I often think about this day, the day I delivered my very first baby. It was in 2002, so that baby will be 14!
When you’re learning as a student midwife, you work with a qualified midwife as your mentor and you have to observe at least 5 unassisted vaginal births (Midwife births) before you can deliver your first.
I’d witnessed my five but my mentor was off that day, so I was working with someone else. A suitable candidate came in and I was a assigned to her. She was on her own. As well as doing the normal observations and taking note of her medical and obstetric history, I talked to her. As her labour progressed, I found out that she already had 2 children already with the baby’s father bit they had split up during this pregnancy. The reason? She’d found him with another man! She was very boyish in her appearance, slim (apart from the baby bump), flat chested, very short hair and a baseball cap. I couldn’t help but think that this was the reason this man had gone for her in the first place, and I wondered whether she was gay too. She seemed devastated though that the relationship had broken down, leaving her with the bulk of the childcare and a new baby to boot.
All I could do was be there for her, in a physical and emotional way. My mentor came in and out during the labour, so it was just us a lot of the time. You quickly build an intense relationship when you’re with a woman in labour, especially when they’re on their own.
As she entered the second stage of labour and started to push, my mentor was with me. The lady didn’t need much encouragement to push as she’d had two previous normal deliveries so it was coming fairly quickly. As the head began to crown, my mentor advised me to put a hand there to gently guide the head and slow it down a bit to avoid the possibility of a big tear. My usual mentor was more of a ‘hands off’ Midwife. These days, I’m a ‘hands poised’ Midwife, I generally let nature do it’s job, together with instructing the woman to breathe or pant as the head crowns and only use my hands if the head is coming too fast, to avoid a big tear. Mostly, even if you put your hands on the head you can’t really slow it by much as the force of the contracting uterus is so strong. I digress. At the time, I was so much in awe of the baby coming out into my hands that I think I was a bit dumbstruck! I did put my hand on the head and applied some gentle pressure as it came out I think but it happened quite quickly. The head was born, restituted (turned) and then with the next contraction, one push and the body was out. I placed the baby on the mother’s chest and dried it off. The Placenta followed soon after with no trouble. If the Placenta gets stuck you can’t count it as a delivery, so that’s always a moment of anxiety when you’re a student midwife.
I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember whether it was a boy or a girl, how much it weighed or what it was called. But I remember bringing it into the world and the sad story surrounding it’s life already. I hope now that this family have found its peace and place in the world.
Reading this you may think that delivering a baby is easy – the answer is yes, when all is normal you do just literally ‘catch’ the baby and the Placenta. But there’s more to it than that of course, there’s the support, guidance and reassurance you give. There’s the knowledge and skills you have ready for if there’s a problem or deviation from the normal. Knowing when to intervene or when to wait. Sometimes it looks like we’re doing nothing, but we’re always watching, observing and making back up plans, even in the most straightforward of cases. I’ve delivered many more babies of course since then, I’ve stopped counting, and have much more experience. I never lose that sense of wonder each time a baby is born, however it happens.