Published: Mon 04 Mar 2013
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“I just love it when women look up at me and say ‘thank you’ because I know I haven’t done anything. What she’s really saying is ‘thank you, you empowered me to do it myself’…I still want to leave the house and go up to the first person I see and say - ‘a baby’s just been born in there!’ It’s still exciting for me, after all these years.”
Virginia, independent midwife.
More and more women in the UK are going against convention and opting to labour at home instead of giving birth in a hospital. This one-off documentary provides intimate access into the homes of three couples, as they share the magical moment midwife Virginia brings new life into the world.
Virginia has worked as an independent midwife based in Kent, for over 16 years. She works privately, outside the NHS, and attends nearly 30 births a year. Almost all of them are home births. Virginia gets to know the couples she works with incredibly well and is on call any time of day or night, for the birth of their babies.
However, Virginia admits that she didn’t follow the conventional route into midwifery: “I was a nurse for two years first but before that for 16 years – I was a kissogram! I earned quite a good living taking my clothes off. I used to burst out of birthday cakes and sit on old men’s knees…I always thought, ‘oh I wish I’d been a midwife’ and then one day I thought, ‘what do you mean, wish you’d been, you’re only 30, get on and do it woman.”
Julie and Anthony from Orpington, Kent are preparing for the arrival of their baby boy. Julie has had a difficult pregnancy with trapped nerves and pelvic pain and is planning to use an inflatable birthing pool to give birth in her dining room. She has an eight-year-old son Dylan from a previous relationship and is keen for him to be in the room for the birth of his sibling, which wouldn’t be an option in hospital. Julie says: “I think with hospital, it’s more clinical. You’ve got that feeling of going in for surgery or something. Where as this is going back to how it should be.”
Her husband Anthony agrees and feels that home births benefit the father too: “I feel like I’ve been a lot more involved with it being at home. It’s not just a case of having a hospital bag packed…there’s much more to think about. Given what we know now about home birth it seems so much more natural and it seems like the right thing to do.” As Virginia arrives for the birth, Anthony has put up a gazebo and fairy lights over the birthing pool to create a tranquil birthing environment as the labour progresses quickly.
Home birth is a popular choice for parents that have experienced a difficult or traumatic first birth in hospital, which is the case for Lindsay and Phillip, who live in a remote village on the outskirts of Kent and have a two-year-old son Henry together. Lindsay wanted a home birth first time round but ended up being transferred to hospital for a forceps delivery. Virginia believes that the experience completely disempowered Lindsay and made her feel like her body had failed her in some way. As she prepares for the arrival of her second child, Lindsay is determined to get the home birth she so desperately wants and explains how important the close relationship she has built with Virginia is after her past experience: “My whole thing was when I got transferred to hospital, I didn’t know that person. And that was really scary…it was some random person that had never met me. That I didn’t like.”
On the morning of her son’s wedding, Virginia has everything crossed that she makes it through the service without a birth to attend and her partner Sean admits they had to cancel a previous Christmas holiday to Las Vegas so that Virginia wouldn’t miss a delivery. The wedding goes ahead and Lindsay goes in to labour soon afterwards, with Virginia facing a race to get there, before the baby does.
Yet despite the growing numbers of home births, they are still the minority. Fifty years a go 30% of women gave birth at home, now it’s less than 3%.
We meet university sweethearts Menna and Steven, who are expecting their first baby and are in the midst of moving house. Despite the complications of the move, they are determined to have a home birth but Menna admits that not everyone has been supportive of their decision: “There are acquaintances who just think we might be a bit crazy or maybe a bit silly for thinking that it could happen at home. ‘Probably for your next one you’ll be more sensible’ - that seems to be the attitude!”
A week overdue, Menna finally goes into labour, the day Virginia is due to fly off on holiday. Sean heads to the airport alone as Virginia’s priority is the birth. But the delivery does not go entirely to plan and as the baby’s heartbeat drops during labour, Virginia calls an ambulance to be on standby outside. After 48 hours in hospital following the traumatic birth, baby Rhiannon is back home and despite the drama, new mum Menna is still definite that she would opt for another home delivery in future.
Narrated by Max Beesley.