The world is waiting with bated breath for April the giraffe to give birth to her 4th calf. Some people have been watching the live stream of April for nearly 4 weeks now and the general consensus from the audience is 'baby will come when it is ready'.
From the moment I first saw that there was a live stream of a pregnant giraffe, I expected the comments to start. You know the ones that we get when we feel like we've been pregnant forever 'are you ever going to have that baby', 'if you go much longer you'll pop', 'you look huge, are you sure it's not twins' etc.
But the one thing I was waiting for was the odd comment about how we should be giving April's labour a helping hand! After all, with 25% of our labours in the UK started by induction and an ever increasing caesarean rate, I didn't exactly expect our medicalised view of birth to stop with us. It wasn't long until I started seeing the comments and here are a few gems which I couldn't help but laugh at-
'I swear if she doesn't give birth soon, I'm going over there and performing a caesarean on her'
'Just wondering, how long will they let her go?'
'15 months? She's probably having complications, help the baby'
'I have to say. . . is this normal? This long of a process?'
These comments are very few and far between but I can't quite believe that we are starting to also distrust that animals know how and when to give birth when they have done quite alright without our assistance in the past.
Why in general though do we trust that animals know how and when they should give birth but we don't trust ourselves? If this was a live stream of a pregnant woman, I can't help but think that the comments suggesting she should be induced, have help, should definitely have had the baby by now, would be coming far more frequently. Of course there would still be people who very much believe in our body's abilities and would be telling everyone to calm down and just wait patiently, but certainly not the majority like in April's case.
Naturally, left to our own devices, we give birth just like any animal does. When our babies are ready, when we are calm and relaxed and feel safe and comfortable. You don't see April worrying that her baby is 'late' or that she needs help to bring her baby in to the world. So maybe, lets all take a leaf out of her book. Lets trust in our bodies and babies and lets also stop putting so much pressure on pregnant ladies. Asking if they have had the baby yet, telling them they are 'too overdue' and that they need to be helped with induction etc. is not going to bring the baby earth-side any sooner, nor is it going to boost their confidence in their body and baby which is actually all the input they really need at this important time in their life!
Oh and April. . . You got this babe!
Now you may wonder what on earth I am on about with this post but I had an amazing chat with my awesome Nannie the other day and thought I had to share!
So my Nan never told me about her experience of childbirth when I was pregnant with Matilda (clearly she didn't get the memo about spreading the positive birth love!) but she shared with me the other day when asking how my Hypnobirthing classes were going. She started by telling me that she had a really pretty good time of it despite everything going a bit tits up. Here is a little idea of how my Uncle's birthday started. . .
My Nan in early labour and my Grandad, had just set off for the hospital in mid December in the middle of a snow storm. A very short time after starting their journey, the car kindly decided to pack up and after a failed attempt at getting the car back up and running and a dash round trying to find someone to help them, they were finally on the way to the hospital in a neighbour's car!
On arrival at the hospital my Grandad was politely told to make himself scarce (this was the 50s) whilst my Nan was shown to a bed on a ward with (in her words) other women making all sorts of funny noises! She was then basically left to get on with it. 'It' being active labour! She described to me that the contractions were a bit painful but not horrible or too difficult to manage. A few hours later when she was checked over by a midwife, they told her she was ready to give birth to her baby and was wheeled away to a birthing room. A few pushes later and out popped my Uncle. Not the kind of first labour and birth you would expect then if our society's media portrayal is anything to go by!
Now bearing in mind my Nan was a young Mother at 20 years old, I was intrigued as to whether she had been fearful of the unknown of giving birth. She said no she had not, despite having no previous experience of watching anyone give birth and no friends who had given birth before her to pass on their stories and knowledge. She had also not taken any form of antenatal class 'We didn't have these classes to teach you how to give birth'. When I asked her why she was not anxious she said she 'read a book' and 'didn't know there was anything to be scared of'. Upon further digging and a while trying to remember the author's tricky, fancy name, she proudly announced it was a book written by Grantly Dick-Read. It turns out that she had read the fantastic book 'Childbirth without fear' published in 1942, which is still popular today. Grantly Dick-Read's observations and theories are the basis of Hypnobirthing. They focus on pysiological birth and the knowledge that when fear is eliminated, natural labour and birth is a far more efficient, comfortable and often euphoric experience.
So my Nan, through the help of this book, learnt all about the natural process of birth, why it is nothing to be feared, how you can help the process to unfold easily and what you can expect.
Due to not being surrounded by stories of birth (both negative and positive) and modern media portrayals of the 'horror' of birth and informing herself of how birth works, this brilliant lady went in to her labour fear free and not with unreal expectations of what birth should be like, dictated by other people's opinions. Without masses of stories and information to process, her thinking brain was out of the picture, enabling her natural instincts to take over and allow her body to birth her baby without interference and as nature intended.
In a way, you could say that my Nan was one of the first women to learn about Hypnobirthing techniques and put into practice what she had learnt. Or you could just go with the theory that I really wanted an excuse to call my Nan a badass! Either way, she did it, and so can you!
A beautiful birth story just in from one of my fabulous couples. Proving that even when things don't go quite to plan, a positive, calm and empowering birth experience is still very much possible.
So, an update for you, I gave birth on Friday 3rd February. I was booked into to be induced that day but by the time I was taken down to the induction ward at 9am I had started having surges (I'm sure this was down to me really not wanting to be induced and I was willing my body to get things started on its own)!
I was taken to the labour ward and by 11am I was at 7cm, the midwife got someone to double check as she was surprised as I was very calm and composed. I gave gas and air a go for an hour or so but found that it just got in the way and didn't really make a difference. Unfortunately baby had his cord around his neck and I couldn't push him out quick enough for the the doctor's liking and ended up having a ventouse delivery. Our son was born at 15.31, weighing 5lbs 11oz; he was 5 weeks early. After delivery the 2 midwifes in the room were commenting on how it was the calmest birth they had witnessed in a long time.
Due to baby's early arrival we had to stay in hospital for 5 days during which he had phototherapy for jaundice but he is now doing well and got to grips with breastfeeding really quickly for someone so small. A couple of days after the birth the midwife from the labour ward came to see how we were both doing and she said again how surprised she was over the speed of my progress during labour and how calm I was during the birth.
We used the techniques that you taught us during the 1st stage and I think this is why I stayed calm despite the birth plan I had prepared being somewhat irrelevant given the situation I found myself in; I tried to breathe baby down in the 2nd stage but unfortunately it wasn't to be. I'm just pleased that we didn't rely on being able to attend the NHS classes to learn all about labour and birth as the early arrival of William meant that we had not attended them, the knowledge that we gained from your course gave us the confidence to ask questions and to be as informed as we could be on what was happening, thank you.
Emma Batt, Hypnobirthing Mother of one and KG Hypnobirthing teacher.