Birth is something expectant mums and dads may think quite a lot about. The nine month lead-up gives us plenty of time to wonder how, ask questions and maybe pen a birth plan in expectation of meeting our little ones. When I was planning for my third baby last year I was no less excited. Despite already having two beautiful girls (there was a six year gap and they were delivered in Spain), I naturally had lots of questions about pregnancy and birth here in Singapore. One topic that was definitely new to me was home birth.
Having a home birth isn’t something on everyone’s radar. As with my husband and I, it’s a journey that many couples would like to explore but be may unaware of where to begin. So I’m sharing my story with you in two parts. Part One is about the facts. It is about preparation, so you can consider if a home birth is even an option for you. Part Two will tell you my personal story and the experience of my home birth.
Intellectually, I’ve always known that many women can, and have, given birth without a whole medical suite and team to assist her. It can happen when a baby arrives ‘too quickly’ or even, perhaps, in the taxi on the way to the hospital. Everyday it happens in villages around the world where there is no hospital care available. More then this, I’ve spoken with friends who’ve recounted their home birth experiences as being positive and hugely empowering. It’s also true that nurses, midwifes and doctors have been safely delivering babies every year in hospitals, whether or not a delivery has gone to plan. My own two previous deliveries are testament to this and although they were not 100% natural I still consider them very positive experiences.
My curiosity around a home birth was sparked after speaking to and sharing my birth experience with other mummies. I realised that when it comes to childbirth, although most Western medical systems offers a very safe environment to deliver our children in, unfortunately, in today’s modern society, the pendulum often swings in favour of doctor’s schedules, efficiency and profit versus allowing the natural process to unravel.
Birth and pregnancy can be so weighted, measured and ‘managed’ that we potentially loose something important. This became more obvious to me when I considered my grandmothers generation. She like many of her peers didn’t think twice about delivering 6 babies at home. There was no hesitancy. It was normal and accepted, possibly even expected. Moving forward to when I was born, the hospital was the more obvious route. Fast forward to today and you could even go so far as to say home births and even ‘natural’ births in the hospital are considered ‘alternative’ or for the braver lady, in a lot of western countries. Epidurals and episiotomies are handed out routinely and it is less and less common to find good midwifery support during and after pregnancy. I feel this idea separates us from our potential. The word ‘alternative’ leads to the misconception that it’s also not normal or safe for an expectant mummy to consider a home birth, which in many cases robs a women of her belief in the awesomeness of her own body. I know this was true of me.
Because midwifery is rare and birthing centers not available here in Singapore, top on the list of criteria for my husband and I to feel happy with our decision was finding the right support team. I asked a few mummies and attended a great class by Bump Wise, a doula ran organisation in Singapore offering holistic support and natural alternatives during pregnancy. Eventually we were introduced to Dr. Lai from A Company For Women. Actually, until we met Dr. Lai we didn’t even think home births in Singapore were possible and my birth plan was simply to have as natural a labor as possible. Discovering that Dr. Lai and finding that he was a) ‘pro choice’ and b) able to attend a home birth, opened up a lot of options for us.
Throughout the pregnancy we met with Dr. Lai almost monthly for regular check-ups and screening. I had an abundance of questions every time we met and Dr. Lai was great at answering the hows and whys of everything with great detail. This relaxed even my sometimes-overthinking mind. You can, if you like, opt out of scans and tests during your appointments, as you should be able to do with any doctor. It’s your baby, your body and you have the right to choose at every step of your pregnancy journey. Dr. Lai also works with a team of doulas that can attend your birth that also offer pre and post-natal support.
A pivotal moment in our journey was finding the birth preparation class run by Red Miller from Love Based Birth. Red is a licensed midwife and biodynamic craniosacral practitioner. During her classes she covers nutrition, mindfulness, breath-work and other techniques to help tap into your core beliefs and empower you towards a positive birth experience. This was really important for me because I needed to bridge the gap between knowledge and self-belief. Throughout the time spent with Red, she encouraged a deeper understanding of our hopes and fears around labor and becoming parents for a third time. We also explored how, as a mummy, our thoughts and feelings towards the experience can often end up reflected in our bodies. Fear constricts and closes us off, where as love, love opens us up to new experiences.
We met with a small group of other couples over the course of 5 weeks for a few hours each Saturday. The classes gave us the chance to talk to other families and discuss ideas and experiences. They offered the support and information we needed to finalise our plans on where and how to have our baby.
During my pregnancy I also heard a lot about the third child being a ‘wild card’ and perhaps I could consider that this third delivery may not progress in exactly the same way as my deliveries before. This was a really important point for me and I’m truly glad Red and her team helped me manage my expectations around this. As it happens, the delivery with my third baby did turn out to be different but I believe it’s important not to hold too tightly to any birth plan, whether it’s your first or fifth child. The fact is, no-one has a crystal ball to predict exactly how your delivery will unravel and it’s important to remember that sometimes plans deviate, and that’s OK. What matters most is mummy and baby are safe and that you allow the process to unravel with no judgments.
We left Red’s classes with a thorough understanding of the hows and why labor progresses as it does, tools we could use with the aim of delivering naturally, plus an understanding of the signs that could indicate if and when mummy and baby may need some extra help from a midwife or doctor. We left the classes empowered with choice. Our ‘homework’ helped us do was achieve a plan a, b and c. for the birth which started with the intention of having a home birth with a support team plus Dr. Lai and a hospital as backup.
In terms of cost and how accessible these options are, if you have medical insurance with maternity cover, you will most likely be covered for the cost a doctor of your choice here in Singapore. It is also likely to cover Dr. Lai and a doula for a home birth. However, it is best to check with your insurance provider to see exactly what is covered and what the amount covered will be. Without insurance the cost of a home birth under Dr. Lai is actually less then most hospital deliveries, especially when considering that you won’t need all the hospital ‘extras’. Based on our experience, Red’s birthing classes are affordable and well worth the extra pennies for the support, education and peace of mind it provides in preparation for your little one; I believe the success of my 3rd delivery was down to Red’s careful teaching and guidance.
Next up will be my personal story of our home birth. Subscribe below or like us on Facebook so you don’t miss my next post.
For more information on Love Based Birth and Red Miller’s classes visit www.lovedbasedbirth.com
For more information on Dr. Lai and A Company for Women:
Camden Medical Centre
1, Orchard Boulevard #03-05/06
After Clinic Hours: 6333-5550