To say that the above was the most exciting text of my life would be an understatement.
Sarah, who earlier in the day was lamenting being 40 weeks with no sign of labour, had cranked up to contracting every few minutes. When the homebirth midwives arrived, they could hear that she was feeling 'pushy'.
5 months as a student midwife, and I'd not seen a birth.
I'd done clinics, palpation, made long lasting professional friendships with women, and so on (and yes I was very fired up and satisfied by these).
But naturally, I'd been thinking a lot about how nearly 1/6 of my training had gone by without seeing a baby born. About how precious that first time would be.
One of my emails from a pre-student midwife this week was: "Ellie, what's the one thing about midwifery that you wished you'd known about sooner?"
My answer's in this post.
It speaks about how though I'd spent an enormous amount of time reading my many stacks of books, I was getting lost in all the detail, and confusing inspiration for understanding.
I was lucky to have known Sarah and her partner Steve from my first day in placement. I was on community, and Sarah was a primigravida (first time Mum). She said she felt she was learning alongside me, as I asked so many questions during her appointments.
It seemed a good fit. Sarah enjoyed having extra time and attention from me and my mentor Marion, and I adored having a real relationship with one of the first Mums I met in practice.
And now I would be attending Sarah's homebirth.
Sarah was in the pool already when I arrived. As a very new student midwife, I wasn't doing much except topping up drinks and murmuring 'You're doing so well...'
As the second stage got truly established, Sarah became scared. She kept saying 'I can't do it. I can't do this.'
Of course, we all gave her loads of support and encouragement.
But you could see she was in that most painful arc that almost every birthing woman experiences. It hurt and required huge effort to push - and it hurt almost as much not to.
You could see from the look on her face that she was thinking:
"Maybe this homebirth thing wasn't such a great idea after all."
Sarah's energy was slipping away.
I had no idea how to support her. I was worried that she felt trapped at home and couldn't get to hospital to have an epidural if she chose.
My mentor Marion had some suggestions which included Jaffa Cakes, energy drink, and Sarah feeling the top of her baby's head with her fingers.
Sarah described afterwards how she felt the sugar move into her bloodstream 'clear as a bell'.
And feeling the top of the baby's head made her realise how far she had to go before she had her baby in her arms.
I remember her throwing the gas and air aside, and pushing harder than she ever had.
Labour is often a wild journey.
It's common to go from excitement > rough patch > demoralised > finding strength again and making it out the other side.
It was my extreme privilege to watch Sarah in the next half an hour catch her own baby.
The outcome was extraordinarily good - Sarah needed no stitches, her baby established breathing immediately, and they were both safe and happy at home.
The NHS is often identified as a medicalised birth service, but we were all nothing but enthralled at the service that had been achieved for Sarah.
We, and Steve were with her, and she had the best of continuous care.
I've got a question for you now. What do you think was the most important learning point for me?
Homebirth makes for normal birth?
Continuous care is best for the satisfaction and support of women and midwives?
Even when birth feels out of control, and painful, it can still be a positive and formative experience?
I learnt all of this, it's true.
But the most important thing for me is summed up in a Barbara Katz Rothman's quote. I hadn't even come across this quote at this point in my training. Although I understood how important choice, control, and good clinical care were for women, I was too bogged down in the detail of learning to realise this simple truth:
"Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers - strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength."
And that's what midwives have to promote, all the way through childbearing, no matter what the circumstance.
Birth is beyond control, as are many big life experiences. You don't get to choose the outcomes or how it'll feel.
It's a controversial belief, but I honestly think with the right support Sarah would have coped equally well with a caesarean or assisted birth, the confidence gained from which would likely inspire her to get through all those difficult (and lovely) bits of parenting coming up. It was all in the true respect and desire to care for her.
There is one other part to this story - the second thing I learnt.
During the birth there was a strange, on-and-off taptaptap at the window.
Eventually we caught them at it.
It was magpies, excited at the light glinting off the pool.
In a film or novel, I'm sure this would be a very unsubtle metaphor about me gaining 'a precious experience' - Sarah's birth was so highly prized that even the magpies were after it.
In reality, it makes me smile as I remember our consternation at the noise. The midwives, Steve and I, were sneaking around the pool trying to support Sarah while not letting her know we were looking for intruders.
The other important thing I learnt was birth often comes with unplanned challenges. As a midwife, all you can do is your very best in any given moment. So you'd best have a sense of humour to see you through!
Now I would love to hear from you.
1. What happened at the first birth you attended?. What was the most important concept you learnt?
2. Can you tell me when your sense of humour has been most important in midwifery?
3. If you haven't attended a birth yet, what do you think you'll learn - how do you expect it will change your way of thinking about childbearing?
As always, much love, and thanks so much for reading, and adding your experience and brilliance in the comments below.