During every big life event you’ve ever gone through, the people around you will have mattered hugely at the time. Roll on a week, month, year or decade into the future and their name, manner or appearance may have blurred so badly that you can’t recall anything about them.
That’s certainly the case about birth. Both times I was in hospital for longer than average. 12 days in total on antenatal, labour and postnatal wards with Alexandra, then ten days on antenatal while pregnant and a week on delivery suite and postnatal with Max. (We’re just talking pregnancy/birth specific wards and stays here so not my long hospital admission postnatally with Alex or any of the care Max received)
Along the way we met many midwives and other staff who were utterly amazing, whose names and faces are imprinted on our memories, and none more so than the midwife who delivered Max. Her name was Antoinette and I knew from about 30 seconds after the start of her shift that I liked her.
She walked into the room on the morning of the 26th March, introduced herself and had a quick handover from the night midwife and then immediately began tidying the room. A woman after my own heart! She instructed Dylan what to get out of the bags then put them away, and got out everything she might need for the delivery even though it wasn’t imminent at that point. She wanted to be ready for every eventuality and, as someone who writes lists like it’s going out of fashion, I was won over by this!
She chatted to us about her family, asked us questions and got to know us as well as you can in a couple of short hours. Everything was sorted so she could focus on us – even fetching Dylan some breakfast. Then when everything ramped up (Antoinette told me once I got into established labour it would be quick and she wasn’t wrong!) she knew the time wasn’t right for chatter anymore and began guiding me calmly and efficiently through the process of giving birth. There was no panic, alarm or harshness. There were just suggestions, advice and care. She knew what to say and do at any moment and her decades of experience combined with the joy you could tell she still feels every time she helps bring a new life into the world.
Even once Max was born, she was fabulous. She made sure I was washed, changed and fed as soon as possible and kept me company while Dylan and Max were on the transitional care ward then got me in to see him as soon as possible once he started showing signs of being poorly and had been transferred to NICU.
I’m sharing all of this because I can’t believe what a difference having such a great midwife made to the birth. Altogether it was better anyway owing to the lack of need for intervention but she made it so positive and something I look back on fondly despite the pain and blood and gore!
Having someone championing you and telling you you’re doing great (other than your husband cause you know he’s GOT to say it and what does he know about delivering babies anyway), having someone who intuitively knows what you may need at any given point or how you may be feeling, having someone who makes you feel like the most important person in the world right now – let alone the room. That’s something you can’t pay for, you can’t order, it’s luck of the draw.
Whoever walks into your room to deliver your baby will be qualified, but what their nursing degree won’t have given them is that amazing attitude we saw that day where nothing was too much trouble, everything was kept calm (as calm as it can be when you’re pushing a human out of you) and we were the focus – not the doctors or the medical side of things or even Max, me as a woman giving birth and us as a couple having a baby that day.
Dylan’s had four children and been at all of their births. He can’t remember any of the other midwives’ names but we know we won’t be forgetting Antoinette ever!
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x