When I was 18, I delivered my first baby. It wasn’t an accident, I didn’t happen upon someone about to give birth in the street, it was completely legit.
I was supervised in a small but busy NHS hospital while working towards my Bachelor of Science in Midwifery (yes, that’s a real word!) through a University in the north of England.
It was nerve wracking, but amazing. I was hooked!
Fast forward 10 years, I got my degree and worked for a while in England before hopping over to Australia. While down under, I worked in large inner city hospitals in both Brisbane and Sydney, in both high risk units and Midwifery led birth centers.
I was also lucky enough to spend some time in the Jungle with an aboriginal community in Tropical North Queensland. After 5 years in Australia I made the move to San Diego California, which is where I live now!
The whole time I’ve been traveling from place to place, I’ve been delivering babies in quite literally every setting you could imagine.
So, what have I learnt? A LOT!
I hope to be able to write about all the interesting parts!
One thing that always makes me happy, that seems to transcend age, sex, culture, religion, social background, understanding or interest is that EVERYBODY loves a birth story.
This includes sharing theirs or asking me to share some of mine. My 90 year old Grandmother approaches a birth story with the same enthusiasm as a guy I might have dated in my early 20’s, the same as my hairdresser, my dentist, that friend I have that thinks the whole thing is disgusting and plans never to experience it herself, even the guy that sold me my car when I first landed in Australia – come to think of it so did the guy that sold me my car here in San Diego!
Why? Why on earth does everyone I meet, no matter where in the world I meet them, want to know a birth story, or share theirs??
I’ve thought about this a lot and the conclusion I’ve come to is the same reason I love birth and have made it my career. Birth connects us in a way that I don’t think anything else can.
It’s wonderful, unpredictable, unbelievable, intense, hilarious, terrifying, empowering, exhausting, unique, unexpected, life-changing, as well as thousands of other things, the list is never-ending.
The best part is, all of these things are true for everyone that’s ever given birth or witnessed birth throughout time.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you grew up, where/how/if you were educated, how well you’ve prepared for it, how little you’ve prepared for it, what you do for work, if you work at all, whether you have a team of 10 people in the room with you or whether you came alone. This event has such a huge impact on anyone that’s ever lucky enough to be near to it.
Guys in their twenties that really have no concept of what it’s like and are curious, they want to know the ‘gross’ parts. If I had a dollar for every time a guy (and quite a lot of girls too) asked me “Do women really poop?”, I could have retired already. Yes, they poop – sometimes they don’t realize and if they do, they don’t care!
I certainly don’t care and any good Midwife has perfected the art of removing the evidence before anyone has time to worry too much about it. I had a patient’s husband once describe us as “poop ninjas” – a title I never thought I’d have, let alone love!
My grandmother loves to hear all the happy stories. Did they cry? What did the baby weigh? Was she happy afterwards? This helps her relive her birth stories and I never tire of hearing them.
I find a lot of women love an opportunity to share their birth stories and why not? I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that can’t give you a detailed breakdown of the day their baby was born. This goes for birth partners too!
Whether it’s curiosity about a process you know nothing about, or a welcome opportunity to share one of the most memorable experiences of your life, talk about it!
Birth expectations often get completely shattered by the process, which, even when it goes exactly to plan and is considered “normal”, can feel anything but!
I witnessed my first birth from the corner of a room in a birth center as a petrified 17 year old thinking the whole time “there’s no way this is normal, why aren’t we getting help”, but it was! Luckily, I had an experienced Midwife to debrief with – most people don’t.
So the point of writing this is to say, talk about it! Ask about it! Debrief with one another! Know that everyone else was probably completely dumbfounded by the experience too!
Let’s learn to expect the unexpected, let’s laugh about the Midwife that keeps telling you the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you is “normal”. It might make us feel warm inside remembering our ‘birth day’, it might make us laugh out loud, it might prepare us for the fact that almost everyone poops and that’s okay!
Hopefully it will let us see the big picture. We all birth the same, we all get scared and surprised by the same things, none of us are guaranteed the perfect birth, most of us experience something which surprises us. In this way we are all connected.
Connected in the most basic, primal, instinctual way – no matter who you are, we all got here the same way, via the same process, it just happens to take many forms.
Empathizing, sharing and being curious about the unpredictability of birth gives us the ability to see that, when you take a lot of the day-to-day things away, we’re all not so different after all!
My name is Marie I’m a board certified lactation consultant living in San Diego! You can read more about me here. If you’re a new mom, soon to be new mom or know someone who could benefit from some friendly help or advice please see my services or send them my article about getting the most out of your lactation consultant!