Hi, welcome to From Hospital to Homebirth, a podcast for all women and their families who are considering or having home births, as well as birth workers and other care providers who want to inform their practice and learn from the collective wisdom of women.
My name is Rachael Rose, and I would like to acknowledge that I live and gave birth to my two children on Dharawal Country, in Wollongong. I am deeply privileged to be raising my babies on this beautiful land and I give my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging who have shaped this place I call home.
This podcast will be exploring the lived experiences, the stories, the stats, the research, the instincts and intuition, the whys and hows of women choosing homebirth, especially the reasons behind birthing at home for subsequent babies.
The reason why I am focusing on second or third or more time births, is because of the additional layers of fears around risks, complications, distrust in one’s body or a sense of personal “failure”, that may be included in this quest, based on outcomes from the first hospital birth, often caused by the interventions involved.
I want this to be a place for all of the fence sitters, as well as the women who desperately want something different for their next birth and KNOW in their heart of hearts, that it has to happen at home.
For the women feeling be afraid, don’t fret, as Pam England says “worry is the work of pregnancy”.
For the women who might have family members concerned, partners who disagree or social conditioning to overcome.
All fears, questions and concerns are welcome here.
I want to showcase the stories of other women who have walked away from the hospital system, who did the inner work of pregnancy, unravelling and re-wilding and who birth their babies, at home, surrounded only by people that know them and trust in birth.
This is the work, the fire, the passion and the fury that my daughter’s hospital birth initiated me into. I can no longer stay quiet, she demanded I use my voice and I’m only going to get louder and braver, mark my words
This is the work I continue to do for my son after a redemptive, holy homebirth where my entire perspective on my power changed.
I believe homebirths have the potential for generational healing.
If our daughters and sons got to witness birth as a normal yet sacred event, I wonder how this would change the world.
There aren’t many of us birthing at home.
Under 1% of births in Australia are planned home births (there are some hospital transfers).
Of that 0.3% (which in actual numbers is 944), I personally know 5 women who have had an amazing homebirth, with that choice originally inspired by the things I have shared on my instagram page. I feel tingly with excitement about the potential ripple effect a dedicated podcast may have in growing this number further.
To put it into perspective, there are more, or 0.6% of births occurring in other settings including births before arrival at hospital (this would include both planned unassisted or freebirths, as well as unplanned births at home, in cars, or on the side of the road, I’m talking to you, rural women.
In Australia, almost all births occur in hospitals, in conventional labour wards. The latest data is from the Australian Mothers and Babies Report in 2018 and accounts for 96% of mothers giving birth in hospitals, with 2.7% giving birth in birth centres attached to hospitals.
Of the hospital statistics, 75% of mothers went through the public system and 25% went through the private. Mothers who give birth in hospitals were more likely to be first time mothers (43%).
And while I am mostly focusing on home births after hospital births, I encourage you to share this podcast with other women who are in their preconception phase to first pregnancies. Only 24% of women who have home births in Australia are first time mums, I’d love to see this number rise.
So who am I, and why am I contributing to this conversation?
My name is Rachael Rose and I am a mother of two, a writer, a pregnancy to postpartum mentor and doula, a women’s circle and workshop facilitator and a passionate home birth advocate, especially after the life-changing experience of birthing my second baby at home.
I want to be a part of the birth revolution that is desperately needed in Australia and the world.
I’ve had the honour of hearing many women’s stories through my work and I hope to bring some of the magic and medicine of women’s circles to your ears, and in the comfort of your own home.
You may have noticed I am reading from notes today and the reason behind this is… because I have a 7 month old baby. Mum brain is definitely a thing and it does disrupt my train of thoughts and flow. My brains hormonal and biologically rewiring after children, with the addition of some sleep deprivation thrown into the mix is not something I am ashamed of. I wear my mum brain loud and proud and I give myself permission to incorporate this gift of empathy, deep feeling and disjointed sentences into all of my work.
