Home birth is often a beautiful experience for families, but finding a way to share the experience and their feelings about it may be challenging. UK artist Pheleba Johnson and her partner found the perfect outlet for their experience– a “Beautiful” song.
Pheleba Johnson, who goes by Pheleba, was born in Birmingham. She lives there with her husband, son and new daughter. She is the middle child of five and comes from a close-knit family with a creative background. She says music plays a powerful role in their lives and their relationships with their children.
“Because both my husband and I are musicians, I feel like it’s the driving force behind everything,” she says. “Now, my son says he can’t sleep unless we play this song.”
Pheleba notes that their routine and lifestyle is different because of their work and passion for music. “I think it impacts our parenting because our lifestyle is not so normal in the sense that we don’t work 9-5’s and don’t have such strict routine. So our son and daughter kind of go with our flow and I love that about our life.”
Writing “Beautiful” about her Home Birth Experience
Pheleba has been involved in music for a long time and recorded her first song when she was 16 years old. Her music often blends R&B, reggae and jazz among other influences, and her sultry voice can be heard on her latest EP LOST IN MY AURA II. It details her growth as a mother and the experience of giving birth to her first child and transition into motherhood. “A lot of it was about the experience of becoming a mother, my romantic relationships and my inner thoughts,” she says.
She released her song “Beautiful” not long ago. It was inspired by her experience of giving birth to her daughter at home. The video features some of the beautifully intimate moments from that experience.
She says she didn’t realize that the footage her partner was taking of her home birth was going to comprise the music video, and that at first she was a bit apprehensive but they chose someone they felt comfortable with to help them create it. The final cut serves as a compassionate look at an amazing family experience accompanied by serene lyricism and music-making.
“My family had not seen anything until the video came out and so when they did see it they all texted and phoned us, so it was exciting.”
Pheleba notes that despite the challenges of facing a world-wide pandemic, she feels the most creative and optimistic about music that she has in a long time. “I think it’s a mix of things. With COVID and having this time, it’s like the world stopped for a minute and my partner and I had that time to reconnect because we both do music and are working part time, but this way we had a lot of time to enjoy each other and reconnect.”
“We had some time to restart a bit. Personally we also recently had our daughter Zen, so now I’ve got a boy and a girl. I feel really competent as a person. I’m ready to have all my energy back into my music,” she says.
The Challenges of Having a Home Birth
Pheleba explains that while having a home birth is not entirely common in the UK, she knew she wanted to explore home birth as soon as she found out she was pregnant. After mentioning it to a midwife in the hospital, they followed up with her to see if home birth was a good fit for her family. “They were really helpful and said ‘Take some time to decide what’s right for you’.”
Part of what influenced her interest in having a home birth was the experience of delivering her son in a hospital setting. Pheleba notes that she didn’t feel it was as intimate or enjoyable as she hoped for different reasons. “I felt like I didn’t have as much control as I wanted and I felt like my partner was on the outside watching and he didn’t have much control either,” she says.
“I also felt like the energy and culture around birth was a bit strange in the hospital. I was thinking I wanted a natural birth, but they didn’t view it as a natural process.”
Pheleba explains that her husband and family were initially worried about the idea of her giving birth at home. “My husband was originally worried about what happens, or if something goes wrong,” she says. “My mom and dad are very open-minded, but even they took some convincing.”
Once Pheleba mentioned her situation to her midwife, her midwife was able to visit the house to explain more about preparation around what happens if something goes wrong. “They were lovely and reassured us that if they thought at any point or if they were worried about anything, they world always transfer us to the hospital before it became an emergency,” she says.
“Because I really wanted it, I was still nervous to say it because I kept thinking ‘What if I say I’m doing this and something does go wrong and then it’s all on me because I’m the only one who wants to do it. So what I had to do was research for myself and ask myself if I really wanted this.”
Pheleba says that the pandemic also played a part in their decision to give birth at home since in many cases, fathers weren’t able to be with their partners until they reached active labor.
“Even after, fathers have to leave, and that’s one thing I didn’t enjoy about giving birth in the hospital the first time that you’re kind of left in the ward on your own and it’s like ‘Bye, dad,’ and I didn’t want to do that again,” she says. ”Because he knew he wasn’t going to be able to be involved as much because of COVID he agreed we should do it at home.”
The Family Impact of Home Birth
Pheleba says that their family’s experience giving birth at home has made an impact in their inner circle and close-knit community. “I think that having the home birth in our inner circle with our close families—we’ve done something they’ve thought was so bizarre, but now really respect,” she says.
She continues, “I really enjoyed my experience, and I understand why women choose it. Even though I had a really positive experience, I don’t think some people in my inner circle would enjoy it the way I did, just because you can’t have some of the same things like stronger pain relief at home.”
Pheleba’s mother gave birth to her and her siblings naturally and she says it’s something that was important to her. She notes that her mothers support helped her find confidence in her decision. “When I was in the hospital, they mentioned inducing me, and I had such a strong mom to say you can do it she was really encouraging, and I did.”