By Jade Glen
Imagine giving birth at home, in water, under the twinkling stars and strings of fairy lights on a clear November night.
Birth stories don’t come much dreamier – and for Toolangi couple Joanna and Mark Pinnock, it was reality.
The couple returned to Mark’s childhood home of Toolangi just under a year ago, after stints in Singapore and the UK. Living in a tiny home while they search for the perfect block, they decided the time was right to have a baby – and soon they were pregnant.
Enjoying a healthy pregnancy, Joanna was seeing midwives in Lilydale and was booked in to give birth in hospital, but always felt like she would prefer to give birth at home.
“I always wanted to have a home birth, but I thought it wouldn’t be possible because our house is obviously quite small,” Joanna said.
Joanne had read about local private midwives, Lisa and Robyn of Yarra Valley Midwives, in Yarra Ranges Kids Magazine. As her pregnancy progressed, she had a tour of the hospital she was booked to give birth at.
“That really reinforced my desire to have a home birth,” Joanna said. “So that’s when I went and met with Robyn. From the first chat with her, I knew that I wanted to go ahead with a home birth. I was about 30 weeks when I definitely decided, so probably quite late.”
While their house is tiny, it has a big deck out the front, so Joanna borrowed the Yarra Valley Midwives birthing pool and planned to give birth on the deck, in water, at home.
On her due date, 27 November, Joanna started feeling some contraction-like niggles.
“I was in Healesville having lunch with Mark and having some contractions but didn’t really realise what they were, because I had been having Braxton Hicks for the last week or to so didn’t think much of it. I got home at 3pm and called Robyn and she said to time them to see if they got worse.
“About 4pm decided I was in labour – Mark came home from work and got the house ready and by 5pm I was definitely in labour.
“By 8pm I felt like I needed to push so I called them and they said to breath through it. Robyn and Lisa got there about 9pm and filled the pool. I thought it was too soon, I was prepared for it to go all night as everyone says for your first child your labour can be a day long. But obviously they just knew.
“She was born at 10pm and I didn’t push at all really – I kind of just breathed her out, if that makes sense.“
Baby Alba was born in the water, under the fairy lights and night sky, weighing 3.67kg.
“After she was born and we were all kind still, just sitting under the fairy lights and it was amazing,“ Joanna said.
“I stayed in the pool and delivered the placenta and then moved inside where it was a bit warmer. I had a bit of a tear, so Robyn fixed that and we got on with breastfeeding.“
After making sure everyone was settled, Robyn and Lisa left just before 2am so the brand-new family of three could get some rest.
“Robyn came back every day for the next four days and then I also had appointments with them up to six weeks (post-birth). It was really good before and after care,” Joanna said.
“I understand (homebirth) is not for everyone, and we had friends and family that weren’t really taken by the idea and maybe worried about something going wrong. I think there is a lot of fear surrounding child birth and sometimes there doesn’t always need to be.
“It was a really positive experience for me. Lisa and Robyn were so kind and caring and funny and make you feel at ease. I felt so much more comfortable with them than I did with eastern health.
“I’m so grateful to Robyn and Lisa that they are there providing the service they do and allowing us to have that experience, and for giving other people that option as well.”
Joanna has one other tip for women who may be hoping for a relatively quick birth on their due date.
“Definitely the dates – eat the dates!” she said.