I decided it’s better for everyone if I read from a script for the very first episode. I want to get my WHY out there and I don’t have the time to sit and edit every second sentence right now. This first episode is a bit like the first pancake. It’s not perfect, in fact, it’s a little bit crap, but you still eat it and it tastes okay. This episode being done is better than the words never leaving my mouth at all.
I have a background working for nonprofits and advocacy groups, which has given me an insight into how to garner interest and create social change when it comes to causes – and low and behold, storytelling is a big part of this! People love to hear stories and to see names and faces so the challenge they are hearing about has a personal edge. This is why I often use my own stories and photographs when discussing issues online, and you may have found out about me from my episode on Australian Birth Stories, which had a record 10,000 downloads in 2 days.. I’m not completely self obsessed, I’m a very clever communicator, with a bone to pick when it comes to birth rights, even if that means vulnerably sharing my own story again and again as a vehicle for change.
I have been immersed in the birth world for the last 3 years and am continually seeking out learning in this space. I completed my doula training with Angel Phoenix and was involved with the Dynamo Doula Training organisation, learning an incredible amount from Angel about the dire need to “bring humanity back to the human experience”. Angel taught me that advocacy and activism goes hand in hand with birth work and everyone has a role to play, including me.
I would also like to acknowledge the teachings of Jane Hardwicke Collings, former homebirth midwife and agent of the goddess, as a mentor of mine and someone whose work made a profound difference in my own personal journey from pregnancy to motherhood.
I extend my gratitude to Dr Rachel Reed and Dr Sara Wickham, both midwives and researchers whose accessible writing on their website and books I have devoured. With thanks to Professor Hannah Dahlen for her research on birthing outside the system and home births which will be drawn upon in this series. The same goes for Dr Sara Buckley and her book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, Sunni Karl’s book Sacred Birthing which gave my perspective another spiritual dimension, the work of the late and great Sheila Kitzinger, as well as the embodied, spiritual and ancient teachings of Maha Al Musa.
In the large scheme of things, I am a new player to the birth world and I wouldn’t be as well informed and passionate without the dedication of countless other women (some who will never be acknowledged or have their names go down in the cannon of homebirth history) many who have been fighting this fight for literally decades. I sincerely thank you.
A shout out to my mother in law Julie too, another woman in my life who has planted seeds. Julie birthed my partner Tristan at home, as well as his brother, (after two birth centre births), back in the 1980’s when things were actually a lot simpler. I’m afraid the situation with homebirth has only gotten worse since.
I have a Communications degree in Social Inquiry and was on the path to completing a postgraduate degree in teaching social sciences, however after having my first baby in the hospital and returning to uni as a frazzled new mother, I saw similar challenges within the education system as I did in the maternal health care system I had just been through as a birthing woman, so I left my degree part way and never went back. My aim now is to continue my love of teaching and learning, sharing my personal and professional knowledge to women online, here, like this.
My philosophy on birth is that it is a sacred rite of passage and is an initiation into motherhood whether its the first or fourth time.
Birth is not an inconsequential one day event where all that matters is a healthy mother and a healthy baby, rather it profoundly impacts the emotional, physical and spiritual bodies and minds of every mother and baby dyad, as well as their families, as well as the people who witnessed the birth too. Yes, birth leaves its mark on midwives, doctors, nurses and anyone else in the room.
I also want us to question, who determines what is a healthy mother and baby anyway? We all want mothers and babies to come out of birth alive, yes, but are they thriving? They may be physically well, perhaps, but what about their mental health? What about their nervous system?
What about their microbiome and lifelong immune system?
We can see statistics about mortality and morbidity rates, perineal status and apgar scoring, but I want more for all of us.
Not dead, is not good enough.
We can and should do better.
Birth is sacred regardless of where it takes place – no one can ever take that away from women.
Whether you are birthing by sunset by a river, or birthing by bright lights in an operating theatre, bringing new life into the world is inherently sacred and divine and no matter what your circumstances, your human rights should be upheld, your dignity respected and your care should be compassionate and humanised.
