#17 Birthing Outside the System with Emily The Authentic Birthkeeper – The Matrescence Podcast
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Kelly: The birth of a baby is a defining moment in a woman’s life. But what about the birth of a mother?
Bree: That’s right when a baby is born. So too is a mother.
Kelly: This transition from woman to mother has a name it’s called Matrescence.
Bree: This developmental stage is as powerful and irreversible as adolescence. And yet few women have ever heard of it. So let’s talk about it.
Kelly: let’s talk about it. Each episode we will bring in honest and thought provoking conversations, evidence-based research and knowledgeable guests in order to help you emerge a more powerful and aligned version of yourself.
Bree: So join us, your hosts, Kelley and Bree, as we attempt to make sense of Al Matrescence journey and to help you make sense of it.
In today’s episode, we chat to Emily about birthing outside of the system. Like so many birth workers. Emily had given very little thought to pregnancy and childbirth until she embarked on her own journey to fall pregnant. Following 14 months of trying unsuccessfully to conceive, Emily sought the support of an OB GYN who told her that she would never fall pregnant without the support of Ivy.
I’m satisfied with this advice. She embarked on a journey of research and discovery opting to instead pursue natural fertility therapies, which resulted in her falling pregnant in just three short years. This process was the catalyst for Emily, making a commitment to follow her intuition and make her own decisions.
Moving forward. She went on to experience a positive and transformative home birth that led her to discover her passion for birth am. I now works as a birth keeper in the Melbourne region, serving women who wish to birth outside of the system and within their full sovereignty. In March this year, she had a free birth with her daughter after experiencing a completely wild pregnancy guided only by her intuition.
Throughout this conversation, we discussed some of the challenges of our modern maternity system, what it means to birth outside of this system, including logistics and legalities, why women would choose to and how she supports them. We recognize that this conversation might seem a little left to center for us.
And that free birth is quite the polarizing topic, but our goal is always to facilitate conversations that support women to make informed decisions about their pregnancy and birth. Even if they’re not the same decisions we would make for others. This conversation is not just for women seeking to birth outside the system.
It’s a conversation for all women who want to understand the system and the options available to them so that they can make informed decisions about their care. We had a great time chatting to Emily and we hope you enjoy listening.
thank you for joining us, Emily. So do you want to start today by telling us a little bit about yourself, who you are, who’s in your family and what kind of work you do in the births?
Emily: Yeah, sure. So hi everyone. My name’s Emily. I live in Melbourne with my wonderful husband, Jay, and we have two children together.
My son, Michael, who just turned two a couple of months ago and we have our little girl Stevie who’s sitting on my lap at the moment. She’s 13 weeks.
Bree: Love. So she’s been a little bit fussy today. You said, so you might hear a little bit of noise from stadi, or I will say got Emmy on me, but we’re just going to roll with it and see how we go.
Emily, do you mind starting by telling us a little bit about your fertility journey, because I know that was a really important part of what led you to make the decisions you did for your pregnancy.
Emily: Yeah, sure. So it took us about 18 months to fall pregnant with our first. And I think like most women you don’t really know you’re going to have issues until you start trying and it doesn’t happen.
So we tried for a good 12 months. And yeah. I’m really aware of my cycles. And you will try and get the right time and everything like that. But yeah, we went and saw an OB GYN around the 12 month mark. And I said, I I suspected that I had endometriosis because I had really painful periods.
I had a laparoscopy and a DNC. And he confirmed that. Yep. There was, really significant endometriosis, which they, cleared out most of it. And my husband had his levels checked and he had some, motility and morphology issues. So those two sort of factors combined, we were told that there’s no way you’re going to fall pregnant naturally.
And I quote, he said, but don’t worry, you’re young do IVF you’ll fall pregnant first go. So that was really blindsided me because I walked into that appointment thinking, okay he’s going to give us some tips on, diet and lifestyle changes and stress management and all these things that we know can affect your fertility.
So that, yeah, that hit me really hard. And I, I walked out of there in tears. And I felt really helpless for a little while. And I didn’t end up calling, more national Melbourne IVF. I can’t remember which one to make an appointment. And they said, yep, you have to do a child protection order check and you have to do counseling.
And I was like, sorry, I’m not adopting like I’m actually, yeah. I just made some helpful in pregnant and they said, no, that’s, that’s the rules. That’s what you need to do. So I kinda just said, no, that’s too much for me. I can’t do this. And I hung up and that sort of led me down my own sort of journey, doing my own research around fertility and, natural things to improve fertility.
And I stumbled upon a really great acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner. And I’m working with him within three months. We were pregnant. So yeah, never looked back after that.
Bree: Yeah. Fantastic. And so what decisions did you make leading into your first pregnancy? Did you know what model of care you wanted to go through or what that would look like?
Emily: Nora? So I walked in really blind. I’d never really given that much thought until I was pregnant myself. The only thing I knew. For certain was that I didn’t want an epidural because I have a real fear of needles. And then, with my really painful periods, I’d always found that water was really soothing and provided great pain relief better than, naprogesic or anything like that.
