by Sarah Petruno, Shaman
With my second child, I decided to go the route of an unassisted homebirth.
And it worked! Healthy mom (me) delivered a healthy baby boy into the arms of his father.
But, it wasn't without tons of preparation, education, planning, and research. (Hey, I'm a scientist at heart, after all!)
The first go 'round was a planned hospital birth center water birth, that ended in a 55-hour labor and delivery, threat of c-section, and finally an epidural, Pitocin, and hooked up to all kinds of monitors.
There were no complications besides it being long, and in the eyes of the hospital, too long.
So, when I became pregnant with my son we decided to plan for a midwife assisted homebirth.
All was going well, until midway through my pregnancy, our family abruptly moved across the country after discovered we'd been unknowingly living in a house contaminated with 12 years of methamphetamine use.
We had to move fast, and thus, abandon our awesome midwife in California.
In the space between moving, not having a midwife, and getting settled, I had some time to think.
Through our regular midwife visits, I realized I didn't really need a midwife.
I realized that I kind of knew what I was doing and was really only seeing the midwife because I felt like I was supposed to or that it was some kind of law that I had to, as a pregnant woman.
Did I have to have a midwife? I wasn't sure.
I secretly started researching unassisted homebirth, free birth, and the whole movement of birthing outside of a hospital, on your own, with just you and those you love.
I bought books, I made resource lists, and I took some serious notes.
I developed a plan.
And then, I presented the whole thing to my husband.
The rest is homebirth history.
Below you will find all the resources we used to plan and carry out an unassisted homebirth.
Take what you like, leave what you don't. I'm creating this resource list because of all the women before me who shared their own resources. These are mine.
My Unassisted (UA) Homebirth Resource List
I bought a beat up copy of this on eBay, but from what I understand there are .pdf copies floating around the internet. This is widely known as the UA bible and a must read for birth attendants. My husband and sister both read this and studied it.
This book was the only one that I chose to read to really affirm my decision and empower myself. It comes from the perspective of Christianity, and in its own way, talks about the power loss associated with traditional birthing modalities, which really resonated with me especially regarding the birth of my first. If you're on the fence, read this and nothing else.
This reads as a midwife's textbook. Very info-dense. I read it myself, but my husband STUDIED this. When the day came, the information in this book helped him monitor the progress of labor, and through the charts inside, even told him when to coach me on pushing, without any invasive checking. It has baby health checklists in the back, too, for your own health checks at home.
The full list of supplies I used is below, but these were my critical components. I got a giant basket from Marshalls/TJMaxx and stored all the birth supplies in this one basket so that it was easily transported, organized, and everything was all in one place.
1. Birth Kit
I got this one from Precious Arrows. We didn't use a large portion of the things in it, but it was nice to have it as assurance. It also contained some of the stuff you'd get in the hospital, like the comfy mesh underwear and the giant cold packs. If you don't get this one, do not forget the plastic backed sheets. CRUCIAL. While it contained umbilical cord clamps, it didn't include scissors (see below). You'll also want to make sure you have several towels and receiving blankets that you're okay with throwing away. Things will get messy.
Obviously. To cut the umbilical cord. We used these, sterilized them with alcohol, and everything was fine. The kit we bought contained 2 sterile cord clamps.
If you choose to give Vitamin K, which we did, you can get the drops and give them at home.
4. Massagers and Mantras
I had several back massager options for my husband to use during labor, and in preparation for labor, I used this mantra. My husband trained himself in constantly reminding me to relax my shoulders and breathe down, which really did help make the contractions not as bad. I could never remember to relax on my own without someone reminding me to do so. He also massaged my back pretty much the entire time I was in labor, which was critical.
Perfect for draping yourself over, rolling yourself on, and screaming into. Seriously. I've used one of these to get through both of my labors, and I would classify them as an essential labor tool. I got this one in the 65cm size. I'm 5'2 and my husband is 5'8 and it worked for both of us. My husband actually still uses it as his preferred chair.
6. Herbal Tinctures and Preparations
See the full list below. I personally used hops tincture during labor, angelica tincture after labor to release the placenta, and arnica immediately after delivery and daily until I used up the bottle I bought. I can personally verify that angelica works to detach a stubborn placenta - make sure you have it on hand.
I created and compiled this from several sources (sorry, I don't remember them now!). This is my own list that I've made into a pdf for you. I printed this list out and crossed things off as I ordered them and added to my labor and delivery basket.
My list of herbs to use before, during, and after birth. I didn't use all of them. But, I had all of the ones I deemed the most important on hand - see the birth supply list for those. I personally used hops tincture during labor, angelica tincture to help the placenta detach after birth, and then I LIVED on arnica in the hours, days, and weeks after birth. ALSO, if this is your second+ child, get ready because afterpains are real and just as bad as labor. (Why doesn't anyone warn you of this?!) I used this Cramp Bark supplement. Have it on hand - do not be me and wait until after you feel like you're dying to order it.
A note on what to do with the placenta. . .
We didn't have a plan for this. At all. I had a bowl to put it in, but that's about it. When the time came, we decided that it was there, and we were already doing the whole natural thing anyway, so we may as well do something with it. We didn't plan for encapsulation, which left us with two choices: put it in smoothies, or prepare some kind of meal with it. Making a chili or some other meal felt too cannibalistic to me, but I was willing to sneak it into a smoothie.
My husband, God bless him, when I was recovering, he took it down to the kitchen, washed it off, took off the outer membrane and cut it into small pieces for freezing. Then, over the course of the next several weeks, he put a piece or two of it into a daily smoothie. We did NOT have the energy to be making fresh smoothies - we used premade smoothie kits from the freezer section. You honestly couldn't tell it was in there with the berry smoothies. I think it helped.
I recommend having some kind of plan for it, even if you don't consume it, a plan to dispose of it. It feel wrong to me to throw it in the garbage, but it's really up to you and your personal preferences.
And getting a birth certificate. . .
Normally, the doctor, hospital, or midwife submits all the paperwork for you and a birth certificate arrives to you a few weeks later with little work on your part, besides delivering the baby. Not the case in an unassisted homebirth. Most states want proof that you were pregnant, had a live birth and that the baby is yours. In our state, PA, we had to get a doctor to verify our address and that the baby existed with their signature and a medical record form. I also had to fill out a record of live birth form and send it to the state. THEN, we had to get a notarized affidavit by 2 witnesses to my pregnancy and to verify the truth of the birth record
Because we'd read about potential problems with doctor's offices and unassisted births, since he was healthy, we waited to take him in until he was 6 weeks old. At which point, the doctor was not only cool with it but 100% impressed by our preparation and planning for the birth.
If you're in PA, you can call the vital records department ahead of time and they'll send you everything you need. The laws and procedures vary by state. Check out this message board for more info per state.
That's it! I hope this list is helpful to you or someone you love.
Happy homebirth researching!
Last Updated: July 7th, 2016
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