My highest vision is that all women feel safe and supported during this transformational time of their lives.
I also want women to know deep with themselves, that we own birth. Not doctors. Not researchers. Not scientists. Women.
Do some women need medical intervention during their births?
Do some babies need support?
And for life saving interventions we are so grateful.
But no one can argue with me that almost half of women are unable to go into spontaneous labour or that they have a medical need for their labours to be induced.
That one third of women NEED caesareans.
That 1 in 4 women having their first babies vaginally NEED instrumental support such as forceps and vacuum extraction, or that 1 in 5 of first time mums birthing vaginally need to have their perineum’s and vulva cut with episiotomies.
There’s more to this story.
The way women are treated in birth is a reflection of where women sit in a patriarchal society.
Why are we not respected and revered for being the ones who create, gestate and birth the world?
It’s not our bodies that are broken here.
So, Why am I banging on about homebirth and not dedicating a podcast to how women can have a better experience within the hospital system.
I’m too tired and that’s not my fight.
I’ve seen what’s possible and I want to shine a gigantic spotlight on that.
To change things for all women, we to tackle the challenges from many angles, and homebirth is what I am passionately lit up about and that energy is going to keep me in this game for longer.
When women ask me how to have better births at hospital, my simple answer is dont. have a homebirth. Dont go back there. Half the battle is won.
I realise this is very simplistic and it doesn’t address concerns, access, cultural practices, partners involvement, finances etc.
Now I want to create a place where I can delve into those topics.
I am also deeply passionate about physiological birth and I want a place to share my thoughts on this, freely, without restriction.
Physiological birth, or birth according to nature’s design without external interference or intervention IS bloody important, and when we cannot have this conversation because we are told we are shaming mothers, the importance can get lost in the angry shouting at each other that we do on the internet.
Physiological birth makes practical in a home birth setting.
When you start to understand what it takes for physiological labour to unfold
How delicate a woman’s birthing hormones are
How significant the environment around them is
How bright lights, smells, constant interruptions and conversations can derail a birth
How not knowing who your care provider is can unsettle your nervous system
How the energy of every person there will impact the experience
How any small amount of meddling can lead to more meddling and then active birth becomes active management
You soon realise that homebirth just makes sense.
And yet, we are living in a country where 96% of all births are occurring in a hospitals.
You don’t have to be a certain kind of woman, person, family to birth your baby at home
Well you do need to be able to pay for it so there’s definitely privilege to consider
Access and affordability is a huge issue we all need to be a part of solving and I will dedicate episodes to this topic.
Homebirth is intentionally inaccessible and there are larger powers at be that make it so difficult for the average Australian woman to have genuine choice around where they birth.
Undisturbed birth can be a gateway drug to a deeper sense of spiritual meaning
Related to no particular religion, rather a connection to the universe, as you discover you are inseparable from nature
But it also doesn’t have to be.
Homebirth can be completely ordinary, nothing magic, and still absolutely amazing
Physiological birth provides a hormonal blueprint and has significant implications on the wellbeing of mothers and babies, their microbiomes and the health of all humans.
It’s no small thing.
The way we birth impacts the way we breastfeed which is a huge area that I will speak to in later episodes. A mothers right to breastfeed and a babys right to receive breastmilk is something I am committed to sharing about, and it is another area where systems, structures and well society on a whole, are failing women.
Physiological birth is becoming rarer and rarer throughout the world, and we need to talk about how the hospital system is influencing this.
Physiological birth is raw and messy. There are noises you’ve never heard before, there’s a smell to birth, blood, sweat, feaces, urine, tears, snot, amniotic fluid and more.
For a woman to unleash the birthing goddess within, she needs to feel safe and secure to let go and surrender.
Hospitals aren’t exactly the place for women to be screaming and roaring without some kind of censorship.
Physiological birth in a hospital is hard to achieve and it has nothing to do with a woman’s ability to birth.
