pregnancy

PREPARING A HOME FOR BIRTH

 
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

In the same way that I relish in seeing the contents of wardrobes, room tours, and pantry cupboards, I suspect someone out there is curious about how others prepare their homes for a birth to take place. In my circle, home birth is widely accepted but rather uncommon. Just as with preparing a bag and a carseat for the journey home from the hospital, there is necessary preparation for a home birth. This is a glimpse into how I have readied our home (with the blessed help of others!) to welcome another life.


+ A CLEAN SPACE

The biggest, most obvious task. Our house might never be as sanitary as a hospital, but on the other hand we don’t have to share the space with others, and our bodies are accustomed to the micro biomes within. In the months leading up to labor, we put in an increased effort to vacuum continuously, wash the sheets (actually, wash everything), and generally ruffle things up. Washing the windows, mowing the grass, filling the bird feeder, weeding the garden: it all contributes to a prepared head- and heart space. My preferred cleaning agents are vinegar, water, castile bar soap, and essential oils. A clean house is a calm house.

Unnecessary, but nice: A deep clean of the car and, dare I suggest, an automatic carwash. I recently took my Volvo through the carwash and found it to be genuinely therapeutic. I suppose getting cloaked in dark suds and then having it all washed off served to clean my head, too. Never mind that the birds decimated my windshield and roof mere hours later — it was worth it, and helped me feel ready for the day when we take the baby on a car ride.

preparing for a birth at home by samantha spigos
preparing for a birth at home by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

+ THE BIRTH ROOM

I intend to give birth in my bedroom again*. I feel safe and confident in there. When the work is over, I get to lay down in my own bed with a tiny, sticky bundle of love. I prefer to use trusty cotton sheets and pillowcases, rather than our decadent linen set. This, to cut out the risk of bodily fluids staining them forevermore. We drape clear shower curtains over the mattress (but under the sheets) so that it too avoids a fate of bloodstains and afterbirth. Chucks pads get placed everywhere during a home birth: anywhere I walk, on the bed, on the birthing ball, etc. For the hours and days following delivery, I keep a hot water bottle, heating pad, and a cup with a straw right next to the bed; plus snacks, a bluetooth speaker, good soap in the bathroom and a heap of prefold diapers (for use as breast pads, spills, burp cloths. . .).

Unnecessary, but nice: A clean-burning candle, or essential oil diffuser, or some kind of aromatic. (Fresh flowers are a given, right?) Will someone try this candle and tell me how it is?

*First birth story here.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

+ SUSTENANCE

Every laboring woman has different food preferences, but one thing is true for all of us: we need protein. We have tried to stock our pantry with broth and easy provisions, like nuts and bananas and yogurt. My mother-in-law generously prepared us several protein-rich veggie quiches to put in our freezer for the hazy days following. Also in the freezer: berries for quick smoothies, loaves of bread, chicken thighs and my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Plenty of tea and coffee in the cupboard. Recently we picked out some nourishing spices to make cooking a more exciting pursuit, and it’s working. And it’s peach season.

Further, let me say unequivocally: lady parts need sustenance, too. I keep maternity pads, wipes, and a peri bottle in the bathroom for gentle cleaning. Plus soft cotton pants, a robe for no pants days, and cushions in every room.

Unnecessary, but nice: Treating yourself to a few food items, like the world’s best tahini or dried mango, goes a long way. I love to buy expectant parents a gift certificate to a source like Nuts.com so they can do just that.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

+ FOR AN OLDER SIBLING

Ah, our little Rosemary, child of the good earth, soon to be a sister. I am cherishing every snuggle with her in these final days. To prepare for another life in the house, we recently went through sleep training at nap time so that she becomes comfortable and happy in her crib. She has long been a wonderful bedtime sleeper, but preferred naps be on her parents or our bed. Now she is resting in her crib, which is divine for us. Mark and I feel quite sure Rosemary will adjust beautifully to sharing her home with a sibling. A few months ago we created a real bedroom for her (which she will eventually share), touched with whimsy and corners intended for little hands. We talk constantly with her about the baby, and tell her what a good big sister she’ll be. And, best of all, we believe it.

Unnecessary, but nice: A special stuffed toy or other token of your love for the older sibling. I suspect this is more helpful as you have older children, but I did pick out a hand knit unicorn for Rosemary. Couldn’t help myself with that rainbow.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

Pretty simple stuff, really. Preparing for a birth is incredibly exciting, and can be made calmer with some advance preparation. Of course I still have moments of panic were I am sure we have nothing ready. But actually, newborns require very little. Food and cloaking and a soft place to land. It’s mom and dad who need the pampering, and a clean, calm, well stocked home lends itself nicely to just that.

Wishing you a heart-full summer. I look ahead with gladness to the day I introduce all of you to this new babe.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

—S

ROSEMARY, IN WORDS | PT. 1: DISCOVERING PREGNANCY

 
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Before I was ever pregnant I knew I wanted to birth at home. Home is where I feel safest and most comfortable. I have witnessed hundreds of animals giving birth and knew without any doubt that I, also a mammal, could give birth in my natural environment. I was eager and curious about pregnancy, wondering how my body and especially my mind would respond. I desired sincerely for my body to become a vessel for another life: an incredible act of feminism and strength; a sacred transformation exclusive to women.

