10am on a Monday morning; sat in a boardroom; looking at the sunshine outside, already planning what I was going to have for lunch. It’s not exactly the setting in which I imagined meeting my hero. But in she walked, and my heart did an actual flutter.
It was just over six years ago when I first met my hero – but I didn’t realise she’d end up with that label at the time. I was about 5cm dilated in a delivery room, pacing up and down praying that someone would come and save me. And in she walked.
My labour was pretty up and down; I’d never even heard of Hypnobirthing back then, so while I was trying to remain calm, I didn’t have the tools to know how to. I was nearly 42 weeks pregnant and I’d put an awful lot of pressure on myself about my baby being born before Christmas. Or if not by Christmas, it had to be 2010. Why on earth it mattered, I don’t know! But I felt irrational and that’s how I thought. Of course he wasn’t here ‘on time’ – he had his own timetable, which wasn’t sent to me! When he decided to start his journey there was about a day or so of surges, pacing and refusing all food, before I went into hospital requesting some help. I had no idea what I was doing or what was happening in my body (I wish I knew the techniques I teach now!) and about 6pm my waters were broken for me.
I didn’t really click with my midwife. I’m sure she was a lovely person, but in that moment of time, I guess I just needed someone else. For anyone reading this who may go on to experience the same thing, please know that you can request a change of midwife. It’s not that you’re making it personal, but you deserve to have someone caring for you who you really click with. We don’t all get on with all types in this world, and it won’t be a problem for you to ask if it’s possible. I didn’t ask; I was too preoccupied and didn’t even realise I could.
About that time, the labour ward shifts changed. All those amazing souls who’d been working for 13 hours straight got to go home, and new midwives came on shift to see which women they’d be caring for.
That’s when she walked in. She gave me choices, which no one else had done. She ran the most perfect birthing pool for me. And she had my back.
My husband has said when I got in that pool, it was like I’d downed a few glasses of Champagne; I was suddenly happy – giddy! She sat in the corner and walked beside us through the next few hours. We chatted about the fact she’d had her babies in the pool I was in. I felt like we were soul sisters! She gave me confidence, love and support without ever intruding. It was like we’d been friends for years and she just knew exactly what I needed at every moment. I’d never experienced someone wanting to help in this way before, and in the months following it was her actions that planted the seed in me about working in the birth industry. I knew, because of her, that I wanted to help change people’s birth experiences.
The moment our son was born and she handed him to me through the water was more special than I can ever describe in words. She spent hours settling us in to new parenthood with so much love; I actually don’t remember much about those few hours apart from feeling the happiest I’ve ever felt with my baby boy, and talking to her about the views at sunrise over our city that we both loved! (I do remember having the best tea and toast I’ve ever tasted, downing two bottles of Lucozade and two cereal bars - I mentioned the refusing all food whilst in labour!)
I always meant to write to her and thank her for making such an impact on me. I knew how nice it would be to receive a letter like that, and she deserved to know how amazing at her job she was. But then I had a newborn, and life took over. It stayed on my to-do-list for so long, before I decided it was so far after the event it would look a bit odd. I wish I hadn’t listened to myself! But I did, and that letter never got written.
Over the years I’ve so often thought about her. Wondering if she still works at that hospital, or if there was any way I could find out. Every year on my son’s birthday, I say a special little thank you to her, knowing she was there at the most important moment of my life. And that she shaped my experience; I had been incredibly lucky.
And I guess that’s the message of this blog post. Don’t leave it to chance or luck. Do everything you can to surround yourself with people during pregnancy who are going to make a difference to your birth experience. It really matters. It may be a Yoga or Pilates instructor (mine has been a Godsend with regards to pelvic health), a Hypnobirthing teacher, a doula, a midwife, an antenatal teacher, or a combination of all of them. Someone who gives you choices, options and helps you to gain the knowledge and toolbox you need for birth. Someone who helps teach you how to get to your happy place and how to stay calm. Someone who cares that you have the best birth you can. Don’t chance it that someone will just walk in. Plan for it and it will make such a difference.
And then, in that boardroom, last Monday morning, she walked in. I knew instantly it was her. I knew she wouldn’t have a clue who I was (she must have cared for literally 1000s of women since) yet still said she knew she recognised my face. But I honestly felt like I’d known her all my life in that moment! I got to talk to her; I told her how much of a difference she made. That she changed my experience for the better. I wish I could book her to be my midwife when this little Mini is born in the summer. But maybe she’ll just walk in that day, too.