In 1992 when I was a newly qualified midwife and just got my wings and gleaming new gold and blue Queen Charlotte’s medal to prove that I was now well and truly a midwife. Waterbirths had begun to get notice in the press, not yet at the height of popularity but certainly being brought to the attention of women as an alternative option to birthing rather than the hospital delivery bed. A woman and her partner had come to delivery suite with their birth plan and asked for a waterbirth. The ‘old hand’ midwives on delivery suite who’s wisdom in years between them was phenomenal, however viewed waterbirths with somewhat suspicion, thinking it a ‘new age’ idea that would wear off.
This labouring woman wanted her waterbith and was shown to the pool room. However the midwives who were on duty had never dealt with them and were somewhat reluctant to participate or even understand why any woman could possibly want to birth in water. Dolphins, fish and octopus are some of the words that spring to mind when I recall sitting amongst their discussion as to why women should birth on land and not in the water. The midwives suddenly turned and looked at me and said “Marie, you're newly qualified, you know all this stuff, you can birth her.” I smiled sweetly at them and said "of course" through my tightly gritted teeth. As much as I read a lot of information on waterbirths and understood the theory behind it, I had never actually birthed a baby in water. I left the pool filling while the excited but nervous parents waited patiently as I ran to where the text books were kept and pulled out the booklet on waterbirths. I can tell you that I absorbed as much information as I could in the 20 minutes it took for the pool to fill and returned to the smiling parents with, as much of an air of serenity and calmness as I could muster. Inside, my heart was beating like a drum, "you can do this Marie."
Full of confidence and hope and with my head full of wondrous knowledge, I returned to the lady who by now had got into the pool. The list I had memorised from the book, continually churned in my mind :
- · Temperature must be checked every half an hour
- · Check temperature of the woman at the same time
- · Make sure the woman drinks lots of water due to the sauna effect
- Hands off and let the baby come out into the water, Hands off, Hands off, Hands off AND REMEMBER hands off.
With those points in mind and butterflies in my tummy, I made sure that I followed the rules. Every time I thought I should be doing something to the woman (as surely as any good midwife should), I left the room for a few moments to make the partner a drink or pretend to go to the loo, or if I ran out of excuses to leave the room, I sat on my hands, reciting the mantra I had learned, "hands off, hands off." Just a little about task orientation, as nurses we tend to be task orientated to a certain extent, well we were back then where I trained in England and felt that if we are not doing anything to the client we are neglecting in our duties.
Several hours later a little baby girl was born in the water, much to the joy of two very ecstatic parents and I have to say an overjoyed but relieved midwife who, I hasten to add, has never looked back since. I learned so much from that particular couple (thank you guys) who didn’t even realise it was my first (of many) waterbirths. I also learned that midwifery is not theory alone and using four of our five senses, but our wonderful intuition and having faith in a woman and her ability to birth her baby.