Not too long ago, a fellow Doula who is new on the scene smsed me to asked if I would support parents through their homebirth experience without a midwife or an Obgyn. I could only assume that she was asking the question either for her own coming birth or that she has been recently approached by someone who asked her the same question she asked me. I asked her to ask the “potential” clients to contact me directly instead.
I am all for supporting parents through whatever birth experience they would like to have, from a home birth to a cesarean birth. However, wherever the destination is, one of my roles is to facilitate expectant parents to make an informed choice and a choice that is right for her family and that includes giving them all dimensions of the picture and helping them to plan their road map. Then, together as team, the parents will have to do the work necessary to work together as a team to get the kind of birth that they are planning for, whatever that is.
A few months ago, I met a couple who searched the whole of Singapore interviewing all potential care-providers who would support them in their homebirth. In their ideal situation, they were seeking midwifery care and were very clear in their destination, which was great. However, what I sensed was missing, was the full view of what having a homebirth entails, including the potential pitfalls.
One of my other roles as a Doula, apart from helping them to work towards their “birth” destination (just like a holiday destination), is preparing them for the potential bumps & pitfalls along the way and should we come to a point where we need to shift the destination (or goal post for that matter) for whatever reasons, how best we can work with that situation.
So after our first meeting, it took about two months before they reverted back to me to engage me as their Doula. The next few weeks were spent to prepare them antenatally, getting to know them and their needs for the coming birth until they went into labor. Unfortunately, after many hours in labor, baby was malpositioned and labor stalled for more than 12 hours. In the end, we decided to make the move to the hospital and baby was born drug free with assistance to help rotate baby into a better position for birthing. Whilst this wasn’t what the parents wanted, at least they could walk away knowing that they did whatever they could and still had a positive and empowering position. Who knows what would have happened had they gone DIY or “unassisted”?
Flip the coin.
I was asked to attend a birth out of the country of a very good and dear friend of mine, who is also a Doula, who was planning for a homebirth for her third child with midwifery care. Due to last minute change of plans, I had to cancel my trip and at the same time, they decided to go for an “unassisted” birth instead (after having done their research and discussed as a family), with the back up of midwifery care should they need it. When labor started, as planned, they birthed their baby unassisted and had the midwives come over after the birth to check on mother and baby. All went well.
Flip the coin again.
It was late afternoon when I received a call from my client expecting her second baby. I only met her about 3 weeks before she birthed when she came across an article that I was featured in and wanted to learn Hypnobirthing, as her first birth – though drug-free – was a less than ideal experience for her. During her second lesson, the topic of a homebirth unexpectedly came up and appealed so much to her that after discussing it with her husband, they changed care providers and planned for a home birth.
I notified the Obgyn when I was making my way down to my client’s house and as usual, will update him about the mother’s progress when I get there. Although as a Doula, I do not do anything clinical, from my experience of supporting births, I am usually able to tell how well the mother is doing or when I feel that something is not right. I feel thoroughly supported by the Doctor and it certainly helps that we have such a good working relationship that the level of trust needed is established. So whenever in doubt, I know he is just a phone call away.
Parents are fine, coping well. Dr. FM Lai arrives and after setting up and checking on mother’s progress, he decides to wait downstairs till I call for him. The tub is all set up, and when the mother was ready, we assisted her into the tub as her dear husband went into the tub with her, supporting her in whatever position that felt right for her. Her labor was getting intense, matched by her moans, which all sounds so familiar to me and is like music to my ears. Whilst I cannot play music (yet!), I certainly can tell a “dilating” moan to a “bearing down” moan. So when she switched notes, I called for Dr. Lai who was downstairs at the living room, and within minutes, her baby was born in the water, as planned. Her older daughter came upstairs about 15 minutes later, to welcome her baby brother. Beautiful.
There are many more stories to tell. Whilst homebirths in Singapore is still a relatively unknown option, I do have enough under my belt to bring back fond memories – from the one where the mother did not want anyone in the room, leaving all of us waiting outside whilst i did my best to decipher her muffled singing notes to “tell” where she was at… to the one where i was sitting on the floor with 3 other kids waiting patiently for their mother’s labor to kick off, during which all 4 of us (kids?) had loads of fun bonding together… and later having a ritual to welcome baby into the family.. to the one where till today, she leaves me wondering why she needs anyone there at all when she could clearly do it all by herself and I can even see her walk out of the room, baby in one arm, gin and tonic in the other, announcing casually “yeah – i just had a baby” as she blends into the conversation of the evening.
As i say often enough (esp if you already are a client of mine), it takes two hands to clap to get the birth that you want. One hand is the parent’s birth preparation and the other hand, is the supportive birth team. And it is certainly within YOUR reach.