During my first pregnancy I was a part of a Facebook group that was about natural birth in hospital. All I kept seeing over and over again were the reasons why this was going to be the biggest fight of my life. Everyone seemed to be preparing themselves for childbirth with dedication and effort, reading books, going to courses, listening to stories, feeling educated and informed…and then we entered the last weeks of pregnancy.
With 45% of labours in Australia being induced, almost half of women aren’t even getting to start their births from a physiological standpoint. Or a test result came back or a woman was risked out and suddenly the rug was pulled from beneath her feet and she had no choices.
I actually tried to change care providers to a private midwife at 33 weeks pregnant, however no midwives were available and I didn’t have the full rage within yet to make this a reality no matter what.
You have to fit the hospital policies and criteria to the absolute T to birth undisturbed in a hospital setting. Gestate for the exact right amount of time, not too little and not too late. Be just the right size, remember your BMI will be used to judge your vaginas capacity to birth a baby. Just the right age, god forbid you birth in your very early 20’s or after 35- your geriatric uterus is a risk! Take all of the tests and pass each one. Fly under the radar. Don’t make any trouble. Labour at home for as long as possible and arrive to birth your baby in under 2 hours. Any deviation from this and you are bound to be caught up in some hospital red tape, being exposed to routine CTG, multiple vaginal examinations, timelines to adhere to.
If you had a completely undisturbed birth in hospital and it wasn’t like the above,please know it is the exception, not the rule. There are some pretty shocking estimates out there that under 5% of births in Australia are truly physiological from start to finish.
midwives on staff during that particular moment in time, play a huge part. They might have been just the right ones and it doesn’t always work out that way. Birthing in hospital without any form of continuity of care can be like playing birth roulette.
Before anyone tells me I hate health care workers, I don’t. I hate standardised systems where women do not have genuine autonomy and choices and are centred as the experts of their own care.
Birth is untameable. It doesn’t always follow charts or guidelines and it defies measurement. We so love to fit birth into a neat little packaged category, with perfectly defined stages of labour and yet, if left to its own unfolding, birth can be a wild ride with no rules.
Birth is of nature. It Labour is a force of nature itself. We are mammals and yet we give more respect to the process of birth for cats and dogs, than we do for women. We know that if mammals are separated from their young, this can disrupt the bonding process significantly, and yet mothers and babies are routinely separated after cesareans for no other reason than staffing issues in a hospital, this happens far too frequently and is a deeply psychologically disturbing event for the mother baby dyad.
Obstetric violence and abuse has become normalised in everyday practice.l. Consent is often given under coercion.
Women’s bodies and choices are being controlled. The widespread use of vaginal examinations and telling women when and how to move their birthing bodies is incredibly concerning to me.
Now before anyone messages me and says “that doesn’t happen”, or “I had a great hospital birth, it’s not all bad” – that reminds me of another woman’s rights movement. Saying “not all hospitals” isn’t too dissimilar to “not all men”. Please dont invalidate another women’s experiences by saying you had a fine one. I am genuinely thrilled that you were able to birth your baby in power in a hospital setting. Thank the goddess.that gives me hope. Statistics tell us it’s not happening for many women.
My criticism or anger around birth outcomes will always be at larger systems, and never at mothers and babies themselves. I also want to make it clear that I am not against midwives, including those that work within the hospital setting. I know that most midwives would have gotten into their profession because they wanted to serve women and babies. I know many midwives are deeply unsatisfied with their work in the hospital and many carry their own trauma from witnessing the managed births that they do, day in and out. I’ve sat with midwives as they’ve cried their eyes out because they know that the system is hurting women. But they feel stuck because they know if every compassionate and caring midwife gets up and leaves, who will be left?
The system also has hierarchies and policies and practices and livelihoods are at stake. I don’t have the answer. I’m not condoning complicit behaviour that is outright abusive, which I know can take place and is never, ever acceptable. Generally speaking, I believe midwives are doing their best in a broken system and if they could speak up without losing their jobs or making their lives miserable, they would. Let’s not forget that it was midwives who were burned at the stake for simply being midwives. The witch-wound runs deep.
