I have spoken to hundreds of women over the years. I have taught their childbirth education class, cared for them on their pregnancy journey or been their midwife as they birth their baby. What has always fascinated me is how women describe their experience of giving birth. On paper, it may seem that a woman has had a textbook, normal vaginal birth, though, in her eyes it was the most traumatic experience. Alternatively, some women get thrown the full range of intervention and walk away exclaiming they feel like they could move mountains. How can that be?
Many events, like birth are shaped by our family, our culture, previous experiences and stories we have been told by the important people in our lives. We know that these events can alter the way we think as we enter into our own experience, particularly the experience of birth. I have also seen how an experience can be altered by empowering ourselves with education and knowledge. It is our perception of how birth is that can be so profound. We need to strive towards achieving a positive experience for all women as they navigate an increasingly medicalised birthing model.
I spoke with Sophie, a beautiful mum who experienced a traumatic caesarean section with her first baby. She missed those first pivotal moments of touch, skin to skin contact and an undisturbed first breastfeed. I met Sophie as she prepared for her next birth and her passion was strong. She nurtured her mind and body. She educated herself. We talked through her first birth, pulled it apart. We talked about the amazing things they achieved together and the things that created the most trauma. We validated her feelings and finally we put it aside as we created new pathways of thinking and feeling this time around. She felt prepared and excited for her journey, rarely allowing doubts to seep in. She was ready for a healing birth
Here is the story she shared with me about her second birth –
“I just wanted to let you know that we had the most empowering and healing birth.
It definitely wasn’t the birth I’d hoped, but it ended up being exactly what I needed – calm, empowering and connective.
I think everyone is disappointed for me that I didn’t get my VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) but I’m (surprisingly) not.
I made my own informed decisions around everything that was happening and I absolutely believe I made the best decisions for me, my baby and my family.
Turns out I didn’t need a vaginal birth to have a healing birth! What I needed was collaboration, support, time to make decisions, trust, rapport and a team that worked ‘with’ me not against me. That was the clincher. This was never about the vaginal birth and it took this experience for me to see that. This was about having a ‘positive experience..
We had skin to skin in theatre while she was still covered in vernix, no one came near us to help breastfeed or to take her to weigh her. They all gave us our space and I got to experience immediate connection and bonding with our Ruby that sadly took many weeks with Leo.
I couldn’t be happier or prouder of how it all turned out.
If it wasn’t for empowering birth education things might have felt very different.”
The key to a positive birth experience? Education, support, a nurturing care provider and trust.