Spirit urges visiting couple to have a lake birth

FREEBIRTH: Hannah and Ben Bracken have travelled 1700km so their child can be born at Taylor’s Lake, Suffolk Park.
FREEBIRTH: Hannah and Ben Bracken have travelled 1700km so their child can be born at Taylor’s Lake, Suffolk Park. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

WHAT is Freebirth?

It is a birth with no medical professional in attendance.

Freebirthers say it is an opportunity for an unhindered birth, where birth is respected for what it is - a biological function of the female body.

WHILE most couples expecting their first baby will shop around for the right hospital, Hannah and Ben Bracken have travelled 1700km to find exactly the right lake.

The Brackens have made a last-dash road trip from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria to Broken Head so that Hannah, at 38 weeks pregnant, can be near to Taylor's Lake where she would like to give birth.

They advertised on Gumtree for accommodation in the area, saying "the spirit had moved them" to follow a natural birth at the Teatree lake

If the couple go ahead with their unusual lake birth plan, Hannah will be forced to "freebirth" her baby as no registered midwife will agree to deliver by a lake, although Hannah's mother, sister, husband and a friend will be present.

The couple said the decision to travel to the North Coast for a birth in nature was one they made intuitively, although it shocked their conservative Victorian families.

"They did try to talk us out of it, many times," Ben, 27, said

"But it's a feeling - a sense of knowing - that this is the right place to be," Hannah, 26, said.

"The lake has been a sacred birthing ground for thousands of years for Aboriginal people.

"The deeper you wade into the lake, there is an overwhelming presence... a feeling of being protected and nurtured."

"We strongly feel the connection to the ancestral spirits of this land - as if the grandmothers of the past are still there," Ben said.

The couple say they have had "beautiful encounters" with elders on the North Coast who have been supportive of their plans.

The idea for the lake birth was planted when the Brackens previously lived at Broken Head and befriended the mother of the two Brady boys, Jayden and Joseph, who sparked a massive police search when they "went bush" last September.

"We call them the forest family. She (the boys' mother) had six natural births, including birthing by the lake, and that showed us that it was possible to have an empowering natural birth," Ben said.

"(Birthing by the lake) is about a woman finding her inner power and it's about the coming together of women in our collective power," Hannah said.

"I see birth as a spiritual experience, not a medical one. I feel safest in nature, not in hospital."

While birthing in a lake could be seen as extreme, the couple, both of whom have their master's degrees in sociology from RMIT in Melbourne, say they would not put Hannah or the baby's health at risk and have registered with the Mullumbimby Birth Centre as a backup plan.

"The baby is the perfect size, in the perfect position. I have had scans and my pregnancy has been assessed as low-risk," Hannah said.

"The (Mullumbimby) midwives have been wonderful; three of them came out and visited the lake with us this week.

"Legally (the midwives) cannot risk being there for the delivery, but we have also talked about the possibility of labouring at the lake, then transferring to Mullumbimby for the birth."

Topics:  birth health hospital

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