Mark and I track my fertility so we didn't need a test to tell us we were pregnant. My body had already let us know, charted out on a piece of paper, clear for the eye to see. Despite it being obvious, I was in total disbelief. (Mark: "Sam, you're pregnant." Me:"No, I'm not!" "I think you're pregnant." "No, I'm not!") In wanting so much for it to be true I convinced myself that it couldn't be. That night we drove to three separate grocery and drug stores to buy a test to no avail. I still can't understand it, but all three places were either closed or without pregnancy tests. As fate would have it, we would have to wait to find out until the following day on the feast of Saint Isidore the farmer, to whom we were developing a growing devotion and after whom we would name our baby. Receiving the news of a positive pregnancy ranks among the most sacred and wonderful moments of our life. There we were, two hopeful kids in love sitting in a doctor's office, uncontrollably laughing and crying after the nurse told us 'Yes' and kissed me on the head. We were full to the brim with the mystery that was always going to be Rosemary. Insofar we had cared only for goat kids—still very much in the throes of kidding season, actually. Barely the size of a poppyseed but already our beloved baby: everything was changed.

mark digging fence posts
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I had the day off while Mark had to manually dig fence posts. I drove to my favorite town, bought a new water bottle and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, then treated myself to a fancy little lunch. The sun was shining and I felt heavier in the best way. (That heaviness would become so cumbersome that I would later rue the day I ever became pregnant, becoming so convinced that I would set the record for the World's Longest Pregnancy that I would actually google who held the record. Poor, poor Mrs. Hunter. . .) For all the things that have already blurred in my mind's eye, the first 24 hours of knowing I was pregnant are crystal clear. 

Mark took the best care of me. We had a CSA that provided fresh fruit, vegetables, and chicken. My body craved fruit and protein, so I listened. I continued to drink raw milk and eat raw cheeses and allowed myself small cups of beer. I was lucky to never lose my appetite despite feeling nauseated 24/7. The notion of coffee (my first love) suddenly became unpalatable, so I switched to the antioxidant juice Ningxia Red every morning before milking. We decided we would stay in Vermont for the birth (ha!) and continue working the farm (ha!). I can see now that it would have been too much to reckon with if we thought we were having a baby and quitting our jobs and moving home. That is exactly what happened, but God knew the ways of our hearts and I'm grateful for those first weeks of imagining a Vermont birth. It allowed us to choose a home birth midwife in Vermont who was wonderful and ushered us into pregnancy very gently. When her heartbeat came through the dopplar for the first time, we wept. We would both weep in the 17th hour of labor when her heartbeat stayed steady and strong while she rested stubbornly in my birth canal. Our Rosemary Isidora, child of the good earth, waited until she was perfectly ready to join us and not a moment sooner.


—S

A DIFFERENT CADENCE

 

The heat broke. After what seemed an interminable spell of humidity and heat for us northern dwellers, the heat broke and a cool wave washed over the valley. Mid-fifties cool. I was jumping up and down for joy in our kitchen, literally, because cold weather energizes me in a way that always has me wondering if somewhere in me there is Scandinavian blood. If it seems like we write about the weather a lot, it's because A) as people managing a farm we spend a huge amount of the day analyzing radars and guessing what the sky will do, and B) weather is everything! To a farmer, at least. And to a pregnant woman, definitely. And I am both. Pregnant and farming; Farming and pregnant; With child; Expectant; and Moving Home.

We have a mere week left, more or less, of this cadence we've known and abided for as long as we can remember. Not quite two years on this farm, but all we can remember. We have lived, worked, slept, awoken, eaten, napped, and toiled together, every single day, for all these months. And for the last several months, we've done so alongside a growing human on the inside. This summer has been a beautiful season in our marriage and our hardest season on the farm. Balancing what I can no longer do physically on the outside with what I am physically doing on the inside has been a game of gratitude, patience, and grace. We are both bewildered with fascination and awe over something as miraculous as this—the creation of another human being, complete with fingernails and veins and and a beating heart—transpiring in our marriage. 

I am having a hard time smattering together a blog post that touches on our new reality of "parents-to-be who are leaving their jobs to move back to the Midwest so they can be near family and hopefully find fulfilling work until they buy a farm but if not then Oh Well because Life Is More Than Work." But, in my head, all I can think is: hot damn, sex created a human that is half-me, half-Mark!?!?! We movin' home! We don't have to milk at 5:30 in the morning and clean out barn floods anymore! We can focus on ourselves and our baby and our families and not the welfare of 200 animals, if only for a time! Our parents can cook us meals again! We can cook our parents meals again! And on and on. Despite the occasional worry that creeps in (you know, the What If This and How Will We That) I am not afraid for our uncertain future. I am cloaked in armor, especially if armor can be a soft washed linen quilt and a bouquet of wildflowers. I wear a breastplate of marital love that entwines itself more securely all the time. My helmet, a big family awaiting us in Ohio. My shield, unwavering faith in a God who I know has got this one in the bag. I am all good. Mark is all good. Baby is all good. 

Cheers to continuing on the journey that never halts. Like a little bumble in a field of dandies: Ever onward!


—S