Today is the International Day of the Midwife 2020. Whilst we are not midwives, our roles often sit side by side and our missions closely aligned. We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate midwives around the world whose life work is to truly be ‘with woman’.
In a world where women live and birth within patriarchal institutions and normal, physiological birth is unnecessarily pathologised, traditional midwives can play such an important role. Their knowledge and wisdom is a much needed reminder that industrial birth is not our only option. They are a wonderful support that women can look to on their journeys to powerful, ecstatic births.
Today we celebrate and hold space for midwives who are choosing to create new paradigms, rather than engage in futile fights with broken systems. Heart led midwives who serve the woman above all else. Protectors of physiological birth. Birth keepers who trust women all the way, and know in their hearts that we are the ultimate knowledge when it comes to our own bodies and babies. In particular we hold those midwives who have been persecuted for believing in women and providing women-centred care despite the risk to themselves. Thank you.
Naomi contacted us recently about sharing the birth of her second baby Amelie. Her son Dylan was born by caesarean but second time around she planned for a different experience. With the support of Amy, she had the positive birth she had wished for and we hope that Naomi and her story inspires you as much as she does us.
For the previous two weeks I had been getting lots of braxton hicks and had lost my complete mucous plug, but was determined not to get my hopes up about going into early labour as I went a week overdue with Dylan and I found it so hard waiting. I tried to keep in my head that I would go overdue this time too so that I wasn’t disappointed. I went to bed on the Tuesday evening and had absolutely no signs of labour except from my bump had dropped quite low throughout the day (I was 39+2). I slept so well and got a full 8 hours sleep.
My alarm went off at 7.45am to get Dylan up and ready for nursery, so I snoozed and got him up at 8 and Ben got in the shower. I shouted through to Ben in the bathroom because I got such a big pain in my stomach but wasn’t sure what it was as I didn’t think I could get such a painful contraction with no build up. He carried on showering and I found myself bent double over our bed breathing through 4 contractions in 10 minutes with poor Dylan watching me wondering what was going on! So I shouted Ben again and he got out of the shower and got dressed and took Dylan downstairs.
I called maternity triage who could hear how regular my contractions were and how much pain I was in and they said to go straight to the birth centre there and then. So Ben called Dylan’s nursery to warn them we were on our way with him and that he’d not had time for any breakfast. I called my doula Amy to let her know we were on our way to the birth centre, she said she would leave and meet us there. I also called my mum as she was supposed to be having Dylan while I was in labour but I asked her to come and see her granddaughter being born instead as luckily it had fallen on a nursery day!
We all got in the car for the most uncomfortable journey and we were so lucky that it was half term so there was hardly any traffic bearing in mind we were driving towards Manchester city centre in rush hour! When we got near to nursery I was in so much pain I said to Ben don’t take Dylan to his room, just drop him in the office and get back to the car quickly, I felt like the baby was coming soon.
So 10 minutes later we arrived at the birth centre and Amy my doula had just arrived before us. The midwives took us into the most gorgeous room with twinkle lights, soft waterfall sound effects and a big projector on the wall with waterfall videos, it was so relaxing. They got me on the futon to examine me and she said that I was 4cm dilated, fully effaced and my waters were bulging. She said I could get straight in the birthing pool and have the gas and air which I did. I forgot how amazing the gas and air is… the hallucinations! And the warm water was so soothing on my back.
I remember at one point feeling a bit panicky about my scar rupturing and asking the midwife if I was showing any signs of scar rupture. And then I panicked that the baby would get stuck like last time and asked her if the baby was back to back like last time. She answered no to both questions and reminded me that this was a different birth and to trust my body.
Amy made me 3 cups of tea which I downed in the pool, and we all had a laugh that I was alternating between gas and air and cups of tea (fab combination by the way!) Like Dylan’s birth, Ben was the official gas and air holder and my friendly face for when I was in crazy amounts of pain. Then as things were ramping up my mum arrived which I was so glad about. She was holding a cool flannel on my head and it was just generally soothing to have my mum there. I felt so safe surrounded by the people I chose to be at my birth and it was so completely different to my poor experience from Dylan’s birth.
Soon after my mum arrived my body started to push involuntarily. I didn’t need to be examined, I just knew that I must be fully dilated and my body knew what to do. I looked down between my legs as I thought I had pushed the baby’s head out but it was actually part of the sack full of waters that hadn’t burst yet, so surreal to see!
