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Monday, 25 November 2013

Skin to skin

I celebrated my first ‘hands on’ birth here in the Philippines last Thursday.  A long labour by Philippine standards, but one where I could really ‘mother the mother’ and enjoy giving care only midwives can give. We didn’t share a lot of words, but communicated more through our eyes and hands. Gina was attended by her husband Paulo and also her 3 year old pocket-rocket of a daughter. That wee girl lightened the mood with her running in and out, and made me laugh as she copied the ‘breathe-in-through-your-nose-and-out through-your-mouth’ routine with her tummy pushed out and her hands on her swaying hips mimicking her mother...

Gina’s waters had broken early and as she lay down on the bed for me to assess her baby’s position, my hands tracked easily over her baby’s body. I could clearly feel all of the limbs, the knobbly knees and a little hand sitting up close to the baby’s face. After Gina got up from the bed I stayed close, hands lightly resting on her belly to feel when a contraction started. Filipino women for the large part labour almost silently – it’s hard to tell when they are even having a contraction, so with my hand I was waiting to feel the gradual spread of power radiating from the top of her tummy and down to the base. It was an amazing feeling as I adjusted my hands – with the combination of her intense contractions, her slim, slim frame and the lack of fluid around the baby I felt like I was cradling that wee babe in my hands before he had even made it earth-side.

In time, Gina moved to the birth stool as she began pushing. A traditional birthing aid, these stools comprise four short legs with a curved seat that sits around 20cm off the floor. They are made of carved wood and allow the mum to maintain a deep squatting position to assist a quick passage for baby into the world. Gina looked a bit uncomfortable - I adjusted the stool’s position under her and could feel that the seat was worn smooth from countless uses and post-birth bleach scrubdowns. Paulo slips into place behind her, providing physical support for her back and whispering encouragement into her ear. It’s not long before a slippery, squealing little boy eases into my hands and a wee tear escapes from my eye.

Welcome special baby! I didn't know you, but I came a long way to meet you...  

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