Much of our pre-existing knowledge about birth comes from the stories we have been exposed to from the time we were children. Sadly, these stories are rarely positive stories. Women are often told horror stories about birth as soon as they become pregnant, if not before.
The new Australian book, Birth Journeys: positive birth stories to encourage and inspire, shares honest, uplifting and reassuring birth stories, giving women a realistic and healthy view of birth. The aim of Birth Journeys is to encourage and inspire women, to show them the possibilities of birth as a wonderful, powerful and transformative journey.
Birth Journeys is not a collection of perfect births. It contains a wide variety of experiences including hospital, birth centre and homebirths, IVF pregnancy, antenatal and postnatal depression, healing from traumatic births, water birth, caesareans and vaginal birth after caesareans, twins and an unassisted birth at home. These 29 stories were selected with the help of midwives, doulas and mothers across Australia to reflect a diversity of experiences to share a range of positive and inspiring perspectives on pregnancy and birth.
The stories in Birth Journeys share the learning and growth that women and men have experienced on their path to a positive birth (and sometimes afterwards on reflection). Through these stories Birth Journeys shows that a positive birth comes down to how a woman feels.
“Positive birth is all about the woman and her feelings. It is about placing the woman, her needs, and her wellbeing at the centre of care. A woman is most likely to have positive feelings about her baby’s birth when she feels cared for and nurtured, in control of decisions and her experience, safe and able to relax in her chosen birth environment, and respected and understood during pregnancy and labour. When she trusts in the process of birth and believes in her ability to birth her baby, and when she enters the experience with confidence and anticipation rather than intense fear, the woman is also likely to have a positive experience of labour and birth. A positive birth leaves the mother feeling healthy and whole, empowered and joyful.
A positive birth is not the same as a perfect birth. It does not need to be short, pain-free, joyful or ecstatic to be ‘positive’. Sometimes birth doesn’t go according to plan and you may not get your dream birth, but you can still have a positive experience. A positive birth is not dependent on a particular place of birth, although there is evidence that certain models of care lend themselves to more positive experiences.
You may hear that a healthy baby is all that matters and a woman’s experience (and wellbeing) is of little importance. The catchcry ‘healthy mother, healthy baby’ is often misused to dismiss women, their feelings and their experiences of birth. However, a positive birth experience benefits both the mother and baby. The same factors that enable a woman to feel positive also benefit her baby’s wellbeing during the process of labour. Babies are affected by our distress and it impacts on their health. In the womb and after birth, babies need healthy, happy and strong mothers. Women need to be healthy in mind, body and spirit for the demanding and life-changing role of motherhood. You can’t truly have a healthy baby without a healthy mother.
Every mother wants a healthy baby – mothers make enormous sacrifices for the wellbeing of their babies and children – but it is a fallacy that a mother’s positive birth experience must come at the expense of her baby’s health. It need not be a trade off. Having a genuinely ‘healthy mother’ is undervalued in our culture, but it is not selfish to desire a positive birth experience.” Excerpt from the introduction to Birth Journeys.
The stories in Birth Journeys have been carefully introduced with editorials to allow you to pick and choose the stories you wish to read. These editorials are there to highlight the positive messages of each story. They also highlight possible triggers so that you can make a conscious choice to read or not read each story as it comes up.
“In Birth Journeys, you will meet women who felt nurtured by carers, partners, family and friends during pregnancy and birth. They were celebrated and honoured. These women share the excitement and joy they felt as they anticipated their baby’s birth.
Some women carefully chose their place of birth based on their need to feel safe, private and comfortable. These women describe how important it was for them to find a carer who shared their values and beliefs about birth. Some deliberated over their choice, and others felt an immediate connection and just knew they had the right carer. Other women demonstrated open and respectful communication with carers.
There are women who spent considerable time reading and researching to educate themselves about labour and birth. They reflected on their beliefs and their past experiences. They filled their minds with affirmations and visualisations to become confident in their ability to have a positive birth.
Some women share a disappointing or traumatic first birth followed by a healing later birth. Many came from a place of fear, while a few entered pregnancy with feelings of ease and confidence. They had not been exposed to the culture of fear or a family history of birth ‘gone wrong’. For them, birth was a normal part of life.
There are women who stood firmly by their beliefs, intuition and wisdom in the face of challenges, and others who learnt the value of being flexible and willing to change. These women were graceful as their dream birth slipped away.
The stories are honest and real. They reveal the unique, deeply personal experiences of ‘everyday’ people. These women (and men) have generously shared their choices, feelings, beliefs and learnings.” Excerpt from the introduction to Birth Journeys.
Birth Journeys also contains informative contributions from Australian midwives, doulas, academics, birth educators and authors including internationally renowned author Dr Sarah Buckley, Dr Hannah Dahlen of the Australian College of Midwives. These contributions complement the stories and cover topics not often covered in a ‘guide to childbirth’ including water birth, having a doula, hormones in labour, estimated due dates, birth art, lotus birth, blessingways, understanding traumatic births, and learni