At the time of writing this I am twenty eight weeks pregnant with our much-wanted second set of twins, the little girls about whom I have been day-dreaming since our toddler twin boys were born. We have yet to meet these little people and yet we are thoroughly in love with them already, desperate for the weeks to fly by so that we can welcome them safely into our arms. We have names chosen, a nursery theme decided upon and a wardrobe slowly coming together. It’s starting to feel real.
People, strangers, ask me about my pregnancy all the time now. One of my favourite coffee shops treated me to a hot chocolate ‘for the baby’ last Friday, which was so kind of them and brought a smile to my face before eight a.m.! I love talking about them, and how delighted and fascinated people always seem to be when I tell them that we are having twins, especially our second set of twins. Now that we’re doing this for the second time it seems a little bizarre to contemplate that most babies don’t come in pairs – it’s just so normal for us now that it feels like it should be that way for everybody.
I’m enjoying this pregnancy so much that it feels almost bittersweet to know that in twelve short weeks, or maybe less, it will be over. Call me a glutton for punishment but if I could keep the pregnancy and have the babies I absolutely would; I’m not ready for it end yet. I’m not sure that I remember feeling this way with the boys, although I certainly remember my grief when the pregnancy ended with a traumatic birth and then the newborn phase was scuppered with their readmittance to hospital. I wanted another pregnancy immediately and it took me a long time to fall in love with the babies in front of me.
I wanted to write today about choosing a birth that goes against medical advice. I have mentioned it briefly but haven’t really elaborated on my rationale for choosing a home birth this time round.
The thing is, nobody chooses a home birth because they think that birth before modern medicine was safer. It wasn’t. Modern medicine saves lives, modern knowledge saves lives. Properly used, modern medicine is a wonderful thing – a miracle. I am so grateful to be Amber W, having babies in 2016, and not Charlotte Bronte dying of hyperemesis gravidaruum or, oh, poor Princess Charlotte of Wales and her baby son, both of whom might have survived with only a little monitoring, an emergency caesarean section and a course of antibiotics.
But at the same time, I want better than ‘did not die’ for my children’s birth. And I know that you can get that in a hospital, I do. But when my first set of twins were born, ‘did not die’ was the best that we achieved. My first set of twins were delivered by caesarean section at my request after spending twenty-four hours in the hospital because in that time I had no reason to believe that my high-risk-on-paper twins would even have a medical professional present when they were delivered (the woman on the bed next to me in the induction bay came pretty close to birthing her baby alone, in spite of begging for help for hours). I had no reason to believe that we would be able to summon a midwife, much less a consultant, if something went seriously wrong. I had no reason to believe that I would be treated with dignity and indeed, at times I was not. The women around me were not. The birth of my children was in no way a pleasant experience.
It affected my bonding with my children. It affected my perception of myself. I just don’t want that again.
Living in London, I’m not far away from the operating theatre should anything go wrong. And I will have a team at home whose attention is focused solely on me. And on themselves – they will have time to drink if they are thirsty and eat if they are hungry, unlike one midwife at my last birth who blithely regaled us with the story of how, the previous week, she had fallen asleep momentarily at the wheel because she was so exhausted and ravaged, before assessing my child’s heart decelerations. I’m not sure that either option, home or hospital birth is SAFE-safe, but here’s the thing: I’ve tried the hospital approach. I’m not doing that again.
People have questioned whether I will be ‘allowed’ to have a home birth. In actual fact, the NHS has a legal duty of care to support women however they choose to birth. My own team have been very supportive and accommodating – whilst they have made it clear that it wouldn’t be their choice for us, they do acknowledge that it’s my choice and not theirs. I have felt heard and respected during my conversations with them, so much so that I have felt happy making some minor compromises that seemed more important to them than they felt to me.
Ultimately, I suppose that it is a case of knowing the risks and choosing to take them. No birth is without risk. I am looking forward to letting it play out at home so long as my medical team, the babies and I are happy, and finally meeting the little girls about whom we have been day-dreaming for so long.
Have you had a home birth? How did you find it?
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