I love all birth – straightforward birth, complicated birth, calm birth, exhausted birth, short birth, long birth, waterbirth, caesareans – all of it.
What we do to birth our babies is incredible – women are incredible, a woman’s body needs to work hard to contract and expand and stretch and open. Babies need to move and turn and get into the best position for labour and for birth. Birth can also mean our bodies needing to tear or to be cut to hold our baby in our arms. And afterwards our bodies need to heal and recover and rest while also feeding and settling and soothing our new baby.
Labour can be unpredictable, it can be bullet-fast or it can be sloth-slow. It can flow well or it can be stop-start, with contractions coming and going over many hours to move a baby into a better position. We can’t predict how we will feel or how our labour will go.
Labour can be exhausting more than painful, with hours of pottering, pacing and positions that feel right and help us feel more comfortable, with hours of working with and managing contractions. We can have dreams of a calm, serene birth and, while that can be the reality for some women, the reality for other women can be very different as the rawness of labour takes over and sometimes it can leave us feeling shaken, disappointed and let-down. Sometimes we can do all the ‘right things’ (movement, gravity, being calm, breathing, being at home, doing ALL the classes, reading ALL the books) but birth takes a different path because it might need to. We can do our best but it’s up to our baby and our body to do the work and sometimes there’s only so much we can do before epidurals, induction and caesareans are needed and welcomed.
As an antenatal teacher I never want to present a rosy one-sided view of birth, I need parents to know it can be tough going, painful, exhausting and challenging. There’s always a fine line between realistic preparation and scaring parents but, to do my job as best as I can, I want to raise awareness of the unpredictability, of the need to know what can work, of the need to just keep going, to know how to stay as calm as possible to deal with any panic, to value the importance of asking for the information and support they need to work with contractions, to keep going, to feel supported and safe and to know what’s going on.
Birth is amazing, what we do and go through to birth our babies can leave me speechless – it can be an amazingly, positive, happy experience but for some women it can also be tough and scary and it’s not about enjoying it but simply getting through it.
Because of its uniqueness, because of its power, because it varies so much, because no two births are the same. I love that while we know a lot about birth, we also know very little, I love that so much of birth can be instinctive and based on responding to what our body asks of us, I love that a pool of water can work for some women while an epidural is what works for others, I love that caesareans can be a beautiful option for women to choose or that caesareans can provide relief and safety for mothers and babies when needed.
I love birth because, whatever it looks like and however it can be described, we need it to meet our babies.
Janine – antenatal teacher, doula and mum of three…
baby 1 – waters broke, back to back baby and a day of positioning contractions, night of no sleep, then strong labour in the birthing pool at home
baby 2 – back to back baby, day of positioning contractions, waters broke, strong, fast labour and born in the birthing pool at home
baby 3 – a few days of mild contractions, waters broke, ambulance to the hospital because my boy was poorly, strong contractions, gave birth leaning against the bed