"You shouldn't have a home birth because it's too messy!"
One client's mother, a surgeon, was concerned about her daughter's decision to have a home birth because, "I walk around the OR with my boots covered in blood, dear. It would be SUCH a mess!" I asked her if we walk around our houses during our periods with our boots covered in blood. "Well, no," she answered. "That's silly. We wear pads or tampons." After her daughter's home birth, the surgeon Grandma was amazed..."I guess it's the docs that cause the mess!"
Well...labour at home (even when planning a hospital birth) is clean because we are used to keeping clean when we bleed on a monthly basis. Labour is no different. And, for some reason, women seem to lose WAY less blood at home births - a matter of fully functioning hormones, perhaps?
I think of all the clean and tidy home births that I've attended over the years, and compare them to the memories of some messy (read "gory") hospital births that I've seen. Women just don't realize how fun it can be for the doula and midwives to keep a house tidy during a home birth. All the supplies are laid out on a table (basically, like a modern Mary Poppins, the midwives open their bags and bring the hospital to your home) and two large bags (one for garbage, one for laundry - see photo) are at the ready. The woman in labour wears pads, uses the shower or bath to stay clean, and we make sure the bed is double-dressed with good sheets (for a glorious postpartum - see photo) under waterproofing. Within an hour of the birth, the bedroom looks like it does in the second picture.
I make sure that, by the time the woman has finished her post-birth shower, I've provided the "turn-down service," any dirty dishes (from the post-birth lasagna) are in the dishwasher, and any dirty towels or clothes are in the washer. The joyful swish-swish of the dishwasher, and the thrum of the dryer even sound clean. Family members can come for a visit and not believe that a birth took place right in the middle of the living room!
Hospitals can afford to let the birthing rooms get very messy - someone else is going to clean up (though I do try to make sure that things are tidy throughout - I'm a neatnick!) Floors can be sanitized, and sheets are just thrown into the hamper for industrial cleaning. No one gets into trouble for tracking blood/fluids all over, and the placenta just hangs out in a bowl on a table (not fun for visitors!) (Notice that I'm not going to start a discussion about the possibility of infection at the hospital.)
I've attended some rather impromptu home births over the years (a speedy labour with no way to get to the hospital in time), and have managed to keep things together with just one Canadian Tire waterproof blanket (right, Laurel?) Chuck the blanket away and the cleaning is all done!
And, no...you don't have to clean up after yourself! Just one client tried that. We caught her on hands and knees, half an hour after birth, cleaning the tiles in the bathroom, "so the dog won't know I had my baby in here!" She was just supposed to be going to the toilet!!!
So, let your decision to have a home or hospital birth be based on information that matters. Where would you feel the safest? Just do your homework, then know that, if your baby is born at home, all will be tidy, and your bed will await. You will just have to walk to your bed, and climb in - it might even have a chocolate on the pillow!
Jacquie Munro, founder of the "Slow Birth" movement, is an experienced doula and childbirth educator and is well-known for her individualized, intuitive approach to supporting families in the childbearing year and beyond. Since 1987, she has provided support at over one thousand births, at home and in hospital, and taught thousands of expectant parents. At home, Jacquie lives only a bike ride away from four generations of her family. You can usually find her at the park or beach, playing beside her twin grandsons who call her "Deecy".