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'Aren't you worried something could go wrong?' Why I chose a home birth - and the questions I tackled on the way

For Dil Wickremasinghe and her wife Anne Marie Toole, giving birth at home was an obvious choice.

Image: Shutterstock

WHEN MY WIFE Anne Marie and I met, we shared the dream of having our own family and we knew from the start that we both wanted the experience of being pregnant and giving birth.

As I fondly like to joke, we are like a Celtic Tiger home that has two ovens, so we may as well use them both.

I gave birth to our son, Phoenix in May 2015 and he’s just about to turn four – preparations for his Greatest Showman-themed birthday party began months in advance! 

As for our daughter, Xavier, Anne Marie gave birth to her just over two years later. Sometimes we affectionately call her Jack Jack after The Incredibles character as she is freakishly smart and strong, though she hasn’t mastered the ability to periodically burst into flames… yet.

Although we often indulge in the “will we go again” conversation, our family feels blissfully complete. Both Anne Marie and I experienced the miracle of conceiving, the joy of pregnancy – and the glory of two safe home births.

The obvious choice

We’re often asked why we chose to give birth to our kids at home. When I told family and friends in Sri Lanka about our intention to have a home birth no one batted an eyelid – my mother was born at home in 1935, which was considered the norm then over there. But when Anne Marie told family here, we were inundated with concerned questions.

“Is it safe?”  

“Aren’t you worried something could go wrong?”

The decision for a home birth came very naturally for us. When we decided to start a family we accessed the services of a small country fertility clinic, one where we knew all the staff by name and felt very nurtured.

So when I became pregnant and walked through the doors of a busy Dublin city centre based maternity hospital, the contrast came as a huge shock to us. We felt like we’d barely get to see the same doctor or midwife twice. This was a major life event and we felt we needed a more person-centered approach.

The final decision for a home birth came abruptly at 18 weeks of my pregnancy as I began to bleed and it took the maternity hospital an entire month to diagnose a silent twin, a second empty sac.

When we received the news we decided to look at other options and, after extensive research, booked a private midwifery service (as ‘geriatric’ mother at 41, we couldn’t access the public home birth service). I was assessed and cleared to begin preparations.

Calm experience

I went on to have a beautiful and calm home birth, lasting 24 hours from the moment my waters broke on Friday May 15, 2015, to the following morning at 2.04am when I held Phoenix in my arms. If you are not squeamish and would like to read a detailed account – bowel movements and all – you can do so here

Two years on, when it was Anne Marie’s turn to have a baby, a home birth was the obvious choice for her too, as she had witnessed my experience. 

Anne Marie’s home birth was stunning. I still remember her walking serenely around Mountjoy Park with her TENS machine for her surges (contractions) and Phoenix racing around on his balance bike on a balmy summer evening in August 2017.

The following morning Xavier was born safely in our living room while her brother was fast asleep in the bedroom.

Our midwife, Liz Halliday of Private Midwives Ireland, who is practically part of our family, provided all the care we needed in the comfort of our home. We still attended our respective maternity hospitals for scans and tests but the bulk of our care was provided in our home by Liz.

IMG_6313 Anne Marie, Dil, Phoenix and Xavier. Source: Dena Shearer Photography

Support from all angles

All visits involved a physical check-up and lots of practical advice, and we knew that if at any point there were any health concerns for mother or baby, our care would have been transferred to the maternity hospital immediately.

Looking back now, apart from just making sure that the pregnancy was advancing well, our midwife’s role was also to help us prepare physically, emotionally and psychologically for the birth.

It’s just like training for a marathon, except in childbirth, you are expected to run the marathon and then care for a newborn baby right after crossing the finishing line!

Make the right choice for you

We were both first time mums, and though I was regarded as a high-risk pregnancy, we both went on to have textbook home births. 

I believe a woman needs to give birth where she feels safest. In our case we felt safest with our midwife in our own home. If a woman feels safest in a hospital then that’s where she needs to be.

The only challenge to home births apart from people’s perception to them is that they are incredibly addictive and although we were lucky enough to have two, writing this article has made me wonder if we could possibly squeeze another one in…

Dil Wickremasinghe is co-founder of the mental health service Insight Matters, and has two children.

More: ‘At 4am, scared, she was what I needed’: One mum on how a doula helped her through a tough labour>

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Dil Wickremasinghe

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