Choice in childbirth

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Empowering women with the choice to have the birth they want, where they want and how they want with little intervention.

That’s the holy grail of outcomes for Deborah MacGillivray – a well-known midwife who has been running Family Midwives, her own private practice, for the last 13 years with the last two in the Wide Bay.

Deborah’s journey into the profession started with the birth of her fourth child, after being fortunate enough to have a midwife along for the journey and continuity care from conception to birth and beyond at the Royal Women’s Hospital’s Birth Centre in Brisbane.

With her first three births in the “mainstream hospital system”, Deborah said with her fourth, she felt empowered by the experience as she was given choice, not instruction.

Along with their expertise, midwives bring a nurturing, emotionally oriented approach.

They practice in private homes as well as hospitals, clinics, and birth centres.

“My passion lies in educating women for the birth they want,” Deborah said.

“Women are the most amazing, powerful, intuitive, creative and courageous beings. Not only can they conceive and grow another human being, but they can also birth them.

“Often, we walk into a medical system and the doctor knows best because we’re raised that way.
“Women should be able to have choice in their care. Being pregnant, we’re not sick. We are healthy and I think it is important to take responsibility for our own care.

“If we do that for women now, we are setting the precedence for them raising their children, making decisions for their child from the beginning.”

Deborah, in her own birth could choose to move around in the shower or lay on a bean bag to give birth rather than the hospital bed, decide if her child would receive the Vitamin K shot.

It was the first time that she was actually handed her tiny little human before the cord was cut.

“When he was born, I was kneeling over a bean bag, and they passed him up to me between my legs. It was the first time I had ever seen one of my babies still attached to the cord,” Deborah said.

“Every other birth I had, as soon as the baby was born they cut the cord, took the baby away, cleaned it up, weighed it, gave Vitamin K, wrapped it up and handed it to my husband.

“I was just in awe of this moment. It was so surreal. For me it was the most powerful thing. I thought, oh my God this is what every woman should have.”

It was in that moment that Deborah decided to become a midwife.

“Even though I had been toying with the idea a bit, it was at that moment of his birth that concreted that idea for me.

“He was born in June, and I had applied to University by the end of that year and started a three-year degree.

“I had four kids under 10 and studied full time with my husband working away.”

Deborah has supported hundreds of births over the years with many of the women calling “as soon as they pee on the stick”, Deborah said with a laugh.

She offers Continuity of Care across the pregnancy, birth and up to six weeks postpartum. This is for women choosing to birth at home.

The first home birth she attended was about 13 years ago, where she assisted a good friend to have the birth she dreamed of.

Deborah described it as “the most magical experience of her life’.

“I can’t explain it, it was just so beautiful.

“She had the baby at home, outside on the deck with her older boys there, they made a bed for her outside. After the birth she sat feeding the baby overlooking the dam in the bush. Both their mums were in the kitchen making French toast … It was just surreal.”

With no other access to water births in the Wide Bay, Deborah now has three inflatable birthing pools to cater for the growing demand for home births and is also assisted at each birth by fellow private midwife Tere from All Things Birth.

She said research has shown that water offers great pain relief and the buoyancy helps the woman move around more freely.

“Women are choosing to have home births more and more to have access to water.

“We don’t carry gas so it’s like the epidural of home birth.

“They also feel safe, like a cocoon. No one can touch them in this bath. It’s their space.

“Attending home birth was my biggest learning curve. I actually don’t have to do an awful lot for the women … they birth their own babies.

“Stepping away from the hospital system is learning to keep my hands off and allowing the woman to do it. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt.

“Seeing the look on their face when they birth that baby or having the husband or partner help lift the baby out of the water is just amazing!

“Every single birth I attend I come away in absolute awe.”

To find out more visit Family Midwives on Facebook or the website

You can also tune in to The Dreaded Midwives monthly Spotify podcast where Debbie and two other practitioners cover all things birth.