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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Giving Back to Birth

It has been 10 months since I gave birth at Cavan General Hospital, in their MLU. Birth is always going to be a difficult thing to do, thats why they call it 'labour'. I wanted to write this post to talk about the distinct difference between a hospitalized 'consultant led' route, and an epidural free, and empowered birth, and mostly the lack of trauma I experienced due to the MLU and midwives who assisted me to give birth, I was not a passive observer, and for this I am grateful and I think more connected to my daughter.

The more stories I hear from other women I meet that went the hospital route, the more grateful I am for my experience, tough as it was. I am even more determined it will be better next time :)

From the beginning of my pregnancy to give birth naturally and give my baby the best start in life, I felt that I had to swim against the mainstream from the outset to find what I was looking for. I wanted for a different experience, to be more empowered in giving birth, and I knew I needed to find a midwife.

They have for all time been the main way a woman gives birth. Until the last decade or so, men weren't even allowed in the room! Now it is highly medicalized, and hospital focused, if a woman gives birth now, she is 'treated' as if for a illness. She is not empowered, and doesn't know her part in the process, what she will be required to do, and it doesn't hit home until she goes home with her baby that she and she alone is responsible for what happens to this life growing inside her. I knew, the hospital approach with its probabilities and scans and needles just didn't feel right. It could have actually been one of my first motherly instincts kicking in, when I started looking for a care provider. I ended up with 3 care providers in the end.

I started with the Vanderbilt midwife program because I was told they were the 'only' midwives in Nashville (can  you imagine!), and was sad to find that I couldn't have my baby in the water, (insurance companies won't allow it) or avoid the medicalized environment. I wanted a birth center, to be allowed to give birth the way I wanted, in water, with women that knew what they were doing and potentially knew what I was going through.

I then found out about the farm while watching a Ricki Lake documentary, The Business of Being Born. It was eye opening and I couldn't believe it was in Tennessee, just 1.5 hours away from where we lived. I was hooked. I called thinking there is no way if this documentary is out there, that they will even have space this far into the pregnancy (I was about halfway through). I called though and got an appointment with Sharon. She was amazing.

This was my second care provider and if it wasn't for the move I would have gladly given birth there.

We moved to Ireland in the 8th month of my pregnancy, for an amazing job offer that I couldn't turn down. My new boss told me there was a place where I could (somewhat) be a partner in delivering my baby at the new MLU program in Drogheda. We moved, and then I found out they had made a mistake, no room at the inn, it was full. I was told by a midwife there that there were only 2 MLU's (Midwifery led units) in the country as it was being trialled for effectiveness as well as cost for low risk pregnancies only. I went and was accepted into the program (thank GOD), so at 8.5 months pregnant, 3 weeks before Christmas, we moved temporarily into a house near the hopital in Cavan. Which is how we ended up having our baby (as well as our wedding 2 years ago) in Cavan. Weird I know. All I knew was that I was grateful they took me on so late in the pregnancy.

Well they were amazing. The midwives there were the closest thing I could find to the farm. At this point I had read two of Ina May's books, and the bradley book of birth, and attended childbirth classes. I was ready (by the way you are NEVER ready but I am still really glad I learned everything I did because I knew what was happening).

Afterwards, I was given witch hazel for soothing the pain 'down there', and multi-mam cream for breastfeeding, they fed us, and helped me breastfeed, and to get to the bath and shower and to the toilet. I can't even imagine the alternative, being left in a ward with up to 12 other women and their newborns to recover, and take care of my baby by myself after having just given birth. My husband AND his mother got to stay, for the birth, and afterwards on a fold out bed in the room and help with the baby.

I got to be with my baby, do skin to skin and recover and rest when I could. I got to breastfeed on demand, without leaving the bed, I can't even begin to describe how incredibly grateful I was to the women there for all of this.

At the time we asked them why this was 1 of only 2 units in the country, when Ireland is the most 'pregnant' country in Europe,  and they said there was a good chance their program was going to be axed. I couldn't understand it. They had great outcomes and it was found to be cheaper overall for a woman to give birth there than the consultant led route that 99% of women in Ireland take. Mostly because they don't even know about it, or don't know that there is more than one way to give birth.

We asked what we could offer them as thanks, and they said that because they assist women in positions all over the room, they are often on their knees for hours on the floor. They mentioned the kneeling stools that gardeners use, and that they would be so helpful. Well, we left and wanted to get this to them, but of course, got on with our lives, and we were so busy with our first child, and moving and starting my new job. I have been feeling really bad about not organizing this, but I haven't forgotten, and I will do this as soon as I can organize it.

I have such a passion now for breasfeeding, and giving women choices in birth, that I want to do something more, and try to give back. I want to get involved in breastfeeding support too. I want younger women to know that breastfeeding in public isn't that bad, and that it only hurts in the beginning, and the feelings I get from my bond with my baby, are amazing, that now it feels like the most special important thing I have ever done in my life. Bar none.

I really want to help give women realistic information and options for bringing children into this world. It doesn't have to be this 'illness' model of birth. It doesn't have to be this expensive, formula, gadget filled world. It's just you, your instincts and baby. Armed with information, and informed support people if you can get them, you can do the best job possible, and you don't have to be rich or educated.

So the first thing I will do is to go find those stools for the midwives in Cavan General. It is my first step to 'giving back to birth'. I am so passionate about it I even want to trademark that saying ;)

Midwives are amazing, they are fighting an underground revolution that most people aren't even aware of, trying to inform women on their choices and giving them a birth experience that they can be part of, and do with them. I have so much reverence and gratitude for anyone that does this because it is not a job. It is a calling.

I hope there is more to come on this from me in the future. I hope I stay passionate about it. I want others to be armed with the same information I went out and found, and to make their decisions with all this information. I just know more people would breastfeed, and be empowered to be partners in their own births, and that there would be a lot less trauma involved in giving birth, which can only be good for us right?

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