The Little Black Book of Home Birth

March 10, 2015

downloadable PDF home birth supplies list

This is my 100th post.  I shudder to go back and see what I was writing back nearly three years ago, but life is like that.  Our clothes, our words, our tv shows and our blogger templates evolve with us as time goes on.

Piper's birthday is but a mere 7 weeks away.  This post has been chilling out in my drafts since she was just over a month old.  I've been waiting for a good time to hit publish.  Every month, I tweak a few things here and there about this list.  Also, I admit, I just love going over the details of Piper's birth.  I will use the info for my future kids, and maybe what I experienced and hoped for resonates with someone else searching for the same.

Click here to download the PDF list of all the things I needed for my home birth in a humble little two bedroom apartment.  If you can't handle the long winded detailed-ness about to happen here ;)


People are always trying to decipher whether or not they are equipped for a child. Do you have the means?  Do you have a home?  Are you in a stable relationship?  Is your career in the place you want it to be?  Does your career need to be in that very place in order to welcome a new member to the family?

So many questions.

Once we had the news that there would definitely be another person between the two of us come 9 months, all I could fixate on were the details.  I had some questions, to put it gently.

Where will the baby be born?  Will I have a natural birth?  C Section? Hospital? Epidural? Home? Delayed cord clamping? Fetal monitoring? Medical marijuana?  (...last one = joke)

I had all the questions and I pinned all of the lists.  Knowledge is power, and I was going to face giving birth with every possible answer in my pocket.

I didn't want a C section (I worked so hard to banish my 'fat charity' look, so generously provided by puberty, no way was I going to voluntarily sacrifice my hard earned abdominals to the surgeons knife) As for the epidural,  pain wasn't something I had ever dealt with, really.  I wouldn't consider myself a hero... I opted for IV sedation when I got my wisdom teeth pulled (and I STILL maintain that was the best trip I've ever taken).  But I wanted to be sure I NEEDED it, if I was going to be offered pain relief that was served with a 6 foot long needle in my back.  Insert #scared gif here.

That gif also covers how I felt about the possibility of tearing.  Tearing occurs when you a) give birth or b) get mauled by a shark.  I didn't want any parallels being drawn between my birth story and Soul Surfer.  My research (which involved reading every hippie dippy birthing book in the library ** spoiler alert -** they mention a lot of She-Wolfing, birth art and lotus flower opening), revealed water birth results significantly lacking in the tearing department.  That is the section of the library I wanted to be in.  Tear-free zone.

There is a funny thing about water birth though, you can't have one in our local hospital.

Home birth was my only ticket to water birth.  

Having my baby at home had always been on my mind.  I loved the idea of birthing in my own space, on my own terms; however, I was hoping for a 'dry run' having my first.  You know, 'test the waters' so to speak... sorry for all those puns.  Do-the-first-one-at-the-hospital-in-case-I-explode kind of deal.  Then, if I don't explode, I would try do it at home.

It turned out we felt so comfortable with our midwives and everything seemed really straight forward when we were able to ask enough questions about safety and 'what if' scenarios.  My pregnancy was without drama, aside from being Rh negative.  So we skipped the dry run and went straight for the planned home birth.  They (our midwives) provided a pack of disposables that the hospital would normally have on hand for us to take home which included but weren't limited to a peri bottle, GIANT disposable pads, a teeny gauze hat for the teeny prize.

There was a home visit at 37 weeks and I was given my inflatable rental pool (plus a few accessories)  in a big tupperware bin with laminated instructions and a list of extra things to buy and to have on hand for the birth.

This list was:

6 towels
10 receiving blankets
tarp/drop sheet for under pool
hose for filling the pool

For me, this was a short list.  Way too short.

So here it is.  My little black book.

The detailed itemizing of things that you may (probably will) need or just really enjoy having if you choose to meet your babe at home.

1.  (10) OLD TOWELS:  At least 10 of them.  Crappy bath towels like what you use when you dye your hair at home.  If you do that sort of thing.  These are for getting in and out of the shower (I used the shower a LOT during my labour and it was so helpful)  Getting in and out of the pool (if you're water birthing).  And just because a dry towel is next to godliness.  It feels so wonderful when you're soggy.  There are liquids oozing out of you that you probably don't want on your fancy white anthropologie bath sheets.  I do not have such bath sheets... but I digress.

2.  (10) OLD HAND TOWELS:  These are for the midwives/doula and for the baby.  Again.  People with the gunk on their hands.  Then checking the phone/ipad to time contractions and change music.  Lots of water with the shower and whatnot means lots of wiping of hands.  Send out a request to your family and friends to empty out their 'seen better days' linen cupboard if you're like us and just recently settled in a new country with absolutely no stuff or much in the way of expendable income.  Most people are happy to part with things that are clutter to them, but extremely useful to someone else.

