I am in the process of finally writing the birth stories of my two little humans – Adeline, my daughter, who is now three, and Emmett, my son, who is 8 months old at this point. How did time fly so fast!? How have I not written down two of the most amazing events in my life yet??
Self-beratement to the side, I’m working on it. I find, however, that as I’m writing down the stories of their arrivals in this world, there were so many other things leading up to the actual births, that I simply can’t fit all of it into one post.
One of those things, that is very much worth a dedicated post, is the fact that I chose to move to midwife-led antenatal care and birth when I was about 28 weeks pregnant with my first baby. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but MAN, am I glad I did it!
To start off with, I need to say that I had an amazing pregnancy with Adeline. My sister, to this day, calls it a unicorn pregnancy, because I had minimal aches and pains, and slept well right through to the end – I honestly don’t think I had a single night’s bad sleep throughout the whole pregnancy. I felt comfortable up until the day she was born at 42 weeks and 1 day. (Just before you start hating me, my second pregnancy was not like this at all.)
I was seeing my obstetrician every 4 weeks, as is the norm in South Africa. She was extremely thorough and professional, and I had such an appreciation for her.
However, as my pregnancy progressed, I read two very important books.
1. Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth, and
For the first time in my life I was in charge of the information I was absorbing regarding birth. Up until this point I had been a very passive consumer of whatever I was fed in terms of what labor and birth look like. Hollywood LOVES a dramatic, traumatic birth, and other women very proudly share just how grueling and traumatic their own birth experiences were. And so, we come to believe that that is what childbirth is – the crazy, rushed, excruciatingly painful drama fests we see on TV, or the traumatic events other women so willingly share. We believe that there is no alternative, and we spend our whole pregnancy dreading the inevitable traumatic event that will bring our baby into our arms.
However, as I educated myself, with facts, literature, studies, and anatomical truths, I started forming a very clear (and very possible) picture in my mind of what I want my birthing to look like – In terms of:
the care I wanted to receive,
the privacy I so very much valued,
the people I wanted to be present,
the people I did NOT want to be present,
the feeling I wanted to have throughout,
what I wanted to eat and drink,
the freedom of movement I wanted as I labored,
and the respect I wanted in terms of being left to go about my business and do what I truly believed my body knew how to do best.
MY CHOICES REFLECT MY HOPES
I got to a point where I wasn’t sure that what I wanted was going to be honoured in a hospital setting. At about 28 weeks I decided to switch to midwife led care. Not because the care that I was getting was anything but great – it was motivated more by the end goal and the picture of what I wanted my birth to be like when the time came.
I don’t think it would have been easy to fulfill that picture I had in a hospital setting. It felt like I would have had less control over making this picture my reality if I were in a hospital, with nurses I had never met, changing shifts, and insurance-led procedures and active birth management protocols. I had this idea in my head that I would have to adhere to a sheet of check boxes and expected timelines, and I just wasn’t up to that kind of rigid system, or the pressure that it came with.
I completely understand that hospital staff needs to adhere to quite a strict protocol to protect them from liability. I get it. I just felt that that would not be prioritising me, and that this type of system doesn’t necessarily prioritise mother-led birthing. It’s like trusting a woman’s body to birth in its own unique way means that they do not have enough control over the process, which then increases their risk and liability. So to prevent that, they approach birth like a medical event, in stead of a normal life event, with checklists, processes, interventions, and expectations – and with expectations come pressure.
I CHOSE CALM
As you will see in the HypnoBirthing® book, pressure or stress is the very last thing you want while you are giving birth. Stress and fear create tension, which in turn causes the laboring mother to experience more pain, stalls labor, and if not remedied, could very easily lead to emergency interventions. I made a very conscious decision to not place myself in a situation where it was, most probably, very likely for me to get stressed. I also took into account my history with anxiety and just decided to, very consciously, create an environment where anxiety, pressure and stress would not by default be present.
This was the birth of my children, and I just wasn’t going to leave the outcome to chance. Every single decision I made was an informed one (because we all become crazy researchers when we are pregnant, right?). Every choice was a deliberate, confident, gut-trusting, self-valuing move to ensure that I had the best possible chance at achieving my natural birth, in a world that seems to have lost trust in a woman’s body and abilities.
MY IDEAL OUTCOME
In hindsight, I believe that my move to midwife led care was the best possible decision I could have made for me. It turned out my birth did not go according to checklists and expectations in terms of progression, and I very much do believe that if I had been in a hospital setting I would have been pressured to consider interventions. I would possibly have been more exposed to negative talk, or would have had to expend more energy to explain to every nurse and doctor that I wanted to eat, drink, move, and labor as I felt necessary. It would have changed and influenced the mindset I was in, and probably have led to a very different outcome for me on the day.
I’ve had two beautiful babies, two beautiful, relaxed labors, and two super positive, beautiful births. I would not change a thing in either case. I was trusted, supported, empowered, consulted, cared for, and respected by my expert midwife in both events – an invaluable notion I will hold in my heart, with gratitude, for as long as I live.