By Oonagh Browne
It was never our intention to have three babies in three different countries, but that was how our home birthing journey took place.
Our first birth was in the UK almost 7 years ago. We returned to Europe from Australia with about two months to go and decided that UK was to be the location. Home birthing was always our choice and we found out that there were two options, the first to hire a private midwife at about 2000 pounds or the second to go through the public health service. In the UK by law, if a woman requested a homebirth then the local medical district had to support this choice. We chose the public route. Our midwife had over 30 years experience and had only done one other home birth and had never done a water birth before!
We were young, innocent and very determined to have a homebirth in water. Water births were only beginning to become recognised at that time in the UK, and the local birthing centre had just received funding to purchase one.
The actual birth was long and from the beginning we told little lies so as to survive the system. I gave them a due date that was two weeks later then when I was due (in case I went over and didn’t want any pressure applied), I actually was 2.5 weeks over and the minute I hit what they thought was my due date, the pressure and fear started (imagine if they knew that I was actually 2.5 weeks over)!! When our midwife arrived at the birth we again lied and said that I woke up at around 7am in labour (I had actually been up from midnight), this was important given the 10 hour labour rule before transition! The birth itself was of course amazing, it shattered who I thought I was and showed me real woman, awesome woman, but it also felt like really hard work and was long(15 hours before transition). At one point I remember thinking, I am so glad I am not in hospital or else I would be screaming for something to help with this pain. When I was pushing the midwife relied on what she had heard about the support of water and told me to just go for it. I tore badly as a consequence.
It was only after my second birth in Australia with an amazing homebirth midwife that I realised how limited I had been in my first birth. The English midwife checked me every x number of minutes and informed me of my progress. “Only three centimetres dilated, too soon to get into the water you must be at least six….” Even though it was a sublime experience there was still progress being monitored, my head being involved and time involved.
With my second birthing in Australia, I was never checked but allowed to fully birth as woman. My midwife trusted woman and the natural birthing process, and she held the space and allowed this woman to fully enter the birthing zone where there is no time or mind but the surrender to the natural power of woman in birth.
In Australia we were part of a government funded home birthing program. It was the only such program and funded about 200 homebirths a year. So unlike most home birth in Oz where you have to pay about $4000 to a private midwife who cannot get insurance, ours was fully funded. And so there were some rules to be followed, but our midwife just filled in the paper work afterwards and made up all the ‘checks and progress points’.
The birth was powerful, where I discovered a deeper woman, timeless, eternal in her power and all knowing. There was nothing to bring me into my head. I did have a wobbly at transition, standing up saying ‘I cannot do this’ and this was the only time my midwife stepped in, she held me, told me that I was doing it, how incredible I was, bathed my brow and wooed me back into the depths of the birthing zone.
The birth was half the duration of the first. Surrendered, timeless and fully supported. The greatest gift was the midwife’s belief in woman’s true power and ancient wisdom in giving birth. As part of the funded birthing program, we had to make one visit to the hospital so they had us on file in case of an emergency. The doctor spent the entire hour telling us of all the risks of home birthing and that it was his duty to inform us. It was terrifying to be in the system even for just one hour, how controlling, fear based and with no belief or recognition of the power of a birthing woman.
Our third birth took place in NZ. There was such simplicity and restedness from the very beginning with the system in this country. We were in the system and we were normal in having a homebirth. Our midwife was beautiful and again saw her role as a facilitator, stepping in when needed but allowing the woman to fully birth.
Words cannot describe this birth. Was it the country, the midwife or this woman’s surrender? It was everything.
There was a deep knowing in this woman from my previous two births that there was still somewhere deeper that I could go to when birthing. That the pain I experienced, the barrier at transition was not necessary and was still a product of the mind.
I searched and yearned to experience something even greater in my third home birth. I read an incredible book called Sacred Birthing and found a reflection of what I now know to be true. The author explained how true birthing could take place.
I experienced a painless ecstatic birth. How? Total surrender. When a contraction arose I allowed it to fully have me and everything disappeared into bliss. I went deeper and deeper into total freedom where the mind disappeared and this incredible body opened and opened and opened. No limits, no fear, no pain and total trust. It was all so blissful we forgot to phone the midwife, thinking it must be the early stages. Someone finally remembered and she arrived 20 minutes before the birth, just as I was transitioning. I was laughing, smiling, crying, erupting in total bliss, where I did not have to do anything but was being fully lived by the power of woman. It’s the only way I can describe it ‘to be fully lived by life’ rather then limiting it to the minds interpretation or level of surrender.
Upon arriving the midwife took one look at me and suggested that I get into the water if I wanted a water birth. I couldn’t believe it when my body started to bear down and push. It was timeless and cosmic as the true power of woman gave birth.
Three incredible births, very different, each reflecting the country, the system and the surrender of this woman. I have to say that birthing at home in New Zealand was sublime, normal and a natural part of society. My experience reflected the openness available here versus the UK and Australia where we were very much outside the system and there was so much fear around home births.
Regardless of the system or country, I now know who woman is and the awesome opening of birth. Painless shattering and free. A woman can discover, through the natural opening of birth, who she really is beyond fear and the mind. Birthing woman is so powerful, surrendered and divinely beautiful.