So. Here we are. You’re here because you want to learn about normal, natural birth, the evidence-based practices that support it, and how that fits in with today’s maternity care system. I’m here because I want to help you make up your own mind by being fully informed about all the options for pregnancy, labour and birth, and early parenting.
But what brought me here?
Well, a long time ago, my mum and dad, who loved each other very much, decided to make a…oh wait, maybe that’s too much info…!
Ultimately what brought me to this point is my first pregnancy. I was sick as a dog for 20 weeks, had a slight reprieve, and then so over it I wanted to crawl under a rock for the remaining months (I know that will sound familiar to some!). I was in total naïve denial about how to manage labour, and I had no real idea what I wanted from the experience , or how to get it. It didn’t really occur to me that I had options and that I should ask questions. I did whatever the midwives outlined as standard care during my monthly appointments but if I had my time over, I would have done a few things differently. My first birth was a textbook, pain-med free vaginal birth but how it happened was far more to do with excellent luck than good planning. And with that sentence some may roll their eyes and say ‘you can’t plan labour and birth’. Which is true; it does have a mind of its own. But you can be informed about hospital procedures, plan for them, or choose to opt out of them. You can plan how you will handle labour pain physically and emotionally so that you get the birth experience you want when nothing goes awry (because most of the time, a woman’s body can birth a baby with no need for assistance).
Anyway, suddenly I’d done this amazing thing, differently to how a lot of woman do it (no synthetic hormones, no epidural) and it was amazing. I was so happy with myself, and with how it all went. I felt confident in my first few weeks of parenting, even with some ups and downs.
And then a number of friends and family around me had babies, and they had very different experiences. They were getting induced with unripe cervixes and having epidurals that caused fevers and foetal distress and ending in caesarean surgeries. Or they were treated terribly by hospital staff, instructed through hours of unsuccessful pushing, ending in a forceps delivery which resulted in the need for reconstructive surgery months later. I felt disappointed for them; I knew what they’d missed out on.
Perhaps nothing would have changed their outcomes, but maybe good quality, INDEPENDENT childbirth education would have, at a minimum, prepared them for what to expect from the interventions they received, and that they should demand respectful, considerate care from the medical professionals caring for them.
Some people may be reading that big INDEPENDENT word and wondering why it matters that childbirth education be independent, so let me clarify. If you were to attend the hospital sponsored childbirth prep classes, you’re going to receive hospital-oriented information (just like any provider will give provider-oriented info). They have their own agenda to consider (resources, funding, staffing, practice policies, ‘this is how things are done’ mindsets), and this can skew the information they want to provide their clients. On the other hand, independent childbirth educators don’t have those considerations to worry about. We just want you to get everything you want out of your birth. Independent educators will provide consumer-oriented information. As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, I will provide you with the most current, evidence-based information for you to base your decisions on. I’ll be real about the risks involved with all interventions, and the risks about doing ‘nothing’, so you can be confident you have all the info to make up your own mind about what is acceptable for you and what is not.
There’s a saying that goes ‘if you don’t know your options, you don’t have any’. I want you to know to options, know the questions to ask, have all the information, and be fully informed. Because that’s the part you absolutely can control about your birth.
Rachel Angelone is the founder of Your Birth Your Baby and is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) based in Melbourne. Rachel offers independent childbirth and early parenting education to women and their families, as well as assistance with writing birth plans. She is also a loving wife and mother to two young girls.