Sunday, November 14, 2010

The midwife experience

Jenny was great. She held me, rocked me, massaged my back, soothed me, encouraged me and challenged me when it got real tough. She kept contact with me all day, but only showed up when I was in active labour. Before then it was just my husband and I - bonding, laughing and coping. She kept asking where the pain was, how my body felt and we followed that lead. I gave birth, squatting in front of my bed, held in my husbands arms. She debriefed me afterwards while stitching up my lttle tear, saying over and over: you did so well, you can be so proud of yourself, it will be easier next time, you did so well. I sank into a warm bath and had sweet tea. I was helped into my own bed, tucked in, and only then did she come and weigh my new little person on the bed where I could see. She helped me breastfeed, tidied up the room, packed up her things and left two hours after the birth. She returned a day later to check up on us. I remember thinking, I am not ready for you to leave, not ready to let you go. You meant too much to me, did too much for me. You will forever be part of who I am.

I found her through the internet as well as by recommendation of everyone I asked. There are very few midwifes in my area because they have so little support from the medical world, but I was assured that she was experienced and respected. I made an appointment and had my first free visit with her when I was six weeks pregnant. She was professional, but friendly and relaxed. All this was new to us and we had mountains of questions, but she answered each one, without ever making us feel as though we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves or questioning her abilities. That was that. I had to start my visits only after 12weeks as she could only then start to monitor the heartbeat. She asked me to make appointments for a 12week and 23week scan. Then we waited.

We met again after the first scan and continued to do so every month, where she did a urine test, checked my blood pressure, meassured and felt my stomach and listened to the heartbeat. She encouraged me to bring my toddler along explained to him what she was doing. Just as with a doctor, visits become every second week after 30weeks and then weekly by 36weeks.

Our plan was to deliver the baby at a hospital, but with her help, not with the hospital staff. Near the end of my pregnancy, this changed. We realised how slim the chances of a natural, unmedicated birth was in a hospital and decided to plan for a home birth. I made an extra appointment with Jenny to inform her of our plans. She was happy, but reminded us that we have a choice in everything, even up to the end.
Just  I had two visits with my back-up doctor, and at the last one something interesting happened: We were discussing the fact that the baby had not dropped yet and I made the comment that I was two weeks late as a baby, so if there is one thing I do not fear, it is a overdue baby. Then he said, just remember that some babies just die after 40weeks! One day they are still there and the next they are gone. Just like that he said it. And I felt the tentacles of fear trying to get a hold of me. No wonder many couples make rash decisions at the end! Who wants to jeopardise the life of your baby? We shook off the fear and went home. Nothing in our bodies work according to a strict clock, why would a whole person be formed in exactly 40weeks? Like a oven bell that goes off.
I went into labour just before 39weeks and it took 19hours. Jenny came prepared with a medical doctor on standby, an incubator and oxygen and set up a little station in my bedroom. Every so often she would measure the heartbeat and check how far I was dialated, but she let me do this at my own pace. When I was ready to push, she let me. A good midwife's focus is to assist you in childbirth, not to deliver the baby for you. They watch you and take your lead. They are there if and as you need them. Be encouraged to look into a birth with a midwife, whether in hospital or at home. For me, it turned a medical procedure back into a natural, personal, womanly right of passage.

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