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If I have my baby at home, what will my neighbors think of the noise?

Guestpost by Joriel Foltz on Aug 25th
we become three

People on the street four flights down totally heard me giving birth!

Ideally, I would like a midwife-assisted home birth, but we live in a condo unit where the sound carries through the ceiling. What steps should I take to ensure we are good neighbors should we decide to go through with this? We were thinking of giving the couple above us a heads up about the 4th or 5th month and budget in a few nights for them in a mid-range hotel. Our neighbors are nice and considerate people with whom we have a good rapport. We both own our units and will possibly be neighbors for a good long while. -Stacy

I totally sympathize with these concerns!

When I had my son three years ago, I lived in a small apartment with walls thin enough that we could sometimes tell what our neighbors were watching on television. In the months leading up to my homebirth, I stressed a lot about the noise potential. I really wanted to be in my own space, but I was worried about bothering people and I was even more worried that my anxiety about making noise would interfere with my ability to focus on bringing my son into the world.

My midwife laughed kindly at that last concern. "When that baby's coming, you won't care about making noise," she assured me. And she was absolutely right. I roared like a lion through my contractions, and I didn't care who heard.

Fortunately, we had informed our next door neighbor and our apartment managers who lived two doors down. We also put a note on the door in case anybody came wondering what all the noise was about. My neighbor told me later that she was cheering me on. She also said that when she took her garbage out that night, some people down on the street were wondering about the noise and pondering whether they should call the police. It must have been loud if they could hear it from the fourth floor window! She explained the situation, and they went on their way.

But even if the police had come knocking on the door, I wouldn't have cared. That's the wonderful thing about having a birth team (in my case, my doula, midwife, and partner) you can trust. I'm so grateful I was able to give birth in my home. It was such a gift for us to be able to crawl right into bed when it was over and not have to deal with anything or anyone but our sweet boy.

In my opinion, offering to pay for a hotel is above and beyond. If your neighbors seem really freaked out and you feel it's necessary to keep the neighborly relationship positive, then okay. But are you going to pay for a hotel every time your baby cries in the night? It's courteous and sensible to let folks know what's up, but you have nothing to apologize for or compensate for. Babies used to be born at home all the time, and everybody understood that birth is noisy but natural. It wasn't a big deal. Often, it was exciting for the whole neighborhood. Now we're used to the idea of hiding birth away in hospitals, but I'd love to see us come back around as a society to embracing birth as a part of life that might very well be happening right next door.