Saturday, January 21, 2012

The first catch is the sweetest

The birth:

At 00.01 one morning in January, the world welcomed another baby. He was born in water, into the waiting arms of his mother and the guiding hands of his midwife. He birthed himself whilst his mother laboured into the night. He was not delivered, he was not even caught really, he was just guided, shown the way to his mama.

They worked through her pain and helped her with her fear. They reassured her that she was strong and that she could do it, but they were there for her all the while. The husband never left her side and the midwife was just quietly present.

She eventually found that part of her inner self that realised she needed to get on and birth her son rather than fight against the waves of contractions. She knew that her husband was holding her hand and that the midwife was there, in the corner, watching and observing as she had learned to do.
The midwife would listen to the baby and reassure her that all was well. They would together rub her back and pour warm water from the pool over her shoulders. As the night moved on and people slept below, somewhere, in the quiet, in radiant beauty, a mother birthed her first born child.

As her son slipped from his warm home for the last nine months, she let out a gasp and the tears fell. "My son...My Thomas!" she called out his name and looked up at his husband with wonder and anticipation in her eyes. "Thomas? Right?" she questioned.
I don't think her husband would have denied her calling him anything at that point.
The midwife, however, smiled as her own firstborn son was Thomas too.
The mother then went on to birth her placenta without interruption or need for any intervention.
Whole, intact and undisturbed.

The midwife's tale

It is such an honourable job to be present at a birth, but more so when you are the carer of that woman throughout her labour and see her to the end. When your hands are poised to help the baby come to meet its parents and you are the first to touch that new life - what humility, what a small part we really play!

Any birth is special, but a birth where it is your very first 'catch' is ultra special. The feelings of pride and ecstasy when a wet, pink screaming baby is put onto his mothers chest is second to none and it brings tears to my eyes as I write.

I have been very lucky so far with the births I have been present at. 2 homebirths already, 2 water births already and another normal birth. Writing my current essay about ways to help a woman have a normal, physiological birth, always brings to the forefront of my mind the environment within which many students see birth. The fact that whilst I was doula-ing in the USA, 85% of the births I witnessed were on beds, had epidurals or intervention or were in lithotomy. It is quite easy to resign yourself to the feeling that "yes, you know that birth is a normal, physiological event, but we are products of our environment so therefore..." but, stop, NO!

Birth IS a normal, physiological event and we make ourselves products of our environment by not bathing ourselves in normality or stories of normality. A story about a lots of blood loss, or about a 'touch and go' scenario is draws the listener in far more, than one that just tells a normal tale of a normal birth in normal circumstances. Horror movies or tales that tell of fear, near death experiences and edge-of-your-seat excitement pump more adrenaline than a straighforward biographical documentary. It's car-crash society viewing!

If you create just a shadow of doubt  in your mind, then you lose faith in what will be.  Ina May once told me that in order for birth to become more normal again, in order for women not to fear birth, we need to tell these stories and let others know how it 'can' be if we just wait, watch and observe. These are the stories that needed to be shouted about. How it can be if we give the woman time, bathe her in love and make her feel secure.

So, this is Thomas' story and this is the mother's story and this is the midwife's story of the day she caught her first baby and this is the midwife, shouting!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finding time

I shouldn't be here!

No, really! Read that as I really should. not. be. here.

I have an exam tomorrow and really should be revising, but...sometimes things go in more if they are soaked into an open soul rather than force fed, so, that is my philosophy right now. I am finding time to just soak in some of the things that I am loving right now in my home, some of the corners and objects that make me smile. Then I will go back to the uterus and the pelvis refreshed - promise - just let me spill my brain here first because in order to remain me, I need to remember I love to take photos and I love to write too -non-midwifery stuff is fun as well!

Three of my five girlies. They are all free ranging now and look so much better for it, alas, the garden doesn't so much, however, I think that we can organise it so that they can range all year and we can build up the sides of the raised beds and cover them.
The photo of Mrs Miggins is not exactly world class, but I just love how it shows her really curious expression. She always comes rushing to greet me, cocks her head to one side as if she's giving me a real once over! Now I need to teach them that they stay outside and the utility room is NOT their domain!

For Christmas my mum sewed this gorgeous little diary cover for LMB. I was so unbelievably in awe of it, I had to find one of my own. You have to love Folksy. Just look at this beautiful crotched version of the same. It covers my midwifery reflective diary. Now LMB and I can both write in our beautiful diaries.

I also found these beauties on  Folksy the other day too. Now I can enjoy my coffee upstairs in my leather armchair, sitting looking out at my girls in the garden in a beautiful pottery mug. I have a thing at the moment for stoneware.

Finally, in my lovely kitchen there is a huge vat of chestnut and celery soup simmering on the stove for dinner this evening, with fresh bread. Life is sweet - well, it will be at 4pm tomorrow!

