What’s it like to give birth at home? One mum tells us how her two home births ended up being very different (but still wonderful) experiences.
How many home births have you had?
I have two children – both of whom were born at home – a two-year old girl and a six-week old boy. With my daughter, I had a home birth which was attended by NHS midwives. However, I booked a home birth with a private midwife during my second pregnancy.
Why did you want a home birth?
I was a coward that was too afraid to attend hospital…or to get in a car during labour! I was also very well during both of my pregnancies and didn’t feel as though I belonged in a hospital which I associate with sick people.
Did you have to push (‘excuse the pun) for a home birth?
The first time round home birth was offered as a standard option by my NHS midwife during my first pregnancy. If she hadn’t made me aware of this, I might not have even considered it. As soon as I had decided to have a home birth, I told my midwife and she completed the paperwork for me.
I was low risk throughout my pregnancy so my decision was never questioned by the midwives or doctors. Booking me in for a homebirth was simply a formality.
The second time round, it was very different.
I felt that the local midwifery services were under-resourced and my pre-natal care was inconsistent so at 36 weeks pregnant we decided to book a private midwife.
How were your friends and family about your decision?
My husband was very supportive. The first time, we did not tell anyone as we did not want to be influenced by the views of friends and family until after I had given birth, and I would have felt uncomfortable if my neighbours had been aware of when I was in the middle of labour.
The second time, everyone assumed that I was going to have a home birth and nobody voiced any concerns as it had gone so smoothly the first time! This did however, mean that all my neighbours knew when I was in labour (not helped by the fact that I was 10 days overdue)…in fact I had conversations outside with two of my neighbours while I was in labour which added to the experience!.
What support was offered – one midwife or two, and were you given
options if things got difficult?
In both cases, I had one midwife for the first stage of labour, who stayed with me the entire time, and an additional midwife for the second and third stages of labour to assist in case of complications.
I was booked into the local hospital (Harlow) in case an emergency transfer was needed. I was not concerned about emergencies as, not only was I low risk, I was confident that I could be transferred to hospital in the time that it would take the medical teams to set up a theatre and assemble all of the staff for an emergency section.
You paid for a midwife the second time, what difference did that make?
I paid a fixed fee which included a significant amount of postnatal care and support which is harder for the NHS to provide.
What room did you decide to give birth in and why?
We have a detatched house and I gave birth in our family snug…which has become a play room. It felt like a very private room that I was comfortable in.
I chose not to have a birthing pool but one would have been supplied as part of the package with the private midwife service. The NHS midwife also advised on where I could hire a pool if I had wanted one.
What was similar – was there in difference in attitude of midwives?
As I only booked the private midwife at 36 weeks, I cannot really comment on antenatal care, except that as a working mother who commutes, it was very convenient when the private midwife attended my home for the antenatal appointments. It was also comforting to build up a rapport with the same midwife who was going to deliver my baby.
I had a lovely experience of labour for both of my children and the midwives were very supportive. The key difference for me was in the post natal care which is 30 days following the birth with the the private midwife. This included access to the midwife who was on-call 24/7. Without this, I probably would not have breastfed my son, who unlike my daughter, could not latch on properly at first.
What were the best things about your homebirths?
Eating chocolate cake (which I baked during labour) and drinking champagne with my husband soon after the event! Going to bed with my husband and newborn baby within two hours of giving birth
What were the worst?
Your neighbours knowing when you are in labour and the opinions of friends and family.
What do you think are the most common myths about homebirths?
That there will be a mess in your house and nothing can be done in the event of an emergency.