“For years, women in Queensland have been assured that the anti-abortion laws were a ‘dead letter’ – that they would never be used. Now a young woman and her partner are facing trial under these laws and facing the prospect of years in prison.”
I am a 25 year old married woman, of Irish ancestry, living what most would see as a very conventional life – we own our home, both work in corporate jobs, drive European cars. So, of course, people fall of their chairs in disbelief that someone as ‘normal’ as me would want a ‘hippie’ birth.
Well, my answer is – to me, home birth IS normal!
We have been trying for our first baby for nearly 6 months, and I am becoming increasingly distressed as, if we do not conceive before September, we will not legally be able to choose a home birth, attended by an experienced midwife. If we choose to subvert the laws, we have two possibilities: ask a midwife to risk a $30,000 fine by attending our birth, or try to birth alone, which is not what I personally would choose for my first baby. I have always really looked forward to the calm and experienced support of an amazing independent midwife.
I want to have our precious baby at home because I honestly believe that this is the Safest option for our baby, and for myself. I am an educated woman, and have done months of extensive research, reading a range of primary and secondary material from both ‘sides of the fence’, and have concluded that home birth is the best, safest and most natural way of birthing my future baby.
We are fortunate that we can afford the $5000+ for a private midwife, doula, birthing pool and some in-home after care from a doula of our choice. I hate to think what an awful and crippling expense this would be for many families.
Since I was a child, I have had positive experiences with birth. My friends, 4 siblings, were all born at home, with all the other children (and friends, and family) running around the home as though it was a wonderful celebration (it was!) Instead of ‘mummies and daddies’ games, we used to play ‘home birth’, taking turns of ‘birthing’ our baby dolls on the bunk beds, surrounded by our little friends. After childhood memories like that, rushing off to hospital is the furthest thing from my wishes!!
I was born in a midwife-run family birthing centre, in 1984, and my sister was born in the same birthing centre, when I was 17 years old. Mum had an amazing private midwife, and I found being at the birth an incredible experience – I was amazed at the fact that mum was falling asleep in between her contractions (in the birthing pool). Interestingly, the private midwife had to ‘kick out’ all the centre’s midwives at the time of birth, as the centre had a policy that babies could not be born under water. Thankfully, mum’s midwife (Jan Ireland) was nice and bossy!
My mum’s sister, my aunt, had two horrendous hospital labours –both over 35 hours, both ending in C-sections. When she fell pregnant again at 42, she shunned the system entirely, choosing to have no ultrasounds, and to give birth at home, 30 minutes from the nearest hospital. Everyone said she was crazy, and going to kill herself and the baby, yet the labour was a beautiful, 6 hour event, ending in a massive, healthy baby, and a joyously happy family!
So. With all that I have written, I imagine that it is abundantly clear why I will choose a home birth. I just hope that I am able to do this legally, with an experienced midwife of my choosing there to support me through the beautiful event.
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.
I live in Melbourne, Australia. I have a bachelor of arts, with honours in political science. I’m a white, married, heterosexual. I am the mother of one homeborn daughter. She was born shortly after my 25th birthday, in the presence of her father and two doulas. Her siblings (of which we hope to have four) will be born at home as well.
I knew that homebirth was for me before I knew who would father my children! I had an interest in motherhood and reproduction and in particular feminist studies of these experiences. During my studies I found a wonderful homebirth community of which I became a part. I couldn’t imagine birthing in a hospital. My energy would be diverted from the work my body was doing to struggling against protocol and staff interests. I wanted to be free to do what felt right in the moment, to lose myself to birth and I could not do that in a clinical environment where the threat of intervention loomed.
At first I assumed that I, like most homebirthers, would hire a skilled midwife to attend me during birth “just in case” something went wrong. But when my partner and I started trying to conceive I realised that I was not comfortable with the idea of having any medical professionals in my birth space. We chose to homebirth without a midwife (freebirth) before our child was conceived. I was concerned that my focus would be on the midwife and “what ifs” should I homebirth with a midwife. I wanted to let go of my fears and focus on nothing but what my body was telling me in the moment.