Friday, January 06, 2012


Nearly twelve years ago I was frightened and scared. There were lots of people, lots of noise and lots of lights.
On my left side was my equally frightened husband, and on my right was a young woman who I have never forgotten.
I will call her *Louise*.
Louise made me feel safe and reassured me that things were okay when I didn't know any better.
Louise held my hand, mopped my brow and cleared up my vomit.
Louise told me things would be okay when I thought it was the end of the world.
Louise smiled and laughed when I was happy on my epidural (finally) and got help for me over and over again, whilst I had my asthma attack and before it really was okay on the epidural and it finally worked.
Louise answered my banal, neurotic and quite simply repetitive questions with calmness and demure.
Louise stayed over her shift, above and beyond the call of duty when our son eventually made his way into the world some 15 hours after our entering that room.
I never forgot Louise.

In fact, two years later after giving birth to my second child, I was at home and the midwife came to visit. It was a part time midwife who had recently qualified and had since had a baby.
It was Louise!
Her baby was Rachel (no, that really WAS her name!!)
We cried again!

Yesterday I tried to be Louise for someone else.
I had the great honour of attending a new mama's birth, my third as a student (probably around my 33rd as me!)
She needed reassurance - that was all.
She needed to know she was safe and could do this.
The biggest thing I could do for her was tell her she was strong, she was amazing, she was powerful and she was birthing her baby beautifully.
Lucky for her, there was no epidural, instead a peaceful, calm, amazing waterbirth.
I stayed...a little longer ;-) I sat with her afterwards and chatted, showed her how to dress her new son, reassured her it was totally normal to fumble and feel nervous picking him up. I helped her feed him and brought her tea and toast. I told her she was an amazing mother who had done so much already for her son.

Sometimes, it's hard as a midwife, you feel you need to 'do' so much.
The text books say x, y and z, much like the parenting text books that both myself and my new mama yesterday were and will be drowning in, the manuals that tell you how to birth, how to parent, how to feed your baby.
Sometimes, all you really need to do for that woman, in fact, often, all you really need to do, is just 'be'. Just be with woman, not 'do-for' woman.

That is the true power of a midwife and that is the midwife that the mother will remember, despite the chaos, the drugs, the lights, the doctors with their tools, and the fear...oh yes, the fear!

It will be the midwife who was calm, who held her hand and mopped her brow and told her she was amazing!

I hope I was as good for her as Louise was for me.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Happy New Year.

I do hope you've all had a lovely festive season.

We have had a lovely time, receiving plentiful gifts from the big red fella;

Catching up with friends and family;

and godparents ;-)

and besties!

So now we move into 2012 with somewhat of a windy start, and it's time to begin looking to what's in store ahead again.

This year is my 'big' birthday and inspired and encouraged by some girl (and boy - thanks Chris!) friends, I've taken my friend Julie's idea to do a 'Fortieth year and Forty things' list. The only rule is that the list has to be achievable, so isn't meant to be full of expensive things or crazy ideas...those can go on the bucket list ;-)

I am going to cycle 10 miles per week for 40/52 weeks
Learn an appropriate poem and recite it - open to suggestions as long as it's not in a Pam Ayres accent!
Raise 440 pounds for charity
5. front of people...preferably a musical! but NOT Gilbert and Sullivan - I will not be a little maid from school ever again
Learn to make a Baked Alaska
Make a successful Cheese souffle
Go to a gig
pull a cracker (yeah, don't go there!)
go to a fireworks display and stay for the fireworks (I wouldn't go there either!)
learn to row properly
ride a camel
smoke a shisha (that was Chris' idea!)
drink tea in a Berber village
bellydance (might have to leave that until after I've lost the half of 40lbs ;-) 
walk amongst the wolves
make myself a piece of silver jewellery
grow a veg or fruit I've not grown before
pass my first year exams
I really ought to put 'catch 40 babies' but sadly that'll take me 3 years, so I think 10 is quite a good compromise!
say 'yes' more to my kids
say 'no' more to adults!
use hubby's telescope to find three constellations and learn about them (if there's any space after the pelvis, uterus, heart and fetal circulation!)
go to a festival
Do one selfless thing per week
Pay someone a compliment, every day!
give my kids at least three hugs everyday
learn to do more tricks with my hoop
make time for yoga
take one photo on the 25th of every month to record the year in photos
learn to make wine using foraged food
squish grapes with my feet
have Em's t-shirt for meeeeeeeee!
learn to make four things with origami
Lose 1/2 of 40lbs by this time next year
speak to my friends at least once a month on the phone!
Donate blood
Keep a personal, fortieth year journal (inspired by Em - thank you!) in a beautiful journal book
So, as you can see I'm two short right now and with the revision for my exam, seem to be rather lacking in the imagination department. I'm hoping I'll be inspired over the next couple of weeks to add the remaining couple and keep you updated with how I get on.