So I thought I’d like to have a water birth. So I looked into water birth and there was only a few hospitals that For water birth. And one of them was the closest one was a good 45 minutes from me. And I was like, no, I don’t want to do that. So I thought, I’ll look at birth centers.
They don’t exist in Victoria. So I really just stumbled across home birth. And then once I found it the more I looked into it, the more I thought, wow, why doesn’t everybody do this? And. Yeah, it was a real no-brainer for me, the more I learned about it.
Bree: Yeah. And it’s interesting.
And we’ll get into this further in a second, but like so many women, you end up choosing an option simply because of the maternity system does not fit your needs. So it wasn’t that you went out actively seeking home birth. It was you went through that process of elimination and ended up there.
So what was that birth like for you?
Emily: It was amazing. It really was. I
There was a future challenges in my pregnancy with my original care provider. She so I had a, like an independent, private midwife who was suspended while I was pregnant. So I didn’t.
Bree: Sorry, just to clarify, she was a a registered midwife. And then what happened during your pregnancy?
Emily: So she supported a woman to home birth who had undiagnosed twins.
So she didn’t know she was having twins delivered them safely at home. And they transferred to hospital after the fact, because one of the twins was having some difficulty breathing. And she was reported by. The hospital, the paramedics, we know you don’t really know who but that resulted in her suspension.
So she wasn’t allowed to attend births while she was suspended. So we needed to transfer my care to a different midwife who was, she was great. She’s, I’m an older woman. I’m more of a grandmotherly vibe, but she. Is a part of the system. And there were some things that, she had to do during my care that I wasn’t entirely happily happy with.
When I looked at it in hindsight there was, she had to monitor me with a Doppler throughout my labor and, she was a bit of an authority in that space rather than me being the authority. And at the time, there was a couple of little things that irritated me, but then looking back on it, in, in hindsight I saw.
That it wasn’t exactly the experience that I would have wanted for myself. Yeah, for
Bree: sure. And I actually do know who your midwife was and I think a few people might just from the description you’ve given and she’s certainly one of a kind, so would have been really hard to replace her.
So apart from that, though, it sounds like he had a relatively positive home birth experience, which is interesting because as I think you’re going to tell us, you then went on to free birth your daughter. And so often what we find with women who change care provider. It is after a traumatic event or a traumatic birth, but it seems that it was just enough for you to want to do it differently this time.
Is that the case?
Emily: Yeah, I walked out of that birth. Knowing I could have done it myself. Like I and that was why I leaned towards free birth the second time around, because I didn’t want anyone in my space that I would have looked to as an authority in my birth, I wanted to be the sole authority and I knew that having someone else there would give me the opportunity to give away some of my power, when you are in that really vulnerable time I could have had My friend had mentor who is, an unregistered midwife there with me.
But I really just honestly felt like I didn’t need that presence there.
Bree: Yeah, for sure. So between the births of your two children, you did want to go on to start working in the birth space. Can you tell us a little bit about that, how your birth shaped that decision and the work that you do
Emily: now? I I was having a chat with my friend and I was saying to her I, I really want to do what you do.
I really want to support women, but Want to have to be answerable to the system and have that down, threat of suspension hanging over my head. And she’s you can just support women outside the system, if you want to there’s nothing illegal about that. We, as women, we can choose how we want to birth and who we want to have in our birth space.
So I started doing my, sorry. I did some education through free birth society. And I apprentice. With some experienced birth workers and just started asking women if I could attend their births and there’s, there’s no better training than just learning on the job really. And every birth I’ve attended has taught me something different.
They’re all different, but they’re all the same in these really fundamental ways. So yeah, that’s I think the thing that really sparked that for me though, was I had a loss in between my two pregnancies. And that I had like a, a frame miscarriage or whatever you want to call it where I just didn’t rely on the medical system at all and, and trusted my body to do what it needed to do.
And that’s what sort of really cemented my trust in women’s bodies and that they could, we can do this at home and we can do this without the, all the interventions that are. Inflicted on us in modern day.
Bree: Yeah. What do you call yourself? You, are you a doula? Are you a birth keeper?
What’s the difference? Does it matter?
Emily: It’s really tricky. I’m not being asked to be. A lot of people are asking me these questions lately. Legally obviously we can’t refer to ourselves as midwives. I don’t consider myself to be a doula because I do have the knowledge behind me that if there are complications that arise, Assist if that’s what the woman wants me to do birth,
Bree: what kind of complications are you referring
So I’ll preface this with saying that in my experience, birth is, as safe as life gets and if we leave it alone, it unfolds beautifully majority of the time. If there was excessive bleeding or, something out of the ordinary occurred that, we consider to be a variation of normal.
I’ve got the skills behind me to, help the woman to birth her baby, if if she wants my help. It’s oh, I’ve lost my train of thought now, what was it? No, that’s
Bree: okay. Actually, it’s interesting. It raises an interesting point because being a midwife as a registered TA is a protected title in Australia.
So you’ve got to be registered to call yourself a midwife. Why don’t you want to be registered? Can you tell us a little bit about that? Cause I think that’s really important to understand. Yeah.
Emily: It’s so it was a pretty easy decision for me. Having seen firsthand what Martina went through I just didn’t want to risk having to.
