View From The Midwife: The Physicality & Intimacy Of Birth
For those who opt to enlist one, the assistance of a midwife during childbirth can be the encouraging push a mother needs during these somewhat strenuous few hours. Whether you choose to use a midwife in a hospital, an independent birth center, or in the solitude and comfort of your own home, this group of trained professionals love having a part in the pre- and post-birth glow that surrounds a healthy addition to a beautiful family.
After working as a maternity nurse for some time, Rachel Blessington of Worcester, Massachusetts, became frustrated with hospital care in the United States and decided she wanted to become a home birth midwife. Earlier this year, she helped a client from her own community deliver her second baby. Blessington offers her account below.
"Earlier this year, one of the clients I had who is living in my community — it’s so great to serve women who live in my own community — she was having her second baby. Her first had been a hospital birth and she did not love her experience there so she wanted something different this time and had planned a home birth. So I had met with her probably halfway through her pregnancy and had been able to see her frequently and developed a great relationship.
"When she believed she was in labor, I went to visit her and see how she was doing and set up home birth supplies. Another great part about home birth is that a lot of mothers want to choose a water birth where they have an inflatable birth pool at home that we fill with warm water and they can use that for labor and delivery if they’d like to.
"When I went to visit her, she was definitely in active labor, but she got to be in her own house... which is a completely more comfortable environment than the hospital. She and her partner were enjoying music that they liked in their own comfortable environment. I let the other midwives know that she was in labor and they joined me. We basically held the space and supported her and monitored the baby but let her and her partner have space and the freedom to follow her body... She moved beautifully through labor.
"Soon enough, she was pushing and delivering her baby right into the birth pool, right into the water. And so another midwife and I were right next to her and caught her beautiful, healthy baby girl and we brought her up to her chest and they just got to enjoy their gorgeous baby in the comfort of their own home.
"Part of what we do is almost like being a lifeguard: We are watching for signs that mom or baby need help, keeping a very close eye that labor is progressing normally... Her labor went very smooth so she didn’t need a lot as far as intervention goes.
"We are present and happy to give physical support. There are times that we are providing massage or encouraging words or the mother is leaning on us for movement and comfort in labor. It can be very physical and intimate.
"It’s so joyful; It’s very beautiful. Often times couples will ask us to photograph those moments where they’re meeting their baby. Sometimes that’s a very quiet and peaceful time and sometimes there's lots of laughter and joking around and joy. They were so excited to meet their little girl so it was very beautiful and touching to watch them both welcome her.”
As an advocate for women’s health, also working with a fantastic organization called MomsRising, Anayah R. Sangodele-Ayoka loves serving as a midwife at an independent birth center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her experience, although not in a home like Blessington, is quite similar, especially when it comes to perspective during the birth itself.
"Once the [pregnant mother] comes in, we meet them at the door, take them to an exam room, and do some talking just to see how labor’s going and what kind of support the person might need if this is active and progressive labor. If they are in active labor, we take them to the birth suites and just help to get them as comfortable as possible... The midwife will be ‘admitting’ them, meaning all the vitals and information is charted. Then we just work to make the family comfortable.
"[What] I’m thinking is how can we best support her to really settle into her labor and tap into her power? That’s paying attention to the family and seeing who can do what, who’s going to be the one to really coach her, who’s going to be the one to put ice packs on her — assessing what’s there in the family and figuring out what she needs. There’s not a ton that you need on hand to help labor along; It’s really all about connecting with the mom.
"We go in and check on them on preset intervals to check vital signs and things, but I’m really always thinking of how I can help her connect to this experience. How can I help her get to a place where she’s not suffering through labor because there’s a difference in experiencing pain and experiencing the intensity of labor and suffering from it. [For those] who really feel like they’re suffering and can’t make it through the pain, they do have the option to say, ‘I want to go to the hospital to get an epidural.’
"In the first moments right after [the mother gives birth], the midwives are known to cry. It’s like if you were at a Broadway show: One moment you’re in the show, it’s happening, reality is suspended for you to be in that experience. And then, once it’s over and the veil is lifted, we can all acknowledged like wow, that was a big production and look how excited we are.
"Birth kind of feels like a little bit like that, too, because it’s so intense and we’re all in it with the experience and trying to get her to center within her power and the baby is born and the veil is lifted and we celebrate and we laugh and cry — it’s almost like wow, there’s this whole new world after birth. It just feels so precious."
You’ll never forget the birth of your child, but what does everyone else who was there remember? Find out with more from Romper’s look at birth, Stork’s Eye View.