An Open Letter in Support of Our Midwives

To take advantage of a midwife’s passion for the life-changing work that she does by paying her such a minimal wage demonstrates an appalling lack of respect and, quite frankly, is reflective of the archaic patriarchal and misogynistic culture in which we live. Shame on those who place such little value on the childbearing experiences of women and the midwives who protect them. And shame on the media and journalists who, over the years, have unapologetically encouraged a damaging public perception of our midwives, making it all the harder for them to gain the respect and recognition (including reasonable remuneration) that they deserve.

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Feeding Willis, personal lessons in low supply triumph

My name is Michelle and I have low milk supply.

Like someone sitting at an AA meeting, I feel now like I want to share my story with you.  Now is the right time as my second son, Willis, reaches nearly 15 months and I have some space to look back and marvel at our journey.  He is exclusively breastfed and always has been - but that statement innocently glosses over seven months of supplementing with donated EBM and many moments of doubt, exhaustion and fear.

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No Place for Judgement

The point I am trying to make is that a number of personal, familial and societal influences guide a woman's decision-making around her birth, and having not walked in another's shoes, it may be hard to understand how they came to conclude that their birth choices would offer the best chances of a safe outcome. But we do need to trust that women are making the best decisions they can for themselves and their baby based on the information that they had at the time. It's essential that we trust in this belief, because you know what? Women are bad enough as it is at blaming themselves for poor birth outcomes without having their mothering community criticising them as well. I'm sick of women trampling all over women, especially at the vulnerable life-phase that new motherhood is. Women need to respect one another's choices. We need to demonstrate trust in our sisters who truly were only seeking the exact same thing you and I were when we planned our births... a healthy start to life for their precious baby.

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Birth and Death

My friend was in her 39th week of pregnancy when she called me. "Carla, I'm at the hospital, they can't find my baby's heartbeat." She was sobbing. It had been eight years since the less-than-ideal birth of her first child - her planned home birth became a traumatic ventouse delivery in the hospital. This baby was her chance at a healing birth experience, and a much longed for brother and son. And now she was telling me that, "They're taking me for a scan to confirm my baby's passed, then they're going to put me into labour." What do you say to a friend who's devastated beyond imagination, what can you possibly say that could be of any help? 

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Untimely Birth

A clock cannot measure how distressed a yet-to-be-born baby is becoming. Nor can a clock measure the physical and emotional wellbeing of the labouring woman. Yet the concept of 'time' is frequently cited as a reason for pressuring birthing women to undergo medical interventions. And it is perhaps that same concept that casts shadows over a birthing woman's self-belief when giving birth, increasing her fears and doubts, and denying her those important labour hormones that cease to flow when she is fearful. How different might the culture of birth be if we did away with the clock? And how might such a revised birthing culture impact on the care women receive during labour?

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Safe For Who?

It is not only incredibly undermining and patronising to assume that anyone has the best interests of a woman and her baby at heart, more so than she, it does massive damage to the birthing and mothering culture we are cultivating as a society. If a woman doesn't have a voice during her birth of her baby, when does she have a bloody voice?! Let's stop making the 'place of birth' debate about 'proof' of safety, because all the evidence in the world doesn't trump a woman's right to choose what is right for her.

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Harming Birthing Women in the Name of Safety

We currently have an epidemic of iatrogenic birth injury. Countless women are unnecessarily traumatised through their birth experiences. Sure, medicine has come a long way in terms of improved management of complicated births. But, while the mortality rates for mothers and their babies have significantly improved, the incidence of an array of other harmful outcomes is staggering. In their quest to control the birth process, healthcare professionals have failed to appreciate the psychological and mental trauma that accompanies medical management of what is meant to be a very empowering and spiritual experience.