My partner was very pro-freebirth. His main concern was that a midwife might suggest an unnecessary transfer to hospital, as we heard this had happened to others. We both agreed that no one should have the power to use the “H” word (hospital) in the birth space except for me: the birthing woman. Instead we hired two doulas (non-medical birth attendants) to wait on us. I had no examinations or tests performed on me while I laboured.
We definitely made the right choice. I experienced a 59 hour posterior labour in the comfort of my home. There was no need to rush. There was no threat of augmentation or caesarean, which I certainly would have ended up with had I been in the hospital system (a friend had a labour similar to mine at my local hospital and she was allowed 20 hours, then cut open, her baby and her birth taken from her).
My partner and our doulas worked in shifts to be by my side: massaging me, hand feeding me grapes like an Egyptian Queen, offering me water, holding heat packs to my back, whispering words of encouragement. My partner was a wonderful presence. When he held me I felt the pain of my labour decrease. He would whisper in my ear “you’re doing it”, never “you can do it”, every time he said it I felt so loved, my hard work acknowledged and I felt powerful!
It was the most intimate experience for us. My favourite memories from the birth were of my partner and I, alone, swaying in one anothers’ arms in our candlelit lounge room. My partner was such a perfect doula to me that we plan not to hire doulas next time.
After the birth I rang my father to let him know his granddaughter had been born. He was so thrilled, he told me he was excited not just about another addition to our family, but that I had got the birth I had prepared for. We realised that not only was I the first to homebirth as far back as we could remember, but I was the first to have a drug free birth as well.
At the time of the birth I was a full time student living on a scholarship and my partner’s income. My partner was on a $40K per annum salary. We paid for our homebirth by using the lump sum “baby bonus” the Australian government was offering at the time. Our doulas patiently waited for months after the birth to receive payment, for which we were really grateful. It cost us approximately $2000. In future, if we were going to hire people to attend one of my homebirths we would pay them in installments from the first meeting in early pregnancy until the last postpartum visit to avoid owing money months after the birth.
You can read the full story of my daughter’s home/water/lotus birth (complete with photos and links to articles and sites about birth) here: http://harrietsfreebirth.blogspot.com
I live in Sydney, Australia.
I am Anglo.
I have a partner.
I am the first person in my family that I know of who has homebirthed.
I work from home so I can be a SAHM.
I have had three normal (textbook) births when I was:
– 27yo (hospital birth),
– 36yo (midwife attended homebirth)
– 40yo (unattended homebirth.)
We didn’t have a lot of money so we sold our car in order to pay the midwives fees.
I was unhappy with my experience birthing my first child in hospital because I received many unnecessary interventions that negatively impacted my birth experience and my ability to care for and bond with my baby immediately afterwards. I chose homebirth to avoid the medicalisation of most hospital births. I wanted to be in the comfort of my home where I felt safe and relaxed knowing that those two things would offer me the best chance of a drug free labour. In a home setting birth becomes a family affair and I feel it’s a place where bonding between mother and baby and baby and siblings is best facilitated. Since I was a healthy woman who had birthed well previously I did not anticipate needing any medical attention. I also prefer to birth without a crowd, with very little noise and low lighting and no interuptions or strangers which I could achieve at home.
I live in Brisbane, I identify as a white Australian, I am married, a stay at home parent and I have had one homebirth. I chose to birth at home because that is where I felt the most comfortable, safest, where I felt I would be truly sovereign, and where I could bond with my new baby uninterrupted.
My homebirth was my first birth (I was 28) and I plan to homebirth future babies. We don’t have publicly funded homebirth in Australia so we paid the nearly $4000 out of our own pocket to have an independent midwife in attendance.
I’ve not experienced birth trauma, caesarean, nor any variation of normal such as breech. My homebirth was very straightforward. My mother had all her children by caesarean (which she hated), my grandmothers birthed in hospitals, and one of my grandmothers was born at home. Everyone else in my family births in hospital (so far!).
ETA: Linn’s second babe, a girl, was born at home three years to the day from this first birth!