Sophie and Brendan's Birth Story

A mom's perspective

Having worked for a lawyers office doing medical negligence cases, where babies had suffered head and brain damage from the use of forceps and suction, I was aware medical intervention had risks, but I didn't realise how routinely women and babies were exposed to those risks until I did a birth class at a UK hospital. Epidurals were considered routine but when I saw the size of the needle and heard the cascade of events that often result in an emergency C-section or use of forceps or suction after having one, I knew there was no way I would have one. I did not want a birth where I couldn't push because I was numb from my waist down. I didn't want my contractions stopped and then such intense ones starting artificially that my baby would get distressed and need a monitor attached to its unborn head. I didn't want the head deformed or brain damage and I didn't want my womb cut open threatening further pregnancies and births, so I didn't want medical intervention.

The problem for me is that I am from a family of large babies. I weighed 5.27kg when I was born naturally using only gas and air. I knew any baby I carried would grow large and, as I was over 37, I was already too high risk to have a waterbirth in a midwife centre in the UK. If I insisted on homebirth while considered high risk I knew attending midwives would get worried and transfer me to hospital midst late stage labour unless I found a midwife who really believed in homebirth. That's when I found Gail.

Gail agreeing to attend my birth opened up my options on where I gave birth. As she would travel to me, I could go almost anywhere. I imagined a beautiful setting that had mild weather in February and we found Kas, Turkey. We rented a beautiful home by the sea on very low winter rates and drove there with the birthpool and all we needed for a 4 month stay. Friends came to stay to help out and Gail arrived at week 37 as planned. We had to wait until week 42 until baby finally arrived and Gail became anxious about being back for her next scheduled birth but she held on and changed her flights and gave me the opportunity to have wonderful memories of giving birth in water to a healthy son who could be next to me, nursing and bonding from the moment he arrived.

We fell in love with Kas and decided to settle there, buying the birthplace of our first son. I then asked for Gail to attend the birth of my next son due 21 months later however I fell into the grips of Turkish healthcare. My son was breech at week 36 when a NST showed contractions (I could not feel) starting. I was given a steroid injection but within 24 hours I was told my cervix had dilated 1-2cm. My baby was born by cesarean before the steroid had a chance to mature the baby's lungs. On delivery he couldn't breathe and had to be rushed to an intensive care unit 3.5hrs away before I was able to move from my bed. It took a week of heartbreak and intense worry before I was able to hold my son. Gail's telephone support through it was invaluable. I felt that they were too quick to operate and should have given lung maturity more weight when balancing the risks but it was us that paid the cost. Instead of the wonderful memories we had a nightmare we want to forget.

Having had the experience of both types of birth I totally support Gail in her endeavours to enable more women to naturally birth at home. There is no such concept of choosing a midwife attended homebirth in modern Turkey. I strongly believe there should be. Turkish women are being butchered, putting newborns at risk and the only winners are the hospitals who charge the fees to take care of the aftermath.

A dad's perspective

When Sophie told me she wanted a waterbirth at home for our long awaited first child I was apprehensive. What if something went wrong? Wasn't a hospital with fully trained doctors safer? I could see that Sophie's choice was well researched. She was always reading something about childbirth, both conventional books as well as the homebirth activist ones. She watched homebirths on youtube and assured me that the safest births are where the mother feels relaxed whereas medical intervention carries its own risks. I accepted her choice, it is her body after all and I would support whatever she believed was best.

Once Gail arrived in Kas, Turkey we seemed to have the perfect set up. Sophie had organised everything. My mum and our closest friends were with us and Gail was bursting with energy and confidence that my apprehension was soon replaced by excitement. We had fun all living together while we waited for real labour to start. Gail did checks and sweeps and made rasberry leaf tea. When labour eventually did start everything happened so quickly. Sophie's waters broke while lying in bed, I rushed to get Gail who helped Sophie into the pool and I got in with her. Sophie gripped the hands of her friend, moaning in pain, while Gail prepared her notes, equipment and did checks. As our son's head emerged Gail was quick to unwrap the cord from his neck and catch his body. Gail then got to work in getting him breathing which took just a few seconds before I could cut the cord. Then I was able to introduce our son to his grandma while Gail dealt with the afterbirth.

Gail stayed a couple of days after the birth to keep an eye on mum and baby. She'd check his temperature and Sophie's tummy. By the time she left we felt confident parents, still in euphoria from an amazing birth.

What I liked about having Gail was that she was here just for us. It was true one on one care. How else can you get that? When we went to the hospital the Doctors were very impressed by Gail's detailed birth records. She was highly professional that I had no doubts at all when it came to booking her for our second son's birth.

Unfortunately our second homebirth was not to be. The Turkish medical profession got the better of us with their scaremongering about a huge baby unable to turn and we accepted that a Cesarean section at 36 weeks was necessary. However, when I witnessed the severe pain Sophie was in afterwards, while having to breast pump and visit NICU every 3 hours day and night, I realised how lucky we'd been with our first son. To say that 10 days in hospital was stressful is a huge understatement, especially seeing our son under bright lights, with beeping monitors, crying babies and tubes up his nose, down his throat, in his chest, out his naval. What a vast contrast to the idyllic first few days of our first son's life and it seemed like the horror was never going to end.

Thankfully we are now home with our 2 healthy sons but the 10 lb baby the doctors warned we were having was only 8lb. He continued to have difficulty breathing through his nose due to congestion caused by the nose tube and the hole from the tube in his chest made him vulnerable to infection. We are still lucky but we will never forget just how lucky we were to have had Gail first time around.

Thanks Gail. If only there were more like you.

March, 2014, Kas, Turkey - Natural First Birth

If you you would like to discuss your wants and needs and how my services might satisfy them, call or, preferably, e-mail me at midwife.international@gmail.com.

Gail Johnson, CPM, LM
Four Mile Lagoon - NW Highway, 89.2 Mile Marker
P. O. Box 251
Corozal Town
Central America

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