Choose between my livelihood and the women that I’m serving. And that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day, the guidelines, we call them guidelines. But at the end of the day, if you step outside of those guidelines, you’re risking suspension investigation and you can’t practice and that’s your livelihood.
So the, the last thing that I want is to have to choose between a woman. Wishes and my livelihood. So operating outside the system means that the woman is the only authority that I’m answerable to.
Bree: For sure. And I think this is an ongoing discussion in the bed space, whether private midwives can deliver true.
Women’s centered mothers centered care. And I’m not an expert on this situation at all, but for a little bit of context, midwives are answerable to opera and they specify guidelines, which midwives can practice within. So can they support breech birth? Can they support twin birth? And none of these things are actually illegal, but if they’re within the.
Guidelines, you could be suspended for supporting a women, which is a woman who has a birth like that, which was the case with Martina, where she supported a twin birth, which is not illegal, but she was then reported. And as you said, it then puts private midwives in a position where they’re having to choose between what feels right for maybe supporting the.
The woman or whether they are going to protect themselves, which is a really awful position to be in. And, it’s a huge problem. So you fill that space between maybe doula, birth keeper and midwife. Is that fair?
Emily: Yeah, I’d say so. And birth keepers, probably more of an American term. I think it’s becoming a little more popular here now, but it does encompass a wide range of experience.
It could be anything from a doula that supports free birth to, someone with me to be free skills. So it’s a really broad term. And I guess the only way to know for sure is to ask the specific birth capable, how they, what their scope of practice is. For sure.
Bree: So I assume that all the women you support give birth at home, are they all choosing to free birth?
Do you consider them to be free births if you’re attending them?
Emily: No, I don’t consider it a free birth if I’m in attendance, because you know that they’re having me there for my experience. Yeah. I do support women to free birth. So I’ll provide some prenatal and some postpartum support and then not attend their birth.
And some women that’s probably, really what they want and need. But in my experience, I think the vast majority of people do want someone there to support them at their birth. And it is a lot of space to hold for, just your partner or, just a friend that is an experienced in birth.
Yeah. For some people it’s perfect and that’s exactly how they need it. But I think the vast majority of women do want that sort of, wise woman presence there to support them in there.
Bree: Absolutely and different things feel safe to different people, but so what do you call it?
Traditional free birth. And is there consensus amongst what that is? Cause I think a lot of people are actually really unfamiliar with the term. Don’t even know that it’s an option within Australia. So can you tell us what is considered a free birth and is it legal? What are the logistics behind having one?
Because you did go on to experience one with your daughter, which we’ll talk about soon. So can you speak to that?
Emily: Yeah. So I think the technical term for a free birth is a birth without a medical provider precedent. And I’m definitely not a medical provider, but I think, yeah, the rise of the birth keeper has muddied the waters a little bit because we’re more, what you would not have know, you’d call it maybe traditionally trained.
So we have, training in birth and we have experience in birth and we’re hired for that reason. So I think that, yeah, that’s muddied the waters a little bit. Technically a free birth is but at the same time, I think it’s your birth and you can call it whatever you want. If you consider a free birth to just be a birth free of intervention or, free of the industrial birth system, it’s I think it’s open to interpreters.
Bree: it’s interesting. And this is something I chatted about with Cal because in my recent home birth with Emmy, by the time my team arrived and the scope that I wanted them to support me, and it was very undisturbed. So I had no vaginal examinations. I had no Doppler checks. No one told me what to do or when to do it.
So it was very undisturbed. But for me, that was nothing like a free birth because my intention was. It was not my intention. And I really felt that I wanted and needed the support of having medical providers there. So for me, I think that is a huge point of differences. The intention behind it. Do you want to take that full responsibility and have sovereignty over the experience?
So do you actually need the safety net is having someone, whether a registered midwife or a traditional birth key part to provide that sense of safety and wisdom around your
Emily: birth. Yeah. And I think I said it before, I think, birth is as safe as life gets and it’s, we’re designed to survive birth and our babies are designed to survive birth.
But I do think that there is a little bit of a false sense of security when it comes to having that medical provider there it’s as hard as it is to have these discussions, sometimes. Babies do die. And they die in the hospital as well, and sometimes it’s unavoidable. So I think yeah, there’s a real misconception around, that having a a trained, registered medical professional, there is going to guarantee an outcome which it definitely isn’t.
But in saying that, the vast majority of the time birth just happens and it happens beautifully and it happens safely without anybody doing anything. And I’ll, pre-phase, everything I’m saying with, I haven’t been a very strong biases against a lot of the a lot of the medical system, but in my opinion, a lot of stuff that does happen a lot of the time, particularly when it comes to things like postpartum hemorrhage are more often than not caused by.
Interventions rather than, prevented by or saved by interventions.
Bree: Yeah, absolutely. And I understand what you’re saying completely about the false sense of security and the research is pretty conclusive when it comes to the fact that home birth is as safe as hospital birth. And there really isn’t any research around free birth.
We have a huge deficit there, but as you said, when we leave things alone, they do tend to unsold incredibly safely. So often we highlight when things go wrong at home birth or at free birth, but we’re not really having those same conversations around the many times that things go wrong within a hospital system.
