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

Guest post by Joriel Foltz
we become three
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.

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

  1. Hi, I live in the UK and homebirths seem to be much more popular here. I tried for a homebirth (but had to go into hospital for the last hour due to pushing for waaaaay too long!). I was concerned about how much noise I would make, especially as I went into labour early on a Saturday morning. However, our neighbours were well aware that I was pregnant and I think when they heard the yelling and the moo-ing (it felt so good to moo) they knew exactly what was happening. It’s a shame I had to go to hospital, but baby arrived safe and well and that’s all that matters, but being at home actually saved me from having a c-section, which they would have enforced a lot earlier in the hospital.
    Labour, for me, was a weird almost supernatural journey. It was just me and the baby working hard to get him here. My partner and the midwives just carried on chatting, drinking coffee, doing their thing while I swayed and rocked (and mooed some more) in my own little world. When the moment comes, embrace it and go with it. An advance warning to any neighbours within earshot would put your mind at rest that no-one is about to call the police or bang on your door and ask you to keep the noise down. It may not seem like it at the time, but it is an experience I hope you will look back on with joy. x

  2. My only concern would be if there are kids in the building who would be disturbed. I realise birth is a part of the circle of life, and that it’s wonderful and blah blah blah… but I wouldn’t want to be forced to explain the miracle of birth (ie why the woman nextdoor is screaming for hours) to a concerned child. Kids are wonderfully empathetic critters and I’d be concerned that they would be upset by the noise.

    • I’m not knocking your concern, but it’s confusing to me. Why wouldn’t you want to explain the miracle of life to children? My son is three and he watches birth videos with me. He knows exactly how babies come out of their mommy’s yonis. I don’t think of it as anything awkward, I’m teaching him basic biology. He also knows how food turns into poop in your tummy, and how your body makes it’s own bandaids called scabs.

      The human body can be kind of gross, I suppose, but I don’t want to teach my child that the functions of it are anything to be ashamed of or kept secret. However, I must admit I was a little vague when a discussion on which animals are mammals (mammals have fur, mammals feed their babies with their boobies, mammals make their babies in their tummies) turned into a question about how the babies get into the tummy. I told him “The mommy and daddy make the baby in the mommy’s tummy with their pee pee and yoni.” I think that’s probably age appropriate for a three year old.

      I do understand that kids can be sensitive and hearing the noises of someone in pain can be disturbing to them, but the part of labor that tends to be the noisiest, most painful sounding, only tends to last about an hour or two, tops. It would be a good time to take them out for an outing. Maybe the expecting parents can spring for museum or movie tickets that can be redeemed any time for any neighboring parents and their kids.

      Of course, I plan to keep my son in the house with me when I have my next baby, and as a bit of a naturalist and science nerd, my viewpoint on this might be a little biased. Lots of parents want their children there for labor and birth, although I think forcing them to be in the room if they don’t want to be is a little extreme. But I know I’m not alone in my feelings on this. Actually, most parents I know think I’m weird because I use words like pee pee and yoni instead of penis and vulva, but hey, I’m not teaching him latin either. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

      I think what matters is the attitude you project when it comes to talking about these things. If you talk about genitalia and their functions as if they are dirty, or something that kids shouldn’t know, they’ll grow up feeling that way about their own genitalia and functions, whether the first terms you use for them are anatomic or cutesy.

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