It possibly sounds a little strange to say that home birth is, for me, not just about home birth. Just as well, really, as I was transferred last time and had my baby in hospital. But the incredible antenatal and postnatal care meant that was disappointing rather than devastating.
I’ve been trying and trying to think of a way to explain private midwifery care in a nutshell to someone who hasn’t experienced it. And I think I’ve finally cracked it…when you have care with a designated midwife, it’s all about you. Well, your baby as well, but you feel like the most important person in the room, always.
I had the experience of public obstetric care during my pregnancy with my oldest child and can’t say it was particularly enjoyable. It wasn’t my choice, but it was the only care option offered to me at the time. The public obstetric system in Ireland is overloaded, antenatal clinics are crowded and there isn’t time for the personal touch. I’d go in, pee in a jar and wait with 50 other women for it to be my turn to be tested. Then a midwife would call me,check my urine and my blood pressure and send me back to wait again. Usually for 2 hours. Eventually, I’d be called to the obstetrician, I’d go in for 5 minutes, perhaps have my chest listened to, and my belly either measured or scanned, and be told to come back in a few weeks. A different obstetrician saw me each time. The phrase ‘just a number’ is bandied about, but it describes that care model perfectly. If I’d had medical problems, I’m sure I’d have received far more attention – in that system, barely being noticed is a good sign, but it certainly doesn’t make you feel cherished.
When I was pregnant with my son, I booked with a self-employed midwife and had most of my care at home. Instead of sitting in a sweaty, uncomfortable waiting room for half a day, my midwife would come to my house and we’d talk about my pregnancy, my health and my feelings, often for two hours. Then she would carry out any medical checks. We discussed my diet, exercise habits, what was going on for me at the time emotionally, potential sibling rivalry, tandem feeding – anything and everything. It was a holistic model of care, with me and my baby at the centre of it.
I wonder now, though, did I fully appreciate all of that the last time? I’m booked for a home birth with UK Birth Centres for my third baby and have had four antenatal visits so far. A different midwife to my last pregnancy, and it probably took me until the third visit to properly fall in love with her (I was still holding a candle for the previous one), but I have. We get very attached to our midwives – it’s the only negative I can find in this care model. It’s utterly devastating when the time comes to say goodbye. I don’t know if it’s because this is my last baby or because I have generally become more appreciative of the good things in life and savouring its best moments, but I relish the visits even more this time. I look forward to them so much and enjoy them immensely. It’s so gorgeous to have the whole family involved – my daughter has become an expert with the doppler and having expressed an interest in midwifery from the age of 2 when she first heard her baby brother’s ‘heartbeep’, she’s now a grown up five and eager to learn all that she needs to know from the wonderful Gail Mackey.
And Gail – it’s heart-melting to see her interact with my children. She is amazing with them and my younger one, who can be quite wary of other adults, loves her. She knows about dinosaurs. My older one fights with me for Gail’s attention and isn’t too impressed when I win. But hey, I’m the most important person in the room!
Having been transferred last time, I know birth at home is not the be all and end all; what is most important to me is caring and continuity. I feel so lucky to have gotten to experience one-to-one midwifery care twice. It would almost make you contemplate another baby. Almost!