And what you’re talking about. There is some really interesting research by the Lancet. So for those who are unfamiliar, the Lancet is one of the oldest and most well-respected medical journals in the world. And they decided to look at the problem in our medical and maternity system. Too much too soon, because so often we focus on too little, too late, but if we don’t get to babies in time to moms in time, and that is definitely a huge problem.
So when we look in third world countries and other places, but the problem within our own country within Australia tends to be too much too soon. And the overuse of routine procedures and not. Based interventions, such as continuous, electronic, fetal monitoring. So as you’re saying so many women and like myself in my first birth, go into the hospital system thinking I’m going to be safe, bad things.
Don’t happen in hospitals. If something does go wrong, I have everything I need at my disposal. But what happens is we tend to then. Based subject to interventions, which cause problems down the track. And I guess that is probably why women would end up choosing, free birth or a birth outside of the system is to just avoid being part of the process.
And interestingly, while it looked different for you and me, that was my my intention behind getting a private midwife and having a home birth was to break free. We have that system and I do feel I was able to do that. I know that there’s a lot of contention around it, but I was very low risk and there was no point where my midwife was put in a position between having to.
Between what I wanted and what she felt she could do. But for anyone who is not low risk or who encounters a complication, or has a birth that falls slightly outside of the realms of normal, they’re then put in this position where they aren’t able to get this support from the traditional maternity system.
So what other options do they have? And I guess that’s, likely when women are coming to you is that what you’re finding?
Emily: Yeah, I would say about 50% of my clients at the moment are VBACs often multiple Syrians. And they’re really just not able to find that support within the system to birth on their terms at home.
Like it’s just not something that’s available to them. And I guess the other thing looping back to something that you said a little bit earlier and linking this to the whole Matrescence journey is I think we’ve really minimize the impact of what birth is and, our benchmark for a good birth is a live baby or a healthy baby, and So much more than that.
And I think, I don’t know if it’s, we could talk about patriarchy. We could talk about conditioning. You could, there’s so many different parts to it, but I think in modern day society we’ve forgotten how much of an impact our birth is going to have on the rest of our lives, be that a positive or a negative experience.
And I think that’s probably one of the main reasons why women, particularly women that have had that bad experience to begin with. Turning outside the system to go I don’t want that again. It’s damaged them and I think it’s a lot of pressure to put on a birth to heal your prior trauma or anything.
But, when we know better, we do better and they want something different moving forward.
Bree: Absolutely. And I think it doesn’t even have to be a traumatic birth. It can just be less than what you expected. And I think that the reason we’re not talking about this more. And because it’s something I grapple with myself all the time is how do we talk about it without upsetting and ascending and hurting people who haven’t had this experience, who, maybe feel like their experience was good enough.
But I recently heard the analogy and it said if you’ve had a medicated, a hospital birth, it’s like having sex and never all guests. It might be good. And you’re thinking, yeah, this is pretty good. Like it’s not bad. There’s nothing to complain about. But then if you have. And a mind blowing squirting orgasm, you’re going to go well, actually, that was not what I thought it was.
This is life-changing, this is incredible. And they use that analogy to compare to birth. And I think that there is actually so much there because that’s how I felt after the birth of my son, which I had an epidural. And I’ve said many times I walked away feeling yeah, that was a positive birth.
Were both healthy, psychologically. Physically there was nothing wrong with it, but then. Going on to experience a physiological birth, a home birth. It was so different and it’s not a case of better and worse. It’s just one felt very transformative. And it gave me the skills to enter my motherhood journey with confidence and intuition and feeling confident and the other one really didn’t.
I emerged from my first birth. In this pattern of thinking every time something went wrong with my baby. Okay. Like who’s gonna, who’s gonna fix this. Who’s going to tell me what’s wrong. Because I didn’t have any of that confidence in myself. And I do think that there is a huge difference
Emily: between the two.
Yeah. You’ve put that so beautifully. I think that’s exactly the issue. Yeah. Birth is this, as Rachel, Rachel read says, it’s this Rite of passage and it’s meant to transform us because the women that we are before we give birth, can’t be the mothers that we need to be. And that whole journey of pregnancy as well.
It’s not just your birth, it’s your pregnancy. It’s tuning into your intuition, trusting your intuition, knowing that, what’s best for yourself and your body and your baby. And then bringing that through. Into mothering. Whereas I think we’re so conditioned to look to external authorities during our pregnancy and birth for reassurance that we then continue to do that once we’ve had our babies.
And it’s yeah, I think it’s it’s sad because like you said, it’s not necessarily traumatic, but we just don’t know what we don’t know. And then once, once we’ve experienced it, we’re like, wow. And that’s why I got into this work because once I experienced that for myself, I was like, this is going to change the world.
If we can, really not empower mothers because we don’t need anyone to give us, give them power. We need to reacquaint women with their innate power and it will change the way that we mother, and it will change the next generation. It will change the direction of the world. And, it’s an exciting time to be alive because I really think that we’re at a turning point now, we’ve come a long way from, the Twilight sleep of the seventies, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to.
These, powerful, transformative births that we know we can have. My sister’s a really good example of that. She she had obstetrician for both her births. One was, your typical first birth epidural vacuum extraction, all that kind of stuff. And her second was a really unnecessary C-section, but she didn’t carry any trauma from either of those experiences.
And I chose to have her present at my free birth and I asked her what she thought about it after the fact. And she’s you really can’t compare the two yeah, I think that that orgasm analogy is probably really perfect for that. And just to add to the interesting point there about the language and we don’t know what we don’t know in my first birth it’s Kelly here.
Nearly 13 years ago. And it was purely, again, luck that I was happened to be in the UK. I was in London at a university hospital and I can remember my first antenatal appointment. They said to me, do you want to have a home birth? And because I’d grown up in Australia where I didn’t even think I’d ever heard of this thing called home birth, I was like, what does that mean?
And, I literally didn’t even have a construct in my mind of what could be possible. And it was my own limitations at that point of knowledge, to even understand it. And whilst I didn’t choose to go through with a home birth in the UK, what was really interesting is what unraveled there in my antenatal care, by being in that system where it was one of the, variations of normal.
So what’s normal there versus what was normal in Australia. It was vastly different and. I have friends from the UK, who’ve had a home birth and that was normal. It’s in their language, it’s in their, ecosystem of being that variation of normal. And so one of the great things about these conversations is even letting people know, I had a conversation with a young lady that I know, and she said, I’m not even thinking about having kids at the moment, but I just didn’t even know this whole other options exist.
And now when it comes my time, I will know to go and ask questions and to look at my options. And to know that I don’t just have to go into the system. I may choose that, but that would be my choice. And at that perception of choice, which changes how we feel about ourselves. And as you say, that leads into how we birth, how we.
Bree: That’s for sure. And we, the statistics on home birth in Australia are pretty dismal with 97% of people. But I think in hospital, which leaves 3% birthing out of hospital and about 0.3% at home, and we’ve done actually have statistics on free birth or unattended birth. However you want to define that, but it’s a very small percent.
So as Cal said, we’re not even hearing these stories from other women. We’re certainly not going to our GP for our first anti-natal appointment. And being told that this is an option. So without discussions like this, we’re not even being able to make an informed choice about what our care looks like, because we don’t really know what our options are.
And something that I find interesting about where you’ve ended up working is that so many people I think gravitate towards the space that you’re in after working as a traditional doula or a traditional midwife. And once they see exactly what we were talking about, we see, undisturbed, physiological birth.
They have that same realization of, wow, this is different. This is powerful. And then they find it really hard to go back to support women who are giving birth within the system and being subject to, things that they feel deeply uncomfortable.
Emily: That’s right. Yeah. And I think I got really lucky that the only type of birth that I’ve ever seen is undisturbed, physiological birth.
So that’s, that’s my normal and again, like I think I’ve taken a lot from Martinez experience because I, I can, I’ve seen firsthand with her journey what can happen in that system. So it was just never appealing to me to enter into it, to begin with. When I saw that I could just.
Play in this space where physiological birth is just the norm.
Bree: Absolutely. So you were saying that a lot of the women you support are multiple VBAC Mummers what does your typical client look like? What drives them to seek you out? What are they trying to avoid? Can you tell us a little bit about.
Emily: It’s a real mixture, really. I’ve I’ve had a few first-timers where they just have either this mistrust of the medical system maybe some sort of previous traumatic experience or maybe they just, have this trust in their bodies and they know they can do it. Yeah, lots of people who, will have been, risked out of Home birth options.
And then last year was really COVID was a bit of a blessing in disguise, really because of all the restrictions that were put on people in hospitals. I had a lot of women come to me and, in their last trimester going, I’ve been, in this public system or, I’ve been.
Home birth program through the hospital. And I can just see now that I’m not going to get the birth that I want. And they’re probably my favorite because, it’s a big leap to, to change care providers and to step so far outside the system, so close to your birth. So they really have a strong why.
And that’s the one thing that is probably universal regardless of the type of client that I have, whatever their, why is. The why is really strong and that’s what sort of gets them through the whole process. Yeah,
Bree: for sure. And there’s some interesting research that was conducted by Hannah darlin amongst others on birthing outside the system.
And it very much echoes what you’re saying in terms of the reason people choose to do that. And it was really interesting for me to read because I think. Perception that people who choose free birth, it’s just very consistent with the lifestyle that they already leading, that there may be against medical support and they live alternative lifestyles and that.
Oh I really had an idea in my head of what a free birth person would look like. And it was really interesting to see that there was so many different reasons that lead women there. And one that was quite powerful for me was seeing that a lot of women who choose this do so after exhausting other options, it’s not their first choice.
It’s often their last choice of, being kicked out of a publicly funded home birth pro program, which. Are incredible for some women, but incredibly problematic. For most women, they’ve been unable to find a private midwife who services their area or who has availability, or even those midwives wouldn’t take them on because of their risk.
And they end up at this place. And of course there’s, as you said, there are women who start there, but many of them, it comes from not having access to the maternity options that they need. And recently we went and watched the birth time documentary. And I know that you saw that too.
