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Natural Homebirth Tips, Childbirth Education
"When you are new at sheep-raising and your ewe has a lamb, your impulse is to stay there and help it nurse and see to it and all. After a while, you know that the best thing you can do is walk out of the barn." Wendell Berry
Prefer to Listen? Find the accompanying podcast episode on the Unschooled Homebirth podcast, Episode 52, wherever you get your podcasts!
Most homebirth families have a lot of information about the things that are needed for homebirth - the number of towels, blankets, the specific birth supplies your midwife likes to have on hand and so on. But, what isn't as readily discussed are the non-tangible elements to creating a calm birth environment, which I would argue are even more important than the supplies, because it doesn't matter how many blankets or towels, or sterile gauze you have available, if your birth environment gets stressful because of outside factors, that can create a difficult situation for homebirth far beyond running out of towels. In this article, I am sharing four keys to creating a calm homebirth environment.
If you're arranging your homebirth and you're established with your midwife, chances are you might already have a list of all the practical things you need to have on hand for your birth. Additionally, depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy and how you are feeling about giving birth, you might be starting to do a lot of research on topics like, how to manage pain in labor, comfort techniques for labor, laboring positions, and how your partner can support you, and these are all important topics, but for a lot of families, their preparation ends here with a pile of lists, facts, and practicalities.
But birth, especially natural homebirth, isn't about lists, facts, and practicalities, and in fact, when used in the wrong way, these things can actually have negative impacts on homebirth, because these things are coming from the beta brain waves, the everyday reality that we live in when we work, the critical thinking mind from which we have conversations, where we make lists and learn facts, focusing your birth preparation in this state of consciousness is the trap of the hopeful homebirther, a state that most homebirthers will go through on their birth journey, blissfully unaware of the problem that's created when you don't go beyond this stage until complications arise. Unfortunately, because most hopeful homebirthers think they are prepared, and they know a lot about the physical aspects of birth, and they feel their midwife or doula will get them through anything they aren't prepared for, this is where their homebirth preparation stops.
What that means is that you have only trained your beta mind to recall the facts and practical of birth, so you have to stay in the beta, thinking mind to hold onto that information, and recall that information during birth, and in the beta mind is where we feel everything in our physical and mental and emotional body, and I'm betting that's not what you are envisioning for your birth if you're serious about homebirth.
Some families move on from there after learning about states of consciousness and add in some form of hypnosis for birth, which is helpful as it teaches you to go beyond the beta reality into the hypnotic state of alpha brain waves, so you are in a more relaxed state. For some people this can work well to help take the edge off, to help sink into a deeper state of consciousness where you are more disassociated from the physical and mental and emotional reactions to birth. But what you might notice is that it doesn't work for everyone or for every birth, and there's many reasons for that. Some families just don't spend enough time practicing, so they aren't prepared to use the tools when birth comes, but often I see two things that cause hypnosis approaches to not be quite the tool families expected it to be.
First, some birthing women decide they don't want to be in a hypnotic state during their labor because they find they are focusing on things outside of the experience and they realize they don't want to be outside of their birth, they want to experience birth, but not in the beta reality. This is how I personally felt about the hypnosis techniques when I was pregnant and getting ready for my homebirth, I didn't want to think about a beach or anywhere else, I wanted to be able to surrender to the experience of birth, but in a way that I could flow with the unfolding as it came, so for me personally, this approach was not something I ended up using during either of my homebirths. I hear a lot of other women find this to be true as well, although, some families find the techniques valuable for other aspects of life, especially in the early years of parenting as a way to relax and de-stress during toddlerhood, teenage hood, even as kids leave for college, so learning this technique certainly has merit, it just doesn't always work as expected during birth.
Second, some women don't want to stop at alpha brain wave lengths, and while some people can access slower brain wave function with hypnosis, most of the techniques taught for birth don't have this effect unless someone has been practicing for a long time. Most of these birth techniques rely on cues and a specific environment that may not be exactly how things are in birth. So frequently, even when in helps in early labor, often the effects fade as labor gets more intense and a woman's brain can't focus on the cues any longer. For some women, hypnosis comes more naturally and it will work for much, maybe all of her labor, but for the majority of women I have talked to or whose birth stories I listen to, often they have stopped using hypnosis during later active labor and are looking to other tools to manage the building intensity.
