Gemma Louise: The homebirth that changed my life.

Gemma Buckland born at home being held by her older brother and sister

The Homebirth of Gemma Louise

It began with Christopher’s birth

Gemma’s birth story actually began with her brother’s birth 5 years earlier.

Meeting Mary

Very early on in my pregnancy with Gemma I sought out Mary to be my midwife. I recall speaking to her at the Kindergarten our two girls attended. I arranged a time to catch up with her to talk about birthing at home.

I drove to Mary’s to have a catch up and talk about home birth, what the antenatal care involved and we arranged for my first formal antenatal visit. All the care was done in the comfort of my own home. No waiting rooms! Hooray!

Mary had a lovely relaxed nature. I mean reeealy relaxed. Another midwife once asked me if I was happy to have Mary provide my care. I was a little surprised because I had no doubts about her skills it was just her Lasse fair attitude I found annoying. That, I now know is what that second midwife was actually asking me.

I am a pragmatic, scheduled type but whenever I asked Mary a question she had the knowledge and answers for me. As I got to know Mary over the years I understood her more and more. She was indeed relaxed but underneath that she was intelligent, knowledgeable, and respectful and was watching my progress like a hawk in labour.

Mary had the most innate trust in women’s ability to birth and read their body cues and nonverbal language with an instinct I always admired and learnt from.

Many years later Mary and I worked in the community midwife program together. I had the opportunity for 12 months to analyse the programs data and stats. I smiled to myself when compiling the outcome data. Mary consistently had the lowest use of drugs, lowest perineal tear rate, and best baby APGAR scores. I look forward to sharing more about Mary in my book.

Gemma’s birth

Gemma was due April fool’s day but she graciously waited until the 4th which was an Easter Monday in 1994.

Labour began at about 4 am and this time there was no rush to go anywhere. We did not have to wake our sleeping toddlers. All I had to do was call my midwife.

Mary asked if this was just a warning call or did I want her to come. I reminded her that Chris took just 2 ½ hours so I thought she had better come.

I ran a bath, without having to ask anyone’s permission or negotiate hospital policies. Labouring in water is bliss. The relief and relaxation of the water was so wonderful. Mary arrived followed soon after by my second midwife arrived. Everything was so calm and ……NORMAL.

After being in the bath for a while I felt the unmistakable sensation of being close to pushing. I needed to get out of the bath. It was just a standard sized tub and at that point I needed to be grounded. I had always visualised birthing in the lounge room and moved into there.

Mary had her then one year old asleep in the car. She woke and cried. Positioned just outside Stacey’s bedroom the cry woke Stacey up who thought for a moment the new baby had been born. She got up and joined the action soon followed by Chris. They were 7 and 5 respectively.

Children at birth

I had no reservations about having my children at the birth. They were well prepared and I had my mother present and her primary role was to be there for them. If she felt they needed to leave the area or I asked her to do so she would leave with them.

Children don’t have the fears and preconceptions about birth that may adults have. I remember at one point Chris popping up and down moving between my head and feet, he wasn’t sure if he should comfort me or watch the business end of things. My mum called him down and he and Stacey sat quietly with Mum watching. In the end they were both completely enthralled and quiet.

I loved being able to move freely and knew that Mary understood me and my preferences. There were no strangers in the room. Everyone was an invited guest.  My music was gently playing in the background and essential oils were burning. As with my first two labours I instinctively laboured on all fours.  This time, finally, no one instructed me to change positions or interfered with my instincts. It was bliss.

Second stage of labour

I knew again, this baby was big and did NOT want to push. In fact I resisted.  I was fully dilated, the urge to push was strong, but I resisted. The body is smart and strong. I may have held back from active pushing but my uterus did not. The crowning was intense. The most incredible sensation I thought I could not stand, but did anyway.

Finally her head was born. Mary held her and I felt her apply some pressure. “No!” I said. “Don’t pull, I will push”. I know now Mary was a little concerned about the size of Gemma’s shoulders and the possibility of shoulder dystocia. But she did as I asked and did not pull and with the next contraction she was born. I said “Thank god I don’t ever have to do that again!”

Gemma was born

At 8:17am on Easter Monday 1994, Gemma Louise was born. It was the most amazing, empowering, perfect moment of my life. My family was complete. Although I had previously had 2 easy normal births, this third experience was something special.

I knew at that moment I wanted to be able to give other women that same experience.

In our preparation I had gone to some length explaining third stage, the placenta and cord and how that might look to Stacey and Chris. We had purchased a Banksia rose to plant the placenta under. Third stage came easily. I squatted over a dish and Chris watched with fascination. He recognised what was happening and dashed outside. (Chris never walked when he could run) He came racing back in with his little hand clutching the trunk of the Banksia Rose, pot and dirt trailing behind “I got the plant Mum!”

It was a special moment.

banskia rose flower

After the birth

Even more special was the time after birth. I was tucked up in my own bed, with my own coffee cup. The kids were off with Nanna and then home again therefore for them there was no unusual or undue separation and no anxiety for them.

No interruptions this time, just blissful quiet in our own home. Mary visited daily and I got incredible postnatal care.

The homebirth of Gemma brought me an incredible amount of personal satisfaction. I was proud we brought her into the world, into our family exactly the way we wanted. It was peaceful, normal and natural. There was no fear, no negotiation, and no power plays.

Reflections

There are many reasons women choose to homebirth. Read my post 40 reasons to have a homebirth

Some of the small subtle factors that come into play to provide the whole overall experience of the power and peace of a home birth seem almost unimportant on their own. For example, taken out of context how important is it really that you do not have to wear a hospital ID tag?

Out of context, it doesn’t actually matter however in the context of a hospital birth the symbol of an ID band is significant.

When a person is admitted to hospital they change identity. A person goes from being autonomous, in control and self-determining to a patient; a recipient of care within an organisation. A patient is allocated a bed, hospital attire, hospital food, visiting restriction, a care plan, policies, a UR number and an ID band and therefore subtly autonomy is lost, self-determination is compromised.

Often patients who asks for care, routine or services outside the hospital norm are labelled difficult or even worse non-compliant. To make a decision your caregivers do not understand or agree with becomes quite problematic for a patient.

Homebirth is the opposite. The choice to have a homebirth is the choice to be responsible for all decisions.

Gemma Buckland born at home being held by her older brother and sister
Gemma with her siblings