A mother from England
After two normal births which I had, nonetheless, suffered all the standard interventions of conventional obstetrics, I was determined that my third delivery would be different. If all went well, I was prepared to find a midwife and insist on a home birth. But an ultrasound scan confirmed that the baby was breech at thirty-four weeks, and no one was confident that it would turn. The doctor at the local hospital suggested that a date be decided upon for me to be induced and said that an epidural and forceps would be used. If that didn’t work, I understood that cesareans were quite common for breech babies.
The old depression returned. I had desperately wanted this baby’s birth to be natural, and there was no choice of hospital other than the same one that had all the associations of the last confinement, when I had felt that the baby had been taken from me. On that occasion, as I was stitched, asked the doctor, “Why are we less efficient in childbirth than animals?” I already felt that the birth had been ruined for me, and I was troubled by the amount of “routine” intervention in what I had considered to be a normal physiological event. His response was “It’s an entirely different matter for animals.” He implied that women are not efficient in childbirth. I had seen this doctor at prenatal visits and he seemed to have understood my wishes for the birth. Despite this, he had managed my labor for his own convenience, and my nervous system felt shattered for months afterward. I had postpartum depression that I knew was not simply hormonal in origin. I felt cheated almost to the point of grieving. Yet now my hopes for a better experience seemed doomed. This was to be, to my mind, another “factory” baby.
I had heard about Pithiviers; I knew that women traveled there from other countries. However, I could hardly envisage it as a real possibility for me –I was by now thirty-seven weeks pregnant. Still, I rang Dr. Odent a few days later, when I had decided that I would regret it forever if I did not gather my strength and make an effort to go to Pithiviers. I asked if I could come. He said, “Why not?’ When I said that the baby was breech, he replied, “It makes no difference.” I immediately felt confident and energetic about the proposed journey.
My husband and I knew very well that time would be short if an emergency arose. Set against this risk was the inevitable recurrence of my depression; before we made the decision to go to Pithiviers, it had already started again. I knew that I could not relive the depression that I experienced after my last confinement and expect to function as a wife and mother to three young children. At my last prenatal check in England, I was nearly in despair as the nurse explained, with the aid of a doll, how breech babies are delivered. I heard myself protesting as never before in my three pregnancies. I said to my doctor, “If you send me to that hospital again, that will finish me.” The nurse made me feel ashamed, exclaiming, “If that baby could hear you talking!” I suddenly realized that I really had rejected “the system” for the first time in my life. I no longer cared who thought I was making a fuss. I had previously been so polite and helpful to all the medical personnel, and it had got me nowhere –even my own children had been born for me, and this was probably my last chance to take what life has to offer. I just had to take responsibility for myself for a change, and Pithiviers offered an alternative that attracted me. Even its distance from home appealed to me. I felt a certain animal longing to get away from it all, to have privacy from the people I knew and to find a special place to give birth. I had to get to Pithiviers before labor began. This baby was going to be mine and safely mine. I said to my doctor, “Things are changing, though, aren’t they?” “Yes” he replied, “but that is in a foreign country.” My husband informed him later that that was exactly where we were going.
Ironically this story occurred over 30 years ago, but could easily be a story from today. Printed in Dr. Michel Odent's book 'Birth Reborn: What childbirth should be', it really demonstrates how far obstetrics has failed to evolve in the last few decades. It also reinforces the fact that an empowered birth doesn't depend on whether or not a birth occurred "naturally". In fact, we do never hear the ending of this story in the book. Maybe this family did end up having a natural breech birth at Pithiviers Hospital. Maybe the baby turned in the last week of pregnancy and was born LOA. Or maybe the mother ended up with a caesarean after all. But none of these factors would determine whether or not they had an empowered birth.
An empowered birth matters not so much on the physical process that occurs, but on the way a woman is made to feel during her labour and birth. Pithiviers gave this family the confidence to take responsibility for their birth and their baby. They were able to stand up for what they wanted. They felt they had choices. They were treated with respect.
That is the basis for empowered birth.
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Isn't intuitive, natural birthing instinct so interesting? The Royal College of Midwives share in their article "Childbirth Myths Around the World" that "Among the Gadsup of Papua New Guinea, when a woman begins labour, she walks with her mother and aunts for an hour up through the forest to a birthing hut. They believe that the blood from childbirth is so powerful, it could cause illness and even death for the village men. Birth blood mustn’t come anywhere near the men or ‘get into plants or garden roots’ at any time."
I wonder how much this walk up through the forest would have helped baby descend? I'm sure it would have really helped labour kick off! It would have also given the labouring mother a chance to talk alone with her mother and aunts, and for them to encourage her in her task ahead. Interesting!
