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Bronte, Born at Home: Independent Midwifery

Birth photography by Giselle Natassia
Pregnancy photography by Kristen Primrose Photography

When I found out I was pregnant with Bronte (baby number 4) it was a no-brainer. I knew I wanted to have her at home and little did I know at that time, I would end up giving birth during what was declared a pandemic. This had major impacts upon how health care was delivered (or NOT delivered) as the health system floundered to comprehend exactly how they were going to approach things and maternity 'care' was flipped on it's head

Initially I was going to go back through the CMP, which is the government funded homebirth program that is now based out of King Edward Memorial Hospital. It has a strict inclusion/exclusion criteria, and if anything looks even remotely awry then your care transfers to your back-up hospital. As it had been years since I had given birth, I was WAY closer to 40 and had been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition in the years after. I had major abdominal surgery due to this condition and I knew the chances that the Midwives would have sweaty palms and I may be ejected from the program was high. I didn't want to be turfed out at the last minute as I almost did with my previous CMP birth

I decided to enlist in the services of a Private Midwife. I luckily managed to secure a beautiful friend and someone I studied with - Liza. I also knew I needed someone who lived close by as Ada was born after only 40 minutes of active labour (and the CMP Midwives didn't make it until over half an hour after her birth). It was a total bonus that Liza lived only 5 minutes from me

Unlike the CMP, hiring an independent Midwife will cost anywhere between $4000-6000. With Medicare though, you may only be out of pocket around $2000- 3000 (if your partner is in the Defence Force and you are part of the ADF Family Health program, they will actually pay the difference, up to your annual limit per financial year). Different Midwives have different pay arrangements and many are happy for you to pay a proportion at each visit, spread from very early pregnancy, up until 6 weeks postpartum. For more info on Home Birth options click the link

All of my appointments were in my own home and from around 7 weeks (monthly), Liza took bloods at home and could write referral for ultrasound too. Not once did I need to sit for hours in a waiting room. At the time, every monthly appointment would bring a new evolution to the 'pandemic' as things globally changed almost daily. While other people would be forced to have their appointments over the phone or in their car outside the clinic, or skip a whole load of them entirely - I didn't need to leave my house and had more appointments than EVER! Not only did I have more and longer appointments, they were with the same Midwife every time. This is the absolute gold standard of maternity care, read more about it here;

My pregnancy progressed fairly well, although due to my Crohn's disease (malabsorption, post surgery) my iron was really low and I did have an iron infusion and as always, my fundus was measuring on the small size (a bit more than it has before) so a third trimester U/S series confirmed that all was well. I had arranged for my cousin Giselle (incredible photographer) to come and stay with us in the week or so leading up to my guess date, that way she would be here if my labour was as fast as before. I was looking forward to spending some time with her, but she had some uni work to complete and was going to come as soon as that was done. It was getting closer and closer and finally we had made plans for her to come over on the Thursday 11th June (my guess date was the 17th). All of my previous births had been ON the date or a week before so I was very relieved when we had it organised. I was rested, prepared and ready

I tended to start labour very definitively, but this time was different. For weeks I had stop/start tightenings that would last for an hour or two and then fizzle out, as my last birth had been so fast I was always thinking "is this it?" I didn't want to ignore it for too long in the instance that things progressed rapidly, so it made for the most disruptive few weeks. I was busy nesting for the final few weeks and was relieved to finally set up my birth pool right in front of our wood fire. The wood was chopped and ready - having the fire lit was the next most important job after filling the pool when it was birth time!