And I do think that it was important and powerful. I think that some women need to take small steps towards changing the way we birth. And I think that it was an important one, but there’s such a push for midwifery led care. And I initially I loved that because I am a student midwife and I’m like, fantastic that, how much better would birth be if.
All women had access to continuity of care with a known midwife. But recently I heard someone challenge that and say, hang on, shouldn’t we be working towards women led care. Isn’t that kind of the whole point that it’s not led by a medical professional, whether an obstetrician or a midwife, but actually we’re just being responsive to the woman’s needs.
And letting her determine, what is acceptable risk? What does safety look like? What do I want my birth to look like
Emily: exactly. Yeah. I think, where there’s this big push on woman centered care. And yeah, it needs to be a woman led care. You’re the sole authority on your birth and only you can really determine.
Your level of risk, are these labels of low risk and high-risk and all of that. I really think that it’s really up to you to determine, how you perceive risk because for some women, their threshold is going to be a lot lower. And for some it’s going to be a lot higher and, for some women, a C-section.
Maybe a preferable outcome to something else and for others, it will be the other way around. It’s it’s really up for each individual woman to determine what exactly she wants for her birth, and then to seek care providers that are going to support, whatever
Bree: that is. And unfortunately, even I think if care providers do really believe in true woman-centered care, their assignments.
Barriers and obstacles to them being able to provide that, just things like hospital policies and the opera guidelines. And yeah, again, I think that’s why people end up choosing to have people like you support their birth. So can you tell us a little bit about your free birth and what that was like, what you did.
Prepare who you had there was there anything that surprised you about that experience? So was it exactly as you anticipated?
Emily: Honestly it was just the most amazing experience. Like I said, my first birth with my son was a great experience and I took away a lot of positives from it, but in comparison to my pregnancy, my birth with my daughter it was just on a completely different level.
The pregnancy itself. Physically was not challenging at all. I’m really lucky. I don’t get any morning sickness. I haven’t with either of my pregnancies. But emotionally it was a very challenging pregnancy. I had a lot of doubts come up. I had a lot of fears come up. And each time something did come up for me, it was just an opportunity for me to go, okay, where’s this coming from?
Is it my intuition or is it. Projected fears and sit with it and really just returned to trust each time that my body knew what it was doing. And come to the understanding as well that for the vast majority of your pregnancy, if there is something that’s going on, there is really nothing that we can do about it and getting comfortable with that realization.
So I did a lot of my work in my pregnancy. And then when it actually came to the birth. It was a lot smoother than I had expected it to be. I always tell my clients like, plan for a three-day birth and then maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. So I’d psyched myself up to, prepare myself for a long labor, but it was a lot quicker and a lot easier than my son’s birth, which I think, majority of the time at his second time around.
And there were a lot of similarities in the births with I’m pretty sure both my children were posterior at some stage during my labor. And with my son’s birth I pushed for. Maybe, an hour and a half without much progress. And I had the midwife there telling me don’t push. Maybe you’re not fully dilated, try breathing, do these, do that.
Like I had heard directing me what to do. Whereas with my daughter’s birth I didn’t have anyone to look to. So I really had to. Just tune into my body and do what felt right. And for me at the time that meant getting out of the pool because I’d pushed without much progress for about 30 minutes or so with her and finding a position that I felt worked and that worked really quickly.
Once, once I found that position, she dropped right into my pelvis and she was born five minutes later. But the, the similarities of the two, but then seeing, how different the outcome was Just validated for me that. We don’t know what the woman is feeling and what the woman is experiencing.
Regardless of how much experience we have re you know, re pointing her to her intuition and listening to her body is going to be. The best way to get a good outcome quicker. I can make suggestions to him and maybe try this position, maybe try that position, but I don’t have extra vision.
I can’t see what positions the baby’s in. I can’t feel what she’s feeling. So yeah, that having that experience first hand. Makes me sit on my hands a lot more now.
Bree: Yeah, and I think that there is a lot of conversation, even in the mainstream maternity space in terms of letting the woman lead the birth.
And, we are gonna reduce tearing if we let the woman choose her own position because she’ll intuitively navigate that. But if you haven’t spent your pregnancy cultivating. That skill of tuning into your intuition and determining, as you said, is this sphere or is it intuition it’s really hard to do?
And that is something that I learned through this second pregnancy. I think there’s this perception that people who home birth or free birth you know, But differently that they don’t have fear, but it was actually the opposite. I felt very exposed second time around because as he said, I didn’t have that false sense of security of going well, I’ve had a test.
I can just get an ultrasound. There was one time where I felt really reduced fetal movement. And I contacted my midwife and she put it back to me and said, what do you think, what do you think you need to do? Do you need to go in for some monitoring? Will that reassure you?
Or can you just sit with this and, choose what’s right for you. And when, once she put it back to me, I was like, okay, this is a really important opportunity for me to. To determine how I want to navigate these things, because as you said, things come up in pregnancy and in birth and we are the best person to know whether it’s a problem or not.
And so I sat with that and determined, no, actually she’s moving enough that I feel comfortable and. If I was to go into hospital and something was wrong, there’s actually nothing they could do for me at this point. So actually I can just sit with it and then having navigated through that gave me more confidence the next time something arose and the next time.