This could be your opportunity to help families have better mental health during pregnancy and parenting! The University of Canterbury is looking for women, aged 19+, who are having 1 baby, are <24wks pregnant, and are living in Canterbury to help them with their research. The study is looking at the link between micro-nutrients in pregnancy and improved mental health.
If you think you could help, or would like to find out more information contact: (03) 369 2386 or check out www.bit.ly/pregnancy-study
Let’s be brutally honest. There are two types of birth support people. Ones that help, and ones that hinder. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to know whether the person Mama’s chosen to be with her during labour and birth is a help or a hinderer until labour starts! Just in case Mama’s got a closest hinderer on her team, here are 3 things she can share with her birth team ahead of time that will greatly enhance her labour and birth experience.
One: A support person’s belief in the Mama is CRUCIAL
No matter whether Mama is planning on having her hubby, Mum, bestie or someone else with her during baby’s arrival, what they think in their head and their heart deeply matters. This is because labour has little to do with the physical process and everything to do with the emotional and spiritual. If a birth team secretly doubts Mama’s ability to birth her baby, it’s more than likely that she just won’t. Can you imagine running a long distance race thinking how well you are doing, only to find well meaning friends and family at every km saying “You look tired, why don’t you just walk for a while?” “You won’t get a medal for finishing” etc. Discouraging huh?!
Support people, make sure you communicate your belief in Mama in every word, every touch, every look. When labour intensifies it can be as simple as saying “I truly believe in your ability to birth this baby”, or looking into her eyes with a calm, trusting smile.
One of the roles of the birth team is to hold the space. So support people, make sure your phone is turned off and you are not constantly sending updates to people. If you feel something needs to be said, consider if it’s necessary, and with how few words you can say it. E.g. Instead of saying “Would you like a drink of water?” just hold up the cup and straw and say “Water?” Avoid the temptation to make small talk with the midwife, or chat amongst yourselves. There will be plenty of time to catch up after baby arrives. Quietness during labour helps to close off the analytical part of Mama’s brain, meaning her primal brain (the part of her that instinctively knows how to birth her baby) can be running at its full ability.
Three: Self Care
During labour a Mama’s sense of smell is heightened, much like during the first trimester nausea phase. A spray of smelly deodourant can feel overwhelming to a labouring Mama. She’ll be able to pick up anyone’s secret smoking habit. She’ll know if you had coffee 2hrs ago. So be thoughtful ahead of time. Whilst Mama will have a bag or a box packed full of her birth supplies, support people will need this too. At a bare minimum pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, water, and a change of top in case labour takes some time. I’d also encourage you to pack lots of healthy, energy giving snacks (to give you endurance), something to do e.g. a magazine (if Mama needs some alone time this will stop you looking like you are observing her), and to take a wee break every couple of hours during labour so you can keep giving Mama your best.
Being a kind and thoughtful birth support person helps Mama have a more positive birth experience!
Cooking something 3 ways. 3 choice cuts of expensive meat cooked in 3 elaborately delicious ways. On Masterchef. And only on Masterchef, because here in the real world most of us could rarely afford to buy enough expensive meat to cook 1 way, if we eat meat at all. Our family had a blast watching the Australian Masterchef series recently, although I must admit it left me deeply contemplating… Who gets feed all the wasted off cuts of food? Who has to do all the dishes? If money was no object, what would I cook for dinner?
As I’m sure most of you reading this can identify with the horror that grocery shopping brings (and no, not because you are shopping with small people). But the horror that comes with wandering around the supermarket isles having no idea how you are actually going to feed all of your family on so little money. So I thought I would share with you how to rock Masterchef’s cooking it 3 ways in the real world.
Cook as much food as you can ‘3 ways’. Over the last fortnight I have turned one frozen chicken into a roast, a chicken broth, and chicken sandwiches for lunches. One 250g packet of bacon has been stuffed baked potatoes, a broccoli salad, and bacon and egg pita breads for lunches. One 5kg bag of spuds has been turned into numerous things. And the whole cabbage I bought has been made into at least 5 dinners, ranging from a side of coleslaw to steamed cabbage with the roast.
Buy dried lentils. These little things are seriously awesome. High in iron, a great source of protein, and cheap as. You can hide them in everything from a slow cooked stew to spag bol. Just be sure to read the cooking time on the packet as some cook very quickly, and others take a while.
Teach your kids to scavenge. I know it sounds bad, but it really is good! Recently my son proudly brought me a whole bag of newspaper he had scavenged from a recycle bin to save me buying a newspaper to light our fire with. Proud mother moment. We also go door knocking if we see pear’s falling off someone’s tree, pick friend’s lemon bushes, collect walnuts when we are walking etc.