3.  (2) HAND SOAP:  Because dirty hands + new baby = not okay.  (I say two because you have at least one bathroom and a kitchen sink.  make sure there is extra... seriously, people must also wash their hands also in the days and weeks following the birth! So much peace of mind.)

4.  (2) WATERPROOF MATS:  Okay, this is one of those things like what you would want if you had a kid who was sure to pee the bed.  I had it under my side of the bed for a few days/weeks before going into labour along with the false sense of hope that my water would actually break.  Rookie.  But yours might do the hollywood thing and break before labour, so in the spirit of all things boy scout - be prepared.  THEN when you have given birth to your baby, make sure this puppy is on your bed because... well a baby is just one of the many things that comes out of you during this birthing process.  Most of the other stuff is liquid and threatens the good relationship you currently may have with your mattress.  This is stupid expensive in my humble opinion, but if you have cash and just want your entire $2000 bed protected... it seems like a good splurge.

5.  (3) SPARE SHEETS:  Make these ones also from the 'seen better days' category.  You will stain them.  The baby will stain them.  Hence the waterproof mat and ugly sheets that can be thrown away in a few weeks.

6.  (5) ICE CREAM PAILS:  This is terribly important.  Not that the pails previously contained ice cream, but that they are some type of disposable plastic container capable of housing all manner of ick.  Yes, were talking poop.  Potentially vomit.  Placenta.  I say 5 because if you're like me and end up losing all that food you tried so hard to keep eating for energy... they're gonna take away and swap in fresh buckets for you so you don't have to stare at the grossness.  So have two or three just for that.  Poop and placenta, well lets just say there are mixing bowls and pie tins in my kitchen that have been permanently relieved of their food duties.  I didn't have plastic ice cream pails.  Please have plastic ice cream pails.
apartment home birth supplies checklist

7.  (10) BENDY STRAWS:  I chose ten but just buy whatever the dollar store will give you.  Most likely you'll end up with 100.  Which is fine.  I have nothing against bendy straws.  Make sure they're long enough to reach to the bottom of something like, say, a vitamin water bottle.  I liked vitamin water during labour because it wasn't as sweet as gatorade or juice... and just water doesn't cut it when you need energy and electrolytes or whatever.

8.  (10)  BOTTLED JUICE/ SPORTS DRINK:  I had a 12 pack of juice boxes and around 4 vitamin water bottles and a few cans of ginger ale. I prefer vitamin water to powerade or other electrolyte drinks because it's not as sweet... Also I watered down the ginger ale for the same reason.  All this sugar is actually good for once because your body is working very hard and most women don't feel like eating.  I ate because I knew what was good for me (and my doula was a stern mistress) but didn't keep any of it down in the end... However it was still good that I ate it.  Labour is like a marathon.  And also a sprint. It's intense and long and physical.  This is the reason for the drinking after every contraction.  Also it feels like a reward.  Something to distract.  So stock up; create thyself a stash.  Write your name on it and save it for labour.  No matter where you deliver, you'll need to hydrate! 
apartment home birth supply checklist

9.  (1)  EXERCISE BALL:  Could. Not. Survive. Without. This. I know everyone is different... but birthing balls (otherwise known as regular old exercise balls) are so versatile and helpful.  If you don't use it, your partner or doula or midwife will happily use it to sit on and save their back while helping you.  But trust me.  I'm quietly confident you'll use it.  Looking back, I could have used three.  I'm not kidding at all.

10.  (1)  GOOD SHOWER HEAD:  If you have one of those stationary shower heads that can't come off the wall... you know what I mean. Do not settle for that nonesense.  It will help you about as much as asking an Amish person for a jump start when your car battery dies.  I got the waterpik eco flow.  Our building has the worst water pressure (something about saving the planet...)  and this one really helped!  I love it and I spent multiple raisin-fingered hours in the shower, on the ball, powering through contractions like a red faced, bloated water zombie.
apartment home birth supplies checklist

11. (1) PACK OF BEEF JERKY:  This is optional, because everyone is different.  I found the jerky a welcome break from all the sweet (juice, fruit, ginger ale...) and it gave me a boost of energy.  Plus its great to knaw on and forget where you are and what you're doing.  Because as beautiful as birth is... it sucks a whole lot for awhile.

12.  (2) YOGA MATS:  My doula and I did some hip opening yoga and relaxation before I went into full blown labour and I never felt so good in my life.  I was able to relax so well at a time when doing so seemed so counter intuitive... my body was sick of being pregnant and it stressed me out.  ALSO, when you're labouring in the shower or even in the pool, they can be folded up to provide knee support for those helping you out.  Because sore knees are stupid.

