Call the Midwife – On home births in the North of Israel

Despite me praying that this baby would not roll up until I recovered from Whooping Cough (yes, I was lucky enough to get that in my last month of pregnancy, and wasn’t it fun coughing away) and we had finished moving house (lucky me again) once again I have not made it to 38 weeks. My babies routinely reach around 2 and a half kilo and my body decides it’s time to go! I had read countless articles about babies “knowing when the mother is not emotionally or physically ready” but still he couldn’t wait. So much for that plan!

Towards the end of week 37 I had mild contractions whilst preparing for shabbat and on and off over shabbat, but nothing painful, so I carried on. The contractions didnt start to get noticable until after shabbat, and as my midwife predicted, they didn’t really hot up until the kids were in bed. I have heard of home-birthers who set up viewing stands for their kids to watch the birth process but this seemed deeply wrong to me. I don’t think it’s something small children need to see – who wants to watch mummy suffering??! After Jojo had stayed up watching nature programmes with us (both kids sensed something was up, and we had read “There’s Going to be a Baby” in preparation with them most of shabbat) Husband spoke again with the midwife who decided to ignore my “it’s not happening yet – ow – no they’re not so regular” and come anyway. Good job she did. She came around 9pm where I was happily watching Dancing on the Edge on my sofa. I still thought it was a bit early to call her but she examined me and announced I was around 7cm dilated. I seem to do birth quite quickly. Anyway I was happy on the couch for another hour or so whilst Husband and Midwife bonded and prepared the upstairs room and birth pool. The Midwife asked for my permission for a trainee to join her, which I was happy to do. I went into the pool around 11pm, and was happily in my Zen mode with candles and a lovely cd from a friend of mine, except for the hideous coughing between contractions (very painful, but may have made the baby come faster). It was a far more pleasant experience than my hospital births – no one barking instructions at me, everyone trying to support me (rather than panicking about silly things like beeping machines), all in all quite tranquil. I find music very powerful in its ability to transform my mood, in the same way I find the noises of a hospital very stressful, and after my last 2 birth experiences I have a deep distrust of medical interventions in labour. Let me clarify – I am not anti-doctors or hospitals, I just think there is a time and a place for medicalisation). Of course the last hour was a bit hairy – this was a labour after all – but I felt safe with Husband and Midwife close by and I don’t think you can feel this level of safety with strangers.

My son turned up soon after 1am. I found the birth pool a relaxing place to be, the water seemed to take the edge off the contractions. I was pretty tired from the birth – and the coughing but being at home felt more “natural” to me – for want of a better word. He was placed in my arms straight away – my smallest baby yet – and everything was calm, unhurried, no dragging him off for checks or prodding and poking. Nobody forced me to take drugs in order to deliver the placenta (which Husband buried the next day, fun for all the family). I called my parents soon after as it was getting late in the UK and I knew they had to catch a flight next day so I called to tell them the news – when they asked me what the baby weighed I couldn’t even tell them, we hadn’t got to that part yet. All very calm. (He was 2.4 kilo in case you were wondering). All I could tell them was that he was a boy.

Then I got to relax on our sofa bed whilst the midwife and Husband busied themselves clearing up, examining the placenta, filling out a few forms… and after a couple of hours I took a shower and had the pleasure of climbing into my own bed. Bliss.

The next morning, my 2 “big” boys were up bright and early and came running into our room. Then they saw the baby in his basket and they stopped dead in their tracks, eyes popping out of their heads. “The baby!” They were so happy. And on the bed were 2 wrapped presents for them – stuffed dolphins (from the baby of course) since they had both thought the sonograms “looks like a dolphin”. It was a lovely morning. I think it was nice that mummy was home, nobody had to shlepp to hospitals or feel that mummy was “unwell” or they were somehow out of the picture.

Husband tried to take Jojo to Gan but he didn’t want to stay there, he wanted to come home and join the action, and I cant say I blame him. A new baby is a huge family event, and I think the early weeks are very important in how the siblings accept and respond to the baby. So far so good. They are slowly learning what Gentle means! And they love him very much.

