The way a woman chooses to give birth is in today’s society a hotly discussed topic. It seems it’s now a no holds barred conversation piece, with even strangers unafraid to ask ‘natural or caesar?’ ‘drugs or no drugs?’ ‘public or private?’ in the name of small talk.
It’s a good thing that birthing has been brought out of the closest, so to speak, but these discussions have now lead to simplistic conclusions related to the mother’s choice or circumstance of the birth and with them latent judgements.
You’ve had an elective caesarean? You must be ‘too posh to push’. Vaginal birth, but with an epidural? Well, that’s cheating. Emergency caesarean? Must have been caused by the ‘cascade of intervention’ in a hospital environment. Vaginal birth, no drugs? Well, you must just be plain crazy.
With my first pregnancy, I elected to go public and entered the ballot for birth centre care at the Royal Brisbane Women Hospital, Brisbane. With demand outstripping places available, it really is a like entering a raffle. So I honestly felt like I’d won the lotto when I found out I got in at the 16 week mark.
The RBWH Birth Centre is the only place in Brisbane where you can labour and birth in water if you so choose. It’s a midwife led model of care for low risk women who desire a natural drug-free birth in a homely environment but with full medical care close at hand.
I got met with my mixed bag of ‘are you crazy?’ type reactions as well as positive encouragement when I told people about my choice to try for a drug-free birth. But as I started attending my appointments and meeting my team of three midwives I felt confident that however my birth went down, that I was where I needed to be and was receiving the best possible care for me.
And that’s just it, we’re all different. What’s feels right for me, won’t feel right for the next woman.
As it turned out my birth didn’t go entirely to plan, and I was transferred up to Birth Suite for some fluids and a syntocin drip to speed things along.
With my known midwife by my side, I didn’t hesitate when she gently suggested transferring and despite a few dramas along the way, including an almost emergency caesarean when it was thought my baby was in distress, I managed to push by 8lb, 13 oz baby boy out without pain relief drugs.
My answers to some of the ‘probing post labour’ enquiries seemed to illicit strong views on either side of the fence ‘why did they let you labour so long?’ asked some, others seemed concerned with the interventions I agreed to and expressed disappointment that I had to transfer.
Suddenly my labour, which I was happy with, had been incorrectly interpreted by people who weren’t even there. Sure it was long, sure there were a few decisions to be made along the way and a few scary moments but it was my journey and I was proud.
So with that in mind, I didn’t hesitate to put my name down for birth centre care again this time around and am very happy to report I got in!
As my midwife said last week at my first appointment, the labour process is not just one day – it’s the support you receive along the way and after the event that’s the most important.
And how each woman wishes to be supported is such an individual consideration. So let’s support other women in their birth choices and leave the judgement behind – and that goes for the self-judgement too. Labour doesn’t always go to plan and not everyone’s plans need to be the same. Whatever gets you through, I say!
What choices did you make for your births? Did you ever feel judged for your choice?