And so by the time I finally arrived at my birth, I didn’t feel that I needed to look to my midwife or ask for checks or reassurance or guidance because. Oh no, actually I got this and I can feel what I need to do, and what’s going to make it best for me, better than anyone else in this room can. So I think what you’re saying is really important, but I’m not sure if it functions the way we need it to in the mainstream system to then suddenly, after we’ve told a woman how to navigate her pregnancy, made her have mandatory testing and checks to them.
What feels right for you? They’re probably going to have no idea at that
Emily: point. Exactly. And even comparing Stevie’s birth with Michael’s birth. My whole labor with Michael, I couldn’t tell you if he was moving. I couldn’t tell you what I was feeling like. I just was not in tune with my body at all.
Whereas with Stevie’s birth, We, I felt so connected to her. And so in tune with what she was doing and I, felt that all was well because, I could feel her moving. I could. And even like when I was pushing and nothing was happening, like I could feel that she wasn’t in a great position.
It’s just, but yeah, it takes a while to cultivate that that level of being in tune with your body. And yeah, I think, the whole mainstream medical model is set up to. Inhibit that process really by looking at all the, the ultrasounds and the tests and, we’re consistently looking externally from ourselves to validate that everything’s okay.
Which is an illusion, and we know that, and then we do the same thing after birth as well. We look to the pediatricians and the maternal health nurses and lactation consultants and all these experts to tell us that what we’re doing is okay. And I think it, if we can just return to a place where we trust ourselves and we trust women and we trust mothers that we’re going to have better outcomes on that.
Bree: Absolutely. And obviously with the Matrescence podcast, it’s a point of interest for us. And something that’s been really interesting to me is, as you spoke about earlier, is how our birth affects our mothering journey. And it was somebody I was just reflecting on the other day because I’ve been consistently saying, wow, this is so much easier as the second time.
I’m wow. This is so much easier. It’s the second time up. And I do think it is, but also it occurred to me at some point. How in tune I felt with Emmy I’m like, I just know what she needs. Whereas as a first time mom, I was like, oh my God, what’s wrong with this babies? Are they hungry? Are they tired?
And this time around, I’m like, I got her. I so know what she needs. And. Confidence as well. I’m like, I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing. I can respond to her needs effectively. And I do think actually a lot of that came from my birth and, the fact that I proved those things to myself, that I knew my baby, I knew myself, I could do hard things that I was, powerful.
And that has, I feel really given me a better start to my mothering journey. Second time around then, than it did the first time. Yeah. So Emily, that leads
Emily: me to an important question, because a lot of what we’re talking about here comes from the confidence for women to trust themselves and to be women led the women have to be ready to do that in your clients that come to you.
What is the process you go through? Because obviously. One of the early discussions we had was you have to have clients who are in the right spot for you to be able to serve them and work with them.
Bree: can’t do that work for
Emily: them. Yeah. So I’m curious about that process of how you select. As much as they select to come and talk to you which will then lead into, hopefully you’re telling us a bit more about the work that you do before birth, because that ability to stand in the discomfort to recognize the difference between fears and tune into intuition.
People come at different stages of their development. Yeah. I guess a lot of the vetting is done for me because of, the space that I play in. So by the time I will contact me majority of the time she’s already there. Sometimes it is Coming from a place of I don’t want to say desperation, but yeah, like they really don’t have any other options.
And there is a lot of work to do with those women prenatally to get them to a point where they’re going to rock their births. But it is Their work to do so I have an intake form that asks some pretty personal questions. And that sort of gives me a really good gauge of where they’re at.
And then gives me, a point of reference to start challenging some of their beliefs. And yeah. Unpacking some of those fears and, really seeing, where is this fear coming from? Is it a fear that’s come from, a prior experience? Is it something that, it’s just a societal fear, what is it?
And can we move through it? And I think it’s important to say that, the. What’s the word I’m looking for? The objective isn’t to have a fearless birth, not at all. Fear is fine and valid and it gets to be here. It’s just understanding where it’s coming from and moving through it anyway.
Bree: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m interested to hear in free birth situations or even in the capacity that you support women. It seems that often the primary support person is the woman’s partner and we’ve spoken quite frequently about this and the challenges. Yeah. Specifically men, but of all partners supporting physiological birth when it’s not something they used to seeing.
So how do you find that the partners generally feel going into a free birth? Are they supportive or do they need to be convinced and how do they hold up during the birth?
Emily: Yeah, I’ve seen the whole gambit when it comes to partners. I’m saying husbands that just almost psychic in their ability to support a woman in labor.
And it’s just so beautiful. And those partners All the time or coming from a place of I trust my partner. I trust her to do what’s best for her body and her baby. And I support her in that decision. And then I’ve seen partners that are you know, really not on board with it. And at the end of the day, they don’t need to be involved if it’s not something that they’re able to hold space for.
And I’ve I’ve been to a couple of women only births and there’s something really special about the energy at those. It is I think a bit of a cop-out sometimes where women will say oh, I really want to have a home birth, or I really want to do this or whatever, but my husband does won’t let me and personally, I think that’s a bit of an excuse in my opinion, that they’re not really ready to take on that full responsibility because at the end of the day, it is, your baby is yours.
