by Adrianna Ross
Over the years I have found there are a few burning questions at the top of everyone’s brain when considering a home birth.
1). What if I poop in the tub?
2). Is home birth messy?
3). How will my dog react to labor and birth?
In this post, i would like to tackle question number 3 (although 1 & 2 are exciting topics as well).
Home birth is all about the security, comfort and ease of being in your unique space. We know that women will relax and birth most easily where they feel comfortable. For some, this is at home. And not only the physical structure of home, but all that represents home, including the smells, tastes, sights and companionship of home. Pets are part of this unique home birth experience. As a midwife I have seen dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, goats, cows and even snakes provide comfort for their laboring caretaker.
One unique birth that comes to mind, was at the home of a rabbit sanctuary. There were literally rabbits everywhere: In the bathtubs, hopping through the house, outside, on the couch-EVERYWHERE. I became particularly fond of Nesquick and Posie. They were continental giants and for reference, here is a picture of a continental giant. THEY ARE REALLY BIG RABBITS.
Nesquick was curious and Posie reserved, but during labor both rabbits were by their mamas side. Whenever “T” would rest her head on the side of the pool the rabbits would come hopping over to provide snuggles. When “T” would moan with the sounds of labor, Nesquick would daringly try and nuzzle the doppler with his soft whiskers and wet nose. There were more than a few times when I thought both rabbits would certainly jump into the pool.
Then there was the time I attended a birth in the home of a parrot. All was fine and dandy until this parrot started repeating the moans of the laboring mother. For weeks and weeks following the birth, this parrot would moan and wail as if it was in labor. Every time I showed up at the home for a postpartum visit, the bird would sense the association and be triggered to wail for days. Needless to say we stopped doing postpartum visits in the home.
Linsey has attended the birth of a snake breeder. There was also an alligator present. Lets just leave it at that.
But outside of rabbits, parrots, snakes and alligators the most common animal present at a home birth is by far cats and dogs. Cats are easy. They either scurry to another room, incredibly annoyed that their peaceful existence has been disturbed OR they think the midwives are there just for them. Surely these bags with equipment and such are the perfect place for a cat nap.
Dogs however are much different. For many, dogs are our best friend and therefore wanted and needed at births. So, to get some expert advise on dogs at births, I reached out to Jennifer Kyzer with KyzerDog. Jenn is the dog whisperer, magical animal doula of Richmond. She helps dogs and their owners have positive experiences following the birth of a baby. She teaches monthly Dog and Baby seminars as well as private and homeschool classes for dogs. You can find more info on her services at kyzerdog.com
Jenn gave the following words of wisdom when preparing your furry friend for a new baby.
1). Bring out all of the contraptions you have for baby, including car seat, swing, portable crib etc. Before the baby arrives start handling all of these contraptions. If they play music, play it loud and proud throughout the house at random times. You can also record a baby crying on your phone and play this a random times. The purpose of this is to start desensitizing your dog to these new sounds. If your dog responds in any way with anxiety, aggression, agitation or fear, there is work to be done.
2). Never introduce baby to your pet for the first time with baby in the car set. Car seats by nature are strange for pets to understand so avoid making this first interaction even stranger.
3). If you talk “baby talk” to your pet, do not talk “baby talk” to your baby and vice versa.
At River City Midwifery part of prenatal care includes developing a birth plan. This plan includes who will be attending your birth; including any pets. There are some very important questions that we usually ask prior to birth.
1). If your midwives arrive in the middle of the night with lots of unfamiliar bags and unfamiliar smells, will your dog try to eat us?
2). If your midwives attempt to move the placenta from birth room to refrigerator, will your dog try to eat us?
3). Will your dog try to eat us in general?
If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then we recommend finding an alternative home for your pet during birth or at minimum keeping him/her tucked safely away in another room. Otherwise, we welcome your furry or scaly or feathery friends at births and look forward to catching them in adorable moments. Below are some of our most recent home birth helpers.