Home birth in the face of Covid-19

Michelle and baby Peyton, who arrived on 13 May a healthy 3.8kg. Pictures: Garry Sissons.

By Melissa Meehan

Sitting in a pool at home with her midwives on the phone telling her not to push just yet wasn’t the way Michelle Wise expected to welcome her baby girl into the world.

But nothing in 2020 has really gone to plan.

Peyton entered the world. Michelle carefully unwrapped the cord from her shoulders and placed her daughter on her chest and describes waiting for that first breath as a little scary.

“It was then I was like, wow, we are really on our own,” she said.

Soon enough Peyton opened her eyes, looked around and made a little squeak.

It was then Michelle knew it would be all OK.

Michelle hadn’t always planned on having a home birth.

But the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and new restrictions across Victoria about only having one support person with you in hospital during the birth led to her decision.

“It was very important for my husband and I to have our doula with us and, even though she ended up missing the birth, we really wanted our photographer there too,” she said.

When she first fell pregnant Michelle looked into having a home birth, but after getting a few quotes for a private midwife she didn’t think it was financially viable.

Especially given she had already given birth to her son in a hospital setting and had a good experience.

But things changed when the pandemic hit and they felt forced to change their model of care to one they thought would be safer, no matter the cost.

Contractions started just before 2pm on the day Peyton was born.

And by 3pm they were getting closer together and more frequent.

“I sent our doula, midwife and photographer messages just to let them know I was thinking we could have a baby later that night or the next day,” she said.

Her son Logan was picked up by 4.20pm and by 4.40pm Michelle’s husband Josh started to fill the birthing pool.

By 5pm he was on the phone to the midwives, who were 40 minutes away, and that’s when Michelle’s body gave an almighty push.

“My body had taken over,” she said.

“Mish, our doula, called an ambulance as it was clear the midwives weren’t going to make it and three strong waves later I yelled out ‘her head is out’.”

Just minutes after Peyton arrived, so did the photographer who was shocked to see Michelle already holding her baby girl.

She was closely followed by ambulance officers who stayed until the midwives arrived.

“Everything was absolutely perfect,” she said.

“I couldn’t be happier with our decision to have a home birth and the whole experience was so surreal.

“I keep looking at her in disbelief.”

The Australian College of Midwives reported a flood of calls relating to home births in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ACM CEO Ann Kinnear said, “Home birth is a safe option for a woman, but key to this is that her midwife is practising safely and competently.”