Instead of asking, is homebirth safe? Perhaps we should be asking ourselves, is hospital birth safe?
1 in 3 women are leaving their births with some form of birth trauma. 1 in 10 with post-traumatic stress disorder, who are left raise the next generation as the walking wounded.
If 96% of births in Australia are happening at the hospital, then these figures are representative of widespread trauma occurring at the hospital. And yet, remind me why homebirth is so very controversial?
Ah that’s right. Women standing in their power and taking back birth, where they come out the otherside feeling like a god damn warrior woman, well…that’s pretty frightening for the status quo.
Some women will absolutely refuse to step foot back into a hospital during subsequent pregnancies because of their previous treatment, so affected by trauma that even thinking about the hospital starts to increase their heart-rate. I have worked with women like this.
Women will never forget the words that were said to them.
They will never forget the things that were done to them.
The things done To their bodies.
Done to To their babies.
For the majority of women, birth is not a medical event, it is a social one, what could be an ordinary physiological process gets labelled with risks and danger and a culture where hospital is considered the ONLY place for babies to be born.
Despite consistent research highlighting that homebirth is a safe choice for many women (I’ll get into that next episode), it continues to be controversial, considered as alternative or something for hippies do. And yet, many women I personally know who choose home birth are health professionals themselves, such as midwives, with an insider’s perspective into how birth naturally unfolds, and other research shows that women birthing outside the system, even those with additional risks who chose to birth at home anyway, they are highly educated. These are women making informed decisions and I look forward to highlighting their stories so you can see the path they walked and what it took to get there.
Now while I will weave stats and facts into this series, I also want to say upfront that I am a firm believer that there is an intrinsic intuitive knowing that mothers can and do possess about their own bodies and babies, and this is not to be discounted. A mothers direct line of communication with her own baby, of her blood and bones, will sometimes override an evidence based policy and not make sense in a medical model. An inner knowing. An insight from another realm. If you’re only into the science, you are missing a whole other language and body of wisdom that is held deep within women and our stories.
I will not pretend birth is risk free. Life has risks. Birth has risks as it is a part of life. I believe many of the common policies and practices and the simple setting of the hospital with the related interventions and management, pose risks that we need to take very seriously.
If hospitals blame our bodies
And blame our babies
Then they never have to assume responsibility for the risks and complications they caused.
We will leave our births feeling as though we were saved.
We won’t sue them.
We will give them a parting present.
And we will recommend them to all our friends.
And the wheels keep turning and more women sign up for the service.
Because their sister needed a caesarean, and their friend needed forceps because their baby was stuck and their colleagues’ baby would have died if they weren’t in the hospital, so there’s no way they’d ever risk having a baby at home.
We live in a society where women’s rights, women’s choices and our voices continue to be secondary. If we give birth how we live, many women are playing out the programming that has been handed to them since before they were even born and they were soaking up all the ways their own mothers were being treated while pregnant and birthing.
Women are disconnected from their power and many have come to believe that they couldn’t possibly be the expert of their experience. Where they can have full autonomy over their decision making. This podcast will have a dedicated episode down the track to look at the Herstory to see how we all got into this mess.
In the next episode I will be looking at the most up-to-date research on homebirth, both in Australia and across the world. This will be a stats episode to set the scene. From there I will be interviewing other women, midwives and birth workers, sharing their stories of homebirth. I am outrageously excited and I can’t wait to release more episodes.
Please get in touch if you want to be involved.
Women who rave about their home births aren’t doing so because we feel like we are better than other women. It’s because we feel like we’ve discovered this incredible secret that may support other women to leave their births feeling like they are the most powerful people on the planet.
Women who will no longer take shit or survive on the scraps of the patriarchy.
I am so happy you are here.
See you again soon.
Australia’s Mothers & Babies Report 2018