One of the best bits of advice a laboring mother can follow is to stay at home as long as she can, to ensure that she is in established labor before going to hospital/calling the midwife for the homebirth. It is commonly known that early contractions are shy and easily scared off by bright lights/strangers/the adrenaline rush of “wow, this is it!” Next comes the disappointment of contractions that disappear, or dilation of only 2cm and being sent home to come back later. In the end, the mother (and father) is exhausted and labor takes much longer with all the stops and starts. If only I had lived ‘in denial’ and waited until labor was really advancing before going in!
But, what if I don’t make it? Everyone is afraid of going in TOO LATE, ie, delivering in the car on the way to the hospital, in the parking lot, on the toilet…. etc. Often even if you do attempt to stay at home as long as you can, you are bombarded by worried comments from well-meaning parents and concerned partners if you’re sure it’s not time to go in yet? Are you sure?
First of all, super fast labors and births in public are rare enough to be fascinating. They’re reported in the news because they’re so uncommon!
Secondly, I feel it puts one’s mind to rest to know what to do in case you do end up birthing alone. Here are the 4 rules to memorize or even print out to have on hand:
- Get down. All fours is best, or kneeling upright. These positions allow you to see the birth and use your own hands to catch the baby. You can also half-sit, leaning back against a sofa, with your pelvis tilted forward. Basicly you want to be near the floor – you don’t want it to be a long way down!
- Pad the floor, Grab a towel, blanket, coat – anything at all, to make sure that the surface beneath you is soft. Babies come out wet and slippery and sometimes slide out of one’s hands…. and a hard landing isn’t nice.
- Wrap them up. As soon as the baby is born, place him or her on mama’s tummy or chest (depends on cord length) and wrap them up together. Use blankets, towels, even the shirt off the back of a passing motorist! Quick labors and deliveries can send both mother and baby into shock, and they’ll both lose heat very quickly. Wrapping them up together creates a warm natural incubator for the newborn.
- Don’t touch! Leave the cord intact, and don’t be tempted to cut or even tie it off in any way. It is totally safe to leave the baby and placenta connected. It is very common these days to wait until the cord stops pulsating before cutting it, and in more extreme cases, look up lotus births online! Okay, so you don’t have to go to such extreme measures – just remember it’s safest to leave the cord alone. Unsterile tools can introduce infection to both mama and baby, so wait until the paramedics/midwife come – they’ll have the right equipment to take care of it.
(Honorary number 5. After the above, NOW call the paramedics. If you are alone with the mother, then she needs your hands to help birth the baby and wrap her up. If you have one hand on the phone and your attention on a stranger, and then you run outside to flag down the paramedics… who is going to help HER, the one doing the work? If there are more than the two of you around, then by all means, phone the paramedics if you see a baby’s head.)
(Later editing comment) I just found this precipitous birth video! It is beautiful how calm both the mother and the father remain, possibly because if the presence of their 8 year old daughter, who ends up holding the camera. They had intended to give birth in hospital, with Bradly Method preparation. He had asked to be allowed to catch the baby, but their OB declined their request. In the end they didn’t panic, and dad remembers to free his hands and attention on the mama and the baby, and only AFTER the birth did they get distracted and phone 911. It would have been good to get on all 4’s, you can tell how slippery it was catching that baby standing up!