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Mums Know (Relationship-Based Practice from a New Mother’s Perspective)

I’ve been a new mum three times now and I remember all three moments with a mixture of emotions. When I look back at these life changing events and the months that followed, the people who are present have left a lasting impression on the memories that give shape to my life.

Through three very different births I’ve met dozens and dozens of helpers. Midwives who helped me deliver my children, who were there as I brought these babies into the world and who became a permanent fixture in each of my baby’s first moments. Nurses who helped me through those early months,as I came to know not only my babies, but myself as a mother. Then there were all the other helpers: the play group facilitators, the baby class teachers, and so many more. I’d love to say that all of them were fabulous but it wouldn’t be the truth.

I can only imagine the years of training and experience that a nurse, midwife or other postnatal health worker undertakes. And I can only imagine the frustration that un-trained parents must create when we don’t follow the directions or read the text books. With hindsight , and the enormity of new motherhood behind me, I can now say with certainty that the helpers who were most helpful to me stood apart for one reason: they made me feel that they were not only there to simply do a job, but that they genuinely cared about me and my family even though I did not always follow the unspoken rules.

My first child was born out of wedlock while I was a university student. His father had hop footed it to Japan on the tail of some screaming fans of his band. I was left, literally, holding the baby. I was scared, I was spoiled (I’ll admit it) and I was completely inexperienced. One nurse stood out to me, as she didn’t care about my single status, she saw me for what I was, a new mother overwhelmed but desperate to do what was best for my new son. Other nurses weren’t quite so kind and their disdain was obvious. With hormones raging and pain in places where I’d never experienced it, this left me to flee the hospital just hours after the birth.

After the horrors of the first birth, I chose a home birth the second time around. The midwives were not only the best health care professionals I’d met, they were the sorts of people I would have called my friends in other circumstances. Of course, my home was a much less stressful environment than a busy maternity ward, but the smiles and the human interaction went a long way to helping me through my 14-hour labour with no pain relief.

Through every birth, there has been some obstacle that needed to be overcome. My first baby had the umbilical chord around his neck, my second needed turning, and my third was born so fast the midwife didn’t have her gloves on. I found that I could cope with anything as long as the midwife seemed in control. When the midwife panicked, (as she did in the latter situation) I panicked too!

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