I made the decision very early on in my pregnancy about the kind of birth that I wanted for myself and for my baby and the decision came very naturally. I wanted a home birth, I wanted continuation of care from my midwife and I wanted to have options to opt-in or opt-out of certain procedures and testing along the way based on what I felt was necessary. I didn’t want to feel pressure to do things I wasn’t comfortable with and in essence, just wanted a natural pregnancy and birth with minimal risk of the cascade of interventions that birth often entails.
To set the record straight, I’m not a tree hugging hippy, I’m also not completely naive to the risks that ‘can’ be associated with certain situations and I absolutely have my baby’s best interests at heart. I put this out there fairly early on in this post because I have been confronted with lots of varying opinions on my decision to have a home birth and the most vocal opinions tend to be from those that are dead against it and feel the need to tell me how risky, dangerous and downright selfish my choice is. I guess the journey of becoming a mother starts from the day of conception and I felt it necessary to start making these decisions on behalf of my baby from the very beginning – I stand by them, I researched heavily (both sides) and stand firm with my decision.
I investigated my care options which included:
1. An Independent midwife – I went to the Midwifery Clinic in East Fremantle (Western Australia) and spoke to a few of the midwife’s there that day. I was 5 weeks pregnant at the time and they were very supportive in providing me with all the information I needed. The role of the midwife encompasses the care of the women and babies during pregnancy, birth and the early weeks of motherhood. Traditionally one midwife would look after a woman throughout her pregnancy giving them a chance to get to know each other really well and having established a trusting relationship, the same midwife would attend the birth and care for them both afterwards. All the antenatal visits are arranged at a mutually agreed time and place, usually in your own home and the visits can last up to an hour – the purpose of which is to ensure that you are well, that your baby is growing well and that you have time to get to know and trust each other. [antenatal visits are 4-6 weekly until 33 weeks then fortnightly until 37 weeks and then weekly until your baby arrives. After the baby is born, the midwife will visit every day for the first 3 days, after which she visits according to your needs for up to 6 weeks]. I was told that I could expect to have discussions about the plan that myself and my partner had, any concerns and questions about pregnancy and I could expect advice on how to prepare for birth and how to care for a baby and to establish breast-feeding.
I was also informed about the costs ($5,500) and about the importance of selecting a midwife that I felt comfortable with.
2. A Community Midwife – Community Midwifery WA (CMWA) is a not-for-profit organization which derives the majority of its funding from the WA government. It aims to help parents make informed choices about pregnancy, birth and beyond. CMWA offers a range of pregnancy work-shops, up-to-date, evidence based information and resources and midwifery advice to pregnant women and their partners. CMWA also offers post-natal support for the early days of parenting. CMWA’s childbirth education and post-natal services are free to all CMP clients, but are offered to anyone in the community, generally for a fee.
3. An obstetrician/hospital – given that this is the road that most people take, I won’t go into detail about how this goes but you can expect regular meetings with your obstetrician and a booking visit with lots of information and classes available from the hospital that you choose to birth with.
After assessing my options I decided to go with an Independent Midwife from the East Fremantle Midwifery Clinic as I was set on having a home water birth – we have been working together since very early on in my journey and I am still an advocate of the program and am thrilled to have a midwife who’s own home birth philosophies align with mine. I have found it to be very personal focusing on my individual needs and have enjoyed the flexibility of having all my appointments at home and at a time that suits me. It didn’t impact my work at all while I was still working as I was able to schedule all the appointments outside of working hours which was great (particularly handy during those first few months when I hadn’t informed my workplace yet of the pregnancy).
The first three months of my pregnancy passed beautifully, no morning sickness and with the usual amount of exhaustion and desire for regular naps that most women experience. Aside from that, I felt great and was constantly musing over how blessed I was to be carrying my baby and how lucky we were to have fallen pregnant so easily. My midwife showered me with a range of reading material which I really enjoyed given that I am a bit of a book worm myself and found that the material she gave me sat really well with my own philosophies. [for all my reading recommendations, check out my ‘resources’ post under the resources page.]
I’m now just over 40 weeks in my pregnancy and despite attending antenatal yoga, swimming and the odd birth class; I haven’t come in to contact with that many women who have opted for a home birth which I found really surprising. I guess there is still a lot of scepticism around being outside of the medical system and fear of being away from medical care if complications do arise. I can’t help but feel as though we have lost our trust and faith in the nature of birth – we were after all born and designed especially for this one purpose and we women have been doing it for millions of years.
Of course where you birth is a completely personal choice and you have to select something that resonates well with you – in an environment where you feel safe and with people you trust. Once you decide what that means for you, lock it in and hold true to how you feel. Wherever you birth and whoever you choose to be there with you, I am sure it will be a memorable and magical experience and nothing beats that feeling of holding your new baby in your arms for the first time.