Birthing where and with whom you want should be your legal right. Unfortunately in Australia, if your plan is to birth at home, who you choose to have attend your birth has become restricted by ever increasing government requirements for midwives and in the case of hospital offered homebirth programs, many of the rules for access have made personal choice very limited.
This leaves the growing-in-popularity option of unassisted birth, also known as freebirth.
In the past, freebirth was seen by most as a fringe activity chosen by few. But with the ever-growing restriction of midwifery attended homebirth, the decision for women to freebirth has increased dramatically. The interesting thing to note is, that freebirth is seemingly now being treated by women as a choice in its own right.
Women are no longer just choosing it because they can’t have a midwife at their birth, freebirth is being chosen because women feel that they can. Birthing autonomously is fast becoming a normalised birth option for many women. With access to online social networks and well-established resources, such as the Free Birth Society, women are finding a community to support their desires to birth how they want.
Despite threats to many women, such as being told freebirth is illegal or threats of being reported, this choice isn’t lessening in popularity. Access to independent care - care that holds women and their decision-making at the centre - isn’t going to increase, so for women who want to take full responsibility for their births, then this is the birth they are choosing.
And whilst women are receiving threats, so too are many non-medical birth attendants. They are warned off from attending freebirth, however those of us who believe women make wise decisions for themselves and are able to discern the difference between a midwife and a doula, we show up. We smile, we sit and we celebrate women’s choice, because it is always theirs to make.
What do I do and why is it different?
What do I mean when I say I help women discover how to have births that are aligned with their needs?
We’ve never had more access to information than right now. If you want to learn about what happens during birth, you can find it. If you want to know what it looks like, you can literally watch live-stream births. If you want to know what positions you should do in pregnancy and/or birth to move baby into a certain position, you can find that too. If you need to ask a question, there are thousands and thousands of online groups.
But in this amazingness of abundant information, comes a unique challenge. How do you figure out what it is you personally need?
Everyone has an opinion. I am constantly astonished (although I probably shouldn’t be) by the confidence with which other people tell a woman what she should choose.
And here lies the difference with me.
I don’t think you SHOULD do anything. Whilst I do have an abundance of birth knowledge and I am of course happy to share that with you, the work I do with my clients means I’m first listening to what they want for themselves. And all too frequently I hear of the barriers that they face (often times self-erected ones) to get what they want. Our work together is about discovering how everything they hear and know is swirling in their heads clouding their pathway forward. Maybe they also need to learn something they didn’t even know they were missing. This work enables them to really see clearly which decisions they are comfortable with and if they are ready to delve further to sit in a place of discomfort in order to grow to make decisions that actually feel ultimately better and more aligned. Decisions for who they want to be and what they want their birth to look like.
This is the process of deep preparation that creates clarity, confidence and an alignment that will guide the absolute best decision-making for your birth.
The process works, the results are life-changing.
Why is navigating the system so hard?
Are our care-providers offering us options, sharing their knowledge and expertise in an unbiased way and accepting our responses as the final word? They should be, right?
Most of the time women tell me they dread their appointments. They know they are going to face a range of tactics to convince them to agree to certain interventions or procedures. Ones they want to say no to but are frightened they will agree to.
In online groups I hear over and over how you can just say no, but this is ignoring the complexity of power dynamics, our upbringings around authority figures and the added subtle message that to say no makes us selfish and uncaring of our babies.
Whilst undoubtedly most care-providers genuinely believe they are providing the safest care to women and babies they are overlooking the most vital of factors – they are ignoring women, the person who cares THE MOST about their baby.
It seems increasingly impossible to maintain this status quo – care-providers not listening and women unwillingly handing over their fundamental rights in birth.
What can we do? Can we change the way we respond to conversations; do we walk away from these conversations all together – as an ever-increasing volume of women are choosing to do?
I don’t have the answer for you – because the thing I know is each woman is on her own journey to discover what she needs.
And the other thing I know is that immense shifts are possible when women are asked the right questions, when they are placed at the centre of the conversation, when we trust them to make all the best decisions.
It’s time to change, and the system isn’t doing the changing, so it’s down to you. What are you prepared to choose, what are you going to do, to make sure this birth is exactly what you need it to be?
If this makes you think YES! If this is what you know you are ready for. If this is what you know you need to make your birth your own, then let’s talk.
Do you know yet what you want, what you’ll choose? Can you feel the certainty? Do you trust yourself and the process?