And, they’re one in the same, so only you can make the decisions that feel best for you. Having an unsupportive partner, isn’t the end of the world. But yeah, a lot of the time especially, after the fact they’ll then be, big cheerleaders for home birth and birthing outside the system because they’ve seen.
You know how transformative it can be. But I think it’s important to say that it’s not our job to convince our partners that this is the right call. If they have fears that’s fine. And we can help them to work through those fears, but it’s there for us to sit with. And it’s on them to just accept that, we are the ones that are giving birth.
So the decision lies with us at the end of it.
Bree: Yeah, absolutely. And I know people feel differently about that. Whether you do need your partner’s support and air quotes, permission to birth in a certain way. And of course there are repercussions for the baby based on your birth. But at the end of the day, so often women are the ones that are left with the physical and the psychological trauma of their birth.
And it’s something that actually quite a few women has contacted me about through social media, wanting a home birth, but their partner not being supportive. And all of them. Actually decided to just birth within the hospital. Which is fine if it feels right for them. But I do wonder if you then, so many women end up with birth trauma as a result of that decision, whether that leads to resentment within your relationship.
So all of these women I’ve actually asked her report back to me, cause I’m really interested to hear how your birth unfolds, how it changed your relationship, whether it improved it or strained it. And so hopefully they’ll come back. I am really curious to hear that because my husband like you said, is, has always been incredibly supportive of me.
He’s always been well, it’s your body, what’s best, you make the choice, that is right for you. So I haven’t personally had to be in that position, but I do think that there is a huge amount of value in just, sometimes being really honest, Your partner’s capacity and set, and if they don’t want to be at the birth, or if you don’t feel that they will add value to your birth saying, Hey, actually, maybe we need to bring in some women who are more well positioned to support the kind of birth that I’m hoping.
Emily: 100%. Yeah. That’s and I think it is a double edged sword there where you’re really putting your relationship on the line when you’re standing for what you want. And it’s not necessarily what your partner wants, but yeah. What are the repercussions of capitulating to, their demands and then having trauma and then holding reserves.
Because of that it’s so at the end of the day, it’s really up to us to decide what we’re comfortable with. And we can’t. Hold blame. We can’t place the blame on our partners when we choose to have a hospital birth, because at the end of the day, it really was our decision.
It’s similar to, I dunno, if you want to tell your partner to get a vasectomy or something at the end of the day, it’s going to be his decision because it’s his body, you can’t force him to go and do that. And if you do, he’s probably going to hold some resentment to you around it.
So it’s just really retraining to a place where we respect. Each individual’s autonomy and their right to make decisions over their own bodies. And I think you asked it before, and I forgot to answer your question about is free birth legal. And I think there’s so much more to unpack there because I hear so many women ask asking questions.
If you go post dates are you allowed to go over? Are you allowed to do this? You’re allowed to do that. It’s your body. And you can literally do whatever you want to do. It’s just, being comfortable with that level of responsible.
Bree: Absolutely. And I think that’s a good place to wrap up.
Actually, we’ve both got fussy babies. I could chat to you all day, but I wanted to end just by asking you for women who are interested in going down this route, are there any resources that you recommend, where would you suggest they start with that journey of learning a little bit more?
Emily: So there are some really fantastic podcasts, free birth society and positive births Australia as well.
She her name’s Skye, she has the whole gambit of positive birth stories from, planned C-sections all the way up to free birth. And I think that one’s really important because it’s not so much the outcome it’s that you are in charge of the decision making process that shows yeah. Whether you’re walking out of there feeling powerful or feeling traumatized.
There are a whole there’s a whole bunch of more of the technical information around birth on Rachel Reid’s website, midwife thinking and Yeah, I guess anyone who does have questions I think the best thing to do is to speak to perspective care providers and see what they can offer you.
So whether it’s a bird caper or whether it’s a midwife I really got lucky with ’em that I found my Tina as my first midwife, because when I called up her practice and said I need some information, she just sent me everything that I could possibly want. And I think that’s not for all women.
Personally, I like to be well-informed and make informed decisions, but some women just want to follow their intuition and that’s fine. But I think, if you want to learn, knowledge really is power and just go and find it. There’s lots of information available.
Bree: Absolutely. And lastly, if people want to connect with you, where can they find you?
Emily: I’m on Instagram. My, the account is the authentic birth keeper with underscores in between each one. And yeah, I offer ’em like free consultations to, have a chat to women and make sure that we’re in alignment if they do want to work with me. And even if you’re not having, a birth outside the system, I do have birth education calls that I do virtually as well that we can tailor to.
It is what they’re looking for.
Bree: Fantastic. So we’ll put all those links in the show notes and thank you so much for sitting down with us today. We’ve really loved chatting to you.
Emily: Thanks for having me.
Bree: Thanks for joining us for today’s
Emily: conversation. If you want to hear more like this, don’t forget to hit subscribe. So you don’t miss an episode. If you’d like to know more about anything we talked about, or you heard podcasts today, check out our website, http://www.birthofamother.com.au You can find us on Instagram at Matrescence.podcast, or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Kelly and Bree