Midwife oversees home birth
WHEN Goonengerry's Xan Van Veen went into labour at 5am six weeks ago, there was no mad dash to the hospital for this first-time mum.
Instead the 27-year-old had a friend come round and inflate a small plastic pool in her lounge room.
Meanwhile, she lit the fire in the fireplace and an altar of candles and pottered around her cottage overlooking a tree-lined gully and waited.
At 7pm, midwife Suzanne Weir arrived and, as the deaf family pet Red Dog watched protectively over her shoulder, Xan's healthy baby girl was delivered in the pool.
Lily Pepper Van Veen was the first baby born under a 12-month home birthing pilot program endorsed by the Northern NSW Local Health District.
During the pilot period, which started in April, two women a month are chosen by ballot to take part.
Only low-risk healthy women who live within 40 minutes of Lismore Base, Mullumbimby or Tweed hospitals are eligible.
Xan, who was left with a fear of hospitals after suffering childhood illness, said the birth was an amazing and remarkably serene experience.
Suzanne, who this year was named midwife of the year by the NSW College of Midwives, said mums who gave birth at home were visibly more relaxed.
"There seems to be like a smooth rhythm in labour, whereas in hospital labour can stop and start depending on how busy it is," the mother of three said.
"It keeps well women out of hospital. It frees up beds for sick people.
The pilot is one of 14 home- birth programs operating in Australia, and if successful, could lead to the establishment of a permanent service in the Northern Rivers.