Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Timeless Birth

Mrs M was one of my few clients while working as a doula in an Asian country who was not an expatriate. Her first birthing experience had been most distressing. She had been happily labouring at home when she was forced to transfer to hospital for reasons that were never make clear. She was strapped to a monitor, had intravenous fluids hung, was forced to stay in bed for her labour and birth, subject to an episiotomy which she had made clear she didn't want, and her baby was removed at birth for 3 hours for "routine cleaning and assessment". She was vastly relieved that for her second birth, against the odds, she had found an obstetrician who would "allow" her to birth at home with a doula, but her fear of transferring to hospital remained great.

Mrs M rang early one morning to say she was having contractions. She claimed they were coming every 5 minutes, were short and not very painful. When asked she said she did feel some pressure feeling with some contractions.

It took just nine minutes to get to Mrs M's house. As the taxi pulled up outside I got a phone call. I didn't bother answering as I could hear she was pushing from outside the house. I flew through the front door and up the stairs to find Mrs M standing in the shower happily pushing away by herself!! Immediately it was clear the baby was just a push away from birth but that a thick lip of cervix was all that was holding up proceedings. I shuddered to think what would have happened had the cervix not held the baby back while Mrs M was standing unattended.

I phoned the obstetrician and said "Mrs M's. Come NOW!” I encouraged Mrs M to come out of the shower and to move to a more comfortable location. We got as far as the sink where she stopped. I asked her if this was where she wanted to give birth and upon confirmation I managed only to throw down some towels and put on some gloves before the next contraction

At this point Mrs M's husband arrived and almost clapped his hands with excitement. He exclaimed "So she is finally in labour! " He then tried to to go and change out of his gym gear. Mrs M was obviously not oblivious as to how progressed she was as she said calmly, " I am about to give birth at any moment, I suggest you stay here". With the next push the cervix disappeared and the baby's head descended to where you could see lots of black hair and more importantly for the midwife, the lovely pink scalp that shows a happy baby. I showed Mr M who was stunned. "But she was hardly doing anything when I left less than an hour ago"!

I was somewhat desperate for the obstetrician to make this delivery as the home birth system we had set up together was new. I wished to work together as a team and see how this obstetrician operated in the home environment. Trying to slow this birth was difficult because although Mrs M was calm she was not comfortable to move from her standing position into one which reduced the effect of gravity nor could she control her urge to push.

Slowing the delivery of the baby's head as much as possible, I encouraged Mr M to move in closely while Mrs M calmly stroked her baby's head. I checked for cord and in the pause between contractions was amused to see the baby pull a variety of faces. With the arrival of the next contraction she was born into my hands. I told Mrs M to reach down and take her baby. She held her closely gently rocking as I dried her gently with a towel. Mr M kept repeating " But that was so easy, so easy".

At this point Dr T arrived and remained pleasingly unobtrusive as we waited for the placenta to separate. When it had stopped pulsating Dr T clamped and cut the cord. I took the baby and gave her to Mr M. With the next contraction the placenta delivered and after ensuring her blood loss was minimal Mrs M decided to hop back in the shower to clean up. It took just minutes for me to throw the towels in the washing machine and clean up the considerable mess in the bathroom. By the time Mrs M was tucked up in her bed you would have been unaware that a birth had just taken place.

After the baby had finished her breast feed a few stitches were inserted for a small tear. Dr T departed to another birth while we all enjoyed a cup of tea sitting on the rather large bed. Mrs M's two year old son bounced into the room having slept through the entire drama in the room next door. He was fascinated with his new baby sister and helped dress her in her first clothes.

I sat back to write and noted it was a mere hour and fifteen minutes since I had arrived. I watched the timeless scene as the family examined its newest member. I wished that many more women and families could experience birth like this, as a part of family life, without the drama and fear that so often surrounds birth in our modern world.

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