Monday, August 10, 2009

Home Sweet Homebirth

I promised to share some stories of my birth experiences and as my daughter recently celebrated her 12Th birthday it seemed appropriate to relive for this post, the story of her birth which was my first home birth. I planned a home birth from the start because I was confident that I could have a birth without relying on medication for pain relief and little or no intervention (no attachment to drips, monitors, internal checks etc).... this was my experience of my second birth which took place in a maternity home. I had laboured at home and we drove the short distance to the facility when the contractions intensified. The lovely young midwife on duty was able to sense that the baby would be arriving shortly. I never once lay on my back, not even for the delivery and within 45 minutes of arriving at the home my second baby first daughter. It was not until later that I realized that I had just experienced a completely natural birth.... no drugs were needed or suggested and I felt so good afterwards. I returned home later that day and remarked to my own midwife who had come to visit me (she had been unable to attend the birth due to being at another birth) that it was 'almost a home birth'. 'Next time' she said 'You should consider one'.

By the time we were expecting our third child three years later, we had made the move from the North Island of New Zealand to the South Island to become dairy farmers. We were now in a rural location and driving long distances to antenatal appointments did not appeal. This is when I truly came to appreciate New Zealand's maternity care system which offers women real, informed choices about the birth of their babies and simply the best care. There was a Midwifery practice based in a city about forty minutes from our farm but I did not have to drive in there to visit the midwife I had chosen as my 'lead maternity carer'. She came to me! She was a qualified, experienced midwife who had delivered lots of babies at home. All the usual checks were conducted in the comfort of my own home and of course we had lots of discussions about plans for the birth including the circumstances that could arise that might facilitate a transfer to the hospital for the birth. I knew that I was in very good hands. I was confident not anxious. Relaxed and reassured.

Ten days overdue and praying for our baby to arrive soon, our prayers were answered when I went into labour when watching a gardening show on television in the early evening. My previous labour had lasted 6 hours .. would this be shorter? Longer? I was hopeful, the contractions were regular and I felt certain this was true labour. I rang the midwife and by the time she and the assistant midwife arrived, I had run a bath and was more than ready to hop into the warm, soothing water.
I'd thought about hiring a birth pool but honestly, the thought of the hassle of setting it up and having it slap bang in the middle of the kitchen floor and then having to fill it caused me to dismiss this option. The bathroom was small but the steam from the bath soon filled the room and made it warm and cosy and it was winter, a South Island winter!

Icicles on the dairy farm fence

My midwife was an expert at back massage and this helped me through the latter stages as the contractions came closer and intensified. As had happened in my second labour, she could tell how far the labour had progressed and did not need to perform any internal checks. I too, was aware that this baby would be arriving soon and not wanting to be on my back in the bath I stood up and grasped the towel rail which ran along the wall. I nearly wrenched it from the wall with the next contraction which so overwhelmed me and with that one huge push my daughter was born into the hands of the midwife. It was around 10 pm and the labour had lasted about 4 hours start to finish. I had done it! My first home birth and what an experience! The midwives quietly worked and organized everything and very soon I was in my own bed cuddling my beautiful daughter... she was my biggest baby at 7 lbs 12oz and in perfect health. She took to breastfeeding straight away and was soon feeding contentedly. My other two children had both been asleep in bed and my husband awoke them to come and meet their new baby sister. This was one of the most wonderful aspects of the home birth for me... they did not have to wait for 'visiting time'; although the maternity home had been 'homely' it was still a public facility run by a health board and still had to abide by routines and regulations. At home it was always visiting time! I could choose when to have my meals, when to rest, when to sleep (without being woken up by other babies crying, as is the case when you have to share a room in the hospital!) and it wasn't long until I was back into the flow of everyday life on he farm.

Following my experience of home birth I was sold! It had been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I know it isn't the choice of every mother but this was my choice and I was living in a country with a health system which although not perfect had set up a maternity care system that allowed me to make this choice knowing I would have an experienced midwife in attendance. I could have chosen to give birth at the hospital and have the same midwife deliver the baby... a total continuum of care. If I had needed any specialist care or intervention the choice of having an obstetrician was also available to me. What's more this care was free! Following the birth for the first 6 weeks, the same midwife visited me at home to check on my baby and me.

Our first home born baby grew quickly and within the year was soon exploring her environment and raiding the pantry! See those ice cream cones... I should have learned and moved them to a higher shelf. She later returned to try those too and bit the bottom off every cone in the pack!

It should come as no surprise to learn that I was now a huge advocate for home birth and planning another birth at home for our fourth child who would arrive two years later in a most memorable way but I'll save that story for later!

And then I moved to Australia and the home birth choice was wrenched from my hands as I discovered we were living in a region that did not even have an antenatal service at its new shiny hospital! I was back to visiting my GP (a nice family doctor but it takes a month to get an appointment and he is always so busy, after a long wait you usually get no longer than 5 minutes for a visit with him!) and once it was found I was expecting twins I was off to the obstetrician.

And here I am again expecting another baby... just one this time and yes, I would love to have a home birth but find that choice is really not available unless I am prepared to pay for it or use an unqualified birth assistant, something which I am not prepared to do. There are one or two independent qualified midwives around who offer home birth but at a cost of $3000 and it seems the Australian government is making moves which will basically make home birth illegal by 2010.

I am so thankful that I did have the opportunity to experience a home birth on two occasions but no matter where my next baby is to be born I am assured of this, that God my Father who placed this baby within me and has knitted him or her together, who already knows my baby and has a plan, a purpose and a destiny for the life of this child, will be with me wherever and whenever the birth happens to take place. Although I have little confidence in the system here which limits my choices, I have every confidence in God and I know I can trust Him.


SF said...

Ann, thanks for sharing this story! I have had 2 of my 3 children at home- and Elijah was an "almost at home birth" too. :) Born in the foyer of the hospital, basically.
I dread to think what we'll do if and when we have another child, with all the government changes that are currently happening. :( So sad.
No, I've never read those books by Louisa May Alcott- and from what you've said, don't plan to!!

Smilie girl said...

It was very interesting to read of your experiences. I am so pleased that NZ had such good services and so many midwifery options. Midwives seem to be limited in Australia. (Not that I know that for sure) Both my children were born in hospital, I didn't know of any other choices. My second had very little help from anyone and probably could have been born quite happily elsewhere.
All your children look beautiful and healthy.
Thank you for sharing.

Farming On Faith said...

Thanks for sharing~it was very interesting!

Chookie said...

Lovely story! And yes, it is sad that we Aussies don't have anything like the continuity of care you had. I did want to mention that (at least in NSW) midwives ARE the people you deal with unless you have problems (and even then you see a lot of them IME). The limitations on MWs in Australia are in their private practice -- they can't get the same kind of insurance as the Obs get. All the MWs I had in hospital were lovely and I hope it's the same for you in your next delivery.

Jess said...

I just found your website and find that you are interested in just about all the things I am!

Your birth stories are inspiring and encouraging. I had a planned homebirth with a Midwifery Group Pratice midwife in 2008, that ended up in hospital (my choice) and a caesarean (their choice!). I went in for pain relief as I had been in labour at home for 45 hours, and of course as soon as I got there they weren't happy about how long I had been in labour and ordered a c-section, despite my baby and me being in perfect health and 10cm dilated!

Now I feel like I want to have a baby at home again so my chance of having a vaginal birth is increased, but am afraid of something going wrong due to the previous c-section. Several midwives in my area have done VBACs at home - I don't know whether trusting God is going to the hospital or staying at home! Which fear does he want me to overcome? Very confusing.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin