“Yes! No? Maybe… Argh!” These were my thoughts and emotions for 26 weeks of this pregnancy. Twenty-six weeks of pro and con lists, asking other people for their opinions and intense premature nesting urges to distract myself from making a decision. When I finally made a decision it happened within the space of 24 hours. But let me reverse a little to give you the backstory.
Almost three years ago I gave birth to my daughter. It was a natural, unmedicated, physiological childbirth. I am lucky enough to have a great group of friends and family members who are advocates of natural childbirth. I educated myself about pregnancy, labour and birth. I stayed fit to give my body the best possible chance of being physically up for the challenge. I picked my birth team carefully to ensure they were going to help me rise rather than crumble in a moment of crisis. I prepared myself mentally as best as I could. I picked a caregiver I believed in - one of Melbourne’s largest, public, inner-city hospitals. I attended two birth education courses, the standard hospital course at a major inner city hospital and an independent course run by a passionate birth attendant and educator. I was a willing woman.
Giving birth was an amazing experience. Don’t get me wrong - it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it hurt like hell, but at the same time it was indescribable and so empowering. The thought of pain relief didn’t even cross my mind because I felt safe and fully supported by my wonderful partner and our doula. In fact, I felt like a superhero for weeks!
This powerful start to motherhood made me realise I was strong enough to do absolutely anything!
However, when I started to meet more new mums the reality of our current birth culture hit me hard. So many of the mothers I talked to had traumatic experiences and still believe that there was no possible other way their birth story could have turned out. I wanted to help women through the emotional struggles of pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period! Long story short: I trained as a doula and childbirth educator, become a huge birth nerd and founded My Kind of Birth.
Over the next three years I attended many labours of strong birthing mummas, read loads of books and articles and immersed myself in the world of birth and babies.
So when I fell pregnant again everyone around me assumed I wouldn’t have to prepare for this birth because I had done it before and I had seen so many births now. But exactly that became one of my problems: I had seen so many births now. So many hospital births, to be precise, where something didn’t go according to ‘plan’, where something was said or done to the labouring woman that would never have happened had she been in a different, more supportive environment at that time. So many births that would have unfolded faster, easier and with less intervention if the mum-to-be had been supported by a team of professionals who knew what physiological birth looks like and how to hold space for her.
In the early weeks of this current pregnancy I had some appointments with private midwives but didn’t feel like I ‘clicked’ with them on a personal level. I knew that if I was going to have a home birth I had to find midwives I really connected with. So I went to my first few appointments at the hospital, still unsure about what I was going to do. This is when the next ‘problem’ came up. After my daughter’s birth I lost 750ml of blood - more than usual but not that much on the scale of postpartum haemorrhages. Without getting into a long story about it, most midwives and obstetricians I have talked to about the events of that day agree that the PPH was caused by a mismanaged physiological third stage; Mismanaged by the hospital staff attending to me that day. It’s really not that surprising if you look at the statistics for third stage delivery in Australia. Active management, meaning with the help of a syntocinon injection, is the routine procedure for placenta delivery in Australia. Physiological third stage mainly happens in birth centres and at home births.
This became the second ‘problem’ for my current pregnancy. Every midwife and obstetrician at the hospital had a different opinion on what was going to happen to me after this baby was born. Some weren’t too fussed and asked me what I would like to do regarding the third stage, others told me that there was only one way it was going to go down: I haemorrhaged once so I am going to haemorrhage again. Therefore, I was going to get a cannula upon arrival, I was going to have this, this and this drug, I was going to do it their way or the highway. At this point I should tell you that I am a control freak.
I am educated and strong willed and I don’t deal well with people telling me what I can and can’t do.
So, guess what? I didn’t like this message of “Your body failed you, you won’t be able to do this, we will handle it for you”. Uhm,... thanks but “No, thanks.” So I went into every appointment, ready to defend my position, never knowing who I was going to see and what their opinion was. This wasn’t the state of mind I wanted to be in when labouring and giving birth.
Then there were a few minor issues that swirled around my head. Last time we made it to the hospital as I started to feel the first little urge to push. Perfect. But was I going to make it there in time for this baby? I have seen heaps of home birth videos with toddlers at the birth. My daughter enjoys watching birth videos and is super excited about the baby coming. If she is interested on the day I would love to have her around me and present for the birth of her sibling. That would obviously be much easier at home than at the hospital.
Writing all this makes me realise that I had my mind made up a long time ago. So why was this so hard? I knew the stats. I knew that homebirth was safe. I knew about the importance of your birth team and birth place. Heck, I talk about it with my clients, on my blog and on social media all the time. I adore Penny Simkin and her wisdom on finding a nurturing care provider and creating positive memories. Why was it so hard when it came to making the decision for myself? I’m not sure what I was waiting for; A special sign? Some writing in the sky saying “Change provider now”? I’ve got no clue. Maybe it was just a bloody hard decision to make and, as always, I needed to wait until it felt right… or until it all came to a big, fat blow up.
Well, that’s pretty much what happened. One day around 26 weeks gestation I was booked in for an appointment at the hospital. I left the house on time with a toddler in tow (lunch box and games packed for a long waiting period at the hospital), drove through morning peak hour traffic, found a car park four blocks away, rushed to the daycare clinic because now I was almost running late, only to be told that my appointment had been cancelled and it seemed like no one had notified me. No shit. Combine that with some hormones and you’ve got a raging pregnant woman. Someone else might have just rescheduled and not bat a lid but as mentioned before, my mind was made up.
I knew I wanted to feel safe, respected, supported, heard and understood. All I needed was a little shove.
So, when I stopped fuming about the unapologetic receptionist, I started to compile a list of private midwives, called them, talked about my previous birth and this pregnancy, listened to what they had to say, how they responded to my stories and my insecurities and carefully noticed how they made me feel. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t scary. After a few phone calls I knew who I wanted to be by my side when I gave birth. All of a sudden it was crystal clear and the easiest thing in the world.
I have had a few appointments with my home birth midwives now and I could not be happier. They are bloody good at what they do and are so, so, so caring! The appointments are so much longer and more personal than at the hospital. It is a lot less stressful to get there and my daughter loves seeing the midwives - in fact, she palpates my belly at home and listens to the heartbeat of her sibling with anything that looks remotely like a doppler. I feel calm and ready to birth this baby. This was the right decision and it came at the right time.
If you would like some more help in preparing for the birth of your baby check out our Melbourne based birthing classes or sign up to our newsletter to receive free online education materials. Our classes are held by an amazing team and include a midwife, a childbirth educator, a doula, a prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation consultant. There is a mix of gentle birthing techniques like breathing and birth hypnosis and active labour exercises.
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