6:38 in the morning in our Roleystone home, my daughter was born and we immediately became part of a rogue subculture. Now anyone that knows me would probably be surprised to hear that I wasn’t part of a rogue subculture already. In fact, even I’m a bit taken aback that it took this long! But I never imagined that my golden ticket to one of societies little known, much misunderstood niche groups would be for something that human beings have been doing for millions of years.
It was about 5:30am when Pam first started getting contractions. I knew this was different when she mentioned that a good brisk walk through the bush was in order, but I managed to convince her otherwise and ran her a warm bath instead. We’d been in training previously with a month’s worth of Braxton Hicks, but they also served to completely confuse the real labour pains when they finally started coming. This could also be argued as a benefit of being relaxed in an environment you know intimately. I phoned Clare Davison, our registered independent midwife, and started getting on with my allotted tasks: Sterilising a few medical implements (as previously instructed) and filling up the birth pool.
We’d set up the birthing room previously with a fresh coat of paint, mosquito net roof, a stock of supplies required for the birth and more fairly lights than is usually advisable for normal human interaction. The birthing pool was pre-inflated, a small futon set up nearby in another corner with candles and incense sticks on standby. I have it on good authority that the finished effect was worth the effort but we hardly noticed any of it when the time came.
When Clare arrived at 6:15am, Pam was out of the bath and on the futon in the birthing room. I’d filled the pool so far with a garden hose but then realised that a birth into cold water probably wouldn’t be a fantastic way to enter the world. Like a Hollywood cliché, I started boiling water like a madman. As I tentatively carried another large and steaming pot through the tangle of hose, it became clear that Pam was further along than we’d thought.
She had inexplicably decided that she was going to take that walk after all (or she’d just had enough and was going to leave us to it!) Whatever the reasons were, Pam rather unceremoniously got up and headed for the door. The baby’s head was clear as she made it to the far side of the room and it was at this point that Clare told me to forget the pool I’d been working so hard on and make with the camera.
A minute later she was holding our daughter in our arms with an expression of such genuine surprise I found myself laughing. She’d done it all without so much as a Panadol!
Another amazing thing for me was that our son and daughter got to be present when their new sister was born. We’d sent them upstairs with a promise to call them when everything started happening. I hadn’t realised at the time, but Clare had thought to call them down from the cheap seats just in time for the big event. A front row experience that few kids these days have been lucky enough to have. My grandmother was appalled! Not about the kids attending the birth, but that she herself as a child never had this opportunity. The old stork was the best she got from her mother, something our kids would never believe now!
Home birth and independent midwives are contentious topics among the medical community and after our experience, I’m finding it hard to see why. We aren’t talking about gypsy fortune tellers here, nor are these women the Florence Nightingales of TV soaps, good only for a bit of bandaging. Clare is one of the most highly educated people I know, decorated multiple times by her peers as one of the top performing Nurses and Midwives in the state. All I can put it down to is that doctors don’t like making house calls and this is where the Independent Midwife comes into her own.
Scans and blood tests aside, Clare handled all our antenatal care from the comfort of our home. She was always available when we needed her and she always kept our other children involved as much as possible. A fantastic way to get rid of that anxiety some children feel when a new baby is going to be taking up all Mum and Dad’s time.
As an added measure, Clare arranged for us to see Obstetrician, Lisa Fowler, to ensure all appropriate checks were made as well as engaging a backup Midwife, Liza Kennedy of the Conscious Conception and Birth Centre, to assist. On the day, she performed the delivery with the highest degree of professionalism and handled all the normal outpatient checks you’d expect if we’d attended hospital.
Above all, she made it perfectly clear from the start that at the first sign of danger, we’d be going straight to Armadale Memorial Hospital. Something we’d taken as a given from the start.
Far and away the best part about being in a subculture is you’re never alone. Our fantastic friends and our upright Roleystone community has been with us all the way, even if just in spirit for some. We’ve had more help adjusting to life with our new baby than we ever did with our first two children. We had friends cook and clean for us, well-wishers from all over the town and more warmth than I’ve ever seen for one thing in my entire life.
If you’re considering a home birth with an independent midwife, I honestly can’t recommend the experience enough. These women can only be described as the practitioners of a higher art and one that should not be spoken of in hushed tones and thinly veiled scepticism. As much as I love the idea of a rogue subculture, I look forward to the day that home birth Midwives can rejoin the mainstream.