REAL LIFE: Having a home birth was liberating

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IT’S still fairly unusual for a woman to give birth at home.

IT’S still fairly unusual for a woman to give birth at home.

Polly and Jimmy Richards with sons, from left, Dylan aged five,  Sonnie, two, and Alfie five weeks               Pictures: Habibur Rahman (171134-042)

Polly and Jimmy Richards with sons, from left, Dylan aged five, Sonnie, two, and Alfie five weeks Pictures: Habibur Rahman (171134-042)

But when Polly and Jimmy Richards found out they were expecting their third child, they decided to have him at home – and capture the event in pictures.

They had the whole experience photographed to allow them to remember their son Alfie’s birth forever.

It’s not the first time Polly had experienced a home birth as the couple’s second son Sonnie, now two, was born at the family home in Peronne Road, Hilsea.

But at the beginning, Jimmy took a big of convincing.

Polly Richards, moments after she gave birth to son Alfie at home        Picture: mini-me-photography.co.uk

Polly Richards, moments after she gave birth to son Alfie at home Picture: mini-me-photography.co.uk

‘I was terrified at the thought of it,’ the 35-year-old says.

‘I work at the hospital so to me it just seemed backwards.

‘But I read a couple of books before Sonnie was born.

‘It was so much more relaxed. We had music playing and I was making everyone tea. And, having done it once, there was no going back.’

Shavorne Moore 
photographs Polly in the birthing pool                                    Picture: mini-me-photography.co.uk

Shavorne Moore photographs Polly in the birthing pool Picture: mini-me-photography.co.uk

Polly, 34, says: ‘I was definitely more relaxed. It was very free. I didn’t have to worry about Jimmy.

‘He wasn’t stuck in a chair next to me, like he was at hospital. I wasn’t aware of him.

‘I was able to just think about myself at home. I could use all the space I needed.

‘It was liberating.’

Polly and husband Jimmy share a smile as they relax and wait for baby Alfie to arrive during the home birth     Picture: mini-me-photography.co.uk

Polly and husband Jimmy share a smile as they relax and wait for baby Alfie to arrive during the home birth Picture: mini-me-photography.co.uk

Sonnie had an infection when he was born so they ended up going into hospital afterwards for five days.

‘Even with that, the care team were incredible,’ Polly adds.

‘It was still a really great experience.’

So the couple, who also have a five-year-old son, Dylan, decided to do it again with the birth of their third child – and this time with a photographer by their side.

It came just a few weeks after their kitchen had been renovated but they were determined.

‘We knew with Alfie what we were doing,’ Polly adds.

‘We didn’t even really consider whether the house would be ready or not. We just said the house will be finished, and we will have a home birth.’

Polly is a photographer herself and knows a lot of people in the industry.

In the end, it was her next door neighbour, Shavorne Moore, who took the photographs.

‘We had such a positive experience with Sonnie and I wanted to revisit it, but I couldn’t.

‘You go into such a different mode during birth. You are very introverted. Your eyes are closed for a lot of it so you don’t have a visual memory.

‘It helped me to understand it all and to process such a massive experience.

‘I would have loved to have been able to do that with Sonnie and I couldn’t.

‘My neighbour and I are really close. We do a lot of things together. She wanted to experience a birth in a photographic capacity.

‘It’s a growing trend. It’s such a good experience as well. I forget that to some people it seems a bit crazy.’

On the day Alfie was born, Polly went into labour at around 1am.

Both Polly and Jimmy’s mothers were at the house to take care of the children and to be there for the birth, which happened in a birthing pool.

However, it wasn’t all as straight forward as it could have been, as the midwives at QA Hospital were dealing with the delivery of four sets of twins, and the couple were warned they may have to go into hospital instead.

But luckily, at around 3.30am they received a call to say that the midwives were on their way.

Alfie was born at 4.50am on July 29.

‘They had asked us to come in and I said I would wait,’ Polly adds.

‘It was a concern. There is always that possibility with a home birth.

‘But they were amazing. It was one of the midwive’s first home births. She was really excited to tell me that after he was born.’

Now, both parents are pleased with their decision.

‘It was a really positive experience,’ Polly says.

‘I asked the photographer not to miss anything, to just take the shot and if I didn’t like it, I could delete it.

‘In my head, the vision of the birth was scary.

‘But they were the photos that I wanted to look at first. And they weren’t scary.

‘There was nothing bad about them. My imagination made it so much more scary. There was one photo where I was laughing and I don’t even remember that.

‘The midwives were really supportive – more so with the second birth because I had done it before.

‘They have got the medical knowledge but they are there to assist you – not to do it for you.

‘I could understand more about what my body was doing and what I needed. That was an awakening for me.

‘I don’t remember anything really but this captured all these little moments.’

To see a video of Polly go to portsmouth.co.uk.

GUIDELINES ON GIVING BIRTH AT HOME

The NHS says that women who have a straightforward pregnancy can choose to give birth at home, if both mother and baby are well.

In England and Wales, 2.3 per cent of women give birth at home.

A midwife will come to your home to support you and if you need any help or your labour is not progressing as it should, then they will make arrangements for you to be transferred to hospital.

Giving birth at home enables women to be in familiar surroundings which help them to feel more relaxed and more able to cope. It also means they don’t have to interrupt their labour to go to hospital, and don’t need to leave any other children or be separated from their partner after the birth.

However, complications may mean they need to be transferred to hospital, particularly if it’s their first baby.

Epidurals are not available at home.

And if a woman is expecting twins or the baby is breech, a hospital birth is recommended.

Polly was supported by The Positive Birth Movement.

They define a positive birth as when a woman feels she has freedom of choice, access to accurate information, and that she is in control, powerful and respected.

It is a birth she approaches, perhaps with some trepidation, but without fear or dread, and that she then goes on to enjoy, and later remembers with warmth and pride. A positive birth does not have to be ‘natural’ or ‘drug free’ – it simply has to be informed from a place of positivity as opposed to fear.

It is woman-centred and as such respects a woman’s human right to choose where and how she has her baby.

Go go positivebirthmovement.org.