You hear plenty of homebirth horror stories.
At Mamamia we’ve reported a number of them ourselves; the tragic and preventable death of Caroline Lovell, the twin baby boy who died during a homebirth in Adelaide, Jessa Duggar was rushed to hospital because of post-birth complications, and Ruth Irorio’s near-death experience.
The stories are tragic and newsworthy, so it’s right that they should be reported. But stories about successful homebirth experiences are few and far between.
That’s fair enough. After all, who would read a story headlined: ‘Woman gives birth to baby and everyone was delighted.’ It’s almost as un-newsworthy as ‘Dog bites man’.
But the unintended consequences of all that reporting of horror homebirth stories is that you might get the impression that giving birth is a neglectful, selfish thing to do.
That’s not to say homebirth is for everyone. It’s not that either.
But where a mother chooses it, and her caregivers can support it, homebirth is a rewarding, safe, comforting and empowering experience, and it’s one that needs to be better supported in the Australian health system.
Almost five years ago, Sydney writer Jenn Davis, who blogs as Penny Poppleton, gave birth to her daughter, Piper at home.
“We chose to have homebirths for a few reasons. One, I have anxiety around hospitals, doctors, and health care. It’s profound enough I feared that my births would stall or be miserable, so we weighed the risks and as my pregnancy was very low-risk and I was healthy, we opted for midwife-assisted delivery at home.
“Secondly, I wanted a single care provider, not an obstetrician who might be on call or might not, not a group of midwives who I may or may not get along with. I wanted the one person I’d seen the whole time. That was pretty important to me.”
Jenn: "I have anxiety around hospitals, doctors and health care. It's profound enough that I feared my births would stall or be miserable." Image supplied.
Before Jenn went labour, she had anticipated that it would take around 12 hours. In the end, Jenn was in active labour for seven hours before Piper was born.
"I had my husband and a close friend there with me. I couldn't see any of the 'hospital' equipment - it was tucked just out of sight in the hallway. I was on my bed, with my pillows, my sheets, my comfy blankets, my familiar towels. Piper was born as I was on my hands and knees and I remember sitting back to gaze at her and thinking, 'Holy crap, I did it.'"
Jenn's son, Owen was born at home two years later.
"I don't know if my second birth was more rewarding. It was more painful, and I tore worse, and had a pretty serious haemorrhage, all handled fantastically by my midwife, but I think I was so ready to be done that I didn't enjoy the process as much."