Sunday, 10 July 2011

Don't let them tell you birth's not beautiful

I recent read a story about the unassisted birth of undiagnosed twins.  Now this lady wasn't looking for an unassisted birth.  The babies were BBA (born before arrival) of the Midwife.  It was a planned homebirth and the mum simply trusted her body and her baby was born.

This reminded me of the two babies that I 'caught' in their homes.  Both mothers had planned hospital births.  These were first babies and both mothers wanted the 'safety' of hospital.  The first was insistent that her low pain level meant she would require an epidural, the second wanted to do everything to avoid an epidural as she had done her research and believed that she could do it.  The first laboured silently and had a slight change in demeanour and stance, the second roared throughout with an increase in roar and intensity moments before the baby was born.  What they both had in common was a faith and belief in their own bodies.

I find it sad that whenever there is an article, blog or news report of an unassisted birth, the first comments are instant 'doomsayers'.  "Ooh you are so lucky that there were no complications", "My baby would have died if that had happened to us".  There is no denying that there are times when life saving measures NEED to be taken, the clue being in LIFE SAVING.  Why is it wrong to glory in the beauty of birth?  Why can't women, mothers, pat themselves on the back and say "look at me.  I did it!"?  Mothering can be a thankless task at the best of times, so why can't we start our mothering careers with a quick "didn't I do well"?  None of this is about downplaying some one else's birth experience.  This is that moment of congratulation when Mum can look at herself and say "Wow but I was wondrously made, and look at what I was blessed enough to do".

There are many many horror stories about birth out there.  Many!  The oft trumpeted hospital birth having quite a few.  For those that have horror stories there is the birth trauma support group.  A healthy baby isn't the only outcome that we should look for at a birth.  We also need a happy, healthy mother.    What messages do we send to our daughters if we hold back the 'good' birth stories?  And when I say 'good birth stories', I don't just mean the unassisted births or the 'I just breathed and the baby came', I mean ALL the good birth stories.  The 'I laboured for hours and just when I thought I couldn't go on, I was holding my baby', the 'I had my baby in hospital and the MW was so hands off'.  I even mean the 'I knew the pros and cons, I chose to have an epidural and had a lovely birth',  and the 'I was induced and it happened quickly and easily'.  Funny how women are allowed to have THOSE birth stories and no one accuses them of passing judgement on others.  

One of my ladies (remote support) went to 43 weeks with her pregnancy.  It's not as uncommon as you might think, given the levels of inductions at 41+ weeks.  There are the horror stories of the doubling of the still birth rate.  Well who wouldn't run into hospital to be induced if they knew the risk of still birth was doubled!  But what do they mean by doubled? 0.3% to 0.6%.  Statistics. (Here's a quick look at some hospital statistics for birth and maternal health.)  We need to know what they are and what they mean in relation to us and our bodies and babies.  My lovely lady, S, wanted a homebirth.  Her pregnancy was normal.  There were no high risk indicators, both S and baby were doing fine.  As she passed her EDD (Estimated Due Date) the talk turned to induction. The risks began to be talked about.  The homebirth midwives began to say that they would not be able to come out to her if she went over 42 weeks.  Week 40 and her friends were beginning to become impatient.  "Haven't you had that baby yet?", "I can't wait to see that baby.  Why isn't it here yet?".  They began to suggest induction and ask if she was going to be induced.  Week 41 rolled up.  The homebirth midwives were crossing their fingers, but bound by hospital protocol, reminded S that she would have to go to hospital to give birth.  Week 42 appeared.  Mum and Dad were trusting her body and knew that their baby wasn't ready to be born.  The hospital told her that she would no longer be allowed to have a homebirth and that she would have to go in and have a hospital birth.  S asked simply to be monitored and, politely but firmly, told the hospital that her intention was to give birth at home.  With each monitoring appointment, all was clear that mum and baby were healthy and happy.  S, herself, was beginning to get impatient.  "What can I do to hurry this up?" she asked me.  "Wait!" I said.  "Okay, I'll continue with the monitoring and I'll wait".  Week 42 was coming to an end.  The external voices were getting louder "This is taking a really long time.  Are you allowed to be pregnant for so long?".  "Is this baby ever coming?".  S trusted her body.  The baby was moving nicely.  The monitoring still showed a healthy baby and mum.  Good, steady heartbeat.  Dad trusted Mum.  The hospital again told her that hospital protocol didn't allow for her to give birth at home.  When she, again politely and firmly, told that that she was staying home, they told her that they had a duty of care to provide a midwife, but that she had to come in to hospital.

Labour started slowly and moved slowly.  36 hours in and Dad called me for a chat.  What could they do to get things moving?  I replied "Lots of sex and laughter".   More waiting.  He told me that she was having difficulty using the bathroom.  I mentioned that perhaps the head was moving down and getting ready.  He replied "No, the contractions aren't regular enough and she only feels uncomfortable". And then suddenly she was in the birth pool, and then 8-9cm dilated.  Within a couple of hours she was holding her baby and Dad text to tell me that it was a beautiful birth, he remembered his role in encouraging her when it got harder for her at the end. When their daughter was born, the midwives agreed that there was no way this baby was overdue, but had come exactly when she was meant to.  

How different all of that might have been with the interventions.  36 hours of labour and not much seeming to happen?  Surely that's cause for syntocinon?  Surely she needs to have her waters broken?  Surely speed is needed to 'get the baby out'?  

It's time to begin loving women again.  Loving BEING a woman again.  Trusting in women's bodies again.  Celebrating the wonder that is a birthing mother.