Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting three-week-old Faith and her mum KP. Faith was born at home and is KP’s second child.
Her first, a boy now three, was born in a hospital setting following a stressful, long labour that was induced. Immediately after the birth, the little fellow was lying passively on his mother’s abdomen after his big ordeal being gently caressed. He was breathing regularly and starting to ‘pink up’ when one of the nurses picked him up abruptly and turned him onto his back in order to “check his breathing”. In response the infant experienced a ‘startle reflex’ (shuddered and breathed in sharply) and abruptly began to show an irregular pattern in his breathing. One of the nursing staff then declared that because of the irregular breathing pattern he would need to be placed in intensive care. He was removed from his mother and taken away. Three weeks later mum and baby were reunited and able to maintain full skin contact for the first time through the simple act of cuddling.
KP was intensely disappointed with her first birthing experience. She had been induced because the doctors thought that she might be at risk of infection due to a minor leaking of her waters previously. A full week in hospital however revealed no indications of infection and normal progression of the pregnancy, by now in it’s 37th week. Still, they insisted on the induction. By this stage KP was feeling totally out of control and although she protested, was told that ‘her baby might die’ if she went home and ignored their advice. The labour that resulted was a wild ride characterised by continual interference from the nursing staff to check and monitor progress. KP said later that she felt like she had to perform under this constant surveillance and as a consequence, could not relax into the birth.
It was that experience that prompted KP to have a home birth where she could pace it herself with the help of a trusted midwife, her husband and me, her practitioner through both pregnancies, acting as her doula (support). Throughout the pregnancy KP told me many times that, although she was nervous of the big step that she was taking, provided that she had enough faith in herself and her innate capacity to give birth, everything would be fine.
A week before she was due, KP held a beautiful Blessingway gathering where, supported by her many wonderful women friends, she asserted her clear intention to give birth in a calm and positive environment so that she and the baby had the best possble start to their life-long relationship. We all threaded a bead, along with our own prayer for a gentle passage for the new bub, onto a birthing necklace.
And indeed it was just that. As it turned out this birth was so quick and easy that neither her mid-wife nor I had time to get there! And for some part of the labour KP was alone as her husband had to drop off their three-year-old to grandma’s place. As she was crowning, she managed to text new Dad and tell him to hurry. He arrived home just in time to catch Faith as she was being born. When we got there shortly afterwards there was a warm, calm glow radiating from the room. KP was relaxed and Faith was busy having her first suckle, her little toes and fingers wriggling with joy at having landed safely!
And the warmth and the glow has persisted. The baby is contented, sleeps for extended periods at night, and her digestive system is functioning perfectly. Mum is positively radiating joy, flush with her success and bonded firmly with the newest family member. And big brother likes to get into the act by often giving her fierce cuddles that don’t seem to phase her at all.
The two birthing environments might have been on two different planets. In the first, the power was taken from KP and she was controlled, through her own birthing process, by fear. In the second, faith in her own capacity gave KP the strength to take on whatever circumstance presented itself to accomplish this most fundamental task that she was biologically designed to do.
Welcome Faith and congratulations KP.