Sunday, April 08, 2012

Another reflection on practice

Photo used with permission
The mother in this picture, Cynthia, gave birth at home to her second child at home against medical advice. Her first child, born at a Birth Centre, had been too large, and she was told she had bled too much, so she was not permitted to book at the Birth Centre for her second birth: the advice was that she would require obstetric management.

This is a not uncommon situation, even when 'alternative' birthing services, such as midwife-managed birth centres, are accessible. It presents a challenge for midwife as well as mother, as we find our way through the often unpredictable terrain of pregnancy and birthing. Yet it could be argued that all home births are against medical advice.

Cynthia gave birth to baby Willa at home, early in the morning, as the first light of the new day filtered through the glass above the door on the Eastern wall.  I hold that memory of hushed ecstasy, as we who were witnesses to the miracle of birth watched the mother welcome her newborn daughter.

Cynthia has given me permission to use this beautiful photo, and to use her name as I tell a small part of her story. I am taking the opportunity to reflect on aspects of this birth, and the conversations I had with Cynthia in the months before the birth. Cynthia was strong in her resolve; she had discovered within herself a deep and precious knowledge of her birthing potential, and she asked me to accompany her through the most demanding part of this birthing journey.


With this recent birth in mind, I have been delighted to start reading a new book The Heart in the Womb, by Amali Lokugamage, an obstetrician who defied her profession's wisdom and gave birth to her son at home in the UK.  Amali writes:
I was prompted to write about this very personal experience because, prior to my pregnancy, I was never fully able to understand why a woman would actively choose to give birth at home, outside of a hospital safety-net." (p6)

The idea that being in a hospital for every birth provides a safety-net is one of the great 'lies' under which most Australian maternity services operate.  When a woman discovers her own strength, she arranges her life so that she will not be denied that potential when she is at the peak of her labour.  She chooses her team: midwife, sister, friend, and lover - each in a different partnership relationship with her, and each fully committed to being with her.

I cannot teach a woman how to discover her own innate birthing potential.  It is truly a discovery that she makes as she welcomes the hormonally mediated activity that her body leads her through.  I cannot predict who will progress unassisted to an ecstatic birth; who will gently guide the head of her own baby across the threshold of totally streched perineal tissues; who will enjoy that amazing dance of the breast crawl, and feel the pressure as the placenta presents for expulsion.

But I can reflect on my own memories of my birthings, many years ago, and I can confidently accompany women who are willing to engage in trust and reciprocity, and explore their own journeys as they give birth to their babies.

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