I’ve been thinking about my post yesterday on the Home Birth Association’s conference because I think I told a lie towards the end. I made a comment about not being interested in convincing women to have a homebirth like me. It niggled at me all day because I think it’s only half true.
If I’m honest, I think I’d like women to at least think about having a natural birth. And when I say think about it, I suppose what I really mean is to educate themselves about pregnancy, birth and labour so that they know what they’re letting themselves in for and can make informed decisions about how they’d like to birth their baby.
Otherwise, how would you know that there’s a chance that an epidural might slow down your labour, or might start off a cascade of interventions that you’d prefer not to have? How would you know that keeping fit and active during your pregnancy can help with your labour? Or that being well rested and not working like the clappers up until the last minute will help you go into spontaneous labour and ensure you have the energy to birth your baby? How would you know that you can’t have a shower or go to the toilet for a few hours after an epidural whereas with a natural delivery you can usually stand up and walk with your baby in your arms to bed or to the couch or wherever you need to be? How would you know that being up on your feet and moving around can help move your labour along by using gravity to move your baby down and that being on your back isn’t really ideal, unless of course it feels right to you at the time? (Myself and my husband practised many labour positions but on the day, all my body wanted to do was stand.) By the way, I’m not anti epidural at all. In fact I think they’re fantastic when you need them. I just think sometimes when women don’t have all the information on the side effects and risks they can be too quick to ask for one and be unprepared for what happens next.
I had my baby with the community midwives in Holles Street and I remember so clearly a couple of things they told me. At the start of my pregnancy, they handed me an information pack that had printed in block capitals YOU HAVE NINE MONTHS TO PREPARE FOR THE BIRTH OF YOUR BABY, USE IT WISELY. I read that, took it on board and ran with it. I think it paid off for me. Later in the antenatal classes, the midwife once again said “it’s up to you to be prepared for your labour and one of those things is you need to ensure you are WELL RESTED.” I’d never heard anyone talk about that before. I had worked with women for 10 years who talked about lying about their dates so they could work up til the last minute to maximise their maternity leave at the other side. Which of course is perfectly understandable.
But no one had ever mentioned to me that it could affect the birth. When I told my mother I planned on finishing work a month before my due date, she was delighted. She was also the first mother I heard say “well, you need to be well rested to get through a natural birth”. And then I heard her say it again, and again. And I felt sad for her because I know she worked up until the bitter end on all her pregnancies and had very little maternity leave because that’s how it was done in her day. She obviously understood and probably remembered her need for rest and strength at the time.
Finally, I remember a midwife talking to me about the line of birthing options. Picture a straight line where at one end your baby is in your arms and along the line is a series of stops, like a DART or subway map. The stop furthest away from your final destination is labouring at home and maybe having your baby there. If that doesn’t work out for you for whatever reason, the next stop is labouring at home for as long as possible using all your toolkit of natural pain management, then delivering your baby naturally in the hospital. If your natural toolkit isn’t working for you, next stop gas and air, and so on until next stop epidural and maybe some people stop at C-section before pulling in at your final destination of happy healthy baby. The midwife was explaining that choosing homebirth was just one extra stop at the beginning of your journey to give you a chance to have a natural birth if you wanted one. I’d like to think that every pregnant woman would be informed about all of the stops on their journey – pros and cons – before they decided which stop to jump on at to reach their wonderful final destination. Because knowledge is power and knowledge takes away the fear of not knowing or understanding what’s happening to you in the moment. Power and fearlessness are a great combination when you’re working hard at having a baby. That’s all!