I’ve never hidden the fact that my first two births were so traumatic that I would be strongly considering a freebirth for my next. But my heart and soul have been changing on this recently. Why?
I recently saw a woman attended by an amazing midwife. One who truly practised “with woman” midwifery. A midwife who stood by her and supported her. Who advocated for her to the OB who was trying to scare her into accepting interventions that she didn’t want. A midwife who held the space with us while my client took 2 hours to decide whether she wanted antibiotics for prolonged rupture of membranes and never once put pressure on to make the decision more quickly. A midwife who answered all our questions as best she could, never once brushed them off as "unimportant" and had no problems admitting when she didn’t know the answers. A midwife who ensured that she had valid consent every single time she touched my client. Implied consent was not used once. A midwife who quietly admitted to me that what is “normal” for birth in a hospital is very very different to what is “normal” for birth.
As I held the space and supported my client I felt so many wonderful things (as you do when you are supporting a woman in labour), but I also felt something that I never expected to feel. Jealousy. Of course my client fully deserved this gold standard care. And I will be forever grateful that she had access to it. But so did I. I deserved it for my last 2 births and I deserve it for my next birth.
I often hear / read conversations in birth circles that go like this:
“I plan to decline all the routine procedures and not let them touch me. I’m just going to push my baby out by myself.”
“Well…why don’t you just freebirth and save yourself the trouble of going to hospital?”
Which is a good point. And different women will have different answers to that question. But here’s where my thoughts have gone on this topic.
Just because I plan to decline CFM doesn't mean that I deserve to birth all alone. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I have no fears or doubts about the physiology of birth. I feel completely confident that I could go into labour and, safely, birth my baby at home. Alone.
And that’s what gets me. I would be alone. Completely. I would not be able to share my journey openly with my family (who, thankfully, don’t read my writing!). I wouldn’t be able to fully share my plans at my blessingway. I wouldn’t be able to be honest and open with care providers I encountered during my pregnancy or even afterward. Because I don’t want to get reported to Child Safety for choosing to freebirth. And because I won’t be able to tell anyone when I am in labour my partner will likely be busy looking after the children and pretending I’m not presently birthing our baby in our ensuite at a time when I most need his support.
I deserve to have my partner by my side during birth - Not looking after our children so my labour can remain a secret. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I want to avoid hospital because I don’t want to be unsupported. But just because I won’t be actively unsupported doesn’t mean that I will be supported. I deserve to be supported.
A friend in a group that I run commented that it is “the lack of ritual around my pregnancies (3 free births)”. And this is a great way to describe it. No check ups or chatting about the pregnancy and birth plans. No reassurances.
I deserve to have someone bear witness to my spiritual and emotional transformation. Just because it will be my 3rd baby doesn’t mean that my transformation will be any less significant or any less worthy.
“Well just get a midwife”.
Sounds so fucking simple hey. After all, there’s midwives everywhere. But remember that story at the start of this piece? That’s actually quite rare. And that awesome midwife showed up after my client had dealt with a bait and switch from her previous midwife and a good bit of bullying from her other care providers. Midwives who truly honour women are actually not found on every street corner – or in every hospital. And should I really have to go through the bullying I know that my local hospital will dish out, simply on the off chance that I get a great midwife who is suited to me?
Supportive midwives aren't found on every corner. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I guess this is where I add a disclaimer: Just because a midwife isn’t suited to me doesn’t mean that they aren’t a “good” midwife and that they may not be the perfect match for another woman / couple. A midwife who is perfect for me, may be very unsuitable for someone else. We’re all individuals, with individual needs.
I hear everyday from women who simply can’t get a midwife to support their birth plans. “Oh we’ll support you in hospital, but not at home.” “We can support you to have a family centred caesarean.” “Sure we’ll support you but you have to have continuous monitoring / VEs every 2/4/6 hours / birth baby in 8/12/18 hours / have baby before 39/40/41/42 weeks”. If someone says that they will support you BUT it erases the support. True support is not conditional.
And I must be due to do more writing about the issues facing midwifery care in Australia because the real kicker is this: It’s not the fault of midwives that they aren’t supporting women. But that will be a conversation for another blog piece.
I deserve this moment. And I deserve to be surrounded by love and support when it happens. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
For now I am left with the issue that I, and many other women, have a choice for our next births: Bullying, coercion and manipulation or free birth. Crap care or no care at all.
I feel very saddened by this post. I feel that every you the writer should have the experience that you are emotionally and spiritually looking for I am a hospital midwife and i feel the same way that you have expressed of your worries. I wish that i could help you through your journey. I too am hoping that things here in australia change and let woman who are low risk have more say in their birth plans.... I also believe that you should not have to go through such an amazing journey "alone"..... I am hoping with more experience behind me i will one day be one of these extraordinary home bith midwives...