As Christmas approaches, I always remember how it all started for me as an independent midwife.

Picture by Marijke Thoen

After my graduation, as a ” Ghent-based” midwife, I didn’t opt for the most logical step – a job in a Ghent hospital – but went to work in Ostend. A conscious choice for physiology. I’m so grateful that I was allowed to learn what patience meant, that you could have some faith in nature and that the list of contraindications for giving birth in the birthing pool doesn’t have to be endless. That’s where my basis was laid for daring to guide home births later on.

Inseparable from this experience is Dr Ponette’s eternal patience. 

During my first pregnancy I was monitored by the independent midwives of ‘t Geboortehuis so I could spend a good amount of time labouring at home and give birth in my “familiar” birthing pool afterwards. Then, too, physiology was given time and I was able to give birth to my ‘sunny side up’ baby underwater.

Three years later I gave birth again, with another baby that was lying in a sunny side up position. Once again my baby was born underwater in spite of its 4 kg of weight.

Eventually, the combination of two small children, the daily trip from Ghent to Ostend and the changes in hospital policy took its toll. I decided to say goodbye to midwifery after eight beautiful years and opted for a more ‘regular’ life. I became an internist’s assistant: no more breasts and babies for me.

After a year and a half I felt like a wilted houseplant and my desire to work as a midwife began to bubble. An acquaintance who contacted me with a lactation problem made the flame burn again.

At that moment a position just appeared in ‘t Geboortehuis. I read it and clicked it away. Home births, that was really nothing for me. Pre- and postnatal care, I could still see myself doing that.”

The weeks passed and the vacancy continued to catch my eye, would I write…? I had to ask a midwife I knew there whether I had the right profile because I didn’t have any first-line experience. Veronique welcomed me with open arms. She asked me if I would like to attend a home birth, to see if it could be my thing…?

“And so it happened. It all happened on 24/12/2011 around 3am.”

I got a phone call from Sanne that she was with a mother who was in labour with her second child and that I was allowed to attend the delivery. I was wide awake immediately. Full of adrenaline I was getting ready.

Upon arrival I was immediately overwhelmed by the serenity of the atmosphere. It was wonderful to see how the woman’s rhythm was followed. Everything was watched professionally and meticulously, but so discreetly. I can still see myself sitting there against the wall with a head full of questions. “Why do we all make it so difficult sometimes? Why does someone still have to get into a car in order to give birth in another place? Why do we, as midwives, have to perform so many internal examinations in order to keep the gynaecologist informed so that he or she appears at the bedside at the right time?”

I didn’t see any vaginal examinations here, the two midwives were present and they waited calmly until there were clear signs of pressure. During the pushing phase, I noticed the enormous alertness and professionalism: attention to the heart tones, regular changes of position, clear communication between colleagues.

The little man was born smoothly and I, too, was over the moon. I floated along on the oxytocin cloud. When we were about finished with the aftercare, it turned out that a second mummy was in labour and I was also allowed to attend the birth. Again a second baby was born smoothly, what an experience!

In the end the placenta did not appear to come as smoothly as we had hoped. What struck me was the knowledge and expertise with which they acted. It was decided to go to the hospital where the placenta was born under the supervision of a gynaecologist. I thought it was good for me to see that things didn’t always go smoothly at home either, but that you just have to have the knowledge to deal with it.


All my doubts about home births and whether it was something for me fell away.

Marijke Thoen
Picture by Marijke Thoen

After those two deliveries – it was after noon in the meantime – I came home tired but oh so happy. My partner’s first words hit the nail on its head: “I can already tell how your night has been, you’re shining brighter than the Christmas tree ☺”. Christmas was at our house that evening with the whole family, I still had a lot of work to do but it all went smoothly from my cloud nine.

Now, nine years later, I am still happy with the leap I took.

It was certainly not always easy but I realise more than ever that this is the job of my life.