As told to Home Birth Canterbury by Sara Bailey
So as I’m sure you know there’s been a lot of discussion in the media recently about midwifery care and the NZ maternity system. The headlines have been over the top, sensationalist and alarmist. The Ministry of Health, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the College of Midwives have all come together and issued a joint statement reassuring us that the NZ maternity system is safe and robust. But I already knew that. I’m one of the many, many women I know that have had amazing care from a midwife. Here’s my story (its a long one!).
When I chose my midwife I had no idea how important our relationship would be. I figured as long as I had a homebirth midwife I’d get what I wanted. Luckily for me as my pregnancy progressed and my relationship with my midwife, Lynda, grew, I realised just how aligned our ideas about birth and parenting were. Our monthly visits were great chat sessions and I always looked forward to them. I really appreciated how Lynda could relate and empathise with however I was feeling at the time. I always felt like I could tell her how I was really feeling, let her know about anything that was bothering me or call her with any worry I might have.
When I went into labour with my first baby I panicked. Contractions started close together and I was not prepared for the power of them. I was so panicky I couldn’t even focus enough to time my contractions. My husband and mum were on their way to meet me at home but I wasn’t coping so I called Lynda and told her what was going on. Looking back now I can see how instantly just speaking with her calmed me. She gently guided me to fill the jug, boil water and fill a hot water bottle – all the time, listening to my vocalisation, and timing my contractions for me. Later when labour was in full swing I was getting overwhelmed and breathing fast which was making me feel sick and dizzy. I had my eyes shut most of the time but I remember Lynda’s calm but firm voice guiding me to slow my breathing and stay calm. I wouldn’t listen to myself or my mum or husband but instantly responded to Lynda’s reassurance! The previous months of building our relationship meant I had faith and respect in her knowledge and support. After my baby was born Lynda made me feel like such a champion and always reminded me of what a strong woman (and now mother!) I was.
I was so excited to be able to call Lynda when I got pregnant with my second baby. She was so excited for us, it was like calling a family member to tell them the good news. I was thrilled to have her as my midwife again and lovely for her to be able to come back and see my firstborn as a big boy now. Lynda always came to my house for my antenatal appointments to make it easy for me and again I looked forward to chatting with her. With this pregnancy I was really keen to arm myself with lots of knowledge so Lynda was really supportive with information and books about natural and empowering birth. I read and read and prepared myself to really be in control of my mind with this labour and birth.
My only fear during this pregnancy was that Lynda would not be available for my birth. As it turned out my baby came almost 3 weeks early, and Lynda had just gotten home from her holiday when I went into labour. I was so pleased she was back!! (I think maybe baby knew?!). I laboured quietly in the early stages of labour on my own through the night and when I got to the point where I felt like I wasn’t coping anymore I knew it was time to call Lynda. She came and calmly and confidently supported me to continue labouring beautifully. With just her presence in the room I was able to focus and breathe through contractions, and then sit up and chat and laugh in between. One thing I always remember about Lynda’s support during labour is that she seemed to know instinctively when to sit back and just hold space, and also when I needed more support. She was always ready to hold a hot towel over my tummy or lower back or to help me get comfortable. I also remember as my baby girl was born Lynda said to me it was time to reach down and hold my baby. I’m so glad she remembered this part of my birth plan because at that moment I was so focused on birthing my baby. It was a really special and proud moment for me to be the first to touch and hold my baby girl. Later after the birth as we debriefed we talked about how we’d both thought about asking to break my waters, but had both decided that wasn’t necessary and things were progressing just fine. Great minds think alike?!
In the following weeks as I adjusted to being a mother of two (my oldest was just 20 months) Lynda was always supportive and kind as I cried on the couch about how hard it was! I never felt judged or embarrassed telling her how I was really feeling and she was always my biggest champion, reminding me it was all normal and I was doing a fantastic job. As I had done the first time, I cried when our final visit came.
When it came time for my third baby there was absolutely no question I needed Lynda there as my midwife again. I made sure he was conceived at the right time to make sure she would not be away on his due date! As always Lynda came to my house for antenatal visits and waited patiently as I tried to chat to her in between running around after my two older children. Somehow they always seemed to pick that time to argue or need a snack! But I knew Lynda didn’t care what my house looked like, or how full on my kids were being so even though I found it frustrating to not have quiet time with her, it was manageable.
My due date came and went and boy was I cranky. I was so cranky that I started getting flowers and deliveries of food from friends and family even before I’d had my baby. Lynda and her student midwife Courtney did their best to keep me calm and remind me that baby was coming soon, when he was ready. Finally the day came but labour was all over the place, not progressing steadily as my others had. Contractions came close, and then far and I found it very confusing. I was still cranky and wanted this baby out! I remember at around 4.00am I’d had enough and I was ready to start helping things along. I asked Lynda to break my waters. This was not something I’d ever been keen on doing, preferring to let things progress naturally, but at the point it was what I needed. I had a good enough relationship with my midwife for her to understand that it was not a decision I’d come to lightly, and that I understood my choice and that it was my choice. After reminding me of my options she did as I asked and I continued to progress. My baby was born as the morning sun streamed in through the window and he was warmly greeted by my husband, mum, Lynda and Courtney, our birth photographer Sharon and my two older children Jackson and Honor. There was so much love in the room!
Here is a quote that I love and truly believe.
“When a woman births, not only is a baby being born but so is a mother. How we treat her will affect how she feels about herself as a mother and as a parent. Be gentle. Be kind. Listen.”
― Ruth Ehrhardt
Thank you Lynda for being my midwife, my friend, my fairy godmother, my aunt, and my cheerleader. Thank you for listening, laughing and crying with me. Thank you for caring about me and my family.
Lynda Robertson is a midwife with Danu Midwives.
Sara Bailey is part of the committee of Home Birth Canterbury and is the face behind our Facebook page and website.