Our pregnancy journey began in London at the beginning of 2021, with our daughter arriving earthside in September later that year.
At our first meeting with our NHS midwife, we were asked what our birthing preferences were – homebirth, birthing centre or labour ward. We chose homebirth. For me this was the first time that I realised that the system is evolving – we’re moving out of hospital and giving parents real choices on how they want to birth their children.
I’ll be honest, before we were pregnant, I was quite dismissive of the prospect of a home birth – ‘what if something goes wrong?’, ‘is this the best decision for my child and partner?’, ‘what will other people think when I told them?’
There were two things that I think helped moved my mindset – firstly, homebirthing in the UK is a real and accessible option for everyone. It is publicly funded on the NHS, it’s growing in popularity, and is widely accepted. Secondly, we had good friends in London (who were also Aussies) who birthed their first child at home about six months before us. They raved about the experience and the support. Done – mindset shifted!
The months before baby’s arrival I did a couple of things to get me up to speed so I could be the best dad in the room on the big day. The first was reading Cheers to Childbirth. A really easy read that answered most of my questions and got me thinking about being an active participant in childbirth. Two key takeaways from the book for me – don’t put a timeframe on labour; and make sure if you are eating – it is a nice quiet food to not ruin the ambience of the room! The second thing that I did was attend a Beers and Bubs session. It was a great way to meet other dads and to ask the doula all the questions you wanted to about childbirth. My session was quite small with only four of us. I was the only one having a homebirth and using the support of a doula.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and the big day was here. The morning started a little earlier than we had been accustomed to in the later stages of pregnancy. Danielle was up most of the night with cramps and at about 5am said ‘I think I might be in the early stages of labour’. She texted our birth team who responded with messages of celebration emojis. Over the next couple of hours it dawned on me that our baby was on the way, and from today, we would forever be parents and I would forever be a father.
The first couple of hours were waves of pain and excitement. We were thinking of everything that we had learned along our journey and how we would put it into practice. Our doula Emma was on hand for calls of reassurance and making sure that we were taken care of. I have vivid memories of Danielle and I lying in our hallway having a mid-morning snack of boiled eggs and avocado. The plan was to get one last coffee date in, but it was not to be.
Emma arrived at our house early afternoon. For me it was a welcome arrival. It gave me the opportunity to get some guidance and provided Danielle with the opportunity to get some timely reassurance and hands on support. It also provided dad with a quick breather too!
Over the next couple of hours our house transformed from our loving home to our loving birthing suite. The birthing pool was inflated in our daughter’s bedroom, yoga mats and bolsters were positioned strategically around the house and at mid-afternoon, our midwives Chantel and Mel arrived. We were on!
Over the next seven or eight hours they guided Danielle and me through everything we needed to know. They were loving, not intrusive and partnered with us through the experience. For me, as the dad in the room, I was supported and felt an important part of the birth team. I was intimately involved in the process and was positioned as the co-star during labour.
We were in the pool, out of the pool, on the toilet, on the bed, back in the pool and on the lounge. We had the freedom to move around our house – do what worked for us, not having to fit into someone else’s routine.
Around seven thirty that evening, Chantel made the call that we needed to mix things up a bit and get Danielle to relax. The suggestion was a massage. Not any massage, but one with eight hands – Chantel, Mel, Emma and myself! This was the magic to get Danielle relaxed before we jumped in the pool one last time. We were in the pool for about 45 minutes when we made the call to jump out and concentrate on some deep squats. Within the hour, our daughter was born landside. I was holding Danielle and she was born on my foot. What a story! Bred in London, born in Sydney! It was an amazing experience, and amongst our friends unique. Ours was one of two homebirths I knew of.
The couple of hours after that were a bit of a blur – I remember our daughter being born, just before midnight and I remember a couple of hours after we were all tucked in as a family. I don’t remember being sole parent for 15 minutes while Danielle showered, but our doula Emma captured the moment with her camera brilliantly.
Over the next hour or so, our house was transformed back to what it looked like that morning – birth pool deflated, yoga mats rolled up, and bolsters put back in their rightful place. Everything was as it was earlier in the day, except for our tiny new addition.
I was planning to end my story here but wanted to mention a couple of other things.
Day 2 of being a dad was emotional. I had to duck to the chemist to get a few things and I think that I cried in the car the whole way there and the whole way back. They were happy tears – tears of joy, jubilation, and proudness. There was a lot of emotion in that house over the preceding 24 hours and I needed to let it out. Being the support person in the room is hard work. With a homebirth there is nowhere to hide – no need to move the car or duck to the hospital vending machine. The message here is to make sure you look after yourself and your family.
The final thought that I have is around the birthing options and publicly funded support in Australia. We had the financial means to decide to homebirth. Many families out there are not blessed with that option. That troubles me. Throughout life we have so many options, but we are missing a key publicly funded one on how we choose to bring our children into the world. I love telling everyone about our homebirth experience, and they genuinely are curious and interested to hear it. Many have considered it but have not followed through for various reasons. I imagine it is a conversation that is constant across Australia. It’s now time to change that and give families a real choice in how they birth.
Proud Daddy, partner to Danielle. I’ve worked as a leader in strategy and insights strategy, planning and insights roles in the transport, energy, finance, and education sectors across Australia and the UK. Never imagined having a homebirth, now couldn’t imagine it any other way.