Baby Maya is Chiara Paderni’s first baby, born on the day that she turned 46 years old. “Everyone warned me my age might be an added risk, but I still really wanted a home birth,” says Chiara.
Home births have decreased in popularity over recent decades. Between the late 1940s and mid-1960s about two thirds of births in England and Wales took place in hospital and one third at home. Since 1975, home births have only accounted for around 5% of all births.
Having a baby doesn’t have to involve a trip to a hospital’s maternity unit. Midwives can bring their birthing expertise to your home.
Chiara’s mother was not impressed with her decision. “My mother held the typical Italian view that home birth was new-age madness. We avoided talking about it because she was so discouraging. She was mad at me.
But my midwife, Laura, was always so positive and totally unconcerned about my age that I felt surprisingly relaxed about it,” she says.
On the day, it was the personal and homely experience that Chiara had wanted. “I don’t tell everyone they must have a home birth,” says Chiara, “but for me it was just the best experience ever. I used a birthing pool. It was not messy, it was natural. In fact, because my partner Paul had made enough food for everyone, both midwives stayed for dinner after Maya was born.”
The experience changed her mother’s opinion. “My mother finally said I had made the right decision,” recalls Chiara fondly. “It is the only time she has ever said this.”
It was a friend who had first encouraged Chiara to consider having her baby at home. When the option was raised at her first registration meeting, Chiara took the opportunity to find out more from her midwife. Guy’s and St Thomas’ has specialised teams providing home birth midwives across Lambeth and Southwark, like Lia Brigante and Laura Latina who helped to deliver baby Maya.
“Being at home is a blessing for the family and the midwives,” says Lia. “It can be a joyous event, not a medical emergency.”
New mum Jamey Fisher Perkins would agree. She had baby Avery at home and has lovely memories of lying on her own bed with him just moments after he was born, while her midwife sat on the bed writing up her notes. “When I am in the room where Avery was born, I still find myself thinking happy thoughts about his birth,” Jamey says.
“I did worry that midwives would interfere or try to convince me to go to hospital if things weren’t progressing,” Jamey recalls. “But when my labour slowed the midwives let me and my husband discuss the next steps privately. They gave us the information we needed and let us make our own choices. I felt like I could really trust them.”
Midwife Laura Latina adds: “Not everyone would want a home birth, but it’s important that women are offered choices, that the risks and benefits are explained, and their decisions are respected and supported.”
Most mothers understandably want the reassurance that, in an emergency, the required care will be available.
Laura continues: “For women with healthy, straightforward pregnancies, real emergencies are unlikely. When it does happen, we have all the equipment we need. We’re trained to identify potential problems early and act while we transfer the woman to hospital.”
As Jamey is keen to point out: “Fill yourself with positive birth stories. Most births are normal, natural, boring miracles, not the dramas we see on TV.”
- For information about home births, and to find out if they’re suitable for you, visit www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/home-birth
Image of Team Maya: (l-r) Laura Latina, Lia Brigante and baby Maya, mum Chiara, and dad, Paul