I wanted to have as wild and undisturbed pregnancy and birth as possible. This is how I educated myself, the choices I made and why I feel the way I do about free birth
After two very different previous births, my hope was to have a planned home freebirth this time. I’d had an induced stillbirth in hospital with Arlo (albeit with no drugs) and then Cece had been born on to our bathroom floor at home – technically an unplanned BBA (brith before arrival) but in reality a conscious decision to stay put on my part. This time I wanted Dickie to be fully present with me and relax into the process, with a birth where we wouldn’t need to leave the safe confines of our home at any stage.
Cece’s brith had been just me and Dickie right up until the last 20 minutes, when our doula arrived and called the birth centre. They called the paramedics, who transferred us to hospital straight after. This time the dream was to climb into my own bed and snuggle together with no need to go anywhere or see anyone.
When we finally conceived naturally after six months of IVF, many many clinic visits, more than 100 injections and a failed transfer, I wanted to have as wild and undisturbed pregnancy and birth as possible. I know many people would find this alarming, but I’ve had two birth experiences and five years of expanding my knowledge and understanding around what the safest choices for me and my baby’s health and wellbeing are. Not having to go to countless midwife appointments just to have a blood pressure and protein strip check was blissful, and meant I could relax into the journey.
OUR BIRTH TEAM
We decided to have three ultrasounds at six, 12 and 21 weeks due to Arlo’s brain haemorrhage and having had an ectopic when I was 19, and were lucky enough to see the UCH sonographer who had scanned us in both previous pregnancies at his private clinic in East London. Happily he was able to rule out any reoccurrence of these.
Beyond that, we didn’t engage in any antenatal care. I did purchase a blood pressure monitor and protein strips I could use in the third trimester, but as I felt well I only used these a couple of times. I certainly wasn’t leaving anything to chance though, and took time to research various topics online, read many different books and find experts in the field to expand my knowledge, following them on Instagram and listening to their podcasts.
It wasn’t until 30 weeks that I seriously started thinking about any support for the birth. I had a call with Laura Swann, a holistic birth keeper who I had been connected to on Instagram and felt a calling to make contact with after learning of her extensive experience and reading her beautiful wise words. I was also interested in her Matriarchal Medicine School offering. Initially Laura didn’t think she could support us as she was moving out of London but we had several one-to-one calls over the coming weeks.
Dickie wasn’t initially as keen as me on a totally unassisted free birth scenario so we also explored the option of a private midwife, and at 33 weeks I contacted one affiliated with the Gentle Birth Method. On our call, however, I realised that under a duty of care as a condition of their insurance they couldn’t just sit back and witness the birth (all being well) but there was a requirement to doppler every 15-30 minutes throughout active labour. I didn’t want this regular, potentially fear-inducing interference and am aware that a baby’s heart rate dipping during contractions could be given as reasonable cause for further intervention when in fact it’s a very common occurrence and not necessarily a concern.
My intuition was telling me to have as few people there as possible and. I really wanted it to be just me and Dickie plus an experienced extra pair of hands from someone who was totally aligned with our birth wishes.
We had a call with Laura to discuss the concerns that Dickie had around potential worst-case scenarios, such as baby not breathing or severe maternal haemorrhage, and were both reassured that these are incredibly rare occurrences, especially in undisturbed births where baby has initiated labour and the chances of foetal distress are significantly lower. In the event of a genuine emergency a midwife would also need to call an ambulance, as would we, and living in London as we do, one would be with us in minutes. We both agreed that we were happy to move forward without a midwife and as luck would have it, Laura realised she was less than an hour away from us – and so the stars aligned for her to be our birth keeper.
HONOURING THE MOTHER
At 36 weeks, on the spring equinox, Laura hosted a magical mothers blessing for me with 13 wonderful goddesses and three littlies. It was a beautiful day and you can read more about what it involved here.
Laura had prepared us for the possibility of our third baby coming early, any time from 36 weeks on, but my intuition was telling me that with Cece being born at 41 + 3 this baby would likely arrive between 40 and 41 weeks. On telling her this, Laura said that an old folklore method of predicting a spontaneous birth date was to look at the moon cycle Cece was born in and apply the same here. Cece was a waning crescent moon baby with the moon at 7% so the closest estimation by the old farmers’ almanac would be 28th April. Time would tell!
In my 38th week, I arranged a maternity photography shoot with Hannah Palamara. I was blooming, with a significantly bigger bump than with Cece, and knowing this may be my last pregnancy I wanted to capture some beautiful memories with the whole family. It was a lovely day and I wholeheartedly recommend it for all mamas. To take this time to honour this unique time and your incredible body is very special.
BIRTH WORKS: CHOOSING FREE BIRTH
At 39 weeks, trusting that baby’s arrival was still some days away, I decided to work through a self-paced online course, The Complete Guide to Freebirth by Yolande and Emilee at Free Birth Society. This course is AMAZING. It’s delivered almost completely in short-format videos, so it’s easy to digest quickly and is incredibly comprehensive. From conception to postpartum, it goes into detail on how birth works, why it matters that women take control of their own bodies and births, and answers the concerns that most mothers have, analysing research, checking facts and busting myths around what we do and don’t have to do. Spoiler alert: pregnant and birthing mothers DO NOT have to do anything they don’t want to at any stage, despite medical teams telling them something might be a “necessary precaution” or “not allowed”.
There is so much fear around childbirth, largely due to it still being a taboo subject with mothers historically feeling like they shouldn’t discuss their experiences in detail. Up until only a few years ago, viewing a vaginal birth online was, shockingly, still categorised as pornography. It’s no wonder that with birth being shrouded in mystery and usually portrayed on screen as an unbearably painful, medical emergency involving a screaming mother, countless doctors and nurses, and lots of drama, young women naturally feel petrified at the prospect.
But it really doesn’t need to be like that. Armed with the knowledge, tools and techniques to dismantle this fear, as this course offers, women can make informed smart decisions themselves rather than being coerced by “professionals” who seemingly know best but who are following processes and protocols that are often out of date, where one size fits all. We are very lucky to have the quality of hospitals and life-saving emergency care we have available in this country. But unless a mother decides herself, after having all the information, that this is the safest option for her, going to the hospital should only be a necessity in an emergency situation – rather than the default choice many parents-to-be assume it is.
Left to play out naturally, the majority of births will be a peaceful experience. With no fear or intervention disturbing the intricate hormonal process that is so crucial in those final days, the beautiful birth dance can be initiated by the baby when they are fully ready and the mother, flooded with oxytocin, is safe, relaxed and able to tune into her intuition throughout the birthing process.
As for the folklore about the date, it was almost right: Raphael was born under a waning crescent moon as predicted, with the moon at 19%, on 26th April.
Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to receive inspirational new content, rituals, interviews and product launches, and follow us on Instagram @this.is.sacred.space.