Finally, for some families, it just doesn't work at all, and you may not know this might be you until you're in the moment. Sometimes that could be because of the environment being too disruptive, if you haven't set up your calm birth environment - which is what I am going to get to in a moment. But before we get to the four keys of a calm birth environment, the final thing I will say about hypnosis techniques and why they sometimes don't work, because it relates to the fourth key, is if you haven't uncovered all of your beliefs about birth, or if your partner is holding strong negative beliefs about birth, or if your birth team brings their own negative beliefs. By negative beliefs, I mean fears, worries, all the concerns that birth workers carry in the back of their mind that they are on guard for, like shoulder dystocia, or hemorrhage, or how long your waters have been broken, all the things they are trying to manage and control. The emotions that result from these beliefs can subconsciously impact the environment where you are giving birth, so it's important to know that and have techniques that help you avoid the influence of other people's fears, because dealing with the fears of everyone - you, your partner, and your birth team, this is a major cause of complications in birth, especially homebirth.
In fact, it impacted my first homebirth. A fear my midwife had that I didn't know about, or even have the awareness to know I needed to know, the belief she was carrying, that had nothing to do with me or my birth, affected the actions she took during birth, which meant I wasn't prepared to deal with the surprise that came during my birth. These are things that few childbirth classes teach you about, that few books share about, that YouTube videos don't share, and I've not seen these conversations well accepted in natural birth groups on social media. But, I am opening the conversation for your awareness here because it is one of the most important keys for creating a calm homebirth environment.
So now that I've spoiled our grand finale key a bit, and before I spoil anything else, let's get to the four keys to know about creating your calm birth environment because after you hear them, no matter how early in your pregnancy you may be, it's never too early to start implementing these strategies.
Key #1 - Simplify Your Pregnancy & Birth Updates with Tech
Set up some kind of private group for your family, friends, coworkers, anyone who will be asking you for regular updates, especially toward the end of pregnancy. The goal here is to have one place you send everyone to where they can get the updates, this streamlines everything for you and helps everyone who's interested stay on top of your updates.
If this isn't your first baby, than you already know how tiring it can be managing all the inquiries from family and friends about when baby's going to get here. And worrying about this or trying to manage this keeps you in a state of control, which is a very beta brain wave state, but I want you to be able to let go of the everyday tasks, of updates and questions as much as possible as your birthing day draws near.
Today's tech and apps makes this much easier to manage. Creating a group website or even a Facebook group if most of your people use Facebook, can it make it so much easier to share. You can also explore some of the companies that offer a way for people to follow your pregnancy and stay up to date on baby after their arrival on a photo and video journal site, a few of them that are popular include Tinybeans, Lifecake, and Tweekaboo. I haven't used any of these personally, but have friends and clients who have used them where I get to read the birth story and follow their babies grow, but I don't have any affiliation with them nor do I know their terms of service or the security measures as far as how they protect images, private information, videos and anything you share, so you will want to be sure to check all of that out, I am certainly not endorsing any of these or Facebook for that matter, we all know Facebook is anything but secure these days, so use them at your discretion in the way that feels secure and comfortable for your family.
So that disclaimer aside, going back to the photo and video journey sites, in my limited experience, these are usually set up through an email invite, so I expect there's a bit of work on the front end of gathering all the emails, but once you send out the invites, and people join, they can easily see the updates you post in that one single place, so it's an easy way to share the adorable moments of baby's first hours, days, even years.
I'm sure there's other ways out there you can find that allow secure sharing of your baby's precious moments if you search around and inquire with other tech knowledgeable people you know who use platforms like this.Whatever you choose, I highly recommend finding a way to simplify this communication and be clear that this is where everyone goes to get updates.
Key #2 - Use Autoresponders
Set up autoresponders for your texts and email and update your outgoing voicemail message, if you have family or friends who still make phone calls. I recommend this because expecting families get flooded with questions and messages via texts and maybe even phone calls too and this can be overwhelming and doesn't help with inducing slower brain wave states in preparation for labor, because conversation, even in the form of texts or listening to voicemails is a beta brain wave state activity.
On most phones todays, you can easily set up an autoresponder to your text messages. This is especially useful during labor, although you may want to consider a more generic message that doesn't specifically say you're in labor, but maybe something like, we are taking some time to recharge before our baby arrives, but we appreciate your message and will be in touch soon.Using something a little more generic like this, you wont get people over-excited about the baby or wanting to continually check on how labors going, but they will still know you saw their message and hopefully they will understand your request for time to recharge and resist the temptation to keep texting. And in case of phone calls, I also recommend changing your outgoing message on your voicemail to something similar if you have people who might call you instead of text.
Key #3 - Hang Door Signs
Key number 3 is to make signs for your door, which you may want to make early enough to laminate or get plastic sheet covers if you are somewhere where your signs might be exposed to moist air.
