Past and current clients keep telling me to watch One Born Every Minute. Despite my deep love of birth, it has never appealed to me. Until tonight I have watched about ten minutes in total. That was enough to send my blood pressure through the roof.
Tonight I decided to watch because I had an email from Maggie Howell to say that one of the ladies would be giving birth using Natal Hypnotherapy. So I put aside my many many prejudices and I watched.
It was all I could do not to leap into the television and dim some lights, shut everyone up and allow the mums to just go into themselves. I do not understand this obsession with having women lay on their backs to birth. That goes against gravity, imagine pushing up hill. Not so good. And the level of noise in the birthing rooms, from the supporters and midwives was astonishing. That said, I did see some lovely midwives and I wouldn't want you to get the impression that I'm not a fan.
When a woman goes into labour and her body gets ready to birth her child what she wants is a sense of privacy and safety. More times than not she will want all the noise around her to cease. All of that is a bit difficult with a camera pointed straight at her, a midwife telling her not to make noise whilst narrating her contractions and encouraging her to do purple pushing. Purple pushing is where the mum is told to hold her breath, put her chin on her chest and push through her bottom. The purple describes her face as it fills with blood and the veins on her neck begin to bulge. She is not allowing her body to be filled with oxygen and all the noise goes into her throat. The mouth mimicks the mouth of the vagina. When a woman is in the early stages of labour her mouth is a small circle and short intakes of breath can often be heard. As she progresses through the labour her mouth opens and she begins to "whoooo" and then to "aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh". When she is told to be quiet and to not lose energy through her noise she can begin to lose confidence in herself and her ability to birth. Of course there are times when directed pushing is incredibly useful and, not to put too fine a point on it, paramount for the safety of the baby (it gets the baby out more quickly).
I have seen many women give birth without purple pushing to the astonishment of their midwives. They've gotten into positions that make them comfortable and ignored the demand that they get back onto the bed and lie down. At one birth a few years ago my lady had the back of the bed raised and she knelt down the length of it. Two midwives told her she needed to change her position because they were finding it hard to see what was going on. Her husband told them to allow his wife to trust her body. As her son eased into the world, to my surprise, the midwives both said that they had never seen a woman birth like that before.
They are changing though. I meet many midwives who are as hands off as they can be, who speak with quiet gentle voices and are not afraid of the silence as mum closes off her thinking brain and goes into her instinctual self. They move about unobtrusively ticking all their boxes waiting for the baby to come. In a time where our Prime Minister has turned his back on his promise to hire more midwives we need this type of midwife more than ever. The mums want a midwife who is there for her. Who sees her as a woman and not just another someone to contain. There is a Facebook campaign to save midwifery and I would encourage you all to join it. There are so many scare stories in the press about the safety of mums and babies being compromised. This is not the time to reduce the staff. If the birth rate, as reported, is rising, then we need more not less midwives.
This is not the first fight for midwives. Independent Midwives are also fighting for their survival. If we want women to be able to exercise choice in birth then we have a responsibility to sign up. We don't need to be Egyptian to make our voices heard.
Don't believe the birthing images that you see in the soaps and even on "factual" programmes like One Born Every Minute. Just know that your birth journey will be unique to you.
As for me. I don't think I'll watch again. Turning purple is not a good look for me.