This blog post was written for the World Health Innovation Summit
About a day before the due date of my first daughter, I panicked. I thought, ‘How on earth am I going tell my partner all the incredible things I’ve researched on what to do in labour?’ I knew what I wanted him to do, but late pregnancy had the effect of muting me. So I sat down and did what I do best – draw. I drew solidly for 4-and-a half-days, like a mad woman, in my silly humorous style and in such a way that it would be easy and quick for my partner to look through the drawings and understand the facts – those vital facts that I knew would help me get through labour. The result of those four-and-a-half days was the little book for birth companions that ultimately became Whoosh!. Unfortunately, my first labour and birth were not so positive. Although I ‘had a healthy baby’, the experience was an utterly terrifying cascade of induction and emergency caesarean, which traumatised me and impacted on our family so badly in the following years that I find it amazing we are all still here together.
The thing about that experience was that it was totally unnecessary. And that just made me so angry, which added to the PTSD. But my frustration also fuelled my obsession to somehow remedy the situation. I thought, ‘What can I do to stop this? What can I do to help other couples to avoid that?’ At the time I thought the only thing to do was to retrain as a midwife so that I could intervene in the interventions. But as I filled in the application form, a little voice in my head pointed out the obvious: that perhaps the best way I could help birthing couples was to get the book published. This was the way to share all those amazing facts, about ‘how to help a woman in labour’ (keeping active, get endorphins going and feel empowered that you’re helping), and ‘what to do if things are slow’ (and avoid internal exams and sweeps and breaking waters and all that follows), and ‘how to help pain’ (and delay those drugs that might deny the mother the natural love high that will trigger bonding)… I could go on….
Pinter & Martin loved the book and I am so grateful to them for publishing it, and getting the ideas out into the public sphere so that they can empower and help people to have a better birth experience than we (and it turns out so many other people) had. I hope my book will help people take ownership of the experience too. Birth is such an important part of life, it is a right of passage for both parents, and one that, as I know from the birth of my second child, can be beautiful, passionate and wonderful, harmonious, pain-tolerant without having to reply on drugs, and ultimately empowering and so utterly filled with love. Midwives have the power to gift these incredible things – and yet they also have the power to deny them.
So Whoosh! is a tiny contribution to the colossal world of birth, but hope this little book might just help people along – in a fun kind of way – in their beautiful passage to parenthood.