At this point the midwife used the Doppler and couldn’t find baby’s heart rate so very quickly her and the second midwife said I needed to get out of the pool immediately. I was so worried as it was like history repeating itself, they had to get me out of the pool as an emergency when I gave birth to Dylan.
As I got out of the pool I could feel her head crowning and the midwife could obviously see it too as she put her hand between my legs in case the baby came out! As soon as I was out of the water the pain was so intense as the gas and air had worn off and I had no other kind of pain relief in my system. I laid on the futon and begged for the gas and air but everyone was more focussed on the baby coming out so I didn’t get my gas and air back!
The next contraction came and I pushed so hard and her head was born, then one more push and she was in my arms crying! The sense of achievement straight away was just incredible and I still can’t believe that I achieved a vaginal birth after so many professionals told me I couldn’t do it.
I also specified in my birth plan that I wanted a physiological third stage which I’m glad about as the placenta came naturally around 10 minutes later. We waited until the cord had stopped pulsating completely and Ben got to cut the cord this time which we were so happy about.
My doula Amy managed to get some amazing photos of the labour and birth which I’m so happy about as we only got one photo of when Dylan was born. I honestly feel like I would do it all over again, I’m so thrilled I got the birth I wished for all along.
A perfect example of how listening to your intuition alongside the support of a trusted team who believe in you and your body can lead to a birth on your terms, despite the doubt of professionals. You are amazing Naomi!
We’re back again with the next part of this inspiring birth story. Here Jess shares her experience of the last weeks and days of her pregnancy and the beginnings of labour!
Eden’s birth story Part 2:
Every evening for over a week I’d get these annoying period type cramps. Once I even had a contraction. I’d also get these strange nerve pains that would make my legs feel numb, quite scary when I first experienced them. I’d have to do a low squat & breathe through them. Anyone witnessing me doing this as I walked around Tesco must have thought I was in labour! 🤣 In fact someone once asked me if I was okay!! All these things were uncomfortable & annoying but I took them as normal late pregnancy issues & tried to let go and enjoy our last days as a family of three.
For a few weeks I felt the need to slow down and conserve energy. We had help from family so I was able to spend time connecting with baby, resting, meditating, writing, nesting & batch cooking. Looking back I think these quiet times helped lay the foundations for the birth we were to have. Some dear friends put on a mother blessing for me & I made a birth altar in my bedroom with the affirmation art they made for me & other things I cherished.
I also met with my doulas, Greater Manchester Doulas, a few times and generally talked about how things had been. They were my true antenatal care, they listened with no agenda & made me feel valued. The main thing that kept coming up for me was not knowing the midwife who would attend my home birth. Everything I’d researched about the smoothest & safest way to birth was for the mother to be undisturbed so she can tune into her own body. So the idea of having someone there who knew nothing about me & who I’d never met before seemed bizarre and scary. I hadn’t had good experiences with my midwife team so had no faith that they would respect or even consider the importance of the energy or atmosphere they’d bring. So I decided we’d contact them late on in labour & ask them to stay in another room unless needed. I dared not tell any of the midwives this was our plan as I couldn’t face the barrage of questions and scare mongering that would have been bestowed on me so late in pregnancy. (Continued in comments)
Instead I wrote a birth plan and Ben and my doulas agreed to speak with them when the time arrived.
As the days rolled by and the baby got lower and heavier in my pelvis and the cramping and nerve pains continued, I began to get cabin fever. The day of Eden’s birth I was so grumpy and restless, like when you have an itch that you can’t quite scratch. Looking back this must have been a result of a hormonal surge in my body preparing for labour. I spent the day on my own and slept a lot. I had the urge to make a really nutritious and carb heavy lunch which is unusual as we tend to eat our main meal in the evening. The restlessness grew stronger as the day went on. I text a few friends and made a plan to meet up the next day with Luca in tow. I had no idea how I’d physically manage to wobble around a park with a toddler at nearly 42 weeks pregnant, but that feeling of needing change was intense! Later that evening Ben persuaded me to go for a walk with Luca and our dog Tilly. Walking any distance would set off the nerve pains so I wasn’t always up for them. It was a beautiful sunny evening and after our return, still feeling fed up, I decided there was only one thing for it…. a glass of wine! Well, this certainly got the baby moving! He started somersaults and pushing right down into my pelvis and generally having a dance party!! 🤣
Luca’s bedtime came round and I lay with him and fed him to sleep while Ben went to get us both food. While I lay there I began to realise the period cramps that I often experienced in the evenings were coming and going in more of a pattern than before. Not wanting to get excited I didn’t allow myself to think this could be the start. At this point in my pregnancy I was genuinely considering the idea that I might be pregnant FOREVER!! 😆 Luca went to sleep easily and we ate takeaway and chatted. Ben suggested watching TV but I didn’t fancy it. I felt an energy in me stirring, a really subtle shift of consciousnesses where half was busy somewhere else, perhaps preparing and paving the way for the journey I was about to take, while the other half was here, in the now. I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on much. I was in the ‘doing’ phase of labour: also the ‘denial’ phase where it’s actually obvious things have started but you pretend to yourself it hasn’t!!