There are a couple of ways the sign on the door technique might be helpful for a calm homebirth. First, for any members of your birth team. When your birth team arrives, you may not want them to just come into the room and start asking questions while you are in your birthing realms accessing the higher level of consciousness in theta or even delta wavelengths where you can access so much inner knowing that helps your body just surrender to birth in the most natural way. It's like when you're using a bathroom where the outside of the door doesn't have an indicator that the bathroom is occupied, so you're there using the bathroom and someone rattles the handle and then knocks on the door, and that disruption causes you to tighten up, which is the opposite of what you need when your going to the bathroom, and when your dilating your cervix. So I love to have a little note with your requests, or expectations of how your birth team should enter your birth space. Now, of course midwives are well aware that you need quiet and don't need to be disturbed unless there is an unusual circumstance, baby is almost out or the umbilical cord is out before the baby, this is not what we're talking about here, because these are not usual circumstances. So when all is going smoothly, midwives always do their best to enter quietly and read the room before they say a word or make any moves, but you can help them if you have set expectations ahead of time, if you know what they will need when they arrive, and have that written out where they can't miss them.
So for example, leave instructions and directions on your note, even for things that may seem intuitive, like where the bathroom is you would like them to use, where extra toilet paper is, where extra towels and linens are, and some things in the kitchen that can be helpful, like pans for warming water, ice packs or supplies to make ice packs like plastic ziploc type bags, also they may need access to a large cookie sheet, baking sheet, or solid cutting board, which is used as a resuscitation board for a baby who is taking their time to take their first breaths and because midwives today are educated in the mindset to always expect to resuscitate babies, they usually setup a station for this when they arrive at the birth.
If you follow my work, you won't be surprised to hear I have some questions about this setup and what it brings into a birth room and the extent to which it makes it more likely a baby is to receive resuscitation efforts unnecessarily when everything is set up there and readily available. Not to say that some babies don't need a little help with the transition, and sometimes midwives do need specific newborn resuscitation techniques, and it can save lives, but I also wonder if the amount of "heroics" we hear about rescuing babies who just needed a moment, still attached to the functioning placenta, so not in danger, but just needing a minute to come into their body and find home along with their mother, but instead the process is disrupted because many don't truly trust the physiology or the placenta, even though we can identify a baby in danger from one who needs a moment, by their color, their tone, the state of the umbilical cord, and even heart tones if more information is needed.
Regardless of my thoughts on that topic, most licensed midwives will be required to have a resuscitation station per their license, whether they routinely use it or not, so all that to say, making your kitchen easy to navigate with notes or even printed pictures or labeled cabinets and drawers can be an important thing to have written out to help your birth team navigate without disturbing you.
The second type of note on the door is if you may have drop in visitors during or after labor. If this is something you don't want and you don’t want to have these discussions at the door, a note to say you appreciate your visitor taking the time to stop by, but you are not yet ready for visitors can help you avoid opening your door before you're ready to open up to visitors.
Another great use of the notes on the door is to hang a list of things you need help with for visitors who want to offer support to you and your new family. You can simply print a list of chores that need to be done and leave a space for people to write their name when they have done the task so others know what still needs to be completed, and so you can keep a list of people to thank when you are through the haze of the newborn weeks.
This could be things like watering your plants, taking out your garbage, bringing your mail to the door, walking your dog, cleaning the litter box if you have cats, starting a load of laundry or dishes, and of course home cooked meal delivery is always a blessing in the newborn and postpartum period. For many of us, it can feel awkward to ask for help with these common chores, but often, people are happy to be of service and will feel honored to help you during this special time, and it can mean a faster and easier postpartum recovery for you, which means the sooner you will be able to host some friends and family to formally meet the newest member of your family. No rush on that of course, make sure you focus on you and baby until you are ready for anything more.
If anyone complains about your request, remember that is about them and their ego, not you and the space you need during this precious time that can't be reclaimed.
Key #4 - Know Thyself
The final and perhaps most important key, that I already starting talking about in the beginning of the is episode, is to know thyself, which is actually important for so much of pregnancy and birth and parenting, and really life, because without it, you are at the mercy of everyone but yourself.
You can't know what to expect from others, your birth team, or anyone else you invite into your birth space, no matter how much you think you are prepared and how much you trust them, but you can know yourself and what you need and if you have done the preparation. You can trust yourself to know what you and your baby need, even if your birth team brings surprise concerns, emotions, or worries into your birth room, which as I mentioned earlier, is what happened in my first birth and resulted in actions my midwife took that I didn't agree with, but since I didn't know myself well enough then, I didn't have the power or strength to decline interventions I didn't want.
