Although I have not had a homebirth yet, I certainly plan on it next time.
Here’s my story that I included in the Senate Committee submission:
I miscarried my first child at 9 weeks – a devastating time for me, but the main trauma that lingers from that event was going to hospital & being placed in a cubicle next to the room with the sick, crying babies. I don’t know who was crying more – them from being sick or me from being reminded of what I’d long waited for & had just lost.
When I got pregnant with my daughter several months later, I went to my GP to have the pregnancy confirmed, get a check up, etc. When talking about care options, she mentioned the hospital, birth centre or shared care. Home birth was not even suggested (and she is supportive of it). I planned on going to the Birth Centre at the Royal Hobart Hospital, wanting as natural a birth as possible, with back-up close by if required. I had a lot of fear being my first (full-term) birth & we were living an hour from the hospital at the time. When I attended my booking-in appointment, I mentioned my preference for the birth centre. After taking my medical history, the midwife told me I’d be excluded from the Birth Centre because of a history of depression. Ironic, considering less intervention reduces your risk of PND. I have since found out that other women with depression have been allowed to birth there – and many others have been given conflicting excuses as to why they’d be excluded. It just seems to be more about who you get on the day than anything resembling evidence. As it turned out, I also had early stage cervical cancer, so it was suggested I attend the Doctors’ Clinic throughout the pregnancy for ‘closer monitoring’.
So many looooong hours waiting at the clinic during antenatal appointments! Not being able to choose who I saw became problematic for me in later months as there was one Obstetrician I strongly disliked. As luck would have it, I usually got him. My daughter was breech = instant caesarian in a hospital. I was given the option of an ECV to turn her, which I took up on the proviso that a different doctor was to do the procedure. Thankfully, they were able to accommodate me & the Ob was great.
When I went into labour, we did the trek up to the hospital. After initial checks, I was taken to the Maternity Ward. I asked if there were any birthing suites available, figuring that would be the next best thing to the Birth Centre. They asked if I was in a program (eg KYM), to which I said “no”. After a bit of umming & ahhing, they said because my blood pressure was elevated (went up a couple of days before the birth – whole other story), they wanted me in a delivery suite (standard room) to keep a better eye on me. Mind you, this was the room right next to the birthing suite that was available.
When I got there, they placed a IV line in my hand (telling me “yes” when I asked if it was compulsory), followed by 10 minutes of having to sit still for a CTG (again, compulsory). At that point in labour, I wanted to move. Sitting was the worst position for me. Had I been more informed, I would have known that nothing is compulsory, but I am angry that protocol was more important than my needs.
Labour progressed & I did what I could to manage. At one point when I was kneeling on all fours, a different midwife came in & said I was having back pain because the baby was posterior. She wasn’t, but having a stranger walk in & break my focus like that was the last thing I needed. I recall about 4 different midwives in the 7 hours I was labouring. When the last one realised I was already pushing, she got me on the bed into a semi-reclined position to do a vaginal exam. She said I could push anytime – but I was in the worst position possible to give birth, especially with a bad back. She was trying to coach me to push, but it was contradicting what I was feeling. When my daughter was born, I was given prophylactic oxytocin & the cord was cut before it stopped pulsating – both things I didn’t want, but was in no state to verbalise. After the birth, I had to wait 2 hours for a doctor to come & check the grazing – legs in stirrups, having raw flesh poked & prodded – intensely more pain than the birth itself.
When moving from the delivery room to the main ward, bub HAD to be moved in a plastic crib – I wasn’t “allowed” to carry her across the hall. I ended up sharing a room with a woman who’d had a caesarian the day before. When my daughter screamed all night, every night, I felt extremely guilty that the other woman was not getting the rest she needed. I had little support from family or friends as they couldn’t stay the whole time. When a midwife told me to try expressing, it was expected that I’d just know how to do that. When I wasn’t successful, she grabbed my breast & essentially started ‘milking’ me (the same MW that said bub was posterior during labour). When another midwife showed us how to bathe our child, the water was cold. I was MORE than ready to go home on day 3, but it was suggested that I stay until the milk came in. Thankfully, the next morning I was nicely engorged & I got out of there as soon as I could.
My story is nothing compared to the trauma some women experience in a “clinical setting”, but it was enough for me to know it was far from an optimal birthing environment. I have spent the years since researching homebirth, working through any residual fears and talking to some fabulous midwives. The thought of having to birth in a hospital again is not something I want to entertain. I have a contingency plan in case of emergency & I trust the midwife I have chosen with my life & the life of my child.
However, if this legislation is passed in its current form, my midwife faces probable deregistration, if she can get registration at all. I, like many women across the country, will still birth at home, but I won’t have access to a midwife. It is unsafe to force a woman into a decision that she does not want to make (hospital or freebirth) and that contradicts the purpose of the legislation, which is to protect the public.