A baby is considered full term from 37 weeks and legally here we can only deliver at home from 37 weeks but sometimes we do deliver 36 week + babies. One week prior to this deliver my colleagues and I did our home visit with M and J. They were prepared and ready for baby to come. The pregnancy had been beautifully normal and we had no concern. On palpation baby felt a good size so we felt confident to continue with the planned home birth.
The day before labour M came to see me for a massage in the clinic. She had back pain for the past 3 weeks due to babies position and osteopathy had only helped a small amount. I had been very careful during the massage to use none stimulating oils and I did not massage the feet or hands, just in case, but early the next morning I received the call. J rang saying it seemed that M’s waters had gone but she was not contracting. He said they were clear so I told her to put a pad on and have a rest. I went back to sleep praying that she had just wet herself and later in the morning I would visit and confirm this. But this was not the case. J rang 2 hours later, the contractions had started, they were strong and M could not sleep through them any longer. They asked me if they could still stay home for birth because was 36 weeks to the day. I told them I felt baby was a good size and I was happy to deliver them at home. I also told them I was on my way.
In reality I have no idea why I felt this birth was still to be at home. I remember ringing my colleague and discussing it with her. She had delivered a few 36+ babies at home and she felt that baby was a good size so we could go ahead. One point I have to make is that we as a team of midwives work with a team of doctors as well. I knew that I would have our paediatrician to support us after the birth and this did help to guide my decision. But I also felt, somehow, that this was right for this family. I knew I could trust them to work with us 100% for their babies well being and I knew they trusted us to give good care to their baby. I also felt a great love and closeness to this family and somehow knew this was how it should be.
I arrived to find M contracting strongly and coping well. They were both as welcoming and generous as ever. I listened to baby, who was very happy, and got dad busy inflating the pool. M’s contractions were coming every 3 min and lasting a good while so I knew we were really in labour. She was not sure and asked if I would stay. I assured her she was well into her labour and I was going no where. Happy with this news, she continued to cope beautifully well while we filled the pool.
The pool was ready in record time and on entering the water M went straight into transition! Her manor and contractions changed and she moved effortlessly into a more concentrated state. Breathing with each contraction she clearly expressed the change in her contractions to us all by exclaiming “Fuck these ones are hard”
As M and J worked together through each contraction I sat quietly in the corner baring witness to the beauty of their love and devotion to each other. I have to say, this is one of my favourite parts of my job. It is so easy to see the flaws in relationships and I think we spend a lot of time looking and identifying what we lack in our relationships and not enough time treasuring what we have. Of course I know birth is not always the thing that brings out the beauty in relationships but it often does. The families who come to us to share their birthing experience with us are 90% couples who are treasuring and valuing their relationship and each other. So I get to see and share such beautiful moments of tenderness and love 90% of the time in my work.
One hour after entering the pool, things have moved on well and I ring for my colleague to come and join us, as baby will soon be with us. I ask J to go for some towels so that we can be ready. He does not quite understand so I explain that baby is nearly here and I here the shock and excitement in his response, “oh really”. M is deep in concentration but like most women, she is a keen multi tasker. Hearing I need towels she breaks her concentration and directs J to where they are kept. My colleague arrives, everything is prepared and we await baby.
The contractions have changed to pushing contractions and M moves to all fours in the pool to do this. The pressure on her lower back in intense and I put my hands there to apply pressure during contractions. Baby is coping very well with labour and I soon see the top of babies head peaking through M’s vulva when she is pushing. Soon babies head can be seen even when there is no contraction and we ready ourself for delivery. In the final pushes M moves into a position on her knees to allow baby space to move out and babied head is born. In the next contraction baby slides gently out from her mama into the pool. Arms wide open she floats for a second and M brings her to the surface. These seconds slow down to a timeless moment and we are all struck by the gentleness and power of life and birth. We, the midwives, are bathed in the light of the joy and love of these beautiful parents and the sacredness of the moment we have been invited to share.
Born at 2700g, this baby was a good size but still premature. Mum and baby needed a bit of extra help from the start. Baby struggled a bit to master the sucking and breathing combo for breastfeeding so a few of our mothers donated milk to her for her first few days. Then with the help of our lactation consultant and nipple shields she learned and was able to feed well. She put on weight well and quickly. She was jaundice for slightly more that 14 days but our doctor explained that as she was premature her liver needed a bit of help to work, so M was put on a special diet so that her milk was easier for baby to digest and breakdown. Her jaundice resolved and she is now a 5 week old perfect baby.
This family were very grateful to have had their birth at home and the after care. They knew that if they had gone to hospital they would have been separated and the whole experience would have been very clinical and cold.
At times I wonder why I stay here and struggle both financially and against a system that has very little respect for pregnant and birthing women as well as the birth process. This birth is one that answers my question. I am here for just this. To be the one who believes in the precess, the mother, the baby and the family. I am here to protect and care for this; process, these women, babies and families. I am here for the selfish reason of being in that moment where the light of joy and love shines at its brightest. I am here to bear witness to the power and gentleness of life and birth. This is the priceless payment for the work I do and as long as I can manage, I will be here.