It was her first baby. She was well supported by her loving partner. They had planned and hoped for a gentle birth in the birth centre, using the hypnobirthing techniques they had learned together. But things had not quite gone that way. Here they were in a busy obstetric delivery suite, with white walls, a hospital bed and a monitor.
Now I’m not one for letting things like hospital rooms and monitors get in the way of a beautiful and empowering birth experience. It’s what you make of the environment you’re in and the compassion which you bring to the moment that can impact on how a woman feels about her birth.
We could close the blinds, and close the door. We put on the hypnobirthing music I carry around in my bag, and with the continuous monitor strapped to her belly, quietly tap-tapping, she leaned over the back of the bed. Covered in a sheet to provide a cocoon enabling her to feel a small amount of privacy in this vulnerable time, to create a melting pot from which oxytocin could ooze from her being.
Her labour moved on so smoothly and quickly in a room that had seen its fair amount of stalled labours and ‘failure to progress’. I knew that her baby was going to be here soon, so prepared the bed beneath her. Laying down some absorbent inco pads to catch the waters as they emerged, and a couple of towels to provide a soft landing area for her baby, I quietly explained what would happen as they worked together to welcome their baby.
Slowly the baby crowned and emerged, wet and slippery, and I guided her down gently onto the waiting towels between her knees. A good midwife knows when a baby is making a smooth transition into this world and no rubbing and stimulation is necessary. This midwife was happy so I stepped back and watched. Far enough to allow this private moment to unfold, close enough to observe.
Dad was in awe of everything. She took a moment to come back to her body. To take a breathe and then look down to see her newly arrived miracle. She looked intently, touched and stroked this new being between her knees.
Time stood still watching the scene unfold. What felt like an age was just minutes. It takes a lot of patience to step back and trust, without feeling the pull to ‘help’. That feeling gets better with time. Eventually she picked up her baby and the emotion that poured out from every pore was incredible. It makes me emotional even now remembering that moment.
All this time I was accompanied by a medical student, who was witnessing her first birth. I was glad she was with me on that day.
It was magical. A whole new experience for me as a midwife definitely. Why hadn’t I thought of suggesting this before? And it made complete sense. At the moment of birth, rather than having the baby passed directly into your waiting arms, at a time when you are probably not quite connected to this earth, still reeling from the power of contractions, and the enigmatic sensations of expulsion, you have a moment to return. To steady yourself, and be ready to actually meet your baby.
The opportunity doesn’t present itself that often though it seems. If you’re lying on your back, the midwife or doctor will be doing the catching and then pass the baby up to you. If you’re in the birth pool you can catch your own baby, but it’s usually a pretty immediate thing, rather than letting them swim around for a bit first.
Squatting or upright birth would probably be a physiological choice for humans, and then this ‘birth pause’ would make sense in that context.
As a midwife, faced with looking after different women, in not always ‘oxytocin-conducive’ environments it can take a little bravery to have a go at something new. But have a go, and you’ll be so glad you did.
This is an old but incredible video of how it looks…
More about the ‘birth pause’…