Updated: Sep 9
My pregnancy and birth journey started 6yrs before I successfully fell pregnant when I stumbled upon a birth documentary called 'The Face of Birth'.
Have you heard of it? You should, it's the original Birth Time movie and it completely blew the socks off my feet! My views of birth challenged for good (I watched it every month for a year!) as I learnt that:
women have an internal and innate power to birth without the need for intervention
homebirths - the safety & privacy the space of a home can provide can facilitate the natural 'openings and of unfolding' of birth
how 'freedom of choice' plays such an important role in the where and how of birth
That powerful movie (and the many more I found all those years ago), planted a clear and determined idea for how I wanted to birth. I held onto it for 6years, through our infertility struggles, IVF harvesting, body aches and pains, drugging and pregnancy losses, until the day we fell pregnant, finally in a position to make my own birthing decisions.
Sadly though, the Homebirth I had visualised all of those years fell out of my grasp when I failed to find a homebirth midwife. Given the fact, Private Midwives are in limited supply, stretched to capacity and are fully booked out for months in advance it was little wonder.
This was such a frustrating situation to be in. I knew the benefits of Homebirth, I wanted it so deeply and yet here I was being forced into the hospital system...
Maybe you have experienced this for yourself?
I thought about going Private, but my mum used to work for an Obstetrician and the stories she shared about their lack of empathy, their overcommitment to their downtime hobbies, the drugs, the interventions and their belief that women's bodies were faulty did NOT excite me. So I booked into the local public hospital in my town, where there was a strong Midwifery-led Group Practice. I hoped to get into this group, but alas because of IVF they classed me as high-risk and I wasn't allowed in.
As my pregnancy progressed so did my anxiety levels, particularly before a midwife appointment because I knew I would have to battle them on suggestions/policy that I knew I could say no to. I would spend hours researching, understanding my options, quite literally preparing to go into battle with them. The more I questioned, the more they pushed - it was bullying behaviour. At one particular appointment, I had three midwives come in (one after the other), implying I was doing a disservice to my child (I think it was the decline of the scan) each painting a picture of emergency procedures, one OB obnoxiously suggested she would break my baby's bones to get him out because she thought the scan looked large and that I would "probably need an emergency Caesarean."
You can't un-hear those words, and when you are in your "crisis of confidence" (as Rhea Dempsey calls transition) those words will sit on your shoulder, the evil gremlin of doubt, telling you can't. This is where language, its power and careful selection play in birth.
These stressful appointments went on till 29 weeks, feeling deflated, stressed and scared I called my Doula, Brooke from Be Birth, in a panic telling her "let's not go to the hospital when I need. Let's just stay at home, I can't do it!" Brooke was quick to counter this by suggesting she would try and find me a Homebirth Midwife.
Enter my incredible midwives, Janine O'Brien from iBirth - Intimate Birth & Beginnings and Karen Beasley. Their knowledge of physiological birth is second to none!
The night my son was born was surreal, sublime, the most exhilarating, intense and beautiful heart-opening day of my life. There, in the dark of our living room, two midwives and a doula held space for my husband & me as we birthed our beautiful and very large son (all 4.5kgs).
There is so much to love about homebirth, from the feelings of safety you get knowing that you are in a familiar space; the positive & encouraging energy it ensures (it is so quiet and serene). But, what I was most impressed with was how it facilitates the Maiden to Mother transition 'uninterrupted'. Don't get me wrong, no matter how you birth that transition will occur, I was eager to be that woman, in her own space. And it was......I honestly can’t find the right words to express the wonder of that night. It was so beautiful! Janine, Karen & Brooke were freaking phenomenal!!! Like rock-star amazing!! I have so much respect for Birth Workers and what they do!!
Helping a woman birth her baby in the safety of her home...that is true Artisanal skills right there.
Registered Homebirth Midwives use all of their senses to support women in a home birth setting. To “be with woman” is a skill - to monitor with a medical eye and to support with a woman’s knowing heart. Uninhibited by nor reliant on devices or monitoring equipment means they can sense the subtle cues of birth (the rhythm, the body, the cries and moans). More importantly, they know when to guide and encourage the mother through that ‘crisis of confidence.'
I wish every woman could experience what I experienced that night.
"Being pregnant and giving birth is like crossing a narrow bridge. People can accompany you to the bridge, they can even greet you on the other side, but you walk that bridge alone” - African Proverb
There is a wonderful card in our Positive Birth Affirmation Card Deck, an African proverb I love that says "Being pregnant and giving birth is like crossing a narrow bridge. People can accompany you to the bridge, they can even greet you on the other side, but you walk that bridge alone,”
No one can prepare you for birth! You can read the books, do the classes, eat the right foods, exercise, can be mentally ready, know the stages of birth, you can prepare your mind with meditation, affirmations and you can book the best birth workers but the blunt fact is you won't know how your birth will unfold until you are in it! You and you alone are the only person who can birth your baby. You have to find the strength to dive deep within, to find your powerful, brave self because she will carry you across the threshold.
How do I know this?
Because I found that brave, powerful woman inside of myself, and so can you! Women for millennia have been finding their brave selves and birthing their babies!
My homebirth was not what I expected! I mean, it was incredible, but it was also hard, fast, calm, serene, challenging, shocking, nauseating and painful! I had a quick labour - 6hrs establish and 2hrs active. My mental focus & strength was astounding, but I put that down to my Birth Affirmation cards and my dedication to visualise, meditate and prepare in the days and months leading up to that day. Mental preparation plays a powerful and important role in birth. It really does!
So what caught me off guard? What was it about my Homebirth that didn't go as planned? Was it the cold, intense adrenaline-fueled shake I got once the contractions started? Or the awful pain my hips created because of that adrenaline shake? Or was it the moment my son got stuck in my pelvis and had to be pulled out? (All thanks to a combination of tight ligaments, old dance injuries, my son's wide shoulders and my positioning in the pool - I have since learnt about Spinning Babies and Optimal Maternal Position and would love to explore these techniques next time).
So what was it?
Sure I tore, I lost a lot of blood, and at one point, during the transition, I cursed myself for wanting a homebirth, away from the lure of that blasted epidural (hello crisis of confidence) but I wasn't surprised by any of these things either.
That night, I came face to face with a woman I had never met! She was strong, stronger than I have ever been in my entire life. She was self-assured, loud, in control for the most part as she smiled, sang and drew comfort from her Affirmation Cards, internally controlled her pain with her breath.
She was so sure, so confident of the process.
I think it was because she drew strength from the knowledge she and her baby were safe and in the sanctuary of their own home. There was no one to fight, no negotiating to do, no bright lights, no medical machines making annoying beeping sounds, no privacy curtains being swung open and closed by a busy team "just checking on your progress".
Instead, there was a team that trusted in her ability. They sat there in the darkness with her, quietly, encouragingly and emphatically holding space for her while her body & baby did what they needed to do.
She was so sure, so confident in the process and I think it was because she drew strength from the knowledge she and her baby were safe and in the sanctuary of their own home. There was no one to fight, no negotiating, no bright lights, no medical machines beeping, just a team who trusted in my ability and sat there in the darkness with me, quietly, encouragingly and emphatically as my body & baby did what they needed to do.
That woman, the one I brought forth that day from the depths of my soul, was the woman who held my hand and walked me through those final stages of labour. She was the 'unexpected' element in my homebirth and I am so pleased she was there.
She continues to walk me through my Matrescense journey.