Student midwifery editor Anna answers one of her most frequently asked questions — What is it like to deliver a baby?
As I head toward completing the golden ’40 deliveries’ required for qualification, I thought it would be relevant to look back over some of my experiences. ‘Normal’ people are always so curious as to what it’s like to deliver a baby, and they are frequently amazed that it is something I actually do.
Birth is only a fraction of the role we play as midwives, but it has some sort of elusive, magical quality that gets just about anyone asking about it.
“Birth is only a fraction of the role we play as midwives”
When I think of birth stories, I instantly think of an organised hot mess. Giving birth generally comes with an explosion of bodily fluids. I quickly learnt the essential midwifery skill of a sudden sidestep to avoid the avalanche of amniotic fluid/blood/undetermined things that tumble out of the uterus as the baby comes riding out. This being said, we’ve all had the there’s-birth-in-my-shoe day.
The delivery room is normally about 50 degrees Celsius with a weird smog encompassing the space — it’s like we’re all breathing birth particles. There are random pieces of paper, equipment, wires and people all over the place. But my personal favourite is the delivery pack, which comes wrapped up and packaged in paper like a bag of chips. I feel like I’m settling down to feed a family of five when I prepare for a delivery. Scissors, cord clamps, fishcake.
I’ll admit that one of the things I look forward to the most about deliveries is cleaning up the room afterward. It’s genuinely my calling to wash things down with a Clinell wipe. I also enjoy the obligatory tea and toast extravaganza that follows a birth.
A new father once told me that the 1mm-thick toast and questionable milk tea breakfast I made him was like receiving a take-away on a hangover. Becoming a parent is a pretty serious hangover, but I’m glad my culinary skills can be compared to a Big Mac.
“Left-handed midwives are a heroic breed”
It’s a shame I’m not as well-qualified in other skills, such as cracking open glass ampules with my bare hands or understanding how a left-handed person should function in a right-hand-dominated environment. Left-handed midwives are a heroic breed.
In terms of the actual birth itself, it’s always different. Sometimes there is so much zen in the room that you feel you are connecting with a higher power, but then have to remind yourself that actually it’s just some soothing wave sounds and battery-powered candles.
Other times there’s a small crowd in the room and way too many noises that don’t sound anything like waves, but more like an orchestra of alarms and shouting. This makes me pretty clammy, and then I can’t get my gloves on properly. In the early days, all of this involved a lot of shaking on my behalf.
The adrenaline rush of being the first person to touch a new baby, combined with the emotions of the room and a serious concern that the woman’s rectum is about to explode, makes for an intense moment. I will never forget the cheer of encouragement from my mentor when I delivered my first baby.
“I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience and tried not to cry”
I then quickly stepped away, felt like I was having an out-of-body experience and tried not to cry. I think we’ve all shed a few silent tears following deliveries for a multitude of reasons. I wouldn’t put it past myself to have shed a silent tear from sheer hunger before.
A snapshot of the rollercoaster experience of birth is nicely encapsulated from my delivery logbook, so I’ll leave you with the images of these words: ‘head crowning in corridor!’, ‘emergency bell pulled’, ‘hilarious partner’ (normally involves theatrical panting), ‘as the sun set’, ‘beautiful’, ‘very calm’, ‘fast!’, ‘good screaming!’, ‘amazing maternal effort’, ‘emotional’, ‘messy’, ‘baby came flying’, ‘third delivery of night!’ (Knew it. This is where I cried from hunger).