I want to tell you about my decision to have an unassisted pregnancy and birth, and yet, because of the blissful and undisturbed nature of this pregnancy so far, I also have a deep need to stay in a quiet and protected space.
There may be a time for the in depth whys and hows and I suspect there will be a great deal to say in retrospect too. For now I want to write it here, that this is happening. I have no doubt that one effect of not seeing any midwives is that I feel a shift happening in almost every area of my life from outside to inside, from external to internal.
A deep need to go within myself much in the same way you do whilst you are labouring, if you get the chance to labour undisturbed. This moving within myself feels primal and calming, powerful and very important.
I am not measuring my pregnancy by the charts and details of figures so often wrong and largely discredited. I am not taking on the fears and guesses of anyone who prods my stomach or examines me. There is no longer any authority to tell me what is happening beyond my own body (and what can be more authoritative than that?)
It has felt more wonderful than I imagined, and absolutely what I wish I could have had in both previous pregnancies. But I also know that I was not ready for that decision then. That every experience I had during those pregnancies and births, and then subsequent parenting, has led me to be right where I am now.
As timing would have it, I met the woman who is now my Doula during my last pregnancy with Ezra, when we both attended an antenatal yoga class. She was due two weeks before me, so instead of being my Doula, she became my friend, and then a good friend.
I knew of the possibility of freebirthing and I read some books about it. Nothing I came across seemed illogical or untrue. Everything made sense. But I also knew that I had not yet cleared out enough of my own fears and inherited doubts to do it with Ezra. I knew I needed a bridge between Ava’s birth (a largely positive hospital birth which ended up being quite disturbed, as soon as she was born) to what turned out to be an amazing, quick and joyous home birth with hardly any input at all from the midwives who were present (or, enough input at least to see how even minor observations and interruptions can stop contractions altogether!)
So I knew, without any doubt, that I wanted an unassisted birth this time, with no one present bar my Doula and family members as they or I might wish at the time. I knew it without even deciding and I went with that instinct because it was born out of complete trust in my own body, rather than fear and rejection of what medical professionals can bring to a birthing environment.
We have opted for a gender scan but, apart from that, and unless I feel like I need to, I do not plan on seeing any midwives or consultants. I am grateful that service is there for me should I wish to use it, but I understand, in every sense of the word, that it is indeed optional. And furthermore, potentially damaging unless necessary.
I feel as if this pregnancy is one which is more reflective and meditative, and I have had the space and time to listen to and connect with this baby without disturbance. I feel an interesting mix of feelings – powerful, because I know my baby knows how to be born and I know my body knows how to birth, and also surrender, because there is nothing as primitive as carrying and birthing a baby and if we listen, we are reminded that we are part of a larger rhythm which we cannot control and cannot know.
This fear of the unknown is so often jumped upon and used by those who attend birthing women, as a means of coercing them into doing various things which, whilst they may not be in the best interest of mother or baby, allow everyone involved to feel more in control.
Yet what I know, without doubt, and what so many women come to know during their pregnancies and birthing experiences, is that no one knows more than them. No one knows more than I do about my own body and baby, if I make the time and take the responsibility to listen and engage. I think we all know that deep down, but it has taken two pregnancies and births, and the wide variety of experiences I have had of midwives, doctors and consultants (most of them well-meaning) to see firsthand that I have always been right about my baby and body and they have so many, many times been absolutely wrong.
And whilst those errors in judgement and assumptions may be driven by the best of intentions, I do not trust the intentions of the system that those people work within, to know me and my needs, to trust and engage with me, to work with me and my wishes and desires. I do not accept those fears as a necessary part of my experience and I will not allow them to be.
I know now what millions of women before me have known intrinsically. That birth should not be feared, that we are capable and able to have normal, physiological births, that trusting external authorities and medical interventions often leads to traumatic births and that we need never feel as if we must accept the misguided fears of those who have been taught to fear birth, because they have not experienced what birth can and should be if women are given the support and opportunity to go with their bodies.
I see less risk and more joy in choosing to trust myself (and past experience shows me this always works out for the best) than in choosing a model of care I do not believe in.
20 weeks today, I am feeling calm, happy and intent on doing more to develop this instinctive side of being pregnant and giving birth. Meditating, walking, yoga, writing and painting and felting. And in moments of clarity when it seems the outside world drops away, when I can feel this little one kick and move around, I feel a sense of surrender to my own body and its place in something bigger, and an overwhelming sense of trust, reflected back to me in the people who surround me, in the birthing stories I read over and over. No longer a question, ‘Can I do this?’ but the knowledge that I am doing it. Whatever part I can do, I am. And that’s enough.