Doctors, nurses, midwives, hospitals - who needs 'em

Giving birth at home with no medical supervision is illegal. That didn't stop one woman. She spoke to Anna Selby
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I knew before my first pregnancy that I was never going to have a "normal" hospital birth. As far as I was concerned, having a baby is not a public event .

I wanted to have the baby at home, in a calm atmosphere. I would have considered having a midwife if I'd already known one as a friend. But I didn't want strangers involved. The only people who have any right to be there are the parents.

So I read about 50 or 60 books, some general readership and some midwifery textbooks. I became very interested in the idea of pain. Going into hospital and the processes you undergo there frighten women. Fear creates pain, which creates intervention, which slows down the birth. At home, it's less painful and much quicker.

Lawrence and I got prepared about two months before Kit was due. We had plastic sheeting and blankets piled up and a bootlace to boil up for the cord because it's soft and causes no damage.

In fact, Kit was late and that made me rather tense. I think that's why labour went on for 19 hours. However, I was hardly in pain at all. Except after about 12 hours, when I did get very tired. I became confused and thought the cord was caught. I went into sheer panic and then it became incredibly painful. It made me realise how painful it must be for people in that tense state all the time. The only pain relief I used was warm water in the bath, though I didn't have a water birth. The rest of the time I was walking around or in whatever position was most comfortable - usually on my hands and knees.

The only other time it was at all painful was when Kit was actually being born. It was all happening very fast, so I had my head on the ground and my bum in the air to try and slow things down. Kit was born in mid-air and we all ended up on the floor.

When I had Jem, I was three weeks late and we were quite worried. I didn't want to go into hospital for induction. Jem was born when Lawrence had to go to Devon for the day. Just after Lawrence had left, my waters broke - just as my mother and brother arrived unexpectedly. I pretended nothing was happening - the contractions were still seemingly insignificant. Iasked them to take Kit out for a walk. I didn't want anyone around if I was going into labour.

I ran next door to phone Lawrence and told him to come back. Then I rushed back in, got the plastic sheet and the blankets out. Ten minutes later Jem was born.

I didn't have any pain at all but the contractions made me feel unbelievably hot.

When Jem was born, I wrapped us up in the blankets. Then, while he was still attached, I fed him and waited for Lawrence. He came 25 minutes later and cleaned us up.

It isn't easy to do what we did because, apart from anything else, it's illegal. I didn't inform any medical authority. There was a case a few years ago when a couple were prosecuted and fined pounds 2,000. But we did an unspoken "deal" with the health visitor after Kit was born that he would have health checks, get immunised and she would make sure it went no further.

When I took him in for his six-week check, they suggested that I have an examination, too, but I refused. Having got away with it once, it was much more difficult the second time: they'd have been on to us as soon as they knew I was pregnant. I didn't go out as soon as it started to show and no one in the village knew.

I've been very surprised by the reaction. Family, friends, nearly everyone, in fact, admired what we did. I had only one negative response, when someone said she thought that what we did was dangerous.

But I did know the dangers. There is the possibility of brain damage before birth - which no one can do anything about. Then there are problems like the cord getting caught around the neck - but that doesn't happen if the baby's properly engaged and comes in its own time. Or he could be the wrong way up, in which case you can try and turn him in the womb. And Lawrence knew what to do if he was born short of oxygen. The other main worry, I suppose, is that I could have bled to death afterwards. In hospital they stop this with an injection the moment after the baby is born. But if you start breastfeeding straight away, that has the same effect.

It's been quite a shock not to be challenged. We were quite prepared to argue our point of view. They could prosecute us retrospectively, but it's unlikely. It would probably create an outrage - most people seem to be shocked to find out that it's illegal. Having a baby the way you want is surely the most basic human right.

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