Most people have one, sometimes it’s the father of the baby, sometimes it’s the mother of the mother, other times the relationship is unexpected, such as an ex-partner, a brother, a mother-in-law or even a friendly sperm donor! Whoever it is that you choose for your support person, know this; they can make a huge difference to what happens during your labour and birth.
Jodie is what you would call ‘experienced’ when it comes to birth. Currently pregnant for the fifth time, she has really done it all – from caesarean, to home birth, to hospital birth. After sadly miscarrying twins ten years ago, Jodie never would have imagined she would one day be about to give birth to child number four.
Her first baby, Elicia, was born by caesarean section. “The placenta lay across my cervix, which is a dangerous pregnancy complication called, placenta praevia, ” Jodie explains. “There really was no other option than to have a caesarean.” Despite this, Jodie says she experienced the best birth she could have had under the circumstances. She managed to have her partner Matt in the operating theatre, as well as Janine her support person and life-long friend. Jodie was also grateful she got to hold and breastfeed her little girl straight after the birth.
“Janine was not just a friend and support person, but she also had great photography skills,” Jodie explains. “She was able to come into the operating theatre and take some wonderful pictures.” Jodie says she needed the photos because she missed out on a natural birth and there was also some question as to whether she would have to be put under a general anaesthetic during the surgery, due to the placenta praevia. The photos of the birth are now treasured memories for Jodie and one of Elicia’s most precious possessions.
Jodie says Matt her husband was really reluctant to be at that first birth, and in some ways Janine was there to support both of them. “Here we were in a room surrounded by lots of masked strangers and beeping machines and there was Janine taking photos, smiling and giving me the thumbs up. It was so nice to see someone else excited that I was going to be a mother, when everyone else was just focusing on the technical aspects of a caesarean,” Jodie says. And what about Matt? “Matt coped amazingly well. Here was someone who had never been in hospital and didn’t really want to be there, and yet he was, and I am grateful he was, as it was a big sign of his support and love for me.”
Pregnant with her next baby Jodie was determined to have a natural birth. She found an independent midwife and went on to give birth to Aimee after a very quick labour. While she had the complication of polyhydramnious (too much amniotic fluid) everything went well. “This birth helped with so much healing after the first birth, “ Jodie says. Matt, her midwife Jan and support person Amy, all worked together to add to the magical event. “This time Matt found the birth so different and so much more enjoyable,” Jodie says. Amy, Jodie’s support person, was a great friend and a strong believer in natural birth. “This was important to me because she was the only one in my circle of family and friends that embraced home birth and was supportive.” Amy had other important attributes as well, Jodie explained. “She was a very kind and giving person as well as being assertive. She had that important balance of being gentle and calm under pressure and I knew she would be objective enough to be able to advocate for me.” This was important, Jodie says, because Matt would naturally be emotional and need to focus on her. Amy knew everything Jodie wanted by the time of the birth, because she was present at the antenatal visits, attended the antenatal classes, read books, did a reflexology course and understood all Jodie’s hopes and dreams for the birth.
Jodie describes how Amy set the birth scene at home. “When the labour started Amy lit candles, got the aromatherapy going, arrived with a bunch of roses, which was the birth flower for that particular month. Amy’s presence was so calming. I had never felt so nurtured.” Jodie feels the birth was very healing after her first experience. Her only regret is that Amee’s birth happened so fast – there were no photos, like the ones she treasured from Elicia’s birth. Jodie also had her mother there to look after Elicia while she gave birth to Aimee and she says this was difficult at times. Her mother had nearly died giving birth to Jodie, and naturally had a lot of unresolved fear surrounding childbirth. She also did not feel confident about Jodie’s birth choices, which was not a reassuring whilst giving birth. “I remember her looking into the room with a really worried expression on her face,” Jodie says, “and it made me feel worried. I was worried about her, worrying about me”.
With the next pregnancy, Jodie once again planned a home birth with her midwife Jan, but late in the pregnancy she developed pre-eclampsia – a pregnancy complication where blood pressure rises dangerously. This meant Jodie needed to go to hospital to have the baby. Amy, her support person for the previous birth, planned to be there again, but Jodie went over her due date and Amy had to return to Tasmania, where she now lived. “That was really hard,” says Jodie. “I felt quite sad when she left.” But things turned out well, because Jodie, determined to capture this birth on film, had contacted a well-known, childbirth filmmaker, Nic Edmondstone to be present at the birth. While Amy had to go back, Nic stayed, and Jodie says, “she turned out to be a fantastic support person, even though that was not actually what she was there for. Nic has been at lots of births and knew what to say, and more importantly, when not to say anything! I guess when you sit behind the camera watching so many births; you pick up a thing or two. She would put the camera down and come ov