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When my friend and midwife Sonya Beutel began her talk on home birth for International Midwives Day 2013 at the Toowoomba Base Hospital I just knew that I should be recording it to share with mothers and midwives everywhere. Ever since I have known Sonya I have felt she has something important to tell all women and even midwives if only they had the chance to sit and talk with her like I do.
For mothers, mothers-to-be, families and women all over the world, Sonya’s speech about birth may open your eyes to incredible possibilities. And it’s not just about home birth. It’s about all birth. If the thought of home birth makes you think of selfish hippies risking the lives of their babies you are not alone and it’s ok to feel like that. When I was first pregnant with our first baby Maddie, I distinctly remember picking up Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley MD. and when I read the blurb on the back saying Sarah was a home birth mother I couldn’t have put it back on the shelf quicker. The thought of it made me sick. How dare they risk the life of their baby?? By the end of our pregnancy after reading mountains of books (including Dr Buckley’s which is now one of my favourites) and research and with Sonya’s care and support we had had our safe, natural and healthy home birth and it was the best choice we could have ever made for our family.
One of the greatest gifts our journey to deciding to have our babies at home gave us was to not judge other’s for their choices. Especially if we hadn’t actually done the research and we hadn’t lived a lifetime in their shoes. That perspective changes everything. Some of my best friends have had elective cesareans and thats their choice and I support them completely because that is the choice that they felt safest with. When you take responsibility for your decisions and do your own research you realise that perhaps seeing something on channel seven news about an unregistered midwife, or hearing something from your neighbour does not mean that you have an entire understanding on home birth and it’s risks/ benefits. That knowledge, while it means you need to put in a lot of work to understand the big picture, the reward and the power that comes with that is something that can change your life. It has changed mine and opened doors I didn’t even know existed.
The first part of Sonya’s speech was her introducing herself and where she has come from. A midwife for 15 years and a homebirth midwife for 9 years, it was really important to Sonya that the speech not be about her but rather that by talking about her experiences she may inspire and inform others of the amazing possibilities if women feel nurtured and supported during pregnancy and birth.
A little background on our journey from Ob/private hospital to home birth for those that are interested…
Around three years ago I was pregnant with our first baby. Like every first time Mum to be I was ecstatic and giddy thinking about how our long-awaited baby would change our life. Like a lot of people I wanted the absolute best care possible so I booked in with a highly recommended obstetrician. By my second visit to the OB, I was beginning to feel lost. I was around 9 weeks pregnant and drove over 2 hours to see him. He had to glance at his clipboard to remember my name and when I asked him about what to expect when under his care during labour he told me it was a little too early to be thinking of that. After a five minute ultrasound with him I was then transferred to his ‘office manager’ to talk about the costs involved and all the forms needed to sign me into a private hospital. Apparently it wasn’t too early to start talking about money. I went home feeling really sad for my baby and myself. I know these people see loads of pregnant women but my baby was special to me and my experience was turning what felt really magical to me into something really cold and sterile. I just knew in my heart that I had to do something to make it better and like everything in my life, when I feel like I’m not in control I research the shit out of it until I am.
So I started reading. A lot. Books by obstetricians, midwives, mothers, online forums, government health statistics, anything I could get my hands on to start clearing my mind. I didn’t even know what options I had. I started making lists about things that might happen during labour. I had folders full of notes and citations and instructions for Matt on what questions he would need to ask during labour to help us get as close as possible to a drug and intervention free birth as possible. Prior to picking up those books, I never even knew that a drug free birth was something that would be so beneficial to my baby and myself. I just thought you asked for the epidural. Then it all started getting too much, my head was swimming, it felt like with the hospital system I was being ‘managed’ rather than cared for. So with Matts support we decided to look for non-hospital based birth classes so that we could combat what would be thrown at us when it came time to go to hospital to meet our baby.
That’s when I had the phone call that would change my life. I googled birth classes Toowoomba and phoned Sonya Beutel. She spent almost an hour of her time discussing my options. She didn’t try to sell me anything and I don’t even recall if we spoke about birth classes but I told her I would definitely be birthing my baby in a private hospital and that I just needed a little help in getting the birth that I wanted. In a completely non-judgemental way, she explained things to me that no one had bothered to before. There was something about her voice that was so calm and reassuring and when I got off the phone I felt like a weight had been lifted because there was now a chance that we could have a magical birth. I was so excited about our first meeting and though we still planned to birth in hospital with Sonya as our independent midwife and birth advocate we were feeling much more positive about our whole pregnancy. Our visits could take anywhere from 1-2 hours. No questions were off limits. I never felt silly or afraid, I only felt strong and healthy and beautiful, just as any woman should during pregnancy. After knowing Sonya for around 12 weeks, having read piles and piles of information and research and at around 30 weeks pregnant we told her that we would love it if she would be there for us to have our baby at home. There was no fanfare- Sonya never once guided us toward a home birth. All she did was help us feel informed and safe and supported and that our baby was receiving the best possible care. It wasn’t even about the fact that we would have our baby at home, it was about us finally feeling that we would have our baby in the place we felt most safe and supported.
Sonya is now one of my best friends. She continues to be a confidant and available to me when I have a problem with the kids/life/anything! and the impact she has had on my life can not be measured. We now have 2 home birth babies and I am a strong, independent person because I know that my body can nurture and birth my babies and that feeling has continued to this day. I feel free and confident in my choices as a mother and while I know I will not always get it right that’s ok, because I always do the absolute best I can and when it comes to my families health the buck stops with me. While that creates extra work and extra thought on my part I will never be left wondering. I am not outwardly gushy about my birth experience because I find it difficult to do justice to the incredibly life-changing and amazing thing that has happened to our family when many families are not so lucky. But perhaps if what I have written here makes just one Mum rethink her options then that is more important than being proud about our home birth anyway.
NOTE: A couple of months after my speech at midwives day, a beautiful lady who was in the crowd (and pregnant!) called me and asked me to photograph her birth!!!! It was simply one of the most incredible moments I have ever had as a photographer and the images we made and the moment I was a part of on that gorgeous day are some of my favourites. Ever! You wanna see it?
See it here: http://www.kathscott.com.au/5263-2/
I am in love!