Okay...this is starting to become a real pattern...
After each hospital birth, the lovely nurse sighs and says to my client, "I haven't seen a birth like that in ages. Thank you!" Well, actually, yesterday's quote (by a British nurse) was, "I haven't seen a birth like that since I came here!"
Then, I ran into a nurse who had helped us at a birth last week, and she still was in shock that my client gave birth standing. "I tried to get her back onto the bed, I ASKED her to get on the bed, but she just didn't! I had to think, how am I going to do this, where's my stuff? I hadn't done anything like that before!"
"Oh, come on," I said. "You're creative! Wasn't it good to think outside the box at work for once?"
"No!" She was laughing while she said that, but she really had been outside her comfort zone at the birth. Why didn't she embrace something new and dare to be different? (Understand that she is otherwise a fabulous nurse, and really never let on that it was outside her comfort zone to my client.)
I checked my client stats for the past 26 births. There have been only three cesareans (11% - one breech, one face presentation, one fetal distress). The rest have been water births, standing births, hypnobirths, squatting births, hands and knees, side-lying, etc. Some just had one vaginal assessment, some none at all. A few (18%, which includes the cesarean births) had epidurals (that had been their plan all along). The rest (82%) used water, movement, singing, TENS, dancing, and, for some, just a little bit of nitrous oxide gas, to help them through labour. Their ages ranged from 30 to 51 (yes, 51!)
Isn't the hospital epidural average well over 80%? Anyway, it's not 18%!
How do we do it? Well, I do have clients who are able to eat well, go for long walks, stay fit. But they're not really much physically different from most women. They all have their own anxiety, fears, and baggage. Some have battled emotional demons, and some have overcome physical and sexual abuse.
What I offer is the long, slow approach. I try to work with my clients over many months (slowly building trust), talking to my clients about the most recent research on mothering, birthing, parenting. I find out about their lives, what drives them, what challenges them. I ask them to call me whenever they are worried or scared, or whenever they just want to have a good chat. A phone call that starts with us talking about diapers might end in her telling me that she was abused as a child, or has battled depression, or that she hasn't yet told her midwives that she's seeing a psychiatrist and is on medication. I help my clients to feel and know that they are safe. We trust each other.
One recent client went from "I really want an epidural" at our initial interview, to using hypno-birthing - laughing and chatting as she entered the hospital at 8cm.
Another client went from having post-traumatic stress symptoms and battling depression and anxiety, to giving birth at home with joy.
And yesterday? Well, a woman had a lovely slow birth. A birth outside of time. She was another who dared to be different. After about 14 hours of "deny-it" cramping, she asked me to come just after 2am. We spent the next 9 hours helping her - on the ball, in the bath, in the shower, back on the ball, doing walkabouts, climbing the stairs, lunging, swaying, swirling. 9 hours. No, we didn't bolt to the hospital. She would note the baby's movements. She was confident in her and her baby's well-being. She had a loving partner who stuck by her through it all (and who I could reassure throughout). I talked her through most contractions (except in the bath). "Soft...you are safe...your shoulders are loose...your muscles are melting...your bottom is loose...baby is wiggling down...your hands are soft...your face is soft...your legs are heavy and warm...soft..."
We waited until we had counted off at least 5 hours of good regular contractions under 5 minutes. We waited until she'd had bloody show (not just the mucous plug) We waited until she'd had over 2 hours of self-described "8/10 power" contractions (up until then, her 3-minute apart contractions had been at 5-7/10). We waited until she was moving, almost dancing on her tip-toes during each contraction. We waited until she was deep in the endorphin trance. We waited until she was just beginning to feel a hint of pressure in her bum from the bulging bag of waters (we didn't wait until it broke, but we could have waited, if she wanted.) We waited until she said she felt she was ready to go to the hospital.
Then, she said "Let's go!" and we were ready. We had to wait until all the shrieking children in the school-yard across the street had gone back into their classrooms after recess before we ran to the car!
She was 7cm on arrival at the hospital. That number scored us a good room upstairs. She slipped into the bath, then did a walkabout, sat on the birthing ball...and was right back in the routine that we had at home. "Soft, you are safe, your baby is safe." She had infinite patience, and a partner by her side. The lovely British nurse moved silently and gently. The young family doctor intuitively respected her patient's need for autonomy. And then we waited. We trusted. One hour. Slow. One hour. Slow. One hour. Gentle. Slow. And, right on cue, she started to feel the baby coming. An hour and seven minutes later, a beautiful pouty face was born...then oh! a little hand...then a smooth vernix-covered body. Hands reached down and baby Maggie was on her mum's chest!
And then I looked over at the nurse, shining and smiling. "Thank you. I haven't see a birth like that since I came here to Canada!"
We owe it to our children to dare to be different. This changes lives, and it IS worth the effort.