One hundred years ago, the home birth of Asher would have been considered the norm at a time when 99% of pregnant women were birthing at home, however in 2008, when I announced my plan to give birth to my second child at home, with the assistance of two midwives (but no obstetrician), it was enough to raise a few eyebrows and to be told by many friends, some strangers and my GP, that I was taking a risk with my unborn child’s life. I feel happy that I didn’t listen! My husband and my parents were fully supportive of our plan to birth at home and that (along with hours of research!) was enough for me.
My first son Zac was born in 2005 in a public hospital. I had a wonderful midwife, who supported my wish to have a drug free, natural birth and in that regard, my experience was a positive one. However, my labour was induced, and from that moment, I could feel myself ‘on the clock’. When I declined the syntocinon, the obstetrician said ‘Ok, I’ll give your body one hour to do the right thing, and if not, you’ll be having the syntocinon’. I remember feeling anxious. I did not want to have the syntocinon, but I felt like I couldn’t challenge the obstetrician. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had this niggling doubt…what if I go against this professional and something goes wrong? I believe several of my decisions with my first pregnancy and birth were fear based decisions.
When it came time to decide on the best place to have my second baby, I started looking in to the option of having a home birth in Perth. My first birth experience had given me enough confidence in myself and my body, to be able to birth naturally. A large part of the appeal for us as a family was the fact that our son Zac could be included in every aspect of the pregnancy and that his routine would not be disrupted by me going into hospital overnight. All of my pre natal appointments took place with my midwife Corrie, over a cup of tea, sitting on my sofa, with Zac on my lap. Friends and family also popped in to be a part of some of the check-ups. There were no lengthy waits in a crowded GP surgery or hospital waiting room with a toddler! It was so much more relaxed that my first experience! Corrie became like a part of the family and the continuity of care that we received (the same midwife from 16 weeks pregnant to 6 weeks post-partum) was one of the highlights of the whole home birthing experience. I found the post natal follow up to be fantastic in comparison to that offered by the hospital system.
Unfortunately, the sheer number of births in hospitals necessitates many decisions becoming standardized procedures, which in my experience led to a feeling of powerlessness and a lack of ownership of my birth experience. With my first birth, I felt lucky that there were no interventions after the induction. I did feel a massive sense of pride that I had given birth, which was empowering, but looking back, I didn’t feel in control of anything. In contrast, with my home birth, I felt empowered by the autonomy and the authority that I had to make important decisions which I missed out on the first time. As a result, I felt a deep ownership of my birth experience at home.
On the day of the birth of Asher, 5 days before his official due date, I awoke at 6am in the morning with some very minor pains, which I ignored and told no-one about, believing they were nothing to worry about. I headed out to a girlfriends house for 10am morning tea. At around 12.15pm, I decided to call my midwife Corrie and tell her about my contractions, which by this time were reasonably strong. Corrie said she would pop in to check on me at around 2.30pm. Once I arrived home at 12.30, I realized that I had underestimated the strength of my contractions and in actual fact I was nearing the end of my labour. I called my husband to hurry home from work and called my mum to come over to help look after Zac. I decided to go to the toilet but once there, I couldn’t get up. A few times, I tried to leave, but kept going back and sitting down, as that position seemed to cause me the least pain. I mentally focussed on my breathing and tried to calm my body down. I also shouted quite a bit! At 1.50pm, my husband arrived home and raced upstairs to run me a bath. We had hired a beautiful birthing pool, but I knew that we were not going to have time to fill it. After several attempts, I managed to get up the stairs and into the bath, which was a beautiful relief. By this stage I could feel my baby’s head crowning. My mum ran up the stairs at 2.00pm and called Corrie on my mobile. Listening to me moaning in the background, Corrie (now on speaker phone) said “Sam, you are about to have your baby…push with the next contraction”. I did, and 2 pushes later, Asher was born at 2.08pm, in the bath, surrounded by his dad and brother and granny, who helped to catch him.
My 2 midwives arrived in time to help me deliver the afterbirth and cut then my husband cut the cord, after around 45 minutes. I got a cup of tea, showered and then hopped into bed in my comfy PJ’s to breastfeed my new son in one arm and to cuddle Zac and read him a story in my other arm. Zac chatted to everyone that would listen about the birth of his baby brother. He could describe many accurate details of the birth which he views as a normal, natural part of life, having had no experience of birth being something you need to go to hospital and see a doctor for.
People ask me now “were you scared?” but the truth is, with no-one in my ear to guide me, instinct took over and birthed my baby. I allowed my body to do exactly what it needed to do. In hindsight, I feel that the preparation that I did during my pregnancy (educating myself, pre natal yoga and listening to a CD of positive birth affirmations daily) greatly enhanced both my pregnancy and helped prepare me for birth. The feeling of empowerment that has stemmed from my (albeit unplanned, free birthing) home birth experience, is hard to put into words. Suffice to say, the experience is one I will always treasure. Part of me wishes that my first birth could have been similar, but I also feel that having the comparison, has highlighted for me just how wonderful and stress free birth can be.
~ Kindly shared by Sam Crosby