Why there's no way I'd ever 'freebirth' my child

Chloe Adams with her prematurely born baby daughter Frankie when she was four weeks old.
Chloe Adams with her prematurely born baby daughter Frankie when she was four weeks old.


WHEN I went into labour at home at 26 weeks gestation, I didn't call an ambulance like I should have. I called a taxi.

This despite having had a significant haemorrhage the week before, being on strict bed rest and knowing birth was likely at any time.

I called a taxi, simply because I didn't want to believe. I told myself I'll just pop into the hospital for a check-up. Just to be safe. Self-deception, denial, optimism - whatever you want to call it - that mindset is a powerful force.

Increasingly, researchers believe we're hardwired for hope and I can believe it. It's why humankind hasn't acted to stop climate change. Perhaps it's the reason some people don't vaccinate their children. It's the voice in our head that says, "It'll be OK". And it's a story I've heard repeated a number of times by other mothers of prem babies. Mothers who very nearly didn't make it to hospital, because the desire to believe all will be OK is so pervasive.

But sometimes it isn't OK. Sometimes babies die. And sometimes mothers do too. And that's why a recent news piece on free-birthing - the intentional act of giving birth at home without medical supervision - has made waves.

Midwives believe there are a rising number of women opting to freebirth, and are concerned the number will rise further in two years when a government insurance exemption for private midwives expires.

Beautiful little Frankie at 10 months old. Picture: Chloe Adams
Beautiful little Frankie at 10 months old. Picture: Chloe Adams

Things could have been so different for my husband and me. Our daughter, Frankie, was one of the lucky ones. I got to the hospital in one piece and within the hour Frankie was born a featherweight at 698 grams.

She is now 10 months old and thriving, and we have modern medicine and a great hospital to thank for that.

Among the numerous, and oft-maligned, "interventions" that Frankie and I experienced were an emergency C-section, a truckload of painkillers, weeks of ventilation, heart surgery and eye surgery.

In fact, Frankie had just about as much intervention as one little person can endure. For six weeks, we didn't know if she would live or die. And throughout all that time, and for the full 19 weeks she was in hospital, and even now, my husband and I are consumed with gratitude. Not just for the humans who saved her life, but for the machines and the drugs and the decades of research that all contributed.

After that experience, I cannot imagine taking a punt on freebirthing. But then I was probably never likely to be a proponent of it. I'm too pragmatic. Too much a fan of insurance policies. Too cynical of the idea that natural is always best.

Because if natural was always best, would 800 women around the world die every day from pregnancy or birth-related causes?

Sometimes I wonder what the formerly middle-class women trapped in terrorist-controlled territories of the Middle East would make of a woman in Australia willingly forsaking medical support to birth their baby at home?

All over the globe, women birth amid war and famine, or simply alone without medical support or even a clean bed to lie on. So yes, birth is a natural thing. But of those 300,000 women who die every year, most die from entirely preventable injuries.

I am a strong supporter of women's rights and I have no doubt there are scenarios where homebirthing with a trained professional in attendance can be a good choice for mother and child: when a woman has had at least one uncomplicated birth before; when the pregnancy has been low-risk; when an adequate hospital is nearby if an emergency arises.

But then again, I ticked all those boxes and still experienced an unexplained placental abruption. And in that moment, something abstract, theoretical even, became real for me. Sometimes insurance policies exist for a reason.

Birth is a messy, complex, emotional thing and every woman should make up their own mind as to what level of risk they're prepared to take. But at least in this household, we're big fans of "interventions".

Topics:  editors picks opinion

News Corp Australia

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