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Yes, home birth is risky

So yes, giving birth at home is risky. So is giving birth in hospital. So is living. How we decide to manage risks within our lives is a very subjective undertaking. Perhaps of most help is gathering as much information and research as we are able to make good informed decisions for ourselves and our babies. We need to make the choices that are right for us and in doing so, we are more likely to experience a positive and empowering birth no matter the outcome. I have had way too many conversations with women traumatised by a horrid birth experience where they have said, "If only I'd known that beforehand, I would've done things so differently." Birth is such a rare and brilliant opportunity to realise our potential. Let's not waste it on the fear-based, flawed assumptions of people who know nothing of our hopes and dreams. Our selves and our babies are much too precious.

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Celebrating the Good Stuff

Well, it's out there. On the bedside tables of many now sits a copy of the book that I have been chipping away at completing over the past half-decade. It's a pretty massive achievement for me, to have had this dream for so long and to see it through to completion - one that absolutely deserves celebrating. But mostly I wanted to celebrate the potential of this book to inspire others in their own birthing journeys. And celebrate we did... On November 1st, purposely coinciding with Home Birth Awareness week, we launched 'Where the Heart Is' and rejoiced in what this book meant for our nation of birthing women, their families and their midwives. 

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Writing Your Birth Story

My mother is currently in the process of writing my birth story… thirty-three years after the event! I requested that she write it as a lasting record of a very special occasion (as any birth is), made even more special by the fact that she was quite radical in her desire to birth me at home (home birth in NZ during the 70’s was a rarity). It is a story that I will pass on to my children, and that may be handed down through many generations…maybe even to an era where home birth is the norm and great-great-nan will be known as one of the leaders in NZ’s home birth revolution! Regardless, it means a lot to me to have a record of my birth, especially as I believe it was, in large part, the reason I became a home birthing woman myself. 

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Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth... Your Responsibility

I talk with a lot of women about birth and can't help but feel disheartened by the language I often hear them using when they relay their experiences... 

"I had to have a caesarean because my baby was breech." 

"I wasn't allowed to go more than two weeks overdue." 

"They wouldn't let me try for a natural birth because..." 

"My midwife decided to pop my waters to help speed things up." 

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Sleep and New Motherhood - Expectations vs Reality

In Western society we are utterly obsessed with sleep and ensuring that we get enough of it, something that does not mesh well with new parenthood. Babies are not designed by nature to fit in with our pre-baby sleep schedules, and for good reason. A newborn's stomach capacity is minimal (initially just 5 - 7mls - not much more than a teaspoon!) and babies readily metabolise breastmilk. Therefore, in order to thrive and receive the numerous benefits that breastfeeding offers, newborn babies need to feed very frequently, day and night  (something which is clearly in conflict with many parents' expectations around sleep).

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Diary of a Tandem Feeder - Part 12 (Final Post)

It was a bitter sweet moment when I gave Luca his last breastfeed and closed the chapter on my tandem feeding journey. That was nine months ago now. Like my older daughter, Laura (now 12), I decided to wean Luca when he turned three. In the last couple of months leading up to their third birthdays I’d felt uncomfortable continuing to breastfeed Laura and Luca in public and took this as an indication of a desire to end the breastfeeding relationship. I’d always held the belief that so long as it was a mutually enjoyable experience for my child and myself, I would continue to breastfeed (note, though, that this does not include the difficult days/weeks/months of establishing breastfeeding which were, quite frankly, torturous with my first-born). Furthermore, three years felt like a decent innings and meant that my children were of an age where they could understand the concepts of time and reasoning a little more.

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Diary of a Tandem Feeder - Part 11

Luca is now aged 2 years, 8 months and Jonah is 15 months. Both boys are still happy little breastfeeders and I am still a happy breastfeeding mama (most of the time). The occasional difficulty or frustration I experience as a tandem feeding mother is always far outweighed by the benefits and pleasures that are a part of our breastfeeding adventure.

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Diary of a Tandem Feeder - Part 10

Luca is now 2 ½ years old and Jonah has just turned one.  Both boys are still breastfeeding though Luca typically only feeds first thing in the morning and before his sleeps.  Recently that has meant that he sometimes only feeds twice in a day as he has started to drop his daytime nap on occasion.  Jonah, on the other hand, feeds very frequently.  Though he certainly doesn’t follow any sort of a routine, there would be few instances where he goes for longer than an hour or two without a feed.

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