So says Ina May! Butt loosening, smiling to take away the pain, acting like a mammal and lots of poo were just some of the topics covered by Ina May today at the homebirth conference.
She was A-MAZ-ING. A frighteningly intelligent, entertaining and sometimes smutty(!) woman, Ina May spoke so eloquently and with such understated passion and humour, you could just listen to her tell stories until the cows come home. Not only did she give two keynote addresses, she also sat in the audience and took notes of the homebirth discussions going on, chiming in with her own well informed opinion on the current state of maternity services in Ireland. It was great. There were a few things I took away from her speeches:
- She talked about how important it is to have the lower part of your body relaxed when you’re in labour. As mentioned earlier, you need to loosen that butt! (Obviously you can tell I really enjoyed this one) Leaning on a staff, holding onto a rope from the ceiling or banisters, hanging off your partner’s shoulders and blowing through your lips like a horse – all good, go for it.
- Labour doesn’t hurt when you smile! This is because of all those lovely endorphins running through your body – yay! Making a labouring mum laugh is very effective in relaxing and dilating her cervix. Stressing her out does the opposite.
- The forceps rate at her midwifery centre, The Farm, is less than 1%. Why? Because the midwives are nice. No stress, keeping the mama calm, giving her loads of encouragement. Not shouting, cajoling, bullying, rushing, upsetting.
- Dads can never tell a labouring mum too often how beautiful she is and how lucky he is she is having his baby. She never gets bored with that. Makes sense to me!
She also spoke about how we have to fight for our right to choose homebirth. Although the conference was such a life affirming, celebration of positive birthing in Ireland, in some ways I felt it ended on a sad note. In the afternoon, we were treated to the knowledge and experience of six women working in some aspect of maternity care in Ireland. Overriding the discussion was an air of despondency as one panellist spoke of her fear of homebirth programmes in the hospitals being cancelled in coming years due to budgetary reasons, another questioned if we had really come any further along in maternal rights in the last 30 years and independent midwives talked about how their hands were being tied by new legislation and a restrictive memorandum of understanding with the national health provider, the HSE. It felt like after many battles, there was a hint that Irish women might be losing the war.
Personally I can’t understand how we find ourselves in this situation. Basically a woman’s choice of how she births her baby is dictated by administrative and financial issues rather than a human right to choose how your child arrives in the world. How outrageous is that? Why does maternity care have to be “managed” anyway? Pregnant women aren’t sick. Surely they just need to be facilitated in getting their baby safely into the world?
Listen, I don’t believe homebirth is for everyone, just as consultant-led care isn’t for everyone but really it comes down to having the choice to giving birth in the way that makes the mama most comfortable. Comforted by the idea of seeing the same consultant for every appointment, having them deliver your baby and enjoying your private room? Go for it. Like the idea of labouring at home, popping in to deliver your baby and availing of three nights on the ward with the associated midwifery support? Happy days. Can only imagine labouring in your own home, wandering room to room and then delivering your baby on your bathroom floor? The choice should be yours. I’m not interested in convincing people to have their baby the way I had mine. I’d just love if every woman could choose to have the same sense of peace, comfort and then the subsequent euphoria that should come with having a baby. Wouldn’t that be deadly?
Very well done to the HBA committee who did a sterling job organising the conference. I have much respect for people who walk the walk and get up of their asses to make that difference. These women do.