Is that space inside, deep in your gut, telling you that you can let go now? That you’ve worked through your worries, released them. In the moment do you trust that you’ll know what to choose no matter what and it will be exactly right for that moment?
Do you know that even in the hardest situation, the toughest process, you’ll be able to keep going?
And when it’s over and you look back, will you know you trusted yourself and feel good about it?
If you don't, what's stopping you?
Not long after I watched the blue line appear on my pregnancy test, and only a day after hanging out the washing and holding a peg in my mouth which weirdly and immediately made me gag, I excitedly and urgently rang the office of my sister’s obstetrician. Desperate for an appointment, I wanted to ensure I didn’t miss out on her care.
The thing is, whilst I did get in, I made a HUGE mistake.
I began attending appointments where I was weighed, had confusing conversations about my wee, was told which test I’d need to take next, and shown the door.
As the months went by, I enjoyed researching more about the type of birth I wanted. I was excited and frankly blown away by the intricate cocktail of hormones our body produces in labour – not only to birth our baby, but to feel good whilst doing it. Suddenly I wasn’t scared anymore, and I looked forward to my birth. Awesome right?!
I’d also learned how interventions could interrupt this delicate balance of hormones, so I really wanted to talk to my care-provider about how to help me avoid those. But at each appointment there never seemed an opportunity or an opening to begin the conversation.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had been told I would meet the midwife who worked with my obstetrician. I hoped this would be the time where what I wanted during my labour would be discussed, rather than with my busy obstetrician who had, so far, shown no interest.
Finally, on the day of my midwife appointment, I clutched the birth plan I had written and made my way into the office. I waited for the invitation to discuss my needs. It didn’t come. After a confusing discussion about wanting to look at my nipples to see if I would be able to breastfeed (hint: that’s not a thing, folks), I tentatively asked the midwife if she wanted to see my birth plan. She threw her head back and laughed. Feeling shocked, I didn’t say anything more. She made me feel so small.
From this point on, I realised that this model of care was not on the same page as I was. I didn’t feel cared for, listened to – in fact I didn’t feel like I mattered at all.
Now, after almost ten years of working with women, mentoring them through their pregnancies and births, I know that one of the most critical things that impacts a woman’s birth is the one thing I wish I’d known before I chose my care-provider.
And that one thing is this: Each care-provider (obstetrician, midwife, doctor) has their own philosophy and thoughts around birth – your birth. And these philosophies differ from provider to provider. I wish I’d known that my obstetrician would care more about what they wanted for my birth than what I did.
So, I want to share with you, before you choose your obstetrician or midwife, consider first the birth you want to have. Ask yourself what you want – what is important to you? Then, and only then, will you be able to choose the care-provider to best support you, so you can emerge from your birth feeling like it went the way you wanted, in a way that made you feel heard and valued.
I wish I could tell you that I had a magical a-ha moment, where I ran (waddled?) from the unfriendly, uncaring doctor and her nipple-checking midwife, into the kind and gentle arms of someone who wanted to support the kind of birth I was looking for. But I didn’t. I truly thought I could make it work. But, as I had suspected, the birth that I wanted was never further away than during those hours I worked so hard to bring my baby to me in an unsupportive environment.
So please know, you and your birth matter. You have the opportunity to find out what you want, and find someone who wants that for you.
When I see this – women making choices aligned with their needs – it really is amazing. I smile, because I know I learned the answer. And now I get to share it.
Sign up here to access my FREE alignment process webinar that provides you with my step-by-step approach to help you consider if you are making the right choices for your birth.
Often, from the stories we hear or from our own previous birth experiences, it feels like we can never control the outcomes of a birth. It can feel like we should just go with the flow, follow the guidance and influences of our care providers or the people around us.
But there is another way.
Birth most definitely takes its own path. And it’s true that at times the outcome can be an unwelcome one. But I know that in cases like this - where birth takes a turn you didn't expect or want - it is still entirely possible to feel okay, even confident. Feeling heard, understanding information, taking action (or not) in your own time when possible – these things can alter the way that you ultimately feel about your whole birth experience, for the better.
When you gain knowledge about your body and birth, when you delve deep within yourself, and when you uncover a clarity about how you make decisions - all this self-discovery can ultimately lead to a birth that feels so much more aligned to you. A birth that honours what is important to you.
And these feelings that I see emerge, as women and their families step into a space that is so different than where they started?
This is a magnificent sight to behold.
