I got to hang out with a dear friend of mine this week. She's very pregnant right now, or as we call it 'bumptacular'.
It’s great to see her scaling the challenges and enjoying the lovely moments of her journey, in no small part facilitated by a brilliant team of midwives and birth educators around her.
Their baby will be lucky to have such parents and such a team helping them arrive.
I also got to pick up on some of her fears. The kind of birth stories she hears from friends and family are uniformly negative, about scares with scans, emergencies and near misses.
This situation is complex and I know she doesn't need or want advice from me (you know when you can just tell that's not your role?). She's chosen her own path and is happy with her support system. I know she has the information she needs.
But I did catch a glimpse of what it must be like to be pregnant at the moment and how easy it is to become scared of what's ahead.
I felt deflated. To be fair, many women do face complications and midwives and the medical team handle these with a lot of skill, compassion and respect.
But when I step back and reassess what I think of all this, I realise that I believe in the power of culture to influence birth. If we're surrounded by medical intervention everywhere we look, this will likely impact every woman, even those who don't have any reason to expect complications.
That was why I was so excited when I came across these two eye-opening videos from midwifery experts this week. Both are on normal birth.
The first is a Q and A session from Soo Downe (midwifery professor) and Sheena Byrom (midwifery consultant).
In this Facebook live video Soo and Sheena talk about their own careers, how they’ve stayed positive and strong, the culture they’ve practiced in and evidence they’ve practiced with.
No surprise that informed choice came up in the discussion and it’s clear these experienced midwives are focussed on not letting their own preferences impact on women's choices. Evidence is key for care that women feel in charge of.
They also talked about the Royal College of Midwives' support for normal birth and have suggestions to take with you into practice.
There’s something about listening to professionals of this calibre.
You can’t fake the 10,000+ hours it takes to get to that level of expertise, it makes for a bedrock of confidence and knowledge that’s palpable.
NB: That's not a bottle of wine Sheena and Soo are sharing, they're at a conference and they're drinking water, just with fancy glasses! 😉
The second video is from independent midwife Joy Horner.
In this video, Joy discusses her experience of the physiological third stage of labour, when the placenta is born without an artificial injection of oxytocin or medical input of any kind.
She has some real wisdom to share. First, she talks about the natural oxytocin rush women have as soon as their baby is born. I think we’ve all seen the look on a woman’s face once she’s given birth, it's the same expression no matter her background, language or ethnicity.
Joy says that this look of utter rapture, as lovely as it is to see, is not for us. It’s for the baby.
She suggests getting out of sight as soon as a baby is born, moving behind Mum or otherwise trying to make this pivotal moment all about the new family, not the midwife. For safety you need to be aware and in the room but if you can perform the midwifery magic trick of making it seem like Mum and baby are on their own, this is a really good idea for the facilitation of a hormonally supportive birth environment.
Joy has some other fascinating observations on physiology to do with delayed cord clamping that I hadn’t thought of (there’s that 10,000 hours of practice again informing her) and also points out that privacy is key for oxytocin production. She sometimes suggests that for the third stage Mums go and sit on the loo holding their new baby (with the door unlocked of course in case they feel dizzy or unwell) and as soon as the door shuts the placenta often arrives.
What are you thoughts on this? I loved physiological third stages as a student, they were so relaxed. I had great some great mentors who were very comfortable with this choice and teaching me all about it.
I hope you found these videos as uplifting and inspiring as I did. Midwifery is in a rough patch right now but there’s still plenty of amazement at incredible midwives and women to be enjoyed.
As always, thanks for reading, sharing posts and being part of the Midwife Diaries community. The importance of your passion for midwifery can’t be overstated so thanks for that too.
P.S. Do you have a favorite midwifery video to share? Whether it’s a lecture, discussion or inspirational birth I’d love it if you could post it in the comments below. It might be just what another student or midwives needs for a pick me up.