Our midwife came to check on us a few days later, and the children’s doctor from our clinic kindly visited us for no charge – a service he performs presumably as his way of supporting home births. I am surprised the government does not promote them, they would surely save a lot of money. But that’s for another blog. Amazingly, my little baby put on weight in his first week, despite us moving house just 5 days later…..

Frequently Asked Questions:

So many people responded to my home birth by saying “Oh I would love to do that but I am too scared” or “that’s my dream” or acted as if I was some sort of hero, (strange really, as I truly find hospitals far more frightening) so I decided to write this list of FAQ’s for those considering a home birth. It’s really not that big a deal.

Isn’t it a bit messy?
Not really. In hospitals they leave all the clean-up until the end, so it looks like a crime scene. In reality it’s not so messy (mine certainly wasn’t) and the midwives deal with it all as it happens. No big deal.

But isn’t it dangerous?
Here’s the tricky one. The reason a lot of women opt for a hospital birth even though they would prefer the environment of home. Assuming both mother and baby have been checked out – no obvious problems, no anaemia, nothing wrong with the foetus that may require hi-tech medical care, then the chances of something going wrong and the midwife not forseeing it are very slim. To quote one of the many books on home births and the like which I read during pregnancy, most birth emergencies can be seen looming ahead by an experienced midwife. And of course the chances of mother/baby needing medical care in the first place are drastically reduced by having a home birth (if you don’t believe me on this point, check the statistics. You will be very surprised).

Don’t you need to (legally) see a doctor?
A doctor should see the baby within 36 hours. It does not have to be in a hospital. We had a lovely local doctor pay us a free home visit.

What if you decide you want pain relief?
As far as I know, midwives don’t bring any pain relief with them. I used a TENS machine right at the beginning, for a few contractions, but to be honest this only helps with back labour. I found the water more helpful (you cant have both for obvious reasons). So if pain relief is important to you, I wouldn’t recommend a home birth.

What if you have a big baby?
I did extensive research into this and I couldn’t find any link between long/problematic labours and big babies. I have 2 friends who have home birthed some huge babies, no reported issues. My midwife actually commented that smaller babies can cause more issues as they can get stuck (mine did, the last 20 minutes was pretty tough). Women are designed to birth the babies they have! (and it’s not a competition)

How do you find a midwife/doctor?
I went on recommendation from good friends.

What if there is an emergency?
Ambulance. I packed an emergency labour bag just in case. A decent midwife will pack you off at the first sign of trouble (this rarely happens). Most of the terrible news stories you hear of births that went wrong involve mother/baby that was high risk or an incompetent midwife. Or more likely a couple that were not planning a home birth!

How much does it cost?
Not a cheap option. Especially if you factor in the lack of money from the hospital (this goes down with each child you you have so we didn’t bother collecting ours). My midwife was 5,000 shekel. Luckily I have a father who hates hospitals as much as I do so he was willing to help.

Do you need a doula?
Its handy to have the extra pair of hands, but its another expense. I have a wonderfully supportive husband who could fulfill the handholding role, but If I didn’t have him (or an alternative) I would hire one.

What if you live in a tiny house/flat?
We lived in a tiny house, its not a problem. If you want a water birth need to make sure there is space for a birth pool, and somewhere to put the kids! We had a room upstairs which we used and they didn’t wake up.

What if the baby needs help?
My midwife turned up armed with oxygen. From what I know most serious conditions are now detectable in the scans. So it’s unlikely you would be caught out.

What about the mothers recovery?
This is the only potential downside in my opinion. If you are at home, you see the housework that needs doing. So unless you hire some cleaning help, it can be quite hard to ignore. I found myself doing laundry on Day 1. (Don’t try this at home). Luckily I had friends who kept coming over and telling me to rest. But if you are a house proud person, beware.

2 Comments

  1. If the situation is iffy the midwife will recommend a hospital birth. That’s the reason home births have such good stats. Analyze the stats from the Netherlands!

  2. I’m not so sure. The stats I looked at compared a normal healthy woman opting for a home birth from the start, with a normal healthy woman opting for a hospital birth from the start. If the stats didn’t allow for change as you say, then the all the studies would be flawed. Surely such an obvious mitigating factor would have been considered in at least some of the research. All of which has positive outcomes for homebirths.

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