Liza had sent me a message on the 11th to say that she would be heading about an hour from my home the following morning and that if I even had an inkling that labour was starting, to message her ASAP. This was a little anxiety provoking as I didn't want to disrupt her schedule for another of these false starts, but also didn't want her to be an hour away if I DID go into labour

We had actually began to fill the pool a little when I had reached 39 weeks, as I knew our water pressure wasn't great (we live in an old pole home) so it wouldn't take as long to get it filled on the big day. I had everything where I wanted it - all of my checklist was ticked off. Giselle had arrived o the evening of the 11th and we had a lovely dinner together, we didn't even talk about the kind of images I was happy for her to take or what to expect. She had only ever witnessed one birth before, in Bangladesh - not an experience she would ever like to see again. We all wen to bed thinking we had plenty of time to eat, catch up and talk about the upcoming birth

At 3.30am the next morning, I was awoken by more of these tightenings - this time though they were very regular, not painful but consistent. I ignored them until around 5am and then woke Sam up and told him I was pretty sure it was go time. We got up out of bed and had a hot drink, kinda giggling to ourselves as we were the only ones awake and excited for what the day would bring. I started the fire, Sam began to top-up the semi-filled pool with hot water and I got the kettles out to give the pool a boost of hot water. I set up the clothes airer next to the fire to warm some towels and called Liza at 6am to let her know that I was pretty sure it was happening. We had organised for my Mum to attend my last homebirth but as it was so fast, she missed it - although she made it before my Midwives did! I called her to let her know things were happening

Liza arrived at about 6.30am and took my vitals, listened in to baby and set herself up quietly in the corner of the room

At 7am we woke up the rest of the house and told them to get something to eat and that they would be meeting their new sibling that morning. I was still walking around at this stage as it wasn't stopping me in my tracks, but I knew things were not going to stop now, just as Mum and Gary had arrived. Bronte was constantly on the move, squirming around the whole time and because of this her heartbeat kept accelerating quite high. everything else was otherwise progressing well and at around 8.00am I felt as though I needed to get into the pool - this is when my labour established. I needed to concentrate and focus, I didn't want anyone touching me or talking to me and I had to rest in between. The pool was amazing, I was able to move with easy due to the buoyancy of the warm water and rest on the soft edges

My labour was progressing and I was able to check on this myself, giving Liza updates on Bronte's descent. Her heartrate decided to stay quite high (and she was still moving around constantly) though we decided that we needed to take some action and Liza quickly broke my waters (which were lovely and clear) - her heart rate immediately came back down to baseline. I suspect that she was in a bit of an awkward position and this change of pressure enabled her to move... I also think that - knowing her personality now, she was totally pissed of about being squeezed and had to have her say... she hates to be hugged, confined and as a newborn HATED her head being messed with... She must have HATED contractions

After this, Bronte began to descend and I became aware that I was actually holding her back. Having been a horse rider for years I have maintained a strong core and pelvic floor - as soon as I surrendered and released, she came down with ease. I do remember thinking to myself "oh FUCK I remember this - There's no going back now!!!" I was still giving Liza momentary updates on where she was (haha I couldn't get out of my Midwife brain) and she was born into my hands just before 10am, Sam, with her 3 big sisters, Giselle, Liza, and Patricia (my back up Midwife who I didn't even notice her arrival), my Mum and Gary (who was up in our mezzanine lounge) ready to welcome her into our family

I stayed in the pool for about an hour, feeding and waiting for the placenta but it was taking a while and the afterpains were kicking my arse. I got up with Bronte still attached and we went over the bathroom where it released after some change in position and gravity, with minimal blood loss. We then made the trek up to our bedroom and cut her cord, I had a shower and everyone got to have a good look at our new baby

She was tiny and perfect - 2.850kg. Within a couple of hours we were tucked up in bed resting - it was bliss. It really was a beautiful birth and I was so glad to overwrite Giselle's other birth experience with something completely different - ideal really. I felt completely safe, respected and honoured. This is what I dream for every new parent xx

I'm Hayley, I am a mother of 4 and have been a birth worker for over 10 years. It is my life’s work to help new parents have the best birthing and early parenting experience as possible by providing a birthing & postpartum Doula service, and Birth and Early Parenting education. Let me assist you in navigating this journey with confidence and help you settle into life with your new baby

I am based in the Perth Hills and cover the Perth Metro area

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