Since today is my birthday I have asked Mamma Doula Paris if she would share the story of my own birth here!
When I first began my journey into Midwifery I met an incredible and wonderful Midwife; Ruth, from the Brierley homebirth team in South London. Ruth gave me lots of valuable advice at the time, including that if I was seriously considering becoming a midwife then I should first explore my own birth. SO, this is what I did...
I quickly realised that all of the birth books that I was starting to become obsessed with - Michel Odent, Sheila Kitzenger etc - were actually the same books that my mum was inspired by whilst she was pregnant with me!
5 years on and I am now firmly of the belief that the way we are born - and our first experiences of the world - leave no small impact on the rest of our lives. It therefore seems no great coincidence that I was a natural birth myself and that my mum breastfed both my brother and I until we were nearly 3 . She also did what is now called 'attachment parenting' with my brother Jay and I, except the concept of attachment parenting didn't really exist back them. This was at a time when natural birth and 'extended breastfeeding' were far from the norm! But Mother Joules stood by what she instinctively knew was good for us both, even when (many) other people told her she was Bonkers!
Since then I have spoked to hundreds of women - old and young - about their births and I am always astounded by women's ability to recall the minutest of details of this miraculous event. They will remember the exact words spoken to them - whether cruel or kind. The food they ate, the smells, the sounds, a gentle touch, a glorious moment...the finest sensory elements of their labours and births.
So maybe tonight, or one day soon, you might want to ask your own mum about your own birth. And you will probably be amazed by just how much detail she remembers of the agony and the ecstasy of it all! And if you are thinking of having a baby soon I recommend enquiring about the way you were born yourself! This may be the beginning of your journey into exploring some of your own fears and feelings about Birth! Or equally reveal why you are so confident and calm about it all...
31 years ago today was one of the best days of my life. My daughter, Jodi, (aka Doula Paris,) was born.
3 yrs earlier I had given birth to my son, Jamie, and whilst it was a wonderful experience and I had managed to labour with a positive attitude and without pain relief - as I'd hoped for - it had not been the totally intervention-free birth I had dreamt of. Deemed to be not progressing quickly enough for the medics, I was given something to, 'speed things up' and forced to lay on the bed with a monitor attached to my babies head. Not being able to move around freely and giving birth in the very unnatural and uncomfortable position of laying on my back was not my choice, but I was young, wary of questioning health professionals decisions and not brave enough to do so.
The next time around, I was determined to arm myself with sufficient information to give me the best chance of achieving as natural a birth as possible. I attended every antenatal class I could find and read every childbirth book I could get my hands on. I enrolled the perfect birth partner, my twin sister, Karen, (she had, in fact, witnessed one birth before, but as she was only 5 minutes old when I came into the world she couldn't remember much about it!). We are very close, she has a calming presence and I was confident that she would support me well throughout my labour and fight my corner if necessary. I wrote a detailed birth plan which Karen knew inside out and we practised breathing exercises and massage techniques together, we were good to go....bring it on...
I woke up at 6 am on the 9th of January, ( 3 days after my given due date,) with diahorreaand what I thought may be contractions. Was this the start of my labour or were the cramps being caused by the diahorrea? I wasn't sure. I decided to take a long bath, relax and watch the hypnotic movements of my very active baby wriggling in my belly. It soon became very clear that I was indeed having contractions and by the time I got out of the bath they were coming every 10 to 15 minutes. Time to call my husband, Glenn, who was working in London at the time and get him to my parents house, 'Up North,' where I was staying and where there was mass excitement!
I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible, so Mum put on some relaxing music, Dad busied himself making a record of the contraction times, Jamie ran around with his Masters of the Universe figures telling them that the new baby was coming soon and was bringing him their friend, 'buzz-off' and Karen blow dried my hair, massaged my feet and cut and painted my toe nails which I hadn't been able to reach for 2 months!
By mid morning my contractions were coming every 5 minutes and my Dad was becoming very anxious that I was still at home, ( I had discussed the idea of a home birth with him some time before and he was extremely uncomfortable with this, it wasn't the, 'norm,' at the time and everyone had been led to believe that it was much safer for babies to be born in a hospital environment,) so off to the hospital we went.
Not the warmest of greetings...I was put in a side room of the maternity unit whilst my papers were foundand allocated a midwife who took one look at my birth plan, threw it down on the table and said, "Pff, you are not for me, you young ones with your new fangled ideas, I'll get you someone else!" Midwife number 2 had not attended a natural birth before, ( I did not know this until 27 years later when she approached me in a supermarket as she remembered me!) but was pregnant herself, very open and on board with the idea and respectful of my birth plan. Off to the labour ward...
I was examined and found to be 7 cms dilated, a way to go. The birthing room was not entirely unpleasant and apart from the hospital bed and obvious apparatus, there had been some attempt to make it look more homely and less clinical; pleasantly decorated, bean bags to roll on, a music centre to play the relaxing music tapes I had prepared and a bath, which I was keen to get into immediately as by this time the contractions were coming thick and fast.
The next couple of hours passed by exactly as I had hoped; I relaxed on the bean bags and in the bath, walked around the room and corridors, 'in my zone,' leaning on Karen's shoulders during contractions whilst she massaged me and helped me with my breathing techniques. The midwife mostly left us to it, only popping in occasionally to check all was OK and did I really not want to just, "try," some gas and air?! She informed us she was going on her coffee break and assured me I still had some time to go so would be OK. Approximately 2 minutes after she left, out of nowhere, I had the most overwhelming and almost uncontrollable urge to bear down, I got up on to the bed and adopted a semi squatting position leaning against the headboard whilst Karen went running around the other rooms in the labour ward shouting," I need a midwife now, my sister needs to push!" All were busy attending other births. Thankfully I was not aware of this!
Panic for Karen over, the midwife returned and confirmed it was ok for me to push and I began to do so with fervour, then woosh, my waters broke, the midwife was clearly shocked as she had forgotten they had not been surgically broken as was normal hospital procedure then. A short time afterwards one gigantic push saw my baby shoot out like a rocket, " It's a girl!" Unfortunately the umbilical cord was around her neck as she descended and was cut by the midwife immediately as she was flat and blue and had to be whizzed to the resuscitation table for what seemed like forever to me, but was only moments. Then I heard a cry and my naked baby girl, (all 9lb 6ozs of her, ) was placed on my naked flabby belly, immediately rooted, then latched on to my breast and began to suckle, the most wonderful feeling in the world.
The tears are rolling down my face as I write these last few lines and also relive in my head those first magical moments when Jamie did the same. I can still feel the emotion, joy and wonder of those times as sharply today as I did then.
Undoubtedly the best 2 days work I have ever done.