13.  (1)  BIRTH POOL:  Rent this from someone reliable and proficient.  It will come with a small list of things you will need to get to operate... obviously buy those things.  Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly and I recommend doing a practice assembly before you're in labour.  Just so you're okay with inflating it (more so your partner/birth sidekick knows what they're doing...) Also make sure you have a game plan for draining it and cleanup.  My midwives were amazing and took care of all that for me.  But make sure you know what the deal is.  I do know of people who home birth without water, but frankly, I wouldn't try it.  I am afraid of how bad it would have felt without the water relieving some of the pressure.  Also, I felt less gross birthing in water.  And feeling less gross is such a plus when there is grossness in epic proportions being dished out at every bend in the road.
apartment home birth supplies checklist

14.  (1) DOULA:  This should have been the first thing on my list.  Don't attempt a home birth without a doula.  Even if its your mom or your sister or bestest friend who has done some research, (hopefully even) taken a course and made a plan for helping you through each contraction.  Someone to relieve your partner should they need to sleep or eat or go to the bathroom.   God forbid.  Someone express a little of their own humanity during your hour(days) of need.

15.  (1) CAMERA:  I read all of the posts about what you need in a hospital bag... every single one mentioned a camera.  Me: I thought "oh internet... really?  Pictures of me puffy and grunting out a baby...?"  I didn't really want pictures taken when I was all whaley and gross and in pain.  But now I wish I had them.  My doula offered to take some during both early and active labour and I said no... I regret that.  You can always delete pictures. You can't get them if they never happened.  So have a camera that is yours so you can control where the pictures go (possibly the trash) and video.  Do not forget the video.  Maybe people should be strictly instructed do it quietly.  And don't look at it for at least two weeks.  Reliving it too soon can scar you further... deep down in your soul.  So let mother nature make your memory like an etch-a-sketch after a bumpy car ride before you attempt viewing the game film.  Personally, {when I wrote this} at almost 5 weeks post-birth, I still hadn't watched mine. I'm getting more and more stoked to look at it with each passing day.  I'm curious and fascinated...  Also I think I'm more likely to laugh at myself than cry at this point.  I'll let you know how it goes. {But I did and it brought me instant uncontrollable tears of joy}

16.  (6-10) RECEIVING BLANKETS:  These are just for your sweet, delicious brand new baby.  You know what is not delicious?  Meconium.  Thats a word invented to describe poo sludge that babies bless us with right at the start.  Just so that every diaper that pops has to change is never as terrible as that first one.  So in light of the dreaded meconium, use icky second hand receiving blankets for when the babe is still free of the awful, restrictive-but-neccessary diaper.  Piper greeted Reece with a loving first poop right in his belly button during his skin to skin time.  (picture below.  RIP: me after he finds out I posted it here.  oops.) Nothing says hello daddy-kins than being shat on.   Have a few cute ones (lets be real... you get like a million-bajillion of these at baby showers) handy for a second layer of swaddle.  Because pictures.
apartment home birth supplies checklist

17. (2)  BOTTLES OF DRUGS  (IBUPROFEN AND TYLENOL):  This is KEY!  I couldn't stand up very successfully for the first 12-24 hours after I had Piper because people neglected to tell me that I should take anti-inflammatories and pain killers.  For some reason I guess I took the whole drug-free birth thing really seriously and I didn't know that I was allowed to take stuff while breastfeeding.  So I had nothing.  For a whole day.  It wasn't amazing at all.  The midwife's face when I politely asked if I would be permitted a little tylenol to take the edge off...  priceless 'Oh s*&t' face.  She immediately got a fistful of pharm for me (2 ibuprofen and 2 tylenol)  and said take the max dose of each per the instructions until further notice.  Needless to say my father was sent on a drug run and I was deliriously happy for days to come.  

18.  (1) MORE DRUGS (Stool Softeners):  You might have to ask at the pharmacy.  They sometimes keep them behind the desk... perhaps national security is at stake if people are a little TOO regular.  Put it this way, I'm going to start taking these ON OR BEFORE my due date next time I have a baby.  I don't care how healthy your digestive system is.  Hemmies (and fissures, the ugly cousin of hemmies) are not to be trifled with.  Ignoring them only gives them more power.

19.  (7) GRANNY PANTIES:  One for each day of the week.  Make sure they're really high cut and BIG.  You basically wear a diaper for the first week.  Did I mention all your dignity is gone?  Because it is.  All gone.  I'm actually considering just buying depends for the first week next time.  Because it actually might be easier than stacking pads like a NYC high-rise.
apartment home birth supplies checklist

