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!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful writing! I'm also a doula and thinking of applying for midwifery next year in Scotland. Though there's a wild doula/midwife debate going on in my head and I just can't work it out at the moment. But reading that post has tipped the scales towards midwifery- for tonight anyway :) Was it an easy decision for you?

The Beehive said...

Hi Siobhan, thank you for your comment.
I think it was an evolution to move from doula-ing towards midwifery for me, although I have been so very inspired by many midwives and midwife friends in the States who perhaps lean more towards the hands off/poised than the medical model as you'd suppose. It has it's up days and its down days now I'm in the throws of it. I have days where my 'wild doula' screams to get out where I watch things happen and my hands are 'still' tied and I want to cry (yesterday was one of those days!)- however, I do feel that if those of us that feel passionately enough to change things - even small things - don't actually become midwives, then the profession will continue to struggle with it's inner demons.

I think you would always have days when you doubted your decisions, but...if you don't do it either, you may still have days when you doubt and it is better to have lived and tried, than never to try at all - well, an adaptation of a cliche ;-) What do you think?

The Beehive said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Absolutely! I'm not normally one for regrets, but you're right, in this case that's likely to be exactly how I feel if I don't listen to my heart and go for it. I am certainly passionate enough and could be, should be, (will be?) one of the ones helping to change things :)
I still have plenty of time to come to terms with the worry of those "hands tied" days.(I sometimes want to cry just thinking about it.)
Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your journey. All the best with staying strong in the face of all the medical nonsense. Sorry, can't think of a better word for it at the moment:)

Emma said...

Wow - what an amazing story - brought a tear to my eye.