Perspective. It is subjective. Being a midwife has taught me many things; one being that there are always two sides to the story, and they both can be equally important, relevant and captivating. I wonder, after a birth, what my clients think about their birth experience. I wonder how they were enriched by the process of bringing life into this world. I watch them, as they labor and birth. They are born themselves over and over with each child they have. But there is also another side to the story, my side. My perspective. Not as important at their view, but a viewpoint nonetheless.
One birth in particular is fresh in my mind. I think of a VBAC2 client we recently had the pleasure of serving. From the beginning of the relationship, we talked about the struggle of her situation. Not just with finding a provider that would give her a trial of labor after two cesareans, but also with her personal life. We all have clients like this. We might be one of those clients ourselves. Not all situations are perfect. Not all women have great spouses to see them through and support them throughout pregnancy and childbirth. Our heart tugs, hearing her story – and we want to help. We feel compelled and drawn to this particular woman and her family. I feel called to help her have that trial of labor. We take her on – and the relationship begins and grows.
Prenatals are a time of reflection, growth and truth revealed. We learned more and more about her, as she discovered more and more about us. Walls become transparent both ways. This is how it must be. The midwifery model of care is like that. The time of birth approaches and we are ready. All parties are on board 120%. This is going to be a healing experience, we pray.
Labor begins. This labor will be different – not so different, but different enough that she believes in her body’s ability to birth a baby because her body was made to do this. She has researched and signed the appropriate informed consent forms, stating she acknowledges the risks and benefits of having a home birth after her first two surgery births.
I am thinking of the risk, as a provider, I am taking – being in an unfriendly environment from the local medical health care providers. All the care I give to other women could potentially be taken at an instant if anything goes wrong or we have to transfer. My client is thinking other thoughts. “Can I do this?”, “Is this really safe?”, “Have I made the right choice?”. Labor is here. Those questions are not so important now – now that birth is happening, labor is progressing. There is no time for negative thoughts; there is work to be done.
Then the mental struggle begins. We can see on our client’s face, the struggle within when we tell her that her body is opening and almost complete. She was not expecting that news. She had never heard that news before previously. Could it be true? Were we lying to her? She seemed to know what needed to be done, but fought it oh so ever slightly. Just enough to make the last stage of labor go a little longer than what the textbooks predict. But “longer” is subjective too. We are fine with waiting. We knew she would surrender to the demands of her own body. It was her own body – and she could work with it, not against it.
Then there is the realization that no one else can do this work but her. She gets a little angry. She seems to withdraw into frustration. We let her. We give her the space she needs. We watch. We suggest, every so graciously, different positions and ways of using her body to enable her body to work with the baby. Birth is not only physical. It is mental and emotional as well as spiritual. We prayed for her as she was praying for herself. Although it sounds chaotic, it was very peaceful and still.
Her body is doing it. She is doing it. We find, collectively, a position that produces the best progress for pushing the baby under the pubic bone. Then we watch as she rises to the occasion courageously. She finds herself, her will, and her ability to birth – and delights in it. She puts forth all concentration to this task. An excitement comes when baby begins to crown. She not only sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but she feels it; in her mind, body and soul. We watch, encouraging, supporting, and praying.
Baby emerges beautifully. The triumph is theirs! Triumph is not strong enough to describe the essence of the magnitude of what just happened for this woman and her child. But, it all happened so naturally and normally that it wasn’t like fireworks going off around us. It was normal, it was natural and it was as systematic as eating a meal. Not to be compared to a meal, but just customary. Her smile will always be remembered – and the words “I did it!”. Yes, she did. We knew she would. Our clients don’t believe us sometimes.
This is how it can be for women. This is how birth can operate. This is how blessed we are – as midwives, to witness such a miracle. Birth is such a typical life event, but so intense in every way. What if this woman didn’t have support? She would have experienced another surgery. But she got more than a normal, natural, non-remarkable pregnancy, labor and birth… She developed friendships, she became confident in her body’s ability to birth, and she grew stronger emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. She also birthed her first girl after two boys. So many new achievements!
This is what we saw. This is our story. We love hearing our client’s stories, but we have some too. This story was shared for our client, and with her permission. Birth on, women! You are doing mighty work!