It took me a little while to decide to go with independent midwife care for the birth of Pearl, my first baby and my boyfriend Oli's fourth. I was feeling uneasy about the N.H.S. care, although I had booked for a home birth, there where too many unknown factors. I didn't know who we would get coming out for the birth, we didn't know what they would make of our home, a canal boat out in the country. The couple of anti-natal appointments I had at the hospital maternity clinic where rushed and my questions about various tests where brushed aside with that show stopping line 'well it's best for your baby.' I'm not blaming the midwives concerned, it's just that they have limited time.
A friend in Spain recommended Fiona to me and we spoke on the phone. I liked the sound of her but I felt a bit uncertain. Would the baby and I be as safe in independent hands? Would we still have the back up of the N.H.S? The cost was also a consideration. We arranged to meet Fiona and Sheila, her midwife partner. An afternoon talking it all through convinced me and Oli that this was the way to go, and we have been continually delighted that we made that decision through out the whole pregnancy and birth process. I feel blessed to have met and been cared for by these two amazing women.
Instead of the dreaded, paranoia inducing appointments to the maternity clinic, (I'm rather frightened of hospitals) the anti-natal visits became something I really looked forward to. Sheila and Fiona both took the time to address my worries and give me lots of detailed information so I could make my own mind up about things like whether to have anti-d medicine during pregnancy. (I'm rhesus negative) During the middle of my pregnancy I had a lot of fear about losing our baby at birth or afterwards. I have a couple of friends who have had to go through this tragedy. Fiona and Sheila really helped me look at these fears and put them in perspective. They didn't try and tell me that the worst can't happen but they did tell me how unlikely it is and reassured me that we would do everything possible to make the birth as safe as we could. The fact that they have both worked in the N.H.S reassured me, they obviously keep up to date with medical thinking and have a healthy critical engagement with the healthcare establishment. But they are also both very experienced and confident at home births. They are radical in their great faith in a woman's body to give birth spontaneously, but they are not about to take risks. I felt in safe in hands.
Sheila and Fiona are a good team, and seem to balance each other very well. Fiona, although a gentle person, has a certain bold fieriness about her, you get the feel that she would be good at standing up for you in a hospital situation if the going got tough. Sheila has a softer presence. As soon as I met her I felt a deep trust for her, she is careful and very sensitive to others. Together they make a great combination and obviously enjoy working together. During my pregnancy, Oli and I became good friends with Sheila and Fiona, so that we knew that when I went into labour we would feel totally relaxed and uninhibited around them both. This atmosphere of trust really helped the last weeks of my pregnancy to be a very calm special time and, I feel, contributed to me having the amazing labour and birth that I did.
Miranda's Story I was in active labour for about 8 hours, some of which I spent in a warm pool that Oli had made, on the bank of the canal. I didn't have any other pain relief and didn't feel I needed it. The pain of labour was hard to manage but because I didn't feel afraid, it was just possible to cope with. Sheila came out to us first, then Fiona arrived a few hours later. They both reassured us by checking the baby fairly often, but they where sensitive enough to leave me alone a lot of the time which is what I needed. They where right there with me but gave me space to concentrate on the contractions. I never felt rushed. We didn't even need to examine my cervix, they had enough experience and intuition to see what was going on from my behaviour. As I approached the end of labour we where all crammed into a little Mongolian yurt on the banks of the canal. There was the most enormous thunderstorm going overhead. My wonderful midwives where unfazed by these challenging and unusual circumstances. When I got to transition I did the classic wobble, feeling pathetic and wondering how much longer I had to go. They immediately reassured me that we where almost there, and since I trusted them, even in this extreme state I knew I could believe them that the pain was almost over. They seemed to know exactly what to say to me, suggesting I go deeper into the contractions when I was pulling away from the pain. Pushing her out took about an hour and was very hard work. Fiona, Sheila and Oli kept me going with encouragement, homeopathy, spoonfuls of honey and the suggestion that I reach inside myself and feel the head, something that really inspired me to carry on. When her head finally started to emerge, I was talked through exactly how to push her out slowly and so I didn't tear!
Pearl was born at half past eleven in the morning. The thunderstorm stopped and the birds began to sing. Afterwards we where just overwhelmed with gratitude. We are so thankful for our beautiful baby girl and for the fact the she and I came through the birth so well. We are grateful that we got the home birth we wanted, a peaceful magical entrance, in the eye of the storm, which we think set us on course for the amazing time we are having now. Pearl is a very serene and happy baby, she has every reason to be, Oli is over the moon and I am a contented and calm new mother. Fiona and Sheila have cared for us with such skill and compassion, allowing this natural miracle to unfold. For that we will always be grateful.