pregnancy, of birth, and of motherhood.
All of my decisions that first birth were made from fear.
My husband and I were geographically separated at the time and I couldn’t bear the thought of him missing the birth, so I opted for induction at 39 weeks. I was afraid of the building intensity of labor and asked for an epidural a few hours after the induction. As my first-born son was crowning, I started to cry and remember saying in my out-loud voice, “I’m not ready!” But there he was. My precious son.
I was irreversibly a mother and deeply changed.
With baby #2, I chose love over fear.
I started to educate myself on birth early in the pregnancy. I started taking a closer look at how fitness, nutrition, and mindset play foundational roles in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Going into labor this second time was exciting and I felt confident in my choices. The birth was downright enchanting and the postpartum recovery was infinitely better than my first experience.
For baby #3, a homebirth had been on my heart. It felt right for our growing family. The setting would be warm, intimate, and loving; the kids could be part of the experience, we wouldn’t have to strategize the hour-long drive to the hospital, and I could start recovery in my own bed, eating my own food.
Choice is empowering!
On top of planning for a new baby, an out-of-hospital birth requires an extra dose of preparation. There’s an old wives tale about out-of-hospital births: the more you plan, the less you’ll need.
My midwife required the purchase of a birth kit through the birth center (this included some medical supplies, toiletries for the birth team, chux pads, regular pads, witch hazel, and their famous “vagina tea” – a homemade herb blend for use in the peri-bottle postpartum) and that I also fulfill a homebirth checklist. This checklist included items for labor, birth, the birth team, waterbirth (if needed), postpartum, and an overnight bag for baby and I in the rare case of a hospital transfer. There was a plan and a contingency plan for everything.
On the postpartum side of birth, I can confidently share some of my favorite prep actions:
- Preparing the birth space – creating the intimate and loving atmosphere was super important. We decided that our bedroom would be the perfect place to labor and deliver. We had easy access to the bathroom (the toilet and tub are phenomenal labor-aids) and the bedroom was the one place I could always relax. After week 36, we made an effort to keep the room uncluttered and set up the birth supplies in an accessible location.
- Double-making the bed – this is where you layer 2 sets of sheets and 2 shower curtains (plastic-sheet set-plastic-sheet set). The top set will be a mess postpartum and the ability to strip it off, throw it in the wash, and have another mattress-protected set ready to go is just great.
- The postpartum meal – we had to have a postpartum meal in the freezer with reheating instructions by week 36. Fortunately for us, I had started a crockpot meal the morning of the birth so we had perfectly timed postpartum eats and got to use the frozen meal (shepherd’s pie) the next day. If your husband is like mine, frozen meals will save you from cereal at every meal 😉 Hearty soups and stews make great meals!
- Padsicles – your postpartum bottom NEEDS these! To make, simply mix 1 part witch hazel with 1 part water and saturate a pad. Shape the pad into a long “C” (to hug your undercarriage) and stand up on its side in the freezer. Allow the pads to freeze and store in a large Ziploc bag. Immediately postpartum, these pads felt AMAZING. My midwife recommends changing the padsicle at each bathroom break for the first 24 hours.
- Have a plan for your littles – We had a babysitter lined up to assist with our other two children in case they were home for the birth and found the experience too intense. This allowed my husband to be mentally available for labor support.
- Train for birth – birth is one of the biggest athletic events of your life. It requires both physical and mental preparation. In the BIRTHFIT community, we refer to the four pillars of fitness, nutrition, chiropractic, and mindset as the foundation for personal birth preparation:
Back to last week… our homebirth was incredible.
It didn’t go the way I had anticipated and, at the same time, exceeded my expectations. This labor was the fastest but most intense labor yet. I rapidly progressed to transition but struggled to move through it. In retrospect, it could have been little Hank’s position entering the birth canal, my unbreakable sac, or my growing self-doubt that I was doing something wrong for plateauing at transition for roughly 2 hours. I had expected this birth to feel a lot like my daughter’s birth: for my water to break at transition, for the unstoppable urge to push, and for the pushes to feel more relieving than painful.
This birth was nothing like that.
My water did not break, I only had hints of an urge to push, and the pushes carried the “ring of fire” trademark. For a birth unfolding this unexpectedly, I could not have had a better team around me. They were patient, loving, and trusted my body to deliver this baby.
Early postpartum was a magical and gentle time—completely opposite of my frenzied hospital experiences. Baby Hank and I cuddled, nursed, and bonded. He stayed on his cord for over an hour. I felt completely spoiled by the birth team as they cleaned up the room, started a load of laundry, brought us food, and ensured the baby and I were medically stable.
At the end of the day, our homebirth was everything we had hoped for and more. If you have any questions regarding BIRTHFIT and/or homebirth, I would love to support you! You can reach me here:
Wishing you a happy and healthy journey into motherhood,