Home birth, calm birth
Luke Preston explains why birthing at home was the right choice.
Believe it or not, there are only two midwives in the city of Durban. Two! This unfortunately reflects the general attitude towards home birthing in South Africa, I’m certain the average couple feels similarly about child birth as they do routine surgery. Babies should be born in the hospital right?

We didn’t want that. We wanted to take charge of this unique experience. We wanted Knox to born at home – where else would he be more comfortable? The place that Tracey and I love the most, where we can show each other the most love, without the interference of others.

Keep calm, and carry on birthing

We wanted a calm experience for him, after all childbirth must be equally traumatic for the child right? Being squeezed out into a world of bright lights, sounds and noises must be traumatic which is why we wanted a water birth. Surely transitioning from a warm liquid environment into the same would be the easiest on him?

Our midwife agreed and sorted a birthing bath for us. We made contact with her more than halfway through Tracey’s pregnancy and made sure than we bonded with her. After all she would be delivering our baby boy into this world so we wanted to make sure that we connected with her. We did, and she put us at ease.

A week or so before our due date a birthing bath was delivered, which for me was the point at which the whole idea of “I’m going to be a Dad again” started to become a reality. Even after being what I would call an involved partner during our pregnancy, there is a disconnected feeling for Dads-to-be. There isn’t very much we do during pregnancy other than to make your partner feel as safe and secure as possible. Until the latter stages when baby is kicking your hand from inside Mom’s tummy it doesn’t feel very real. Yes, when it comes time to start decorating the nursery the feelings start to kick in, but for the most part we’re on the periphery.

Home birth can be more inclusive for dads

A hospital environment doesn’t make you feel any more at home either. Vaughn was born by elective Caesarean section and it was a very surreal experience. One minute he was in his Mom, the next he was out and crying. A very short, simple and clinical delivery – One minute you’re a Dad-to-be the next you’re a Dad. You’re told what will happen and you obey, you daren’t ask any questions and you sure as hell don’t get in the way.

With that in mind and Tracey’s first home birth delivery which was prolonged, we wanted this time around to be a calm, peaceful yet empowering experience. It was exactly that.

At about 8pm on the 15th March Trace started feeling a little uncomfortable, she had had two false starts, and honestly I think we both thought this was just another. We decided to ride it out and make ourselves as comfortable as possible. I did all I could, which in all honestly felt like nothing. I think even I grew tired of asking her, “Are you ok?”

By midnight she was in a little more pain and what we thought were Braxton Hicks contractions had become more regular and closer together...and painful. I contacted the midwife and told her I thought maybe we had kickoff and that we’d be more comfortable with her here, which was at about 1am. When she arrived at 1:30amTrace was already fully dilated. We were nearly all the way there – unbelievable really because in my mind it had all been so easy and so quick.

Setting up the birthing bath quickly turned into “Get her into the bath...NO, your normal bath.”, as things were progressing very quickly. Yet nothing was ever panicked or stressful. The midwife along with her three doulas, were nothing short of fantastic. So professional and easy going, they were never intrusive or disrespectful. If anything there was that mutual respect from them, knowing that we wanted to do this process our way, and that they were only too happy and proud even, to facilitate that.

After only a few pushes and what seemed like about ten minutes, at 3:41am Knox Oliver Preston was brought into this world easily and peacefully. He transitional seamlessly from the warm comfy surrounds of his Mommy’s tummy into a warm water bath, and directly on her chest, where we both just marvelled at the little human in our arms. The midwife and her team let us enjoy and soak in the experience and only examined Knox and performed the mandatory APGAR test when we were ready. He passed with flying colours. He was not cleaned, he was not weighed, and he was not passed around under bright lights from strangers hands. He was with his Mom and Dad, where he should be.

We let the umbilical cord pulsate for roughly ten minutes, after which I was able to sever the bond with his Mom, a strange moment Tracey would later recall. I was able to take my son swaddled in warm blanket through to our bedroom and snuggle him on our bed, where Tracey joined us and quickly and easily delivered the placenta. (The midwife recommended that it not be done in the bath because it is difficult to monitor Mom’s bleeding).

As we lay together, the three of us, I was in awe of my wife for her strength and our newborn son because new life is a miracle. I was in awe of the experience – such a wonderful and empowering experience, one I wish other couples could experience too. Because home birthing is not about fear or a lack of responsibility or downplay of reality or fear or money (the entire birth only cost about R10k), it is about knowledge of oneself, preparation and an intimate trust between partners and your midwife. It’s about empowering yourself and each other in the process, and most of all it’s about love.

By 5am and with the sun rising on Knox’s birthday, the 16th March 2013 was our day to celebrate with him, not in the confines of a hospital ward, but in the warmth and comfort of our home.

What reasons do you have for choosing your birthing venue and style?

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