20.  (1)  HOME SUPPORT PERSON:  I was lucky enough to have my mom and dad come stay with me for 3 weeks (they live out of province) and it was honestly another reason I was able to pull off the home-birth.  My mom cooked, cleaned and helped me with stocking my fridge and freezer as well as driving me around when I needed out.  My dad helped with the last bits of DIY as well as reading all the instruction manuals for stuff like our carseat and rice cooker.  He set up (and purchased... thank you) our shower head and responded to 'for free' ads on craigslist to score us some last minute furniture.  I could have survived without getting the stuff... babies needing only breasts and whatnot... but it was so so SO great to have the help.  And the company.  Because Reece had to work.  Luckily Piper was born on Saturday so we had the weekend together.  It was just Reece, our doula, and myself at the house during most of the labour... but the help with housework made me feel so... well... clean.  The house was clean.  The bathroom was void of fuzzy stuff.  My mom tolerates nothing fuzzy, dirty or dusty anywhere and I couldn't be more grateful.  So ask someone.  Let people help you.  It brings you closer to the ones you love.  And people to hold your baby so you can summon the courage to use the bathroom.  Because it takes the strength of a samurai to go in there.
apartment home birth supplies checklist

21.  (2)  PACKS THICK NASTY PADS:  The reason they have to be thick like bricks is because there are chemicals in the too-thin-to-be-true ones  (think always.  and U by kotex... you know what I'm talking about).  They're like Bethenny Frankel.  Super thin and REALLY irritating.  I'm not lying.  They irritate your delicate lady-parts that are desperately trying to heal from delivering your precious babe.  I have no reason to put you through the embarrassment of walking around with incontinence for no reason.  Doesn't make my day, really.  So trust me.  Don't buy the thin pads.  You need more pads than you think you do.  

22.  (14)  PADSICKLES:  Made from comfrey leaf tea.  Make the tea.  Pour sufficient volume of tea to soak pad.  Repeat 14 times.  Put them in the freezer.  (Be sure there is something separating them for the sake of expediency when using... also maybe a big ziplock... they're clean but pads next to your frozen pizza might look a bit off)  Sit on one per day (wrap it in a crappy hand towel or you will get freezer burn on your bits) and you will thank me.  Thank me real hard. **Note, some people do this with witch hazel... witch hazel has the word witch in it for a reason and that reason is that it stings and burns in a way that will make you and your grapefruit sized hoo-ha weep bitterly.  I made both types of padsickles and I recommend the comfrey leaf ones a thousand times over!  Relief, no burn.

23.  (1)  GIANT BAG OF EPSOM SALTS:  Make your own little sitz bath in the tub.  Then let everything 'air dry' by lying on the bed with a towel (trusty old gross one) under you.  Stuff heals faster when it hits the air.  You can try to get cocky with essential oils to make all the nice smells... but I prefer the simple, uncomplicated salts on their ace.

Click to download the PDF checklist style.  Without the sassy remarks.  Just in case you want to print it off along with all the billion other lists floating around the internet.

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  1. This list is totally amazing. Best one I've seen yet. We used just about everything on this list and more, wish I'd thought of the beef jerky though, that would have been perfect labour food. We had a ton of pre-cooked bacon on hand which was pretty great postpartum but I totally forgot about it during labour and subsisted mostly on blue Gatorade and multigrain toast, both of which did not stay in either. Love the picture of Reece, lol!

    1. Haha! Thanks Heather, what were your other things not listed here? I'm sure I missed some stuff. :)

    2. We found the TENS machine to be essential in early labour before we had the pool ready and once we did have the pool ready we ended up using a ton of cold packs to cool me down. I pretty much refused to get out of the pool until it was time to change position every 30 minutes so my team was cycling cold packs in and out of the fridge to press against my forehead. Also, Chapstick, we went through so much what with all the heavy breathing and temperature changes. I definitely was not ready for labour when I went into labour and ended up assembling and organizing a ton of stuff after my water broke, including having my friend bring by the gravol the midwife had recommended we have on hand but thankfully didn't end up needing. I have a really clear memory of my doula and midwife clearing piles of stuff off our coffee tables and kitchen counters, stuff that we're still finding now...Next time I hope to be more prepared. Ha. We'll see.

  2. I knew I'd forget something...we had a super long playlist for labour and also birth affirmation flash cards in a cheap plastic photo album so that they were waterproof, quite handy and helped me to focus.

    1. I love all of those things! We ended up turning off the music because the album we selected (Bon Iver) had played through 4 times and I didn't prepare a playlist. Somehow the emotions of the moment we're too strained to tolerate a variable like music taste. I wish I would have whipped up something ahead. I never thought of Chapstick! That's a good one. I do now remember using ice packs though for my feet of all things! It's all coming back. So true that you really do forget. You're not the first to recommend the TENS machine. I think maybe the shower was that constant, rhythmic 'intervention' (for lack of a better word, which I do right now). The water beating down on my back helped me through the very long early labour. Probably the emphasis on towels too! In and out of that shower. Definitely want to try birth affirmations this time. The only negative part of my birth I could possibly extract would be that I said "I can't" so many times because I didn't have anything else to say! It seems really stupid when you think before hand, but I would have really benefitted from something like that.


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