My darling surprise twins came into this world in such a hurry, with just 1 hour of active labour and birthed gracefully into our bath at home. We expected a placenta and instead were blessed with a twin. Both midwives were suspended, controversy was ignited and their story circulated all over the world, with over 1.5 million views, comments and likes.
So why was their birth such a big deal? Because it shocked people. Because it highlighted the underlying birthing culture we have all unknowingly become a part of. A culture that has led us to believe that a natural and instinctual approach to birth is not safe, desirable or achievable. A culture that has unknowingly taken a stronghold over our beliefs and ingrained in us a subconscious fear around our ability to carry and birth our babies. Now we simply enter ‘the system’. Get pregnant, get your schedule, get told where to be, at what time, who is going to touch you, poke you, scan you, and tell you if your baby is ‘normal’. And we don’t question it because we are led to believe that it is all very necessary… rather than being told the truth, which is that it is all optional, and each mother should evaluate and individually select the right care options for her and her baby. The system has taken away the single most important question that every expecting mother should be asking herself…. ‘how do I want to carry and birth my baby?’ What specific tests, scans and advisors will make ME personally feel safe and empowered and using each of her choices accordingly.
The system has created fear and a distorted reality that we are not capable of knowing what our bodies and babies need, and in turn has stopped us from connecting in to our incredibly powerful mother’s instincts. And if we don’t connect in, we forget…..we forget what a truly instinctual, natural and transformational process pregnancy and birthing can be.… we forget that the process is as individual and unique to us as our own thumb print, and in essence, we forget who we truly are….. powerful, capable and intuitive MOTHERS. We forget that it is our rite of passage to transcend and bring our babies in to the world, our way. Instinctively we know we are capable, instinctively we know we want to, but we are led to believe that we can’t. And we are led to believe this because essentially the hospital system simple cannot cater for individualised birthing care and it needs its staff and patients to work within its tight protocols.
We may be excelling in the technology department but we are failing in our humanness. There is no greater time in a mother’s or baby’s life that they need personalised, connected, loving human care than at birth. At a time when they have never felt so vulnerable, raw and instinctual mothers need to feel heard, they need to feel safe and they need to feel in control of their birthing space. Mothers have the right to accept and decline care according to their individual circumstances and they should be encouraged to use their instincts for what their body and baby needs.
I am a mother and my body was my baby's keeper, its safe haven and the one that gave it life. My body had grown my baby without technology telling it how, it knew, it birthed my baby without technology telling it how, it knew.... I trusted my body, I trusted myself, I trusted my instincts. If I needed help I would call upon it, and I would do so feeling safe and empowered that we have a world class medical system to support us, but otherwise, I would just embrace the process, let go and be the mother nature that I am. Pregnancy is not an illness, I was not sick... and birthing is not a medical procedure, it is a natural procedure, that MAY, if necessary, need to be assisted by medical procedures.
I don't really have an opinion, scan, don't scan, do tests, don't do them, home birth, hospital birth... all of them have their risks for and against, but the biggest risk you will take is if you don't take charge and do your birth your way. Birth traumas and interventions are growing in numbers and it’s only you that can prevent it from happening to you. There is no single right way to be pregnant and give birth, there is only the right way for you. A safe pregnancy and labour is one in which the mother feels empowered, safe and within herself... so ask the question what do I need to do to feel that way? Get informed, find the right care for you and own your space. It’s time to remember who we are, trust ourselves and be brave.
But why is this becoming harder and harder to achieve? Well because in essence hospitals really are doing the best they can. The demand on the hospital system is immense, and the people coming through their doors are from all walks of life. So in order to have quality control and consistency within an environment that has shift work and high staff turnover they need to have strict policies to follow. However, with such tight policies to adhere to staff can be left feeling like order takers that have no ability to use their own intuition and experience, and the result is that hospitals are being run by fear of reprimand and not the talented and nurturing humans that work there. Hospital staff are caught between a rock and a hard place because they know each birthing mother’s needs are different but they also know that they need to follow the guidelines because if they step outside of it the consequences can be as high as suspensions or loss of licences. I understand why this is the case… but that doesn’t make it OK. It doesn’t make it OK to take away a women’s rights and ability to birth her baby her way. It doesn’t make it OK to remove a very capable and experienced carers ability to respond to a mother’s individual needs. It doesn’t make it OK to push unnecessary interventions. It doesn’t make it OK that midwifery and nursing satisfaction levels are declining. It doesn’t make it OK that increasingly women are experiencing birthing traumas and suffering from PTSD after birth. Who is winning here? Not the staff, not the mothers, not the hospital reputation.
The twins birth was controversial because it was a clear reminder of what pregnancy and birthing can be when we go back to basics. It was proof that not all pregnancies and births need the one size fits all approach that we are offered. For some women being within a hospital environment makes them feel safe, and they are able to relax and achieve the birth they deserve and desire, and for that we are all grateful… but what about the women that need a different type of care to achieve the birth that they deserve and desire?
These are the women that we find seeking alternative birthing options such as birthing houses, home births and free birth. These mothers have very different needs in order to have a truly successful birth and to feel safe in their birthing space. These mothers need to feel heard; they need to feel in control, and they need to do things in a way that feels right for them. Unfortunately though, these mothers birthing options are slowly being removed, the AHPRA policies are becoming too tight and too regimented for private midwives to truly fulfil these mothers birthing rights. Take for example my midwife Martina, she did nothing but accept mine and my husbands informed pregnancy and birthing choices, which is our right, but for that she has lost everything. She had to close her business, lay off her staff, move from her home and spent over $40,000 on legal advice. Yet 6 months later, has not been proven guilty of anything and is still unable to work. And 6 months later AHPRA has still not spoken to my husband and I for our account on the events. This is not right and sadly her situation is not unique.
We should be empowering and equipping private midwives to successfully help mother’s birth at home but instead the private system is being cracked down on and carers are being reprimanded for doing nothing but supporting birthing women rights. There can’t be a one size fits all policy for midwives when their patient’s needs, and birthing rights, are so vast. And it is completely unethical to take their licence away for supporting a women’s birth rights. If we don’t get this right, we will see an increase in fearful midwives refusing birthing women care, and in turn these mothers will have no one to care for them and will choose to free birth. This does not sound like a desirable outcome.
So where does this leave future birthing mothers?