My birth choice for my second child was rather controversial and I have been called everything from brave to stupid. I had an unassisted childbirth with my son. This does not mean being completely alone with no help, it just means that there was no one at the birth in their medical capacity.
Why on earth would anyone want to do this, surely you need medical help in case something goes wrong? Yes and no. While there are things that can go wrong during birth, there are very few that happen so fast and without some warning that one could not transfer to hospital like you would in a normal home birth.
Home birth is surprisingly the birth option that research has proven time and again to be the safest for mom and baby, in the case of a low risk pregnancy.
Backup on hand
I had a very good backup plan. I am a trained midwife and my best friend is a nurse but not a midwife, and while she was not at the birth in her medical capacity I knew that she would be level headed and cope with any complications. We both knew infant resuscitation and had a plan for the short list of severe complications that may arise.
Being in the UK at the time, access to quick ambulance services and hospital was guaranteed. I had booked in with the local midwife team and could have called them at any point in the birth, had I felt the need. I am not sure that the same backup options are as readily available in South Africa.
I believe that for the most part a woman’s body knows just what to do during labour and how to birth her baby in the best and safest way. When allowed to birth listening to her own intuition bodily signals, she is in control. She has the power to decide what position to birth in, and does not have to wait or accommodate medical staff that need to see, making her lie on her back and fight against gravity to give birth. Left to choose her own birth position very few women ever choose to birth lying down.
It is possible to maintain some control with a midwife, in fact I had a wonderful midwife for my first home birth, and it was no failing of hers that made me chose unassisted childbirth the second time. However no matter how much a midwife lets you do your own thing, there is a mental handling over of control that happens when a medical person at the birth. There is a power shift in which the woman stops listening completely to her body.
While a lot of women do not want the responsibility, I did. I wanted to be able to follow the signals of my own body and birth with total control and power that comes from being a woman in-tune with herself.
I realize that this is not a birth option that the majority of people will feel comfortable with, and it is not one that I would advocate for most. It does highlight the need for woman to be more in control and allowed to choose the birth option that works for them feeling no pressure from medical staff, society or other woman to birth in a particular way.
See a gallery of pictures of the birth. One or two pictures may offend sensitive viewers.
A longer version of the story of Caleb’s birth can be read on earthbabies.co.za.
What do you think of Sally-Jane’s choice to go it alone?