When Ben asked how I was I told him the cramps where coming and going but not to get his hopes up as they would probably fade away. I could talk quite easily through them. It was about 9pm and the surges were probably every 20 minutes (although I wasn’t timing them and had no intention to start doing so either; I wanted to just stay in the moment). I suggested we got an early night incase things stepped up but by the time we’d sorted the dishwasher etc it was 10pm before we went upstairs. I told Ben to sleep in Luca’s room as I wanted him to get as much sleep as possible and not worry about disturbing him. At this point I was also really craving to be by myself.
To be continued…
Part 3 coming soon! In the meantime follow Jess and her wild adventures through motherhood on Instagram @these_adventures_of_ours
Our recent Wonder Woman was the lovely Jess, wild mother to Luca and Eden. We are lucky enough to be able to share her journey, from a traumatic first birth to the beautiful, healing home birth she had with her littlest one Eden.
Eden’s birth story Part 1:
During Eden’s pregnancy I knew I needed to work through many fears and unanswered questions from my first birth experience if I was going to birth in a way that felt positive and empowering this time round.
I’d wanted a water birth with minimal intervention with my first born, but in the end he was pulled from me with no time for any pain relief. I lay on my back, pain like I’d never known, under bright lights with lots of people watching, I felt helpless and powerless. I tore awfully and had to leave my tiny newborn and go straight to theatre for 3 hours afterwards. Yes I know others have traumatic births and yes I did have a healthy baby, but I’m not ashamed to say it broke me. I felt horrendous. Cheated. Angry. Grief stricken. Violated. Unheard. Except I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. I was supposed to feel lucky, relieved and ecstatic that my baby was safely here and grateful to the doctors that had helped me. People told me how fortunate it was that I hadn’t had the home birth I’d been thinking about having. “Imagine if the doctors weren’t there to help”, they would say. At the time I kind of agreed with them, but I also had this niggling feeling that things could have been different somehow if someone had truly believed in me and if I had truly believed in myself, but I didn’t quite understand what that meant. My body felt like it’d been run over by a train. My mind raced with thoughts of inadequacy; I’d needed medical intervention to get pregnant (IVF) and now medical help to birth my own baby! How the hell was I now expected to trust myself to know how to mother?!
I know that some people reading this may feel triggered by what I’m saying. You may feel annoyed towards me for feeling this way because you had it worse or you wish you had the privilege of birthing a child or you feel differently – maybe you did feel completely supported by your doctors or that you’d never dream of birthing outside of hospital because you see it as a risk. Know that I respect you and I would never judge a woman by her decisions or feelings. I understand these are my own personal feelings and everyone is different. I would say that if any of my birth story does bring up a strong emotional reaction for you, that it might be worthwhile talking it through with someone. Feel free to PM me. Although I’m not trained I can signpost you in the right direction for support.
Anyway it was a long road of acceptance after Luca’s birth. Talking about it with people who understood helped so much. Also breastfeeding, being able to do something with my body to nurture him helped so much.
When I fell pregnant again, naturally this time, I knew I could never birth like that again. I thought about an elective c-section but it didn’t fit right. So I talked some more, I rehashed Luca’s birth again. I re-examined every part of it, including the lead up to it. More uncomfortably I looked at the responsibility I held in the events that took place. I studied undisturbed birth and accepted some truths about birth in it’s essence. I sat with lots of fears and what ifs. It took a long while to weed out what I truly needed to birth in power. In the end I came to accept my highest need was to be surrounded by those that knew me and trusted me and trusted birth as a process. I’m not sure if I ever fully voiced it out loud but I came to realise that in my current circumstances I felt most in alignment and empowered when I thought about birthing on my own,
and as it turns out that’s exactly what ended up happening!
To be continued…
Stay tuned for the next part of Jess’ amazing birth story! In the meantime you can find her on Instagram @these_adventures_of_ours.