We did an exciting thing this week. We booked our midwife! It would be difficult to overstate just how pleased I am about the whole thing (not to the degree where I want to give birth twice or anything – moderately overexcited if you like).
First time round we found ourselves in the really really uncommon situation whereby there were no midwives available to attend our home birth. A brilliant (and possibly rogue) midwife who I had happened to see at one of my ante-natal appointments did tell me (in a surreptitious way, whispering heavily with her hand cupped round the side of her mouth and her eyes scanning the room for eavesdroppers/bugs – or at least that’s how I remember it) that if you refuse to go anywhere they have to send someone.
This was interesting news to me; my little ears pricked up and I settled in to an afternoon on Google. Sure enough it seemed to be true – I printed off a set piece on what to say if there were no midwives on the day from the AIMS website (section on homebirth, about halfway down the page) and thought no more about it. Then… there were no midwives! They did eventually send midwives, gas and air became my new best friend, everyone worked very hard (especially me) and eventually a baby was born.
Now, I would really like to stress how infrequently this happens (so I’m told), but the difficulty is that 100% of our experience is one in which there were no midwives available. In the 2 ½ years since, we have talked hypothetically about what we might do next time. I had heard of independent midwives, but knew that because of the threat of the insurance problem, our local one had chosen not to practice anymore. So, when we found out about this pregnancy, my previous scepticism about the idea of a doula (not dissimilar to this view) lifted somewhat on the rationale that the last time the worst bit was the hours before the midwife came when we were kind of just making it up as we went along by ourselves. Plus, everyone has promised me (actual, real, binding promises) that second babies are quicker, so in the event of a speedy arrival, it would at least be helpful to have someone who knows a thing or two about this kind of thing (although now that we’ve done it once before, my partner, my sister and I are clearly going to be amazing next time (especially me)).
And then, lo and behold, just as we were about to book our doula, we discovered that independent midwives were back in action (and we just happened to know an independent midwife…).
The other thing that matters to me now, but which only vaguely crossed my radar before, is to have someone I know and trust (and, just as important, who my partner knows and trusts) looking after us. The unexpected silver lining of the no-midwife situation was that my own midwife who had looked after me antenatally was there for the birth. I imagine it went something like: ‘She’s being difficult and she’s your patient. You go deal with it’.
I came into contact with four midwives in the 24 hours before the birth. Of the four, the only one who treated me in a way in which I wanted to be treated was the one I already knew. One made me so angry I cried for most of the afternoon; I felt the second one disapproved of me; the third one was good but I felt yelled at me more than was strictly necessary, whereas my midwife just seemed to get it right.
I’m sure the others weren’t any less kind or competent or caring – it was just that they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them, whereas she and I had gotten to know each other’s style and approach a bit and I think it made a difference. I look back now and am almost in disbelief when I realise how super-sensitive I was in the few days before the birth.
A friend who is a doula told me once that pregnant women can be incredibly draining to look after because they are so focused on themselves and their bodies. I remember getting stupidly and irrationally angry with my poor sister the evening I went into labour because she made the wrong carrot salad. The fact that she had taken an indefinite amount of time off work to travel halfway across the country and tend to my every requirement was neither here nor there. Dinner was ruined.
But anyway, back to me. So yes, having reflected on this I decided that I care about knowing the people around me. I want them to know what I need, not because they have read it in some birth plan or medical notes, but because they know me. I want them to feel pleased to be coming to welcome my baby with me and not see me as a difficult or stubborn patient to be disapproved of for taking more than my fair share of midwife time and leaving other women short-changed.
And now that it’s all organised, it already feels like it’s been worth it for the sense that so many uncertainties have been resolved. I know there’s no guarantee of a ‘perfect’ birth, but at least now I’m confident I’ll get the right care for me. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the next few months have in store for me and my midwife, together.
I am Ashleigh. I live in a village in Cornwall with my partner and daughter, and we’ll shortly be joined by our second child. More interested than I ever expected to be in all things pregnancy, birthy and early infancy and discovering new things to ask questions about with each stage of my family’s development.