This particular area of really knowing yourself, connecting with your guiding cycle of nature and understanding how your intuition and instincts work, where they come from - because it doesn't just turn on during birth, it takes an awareness of what your intuition and instincts actually are and where they come from and how it's connected to the cycle of nature that humankind has become rather disassociated with, so much so that, even though this cycle is as old as time and we know it by heart, we don't even see it working in and around us every moment of our life. It's an odd phenomenon of the human being that we think we can function in a healthy way without consideration to nature's rhythm, and the impacts of going against the natural flow of nature's cycle are becoming more and more catastrophic for the human race.
What's really interesting is that many people think they are tuned into nature's cycle, and to some extent they are, we all are, most of us sleep during the night and wake in the morning because of nature's cycle and the effects on our pineal gland. We wear thicker clothing in the winter than the summer because nature's cycle affects our nervous system and temperature regulation, and we’re all at least aware of the relation of the lunar cycle to our menstrual cycle. Beyond that, and the human race has lost connection with the more subtle flows of the cycle, the more subtle ways in which this cycle is vitally important to life, and we have completely lost sight of it in regard to birth, where we have replaced it with stages of labor and memorizing hormone cascades, measuring cervical dilation, putting labor on an artificially defined clock time, and listening to fetal heart tones, and these are all the wrong metrics to base the health of birth. These metrics can be useful to inform the flow of the cycle or to gauge the extent of misalignment with nature's cycle if we were adept at that, but today we have totally replaced the cycle so now these metrics are completely ungrounded and seemingly random. Still they are accepted as normal and even informative because we are living in a time where science and modern medicine are the gold standard, our birth culture believes the natural event of birth is actually medical and needs measurements and monitoring to gauge progress and predict outcomes, because our beta brains love to have something that feels real and measurable, even though evidence doesn't actually demonstrate improved outcomes from these metrics.
If you know nature's cycle and how the birth cycle reflects the same cycle, and you know how it works within YOU, as an individual, where you can feel your connections with the rhythms of the Earth and the moon and the sun and stars, and you know how your connections with everyone in your birth space can influence the harmony of your birth cycle, you can use that inner knowing to reharmonize your birth cycle and stay in your natural birth rhythm, no matter the influences others try to project on you or how someone else may try to control the unfolding of your birth. This is truly knowing thyself, tapping into your authentic intuition and instincts, because it's all grounded in the greater patterns of the universe and the rhythms of Earth that flows through each of us so utterly predictably when you recognize and connect with nature's cycle.
So how do you connect and truly get to know thyself? Study nature, everyday, anywhere you can find it - the plants, the trees, the birds, the wind, the rain, and of course everything in the heavens - the sun, moon, stars, the wisdom of us and of birth is in the cycle that all living things on and around Earth follow. This is how humans who lived before technology, before dopplers and ultrasounds, before clocks and synthetic inductions, this is how they knew what to expect of birth and how to resolve anything that fell outside of the natural cycle. They were attuned with nature outside and inside, which created harmony with nature's cycle, and this is what they followed for everything in life, and if you follow the cycle too, you will find the answers when you need them.
My students and other people I work with, even outside of birth, tell me how much attuning with nature's cycle answers questions they have been asking for years when they finally see the cycle of nature and understand how it influences their life. I love how much this becomes impactful on how birth unfolds when I'm working with my students in the Natural Birth Compass Program where they explore all that nature's cycle has to teach about themselves as individuals, as couples who will go through the experience of birth and parenting together, especially in regard to how birth unfolds, and how much it informs the normal physiology of birth, and how much it shows up in the bonds formed in a family when their new baby is born in peace and love.
If it wasn't all so completely natural, it would feel so overwhelming how perfect it all works. So much so that the less anyone interferes, including our own mind and brain, the thinking parts, the beta brain, the less this is involved, the more birth harmonizes with the natural cycle. This is exactly what Wendell Berry was talking about in the quote above. Nature hasn't gotten it wrong, but we get in the way of the natural flow of cycles, of birth, because we are lost and disconnected. Reestablishing the connection to nature and awakening your inner knowing, learning to use and trust your inner Natural Birth Compass, will be your guide and you will never be lost with your inner knowing as your guide. So know thyself by studying nature, harmonize with the cycle of nature, awaking your inner knowing and you will find the answers you need.
Let's recap the reason we started here today, the 4 ways to create a calm birth environment.
Do you have any others to share? I would love to hear them! Let me know on Facebook or instagram @naturalbirthcompass and let's create more calm birth environments together!
If you would like to start to explore a new paradigm of homebirth preparation, download the free guide Three Cycles You Need to Know for a More Confident and Intuitive Homebirth, get your free copy by clicking here!
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