Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The part where I decided to birth alone.

For my second birth I planned a home water birth.  My mother had a home birth with me and the midwife who attended my birth lived in my street when I was growing up.  I always got fuzzy feelings when my mum would tell me how my dad was the first person to hold me and he wrapped me in one of his old shirts.  Then the first thing he said was, 'She looks like a baby rat.'  (Thanks, Dad.)   My aunt who I always wished was my mum when I wasn't seeing eye to eye with my mum was a midwife for many years.  So I had strong views that home birth with a midwife was the ideal for me.

My first pregnancy was complicated with acute pre-eclampsia and a hospital was at the time the safest place to birth.  The trauma from that experience assured me that as long as my pregnancy remained fit and healthy, I was staying home.

The community midwives who provided my antenatal care however, did not agree.  
At first there was the lie: 
MW Our midwifery team doesn't do home births so you will have to transfer to another team.
Me:  Ok, transfer me.

and obstruction: 
MW But you have SPD.
Me:  A water birth is easier on a woman with SPD.

and the shroud waving: 
MW: What if you have pre-eclampsia again?
Me: As long as I remain fit and healthy, I am staying home.

MW: "What if you need to transfer?"
Me: I will get a transfer.  But as long as I am fit and healthy, I am staying home.
MW: "What if you hemorrhage?"
Me: Midwives carry kit and have skills to intervene and I can transfer in.  But as long as I am fit and healthy, I am staying at home.

and the emotional blackmail:  
MW: What does your husband think of this.
Me:  (laughing inside, Not that I have to discuss it with him anyway but...) If my husband can't talk me out of a home birth, neither can you.

I went home depressed after that meeting but read up on my rights and then I got angry.

So a letter using the AIMS template meant I had a different midwife and all would be warned not to be messing with my plans.  Or so I thought.

My next antenatal appointment with the team leader of the community midwives, in brief, went like this:
She preached, nay, evangelized that I could birth anywhere I wanted and that I had their undying fealty. At first I felt relief then suspicion because like they say, if it is too good to be true...

Yes, there it was, the change in expression, and tone as she looked me in the face and said, "But, if we are too busy on the ward you will have to come in."  

There it was.  There is the cheap deception, the cheap blackmail which takes away so many women's choice.  Instill the fear.  Make her responsible for the safety of other women.  Guilt her with having two midwives when 16 other women shared 4.

I argued with her for several minutes, repeating I would never go into hospital again unless for a medically necessary caesarean section, citing my previous trauma which made me terrified of birthing suites. And there she sat, undermining me, telling me 'but that won't happen again', and how could I want a midwife to come to me when other women were in labour, and at one point, disputing actual events from my previous birth experience because 'that never happens'.  

So I went home again, disappointed, again but angry again.  And I wrote another letter, this time to the Head of Midwifery, the Head of Obstetrics, and the Chief Executive, that I would not be not coming in due to their staff shortage.

But quietly inside, all trust in the midwives was gone.  I did not share that with anyone.  I no longer wanted them with me at my birth despite knowing that all my requests were reasonable.

My friend said one day, 'sometimes women wait to call the midwives so that by the time they arrive the baby is nearly there.'  And then I saw my path.

I was already doing natal hypnotherapy in preparation for my birth.  I could never visualise a midwife at my birth.  I was always alone.  I told no one, not even my husband because I did not want anyone to feel responsible for my choice.  I trusted me and my mammalian body. I didn't need anyone injecting fear and doubt and I was tired of fighting so I settled into myself and into an inner space of calm. And it was fear that these midwives were bringing.  To me they were fearful of home births for many reasons I am not privy to.

I had a couple uneventful antenatal appointments with a new midwife and then another one, at about 37 weeks with the head of the community midwives.  She did a palpation and determined that my baby's shoulder was presenting, though previous palpation by the other midwife had said the baby was head down. She looked scared, and sent me off for a scan. My gut reaction was, 'you are scared to have to attend a home birth'. As I expected, the consultant felt, then scanned, confirming that the baby was head down.  

I was now terrified that these midwives would turn up! 

I felt safer birthing alone.  I knew that it was me and no one else who could birth this baby.  I only wanted someone there to guide me.  Someone with knowledge and confidence of previous normal births to keep my company.  I knew that I would now do it on my own.  I come from a long line of home birthing Mayan women.  I would just go and do the work like Mayan women have done for several thousand years.

I eventually went into labour at 41 weeks.  Labour was fast.  I turned down my husband's first request to phone the midwife.  I phoned my friend first.  The second time my husband asked, I rang the birthing suite, planning to hang up immediately if they told me to 'come in because they were too busy'.   But they said they would be here in an hour.

A quick wave of fear rushed over me that the baby would not yet be born before the midwives arrived. Then 'the race was on', as I envisioned it. 
 And I got my wishes.   Thanks to living in a new house, the midwives had a little trouble finding the address and the baby was sitting quietly in my arms for 5 minutes, where she had taken her first breath.

Do I regret being 'pushed' into a solo birth?  
No in fact I learned something timeless and instinctual through experience because I was pushed.
I trusted my body before I was pushed.  I had do not fear the birthing process.
The midwives' behaviour made me eliminate them from my plans.
I regret the absence of a positive relationship with a midwife, a role that is supposed to be 'with woman'.


VikingWarriorLady said...

An interesting read. More balanced than anything I have read on freebirthing (usually on American sites). You have articulated how I feel about my next birth - I am not pregnant yet, but planning the fight already.

The obstacles you describe are all very common experiences in my PCT, and I do know many staff at various levels within obstetrics here. One of very pro home-birth, and all the rest pay lip-service only. And denial of your birth experience is gaslighting!

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thank you for this clear, articulate description of your experience. All midwives need to read this. Congratulations on the birth of your baby. I'd love to hear about the birth of the placenta too. Before or after the midwives? Your presence of mind during your labour and baby's birth was so clear and focussed, you described that so beautifully! An awesome read.

Maxine Hardinge said...

I am one of those midwives that needed to read this. I am admit to being quite intolerant of planned unassisted birth: having travelled a lot in developing countries, I see it as a Western indulgence that women from those poorer communities would rarely choose, as they are regularly exposed to women and babies getting sick or dying from lack of access to a skilled birth attendant.
Your story is very well written and I will share it with my students and colleagues to continue the discussion/activism to address the limited range of care models and extreme staff shortages that is at the heart of the matter - so that women can be supported in their reasonable, legitimate and rightful choice to birth wherever they feel is best for them and their baby.

The Rabbit in the Moon said...

Thank you all for your kind words. I do hope my story is spread among midwives, students, doulas, mothers and mothers to be. It is never a simple decision that a woman takes when she decides to go alone. So many variables come into play and to not stop and listen to her story undermines her choices and pushes birth attendants away from her.

I will update on the delivery of the placenta soon, Carolyn.

VikingWarriorLady, I stand beside you in sisterhood.