Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Birth Matters

I just read a blog post about why birth matters and some of the stories in the comments below.

I had a difficult first birth in hospital and a much more satisfying second birth experience at home with my good friend acting as a doula. The labour was really long and often arduous but I felt safe, nurtured and supported throughout by my husband, my friend and the midwife.

The two different birth experiences have turned me on to becoming a doula and a childbirth educator because I feel – like the author of that blog post – that birth matters and mothers matter.

Since the home birth of Lissy, I have started to blossom into a bit of a birth warrior. I want to change the way birth is viewed and managed in our culture. I want to let people know that it can be a positive experience. That home birth isn't weird or dangerous. That hypnobirthing and other birth techniques can be really effective. That the environment and even the well-meaning staff within a hospital need to be managed by the birthing woman's supporters so she can have the best, safest birth possible.

I have started to discover a whole community of like-minded souls and birthing experts at One World Birth

I enjoy my day job (freelance marketing consultant for a technology company) but have always felt the urge to make a difference, to do something special and important that makes the world a better place. It doesn't have to be on a grand scale. I just want to know that I'm adding to the sum total of happiness in the world.

The standard approach to birth in the UK is over medicalised and often at loggerheads with the emotional, psychological - and even spiritual - needs of the birthing woman. Routine interventions in labour can adversely affect otherwise normal births. See this short video clip by a Professor of Midwifery to find out how. 30% of births in my local hospital end in C-section. The World Health Organization recommends that the caesarean section rate should not be higher than 10% to 15%

Many pregnant women dread the birth process and aren't given the knowledge and the practical support they need to realise their bodies are designed to birth. After doing an NCT course with my first pregnancy (a total waste of time, I'd recommend a Natal Hypnotherapy course or similar instead). I came away with a lot of information on what drugs I could take in labour and exactly what could go wrong but no real tools I could use to have a safe, natural birth and to help manage pain without medical aid. I didn't realise that with the right conditions birth can be an empowering, calm, satisfying experience.

Yes it hurts, but pain without fear is easier to deal with. Simple things helped me immesaurably - like my birth partners pressing hard on my sacrum during a contraction, blowing out steady, long breaths and focusing on them, receiving light touch massage to calm me and boost my endorphins, and being encouraged throughout that I was doing well, that I could do it.

Also the Natal Hypnotherapy CD I listened to before bed from 32 weeks pregnant really helped to counteract my negative cultural conditioning around birth and allow me trust the process and let my body get on with it.

I think I would be honoured to give that support, emotional and physical, to a labouring woman. To help create the conditions that every birthing mammal needs to be able to birth without fear and difficulty: warmth, dark (or low light), privacy, safety. And for us humans, love and encouragement.

It's a big step for me. Even though I'm not planning to change careers, just include another one, having been a technology marketeer for most of my adult life it feels weird and scary to be contamplating something so different.

Is birth really the right area for me? Will I be good at guiding people through their birth journeys? Can I cope with the strange hours and complicated childcare needs that must arise when your committed to be a doula for someone whose birth could happen at any time three weeks either side of her "due date"?

Well, I'm going to start finding out. I've booked myself on the Introduction to the Work of a Doula Day in November.

A while back I sent off for a distance learning hypnobirthing course, thinking it would be easier to do around a small baby (who is now a small toddler!). I have enjoyed the reading but am disappointed with quite a few aspects of the course and keener than ever to be a childbirth educator but to do it my way.

I want to amalgamate the best techniques from all the different styles of hypnobirthing, and incorporate other tips and techniques from things like the Active Birth movement and the advice of respected childbirth experts such as Michel Odent and Ina May Gaskin.

I recently had the chance to make a difference to a friend, Jewels. She asked me to come over and teach her and her best friend and birth support partner some hypnobirthing basics. I went over for a few hours and over tea and cake talked about how to be a good birth partner and went through a few techniques for both mother and birthing partner.

She's had her baby and texted me to say she just kept thinking of the things we talked about and it really helped. Her friend texted me to say that Jewels had made birth look easy.

I can't wait to see her and find out more. I feel honoured to have been a small part of her beautiful birth, and only wish I could have been there physically for her too. She did invite me, but I was in France :-(

I am in the lucky position of having a good job that is part-time and so I can explore this avenue without having to leave the security of my job. I'm not sure how it will all pan out but I'm excited to be following a newly-discovered interest.


Muddling Along said...

Great post - I agree, we need to work on the basis that women's bodies (who afterall have grown babies for 9 months) are capable of giving birth and that the majority of cases don't need medical intervention, what they need is support, a calm environment and a reduction in fear. Yes when things go wrong medical intervention is incredible but assuming that all women need help and stepping in too early can be terribly harmful

I'm very lucky to have had hands off support during my births (ok primarily because they were so fast I nearly delivered myself) but at least I never was interfered with

Anna Colette said...

A friend has just commented on this post on my Facebook page. I've copied it below:

Great post Anna, how it works out for you. I must say that it was you who made me buy the hypnobirthig book and practice breathing and I believe that was the reason that my birthing experience was absolutely very belated thank you x
Ps: completely agree about the NCT, waste of time and money, the only positive is that I've made 5 good mummsy friends there

Anna Colette said...

Muddling Along: thank you for your comment - spot on! I'm slightly envious of your fast births, both of mine were marathons I'd have loved a sprint experience ;-)

angelsandurchinsblog said...

Fantastic post. No more babies for me, but lots of friends are on their third and longing for help and support like this. I will send them here.

Anna Colette said...

Thanks, AngelsandUrchins. I recommend your friends look at they can meet a local doula to decide whether it would be helpful for them. Let me know how they get on!

Kerri @ Baby Monitors Online said...

Great post, you have provided a lot of helpful info for mum-to-be's :)

I'll keep this post in mind if anyone I know becomes pregnant.