When Ilze, a respected and talented professional photographer herself, hired me for her birth team, I was delighted to hear she was planning a home birth. I support births of all kinds where women are empowered, respected, and supported be it a natural birth or an elective c-section. Home births are a safe option for many South African women but many think they must be crazy or the minority for considering one. Ilze and I are teaming up to help dispel that notion. With no agenda of pushing a home birth on a woman who wouldn’t want one, but simply to help inform further those who are considering it. We both believe imagery is powerful, so the ability to hear directly from her and see her birth unfold was important.
I asked her 8 of the questions I hear most from women when they first hear about home births and she graciously took the time as new mom to talk us through them.
1) Why did you choose a home birth over a hospital birth?
I chose a home birth because I’ve never viewed giving birth as medical, but rather as something totally natural and normal and something we were born to do. I also chose a home birth with midwife led care, because I knew I would then be more in control of and respected in how I would like to birth. And most importantly, I chose a home birth because then I would birth in an environment I know, love and feel safe in, and it would be a place most peaceful to us and our baby.
2) Were you concerned if there was an emergency?
To be honest, not at all. I totally trust in my body and knew I would be able to do this. We did however go to the backup hospital and doctor for one visit and asked all our questions if it came to be an emergency and I had to transfer to the hospital.
3) What kind of responses did you get from friends and family regarding your choice to birth at home?
I got all kinds of reactions ranging from shock to awe, but in the end most people were supportive, especially my family (my dad was born at home too) and my close friends.
4) Where did you rent your pool from and when did you set it up?
We rented the pool from our midwife and it was set up when my husband got home (I was already in early labour with mild contractions). When the contractions got stronger a bit later, the pool was filled with hot water and I got in. (Resource for pool rental in Cape Town)
5) What would you recommend purchasing or have on hand specifically for your giving birth at home?
I purchased candles and incense, and had relaxing music ready to play on repeat…haha. Have snacks on hand, and a pilates/gym ball (also great for use later as you rock your baby to sleep…) And I invested in professional birth photographs, so I can always remember the magical night our boy was born.
The midwife and doula are trained at doing this and will bring everything else needed for the birth, you really don’t need to get anything.
6) Weren’t you worried about a bloody mess being left over to clean with a newborn to care for?
Not at all. Everything is cleaned up by the midwife and doula (or whoever is present at your birth). The house looked just the same the next morning when I walked around after waking up. Also, because I gave birth in the birth pool, any blood was mixed with the water of the pool, which was washed down the drain.
7) If I am considering a home birth, what would you advise I do while I am pregnant to prepare? What kind of birth support team should I consider and why?
Read up about home births, and home births in South Africa (it’s done more than you think) and talk to others who have done home births. Then decide if this is something for you. Then find a midwife who supports your decision. You can also get a doula, a friend, your mom, or anyone you’d also want present, for support. I highly recommend the Mama Bamba Way book and ante-natal classes by midwife Robyn Sheldon, because that has helped a lot in preparing my body, mind and soul for the birth journey (this is for even if you’re having a hospital birth). Getting a midwife as you primary care provider is very important, because they are there to serve you and your decisions, although they are highly trained and capable of handling an emergency. All midwives support having a back-up hospital and doctor in case of needing to use a hospital or in case of an emergency c-section. Getting a doula was also important for us, because they’re there for emotional support for you and your partner and someone who’s highly trained at keeping the space as sacred and positive at all times. A home birth is safe and natural (women have been doing it for ages and are still doing it today, much more than you think), and if it speaks to you in any way, I urge you to find care providers supporting you all the way, because it really is worth it!
8) Looking back on it now, how do you feel about your decision to birth at home?
I would do it again and again! It was the best decision for us. We love our home and being by ourselves doing our thing, and having a home birth was so peaceful and an easy transition for our baby, and for us as new parents. Just after the birth I took a shower in my own bathroom, climbed into my own bed where my husband were already doing skin-to-skin with our baby, I nursed and we all went to sleep in the comfort of our own home.
The midwife do all the checks right there, while you’re in your bed, and our wonderful doula brought us tea and a sandwich from our own kitchen. I can still see the peacefulness in our baby weeks after his birth. If I must choose one reason why I’d do it again at home, it’s because the transition is so peaceful to a newborn baby.