I consider myself to be a well experienced doula having supported almost 100 births here in NI. These have all been different births, ranging from very medicalised caesarean births in theatre, to unassisted home births, and everything else in between!
It came as no surprise when I was contacted by a young mum who was moving to the province to be with her partner, saying she was pregnant and looking for the support of a doula. She mentioned she was looking into home birthing her first baby, and I sent her some information on the maternity services available in NI together with regional guidelines on home birth. We exchanged a few messages and emails, and arranged to meet up for a casual chat and cuppa when she arrived.
As soon as I met this couple, I was mesmerised by their confidence and trust in each other, to choose the birthing path that was right for them. Their plan to home birth was actually unassisted, wild, freebirth. This means that they chose not to have any antenatal care, nor have any midwives present at the birth. I have to say I absolutely loved their matter-of-fact attitude that birth is such a natural event, and something they had considered for a while and would do together to bring their precious wee baby into the world. It’s not for everyone, but I knew I wanted to be their doula and share in their innate knowledge and wisdom, and their faith in Mother Nature that everything would be as it should.
To say I was delighted when they hired me is an understatement! They said they chose me as they wanted to have an experienced doula, and a mother figure to be with them on their birthing journey, as they didn’t have any family close by. I was flattered. We made such a great team and it felt like all the jigsaw pieces fitted together! I could easily tell by our conversations that they had thoroughly done their research to make informed decisions. This was important to me as their doula, as they were choosing to birth outside of guidelines. As a Doula UK doula, there are guidelines on supporting unassisted birth, which I shared with them so they knew exactly my role as their doula.
Mum was well into her pregnancy when we first met, around 7 months, and they also decided to do a full HypnoBirthing course with me as well. This gave us lots of opportunity to get to know each other and build up a strong, trusting connection. When I was with them, I could feel their enthusiasm and their wisdom each over me. I felt as if I was bursting with excitement and fully invested in their choices. However, as a doula, I do hear of some births not going to plan and sometimes a teeny bit of fear would creep over me. I devoured videos on breech birth, looked into evidence based information on shoulder dystocia, meconium and postpartum bleeding. But all I had to do to regain my full confidence once again was to be with this beautiful couple. They had such a connection with their unborn baby, that I could hardly wait for the birth!
I did highlight to them that sometimes problems arose around registering the birth if there were no midwives present at the actual birth, and if mum had not seen a GP or midwife antenatally. We did some research, and coincidentally I was also researching this topic via AIMS helpline, specifically around the process here in NI. I suggested that they inform the Head of Midwifery in their local Trust of their intention to freebirth, and from that we had a lovely zoom call with the deputy Head of Midwifery, where mum lovingly showed off her bump!
They made it clear that it wasn’t worthwhile talking about what if things went wrong, as they didn’t want to bring any fear into their space to disturb their trust and belief in physiological birth. They did tell me they would appreciate my knowledge and experience if they thought they needed to call an ambulance, and I was content with that.
When the time came for baby to begin their birthing journey, mum texted me early in the morning to say that today was the day. When I look back, I have to be honest and say that from that moment on, I never once thought about anything going wrong with the birth, it was just pure joy and excitement. I spent the day with them as they progressed through the trials and tribulations of early labour, and having a spa day in the pool! Mum was so intuitive, letting us know what was happening to her body and to her baby during the whole birthing journey. We celebrated every hallmark along the way, ate and drank tea, and read HypnoBirthing scripts. I took loads of photos on mum’s phone as she had requested, and remained a steady presence offering gentle reassurance.
In the evening they were both tired and I knew they needed some time on their own to try and get some rest, so I suggested that I go home, knowing they could call me back at any time. I left around 8.30pm saying that I would hear from them during the night.
Sure enough, dad called me at 4am to return to their home. Mum was well into the rhythm of labour and was finding it really difficult to get comfortable. She had been spending a lot of time finding solace in her little bathroom, but she really wanted to rest. So we got the pool ready (again!) and mum made herself as comfortable as she could, resting her head over the edge of the pool for a couple of hours whilst dad had a sleep on the nest he had made on the kitchen floor.
Just before mum decided to get out of the pool to go to the toilet, she thought she felt her waters going. So I emptied the pool while mum laboured on the toilet and on the kitchen floor with dad holding her. Mum was becoming more vocal and her breathing was starting to change and I instinctively knew her baby was moving down into her pelvis. I stayed out of the way, discreetly taking photos, quietly whispering reassuring words and relishing the true beauty of their undisturbed, instinctive, physiological birth. Once the pool was ready again, mum got back in and within a couple of hours, she gently and calmly birthed her baby in the water at 12.30pm – a healthy bonny boy! Dad had held mum, showered her with his strength and confidence in her ability to birth their baby. I managed to catch it all on video for them to watch later. We could see the moulding of baby’s head as mum and baby had worked together for hours to birth when the time was just right. The placenta easily came away just 14 minutes after the birth. It was such an emotional journey and I got to witness the pure strength and belief in this wonderful couple!
The new wee family of 3 moved into the bathroom, so mum could relax with her baby in a lovely warm bath. I left them on their own so I could start tidying up, and they took time to gaze at their new son and enjoy the golden hour together. A wee while later, they said they were happy for me to head on home as they were all feeling good. They knew to keep an eye on mum’s bleeding, and baby’s feeding, and were intending to head to bed together for some well-earned rest, once they had done the burning of the cord ceremony.
This wild, freebirth was like a massive breath of fresh air for me, amidst a crippled maternity system of increasing medicalised births which are robbing families of pure raw physiological birthing experiences. I know I want more of this awesome couple in my life!