The woman poised - ready, willing, open and calm – waiting for her birth to begin.
Can you imagine it? Do you want it?
If you do, now is the time, take the first step, you won’t be disappointed where it takes you.
Birth in our society is currently so polarising. On one side we see birth presented as dangerous, risky and awful, and often in these circumstances women will place their entire trust and experience in the hands of their particular care-provider – and let me be clear, that is their right to do so.
On the other side, we’ve seen the establishment of a movement towards positive birthing with the woman at the centre. This movement has rocketed in popularity due to social media and the rise of birth photography. Images of women birthing this way have never been more accessible.
If I had to use one word to sum up this movement it would be EMPOWERMENT. However, from the earliest of days of my work in this space, this word has never sat comfortably with me – for a couple of reasons.
One way this word is frequently used is based on the idea that it can be handed out to others, as if sprinkled around like fairy dust magically creating births with women at the centre. But, this is not right, it is birthing women themselves who create this feeling, they are the one who must step into the responsibility of preparation and become invested in their own births.
So there’s that.
But the other thing that has continued to nibble at me – what if birth was just ORDINARY?
It feels more reasonable to me to think of women throughout our long birthing history, that they would have felt that their biology was not an extraordinary event at all. Not that it was without strength and determination, but that it was normal, an expected part of their every day walk.
I understand the need for the pendulum to swing far to one side in order to balance out the medical approach to birth, so that we do currently find ourselves here on the upswing where biological birth is being presented with a particular frame of reference – empowered, warrior, badass.
I think the pendulum is now ready to swing again and bring us back a little closer to our biology, where birth is our ordinary, our own birthright as women – if we choose it – and our normal.
As a wonderful woman I know often says ‘I wish you a boring birth’.
Sometimes I think why are we doing it all?
We have been birthing our babies since the beginning of time. Why do we need to do all this conscious preparation, why do we need to dig so deep?
If you’ve been lucky enough to come from a line of women who’ve shown you birth – birth where biology is represented in all her glory – then you will have trust for the normalcy of it written into the deepest part of your brain. This will drive your belief in your body’s ability and there will be so many less barriers for your journey to birth.
But that experience is rare now.
Now our brains are layered in doubt and fear, our conscious and subconscious are filled with birth as trauma, birth as dangerous and birth as painful. And to add more layers to this, our maternity system is steeped in paternalistic and infantilising behaviours.
To step out from under that weight into a clearer space, to strip back each layer and examine it, does take this deep work.
But it is freeing work, as each layer is peeled back, the air feels clearer and your path less cluttered.
With medical interventions in birth continuing to increase, and access to care that supports unhindered birth steadily decreasing, this work has never been more necessary to discover what you need for yourself.
So the question isn’t why are we doing it, but rather why wouldn’t we be?
I had a difficult birth experience.
It seems so long ago now, and in more ways than just time.
It wasn’t until months afterwards that I began to put all the pieces together, learning, unpacking, trying to understand why the outcomes of my baby’s birth did not make sense. It was afterwards when I faced the regret of not knowing, of not understanding and not exploring. Afterwards was when I wished I had known more.
And this is why I have developed into this particular type of doula, one who knows how it feels to have made unexamined choices. This is why my greatest wish for women isn’t a particular type of birth, but a birth you can feel is your own. Even if your birth takes twists and turns to a place that isn’t wanted, it can still be understood why you are there.
Helping women carve out a space for themselves to listen to their own voice - to explore and discover their own needs - has become an integral part of the work I do. When I was having my own baby I didn’t realise how noisy the world of waiting for birth was. I took it as normal that everyone would have opinions about what I should do and how I should do it. I surrounded myself with people who didn’t show me that my voice mattered. And that is so far from how it should be.
So I have found myself here as the years have passed, providing space for women to hear their own voices. These voices are wise, because deep down you know what you want. You might not know how to get there yet, but your voice is strong and loud - you are just waiting on all the noise to quieten so that you can be heard.
Each and every day, I’m walking beside women as they let out their voice and their desires. If you want help to tune into yours, send me a message so we can find the right pathway for you. You deserve it
Every time you show up, every time you think about the birth you want, every time you consider what might be holding you back and work towards releasing it, you are one step closer to a better birth than you were before.
This is your work – and every single bit you do towards making your birth the one you want, is a win.
It is worth it, it is success, it is beautiful. Keep showing up for the birth that you want, it counts. How are you showing up? How are you making it count?