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 more than 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 person 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 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.
And 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.