Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Home Birth and Witchcraft

So just over a month ago, my daughter R. was born.

After she was born, J. put her on her chest for about an hour to let R. sniff out the boobs.. It didn't take long for her to find them and to start her first meal in the outside world. After her feeding, I took her on my chest to get some skin-to-skin contact with my daughter. J. washed up, took a shower and got changed into some comfy clothes. In the meantime L. had come up to the bedroom and was getting acquainted with his baby sister... Grandma was shedding tears of happiness..

My daughter R. the night she was born

The whole family went downstairs and I made us something to eat. "Where are the doctors?", you might wonder. "Where are the machines, monitors, IV's?" There were none.

We had a home birth.

How did we arrive at that decision? It's hard to say. L.'s birth experience was the full medical experience. Hospital room, Delivery Room, people in scrubs, lots of equipment that makes beeping noises and have annoying alarms that only seem to be designed to give prospective parents a heart attack. In Belgium a mother stays in the hospital for 5 days after a normal delivery (6 days in case of a C-section), so when we found out that we were pregnant of R. we decided to do something different. We wanted to get the warm and fuzzy feeling we thought should be part of a delivery and birth experience. Although we did not immediately consider a home birth it was always in the back of our minds.

J. was seeing an OB at that time who was not in favour of home birth. J. simply said "Then I wil go and see a different OB". So after the first trimester we went to see a different OB. J. explained that we were considering a home birth. "I'm not a big fan of home births," he said, "but if you have a good midwife that will assist you and if you promise to continue seeing me during the pregnancy, so I can give the green light at 37 weeks, I'm OK with it". So we found a fantastic group of midwives (one of them actually a man) who made us feel comfortable with our decision. Of course we had a lot of questions and concerns, but our midwives put them all to rest. At the final check up at 37 weeks, the OB told us that he saw no reason not to have a home birth and he wished us all the best.

One evening at the end of March, J. came up to me "My water broke!". She was a bit embarrassed as she thought she had peed herself. She didn't have that experience from our first pregnancy, so this was all new to us. We called the midwife as we were concerned that J. was not having any contractions yet. "If the liquid is clear, I see no reason for concern. Just try and rest and I will see you in the morning." The next morning our midwife dropped by. No contractions yet. He called the OB to see what the plan would be. "If she comes in for 30 minutes of monitoring during the day, I will give her until the next morning. If there are no contractions then, we will have to induce". Our hearts felt heavy. It seemed we were doomed to repeat our first birth experience.

Around noon, there were no signs of contractions, so we went in for the monitoring. Everything was fine with baby, but no sign of contractions. J. and I drove home, feeling tired and beaten up. "Let's all take a nap and we'll see what happens". She took a spoon of castor oil as they say it induces labour. We went to bed.

At around 4.30pm J. woke me up. "I'm having contractions!". I started timing them and called our midwife. "I'll be right there". J. wanted to lie in the bathtub and relax. We were going through all our tips and tricks to make her feel more comfortable. "Breath, baby... relax..." At 5pm our midwife arrived and she checked up on J. "5 centimeters!!". Halfway there... At around 6pm J. was having serious labour pains. The birthing ball did wonders and she huffed and puffed through the contractions. I made her a hotpack and massaged her lower back. "You're doing great" the midwife assured us. Just before 7pm J. was really uncomfortable. "I feel I need to push! I need to push!!" The midwife checked and declared "Go girl.. Now is the time." J. sat on hands and knees next to the bed. For some reason I ended up on my back, in between her legs, looking straight up at the place where it all was happening. The head was crowning. J. pushed one more time and grabbed our daughter.

Our daughter R. was born at 7.03 pm. Our dream of having a natural, gentle birth had become reality.

Jim Gaffigan on Home Births and Midwives


  1. Hi! Congratulations on the beautiful birth of your daughter! It sounds absolutely perfect.
    I'm an Australian Mum (married to a Belgian man) and just (kind of) recently had my third baby, but the first born here in Belgium. I wish I had pushed to have a homebirth... I had a beautiful natural water birth in a Birth Centre in Australia for my 2nd child, and was so looking forward to the third little one's arrival. But we live too far away from the city (Zoersel) and there were no independent midwives around here who could help... My first two labours were super fast. Our local hospital, it turned out, was stuck back in the 1950s where women lie on their backs attached to machines. In the end my little boy's collar bone was broken when the Dr pulled him out, it was all a big disaster.
    Anyways! Sorry for that de-brief!! I am off now to read your snot-sucker post as I think we need one of those for our little man - his collar bone is all better, but he has a head FULL of snot! I have a blog too, but it is sorely neglected...

    1. Our first birth experience was horrible. They had to use forceps to pull our baby boy out after 24 hours in labour. Our second experience was completely the opposite. Happy to hear your little man recovered... now go and battle those snots... :)

  2. I was in the cubicle next to yours at the hospital. I remember you coming in with your wife and son. I was having contractions at 34 weeks while your wife wasn't having any at 40 weeks. I remember because I thought it was so unfair at the time. I actually gave birth to a little girl a week later :)

    1. Congratulations !! In the end it turned out OK...

  3. Lovely post Bart. We had our second daughter at home, Used a birthing pool in the bedroom and my midwife just sat quietly in the corner until Richard and I needed her - really only for the last 60 mins or so. It was wonderful. I wish more people would give it a go :)


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