Home or hospital? The politics of birth
The High Court will rule on Friday in a landmark case against the HSE and its strict criteria for home births
“There is no comparison really; it was a just a completely different experience,” says Louisa Crowley, comparing her two home births with her two hospital births.
Having had her first two children at the National Maternity Hospital, and then training to be an antenatal teacher, Crowley opted for home births for her third and fourth babies.
“By then, I’d done a lot of research and any doubts I had were gone because I realised it was safe, if not safer, to have a home birth if you are having a normal, healthy pregnancy.”
At the recommendation of her community midwife, she had her blood tests done and had a 20-week scan at the nearby Rotunda Hospital.
“There was comfort in knowing I could go there if I needed to, but I was 100 per cent confident that my midwife knew what she was doing.”
She says her midwife’s regular visits during the pregnancy were more than just check-ups. “We’d spend lots of time chatting and getting to know each other. I felt I could ask her anything.
“They are so stretched in hospitals . . . every time you go in, you meet a different person. If people don’t give you the time, you just go around carrying a lot of fear because there isn’t time to ask questions.”
On the night of the birth, her midwife came to the house while Crowley’s other children slept upstairs. “She slept on the couch and I lay on the other couch and laboured through. She woke every so often to see if I was okay and I just did what I had to do.
“More than anything it was the freedom to move, to get comfortable, to change position. I didn’t feel I had that in hospital. At home, you do that automatically. You walk to the kitchen and waddle around there for a while and hold on to the door or whatever you need to do.”
Crowley got into the bath at 6.30am and Fia was born 30 minutes later.
The birth of her fourth child, Keeva, was a family affair. “The three of them [then aged nine, seven and five] were watching ‘Harry Potter’ on telly and they came in just as she was coming out. She was born in a birthing pool in the kitchen. They still talk fondly about it.”
Was Crowley ever frightened? “No. I expected that I might be, but I wasn’t. I felt I was absolutely in the right place and instinctively I felt this was right. I felt when I was at home, I was in the right place. It was blissful. It was fantastic, it really was.
“I think people who have home births are kind of considered to be hippies, or whatever, but I don’t tick that box and a lot of home-birth people I know don’t tick that box.
“Knowledge is power, and that’s the bottom line. I think most people just don’t know how safe it is to have your baby at home, as long as you have a healthy, normal pregnancy.”