Samarra was born into water by torchlight. It was a magical moment as she lay on my chest and we stared at each other. I was thinking so you are my baby, and it was as if she was thinking so you are my mum. I am quietly proud that this was her birth experience given that I was induced at 39 weeks in a hospital ward. However I cannot take the credit because I know that things would not have unfolded so well had it not been for my wonderful Independent midwife, Robyn, being there for me and Samarra every step of the way.
My one and only birth experience prior to becoming pregnant myself was to look after my niece at my sister’s homebirth the year before. By the time I arrived she was quite far along and I remember ringing her midwife, Robyn, and saying “I think she’s having a contraction, I’m not sure, but she’s on her hands and knees and moaning!!” I had no idea. When I became pregnant myself my husband and I went to see Robyn to talk to her about our options of employing her as an independent midwife. What appealed to us was the continuity of care she would provide. So all my appointments were with her and she would be at the birth and post-birth. She was also on call 24/7 – in fact I rang her new years eve at about 7pm for reassurance about something. We still booked into the birth centre at the local hospital and decided to have Robyn come with us to the hospital.
However when I was about 5 months pregnant we decided to go for a homebirth because I had built up enough faith in Robyn that we could do it at home. Also it seemed that just about every birth story I heard ended in an emergency ceasarean and I just thought, there is something wrong here. So I researched how to give myself the best chance of a natural birth, and it was at home with an independent midwife.
My pregnancy had gone well until about the 37th week when I became extremely itchy. I mentioned this to Robyn and she recommended I have liver function tests at the hospital. It turned out that I had suspected Obstetric Cholestasis. Over the next few days I had blood tests at the hospital. We saw a number of midwives and Obstetricians during this time to monitor and decide whether to be induced early as there is a risk of stillbirth. One obstetrician completely reinforced my decision to plan to be at home with Robyn when she said to me “Well I know what I’d do with you” – not realising it was not her decision to make! This pretty much sums up what is wrong with the maternity system in this country. It still makes my blood boil. Sorry – back to the birth – one lovely midwife at the hospital gave us some sound advice, which was that no one (at the hospital or elsewhere) can do anything to me without my permission. You’d think I would have known that but hospital can be a very intimidating place.
So after much discussion with Robyn and my partner we decided to book in to be induced. Mark and I walked into the hospital on Sunday night. We both wanted to turn and run but we knew it was the best decision for the baby. A lovely midwife booked us in and spent time going through our birth plan and was very understanding that having planned a homebirth, being in hospital to be induced was not where we wanted to be. A young female doctor put the tampon-like thing inside me to start the induction overnight. I asked her what was on it and she said “just some medicine”. How patronising!! Mark left after awhile and I tried to get some sleep. Unsuccessfully. I think I went to the loo about 15 times. On one of my visits out into the hallway I saw a midwife scurrying down the hall with what looked like stirrup things – I was petrified! But the morning rolled around and once Mark, my sister and my mum arrived I started to feel excited that today was the day we would meet our baby.
The hospital midwife who was looking after me was lovely enough but I did find it a little strange when she offered me anaesthetic to put the drip in. Did she not know I was about to go through childbirth? Robyn arrived and I felt a lot of relief that she was there. Even before Robyn arrived we picked up that the hospital midwife felt a little threatened that Robyn was going to be there, which just seemed crazy. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t see her as a wonderful resource as she knows me and my pregnancy intimately. There were some really key things that Robyn helped us to negotiate which I know had a direct impact on our wonderful birth.
Firstly, when they broke my waters they said we could go for a little walk – so we went outside and Robyn suggested I do some laps of the oval.. No seriously! So I was walking around the oval with Mark while Robyn, my mum and my sister relaxed on the grass! It was while I was walking that my labour started.
Secondly, Robyn asked the head Obstetrician, and older Doctor who obviously had a lot of respect for Robyn, if we could have the monitors on for 20 minutes and off for 20 minutes which he agreed to. This gave me the freedom to move around and I found them extremely uncomfortable on my belly.
Thirdly, once the drip was up Robyn mentioned to us that they would probably want to do an internal examination quite soon, but because I’d only been in labour for an hour or two she wouldn’t expect me to be more than a few cms – and that it could wait (as the baby was fine). Lo and behold they did want to and I put them off for awhile. The hospital midwife kept asking until I said in exasperation between contractions “What does it matter?” “Well, I guess it doesn’t” she replied. When they did finally do an internal examination I was 7 cm. And I heard Robyn in the background say “Yes!!” which gave me a real boost – which would not have been the case if I was only 3cms. Like any endurance activity the mental aspect is incredibly important.
Things progressed fairly quickly once they put the drip up. Luckily I could move around and it, and the monitor, could get wet. I cannot imagine having to remain lying down or strapped to a machine for you labour. I spent a lot of time in the shower with my mum directing the hot water onto my back. That’s one benefit of being in hospital – unlimited hot water!
There was a change of shift and the new hospital midwife was a lovely woman who had given birth herself not long ago. She had a completely different perspective to her predecessor and really worked with Robyn. The hospital had a beautiful big bath and we asked about being able to birth in the water. Robyn is extremely experienced at water birth and the hospital midwife said it would be ok. By then I asked for the lights to be turned off as I really needed to focus inwards and the light was too distracting. I got into the bath and felt instant relief. It was amazing floating in the water between contractions. It was almost like I was sleeping.
Before long we realised the baby was coming and they sensitively got a torch so as not to have to put the lights on. She was born without fuss, after only 2 pushes and she didn’t cry but just lay on my chest looking at me. It was magic.
P.S. We also felt extremely strongly about letting the cord finish pulsing before cutting it due to the benfits to the baby. The hospital was really pushing me to have the syntocin injection instead of a ‘natural third stage’ but Mark talked to Robyn (I was beyond much talking at that point) and he reminded me why we had wanted to do it that way. The hospital was happy to see how it went and I delivered the placenta naturally not long after Samarra. It is so important to have someone there to be your advocate and to help you make these decisions so that you can focus on the birth.