Be extraordinarily generous. If you expect people to share with you, you should be sharing with others. It’s very hard to give to someone if they are tight fisted, so make sure you always have an open hand.
Grow your own. Veges that is. I laugh at the $5 bunch of spring onions in the supermarket knowing I can readily pick these out of my garden when I want them.
Today is a very important day. Today signals a huge shift in my life. It is a day of change. Today… my baby has gone off to school. It is the end of the preschool years for me. And with this change in my life has come the most unexpected reactions from those around me. I never knew we were still living in such a chauvinistic era! Let me explain…
For many months now it has been a hot topic of conversation. “So, your baby goes off to school soon!” But even more recently this has turned into “So your baby goes off to school shortly… What will you do?!” As though when the day would come, I may curl up and die. Or maybe go into a state of mourning for a few months and not get out of bed. Or as my children suggested, I now need to train as a teacher so I can work at school! Yes, I do agree that I will miss my one on one time with my baby dearly, but here comes the most surprising part. When I reply that when he goes to school I will continue working, people are so taken aback! “Oh, what kind of work?” “Well, you know” I say “running The Birthing Room”. These are not random strangers I am talking about… but my nearest and dearest. My close friends and family. My husband. My children. My village that has supported me over the last 4 years whilst I have run The Birthing Room.
It has never occurred to me before this new season in my life that in this day and age a woman’s work would be seen as less valuable. I considered the Jacinda Ardern question merely a reflection of a poor reporter, not an accurate reflection of our society’s views. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe people do see a woman’s work as more like a hobby that she does each day instead of actually ‘working’. Strangely enough no one has asked my husband what he will do when his baby goes off to school, and yet we have shared being the main caregiver for the last 4 years.
So to all you beautiful women reading this today, whether you are working full time, part time, or are a full time parent, I applaud you. Your work within the home, and outside of the home is valuable. You make a difference. You contribute to society. Don’t let our culture tell you any differently.
Attending a group antenatal class over many weeks is difficult for a lot of New Zealand parents to be. These classes are often not tailored to suit working parents to be with busy schedules, those who are expecting another baby, single mums, high profile New Zealanders, immigrants, or those with transport issues. That's why The Birthing Room Private Antenatal Sessions are tailored to offer more than your regular antenatal course.
- Individualised sessions that can be done in the comfort of your own home, at our North Canterbury base, or via Skype/Google Hangouts.
- The opportunity to do Private Antenatal Sessions on your own, as a couple, or with your whānau (family). This means that whoever you are choosing to support you during your birth and afterwards can attend with you so you share the same knowledge.
- The choice of topics ranging from conception to care of baby. Specific topics for your situation can also be chosen, such as multiple birth or pregnancy diabetes. This ensures you are only covering the topics which are relevant to you.
To find out more click here
To book your Private Antenatal Sessions with The Birthing Room contact us here
The Birthing Room is giving away one FREE pass to our 2017 conference! You could be our lucky winner!
Here's how to enter:
- Click on The Birthing Room's Facebook page and check out our conference giveaway post
- Tag 2 friends in the comments who you think would enjoy conference too
- Share The Birthing Room's giveaway post on your Facebook timeline.
This year's conference is 'Cultivating Our Roots: Let The Tree Flourish'. This one day hui in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) will focus on traditional Māori birth practices, and how tikanga can be integrated into today’s maternity system. Cultivating Our Roots: Let The Tree Flourish is a hui for midwives, childbirth educators, obstetricians, doulas, plunket nurses, other allied health staff, and whānau (families), who would like to feel more empowered and knowledgeable about integrating traditional Māori birthing practices into their clinical practice or the birth of their pēpe (baby). For more information click here.
The Birthing Room's 2017 prize pack includes:
- One general admission pass (no meals) worth $145
- Free entry into all sessions
- The opportunity to make your own clay ipu whenua and be part of the muka cord tie demonstration
- An amazing Freeset bag filled with conference goodies
- Morning and afternoon tea
The prize pack does not include travel, accommodation or lunch, and cannot be exchanged for cash. In the event that you are not able to make it on the day of conference (especially if you are a midwife on call!), you are able to give your prize to another person. The Birthing Room must be notified of this change via email. Your name and photo may be used by The Birthing Room for publications related to our 2017 conference.
All entries meeting the criteria will be placed in the draw, and the lucky winner will be drawn on February 18th 2017. (Entries close Feb 17th 2017 at 11pm). The winning person will be announced on The Birthing Room's Facebook page and website. The winner will have